SBD/Issue 62/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NBA Owners Not Afraid To Use Lockout To Enact Changes To League

 

NBA owners "seem increasingly entrenched in their desire to impose sweeping changes in the league's economic system and use a lockout, if necessary, to achieve their goals," according to sources cited by Ken Berger of CBSSPORTS.com. An management source "upon being informed" of the NBPA's proposal said, "I don't think it's so much about what the players propose. It's about what they're willing to accept. How much pain are they willing to accept?" Sources said that some members of the owners' labor relations committee "were impressed with the players' willingness to address their concerns in this proposal." But Berger wrote the source's comment is a "fair reflection of the hard-line owners' position: The league's problem isn't revenues, it's expenses, and those expenses need to be reduced -- even at the cost of losing a significant number of games to a work stoppage." Meanwhile, the NBPA's offer to negotiate a decrease in the guaranteed percentage of revenues paid to players to below 57% "was significant because it would give owners discretion to pull back on spending based on economic or competitive conditions without having to make up the difference up to" 57% of basketball-related income. Berger: "That is what owners have tried to do during the crippling global recession, as negotiated salaries have fallen for two straight years and are expected to fall again this season." The league "maintains that when BRI goes up, player compensation goes up," but that "wouldn't be true under the players' proposal to reduce the 57 percent guarantee." NBA officials "declined to comment on the details of the players' proposal," but sources said that the "unenthusiastic response to the players' offer is rooted in the fact that the NBPA has proposed leaving the basics of the current system in place -- a soft salary cap with various exceptions -- while also proposing various tweaks that would facilitate player movement through trades or free agency" (CBSSPORTS.com, 12/8).

ARMAGEDDON COMING: SI.com's Ian Thomsen wrote the "only conclusion to be drawn" from the NBPA proposal is that a lockout is "practically inevitable." There "exists from the ownership side a simmering confidence that a lockout will enable them to dictate the terms eventually and absolutely," and "one of their talking points is that many owners will lose less money during a lockout of next season than if their teams collected on ticket sales and TV income for 82 games." Meanwhile, the NBPA proposal "suggests a need for fine-tuning of the current system," as while they are "willing to negotiate a reduction in their current guarantee of 57 percent of league revenues, the players are in no way prepared to accept the 38 percent reduction in salaries -- worth $800 million annually -- called for by" NBA Commissioner David Stern. The players "want to see more room made for them to seek out opportunities in the current system, while the owners want shorter contracts for less money under a hard-cap ceiling that provides for no exceptions." Thomsen: "Only something drastic and unpredictable is capable of marrying their dueling perspectives into one view of how best to grow the NBA. So enjoy the games while you can" (SI.com, 12/8).

WHY AGE MATTERS: The NBPA in its proposal also called for the age limit to be lowered to 18, and TRUEHOOP's Henry Abbott wrote the "underlying issue" with the limit is whether the NBPA is "fighting to eliminate the age limit on principle, or because they know they'll be giving up a hell of a lot to the owners as negotiations unfold." Also, changing the age limit could be an "opportunity to concede something that is not too painful to current voting members (who do not stand to benefit from it)" (ESPN.com, 12/8).

AGE IS MORE THAN JUST A NUMBER: ESPN's Bruce Bowen, who played 14 seasons in the NBA, said the league "should have an age restriction, only for the simple fact that when you're in college, there are so many things that you get a chance to learn." Bowen: "You learn responsibilities, you learn how to develop relationships and you develop as a person and a player. When these kids come out at such a young age, they are forced to live a certain lifestyle that they haven't been prepared for." He added, "You're better with an education after basketball than shooting for the moon and trying to get something and coming up with zero" ("NBA Tonight," ESPN2, 12/9).

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