SBD/January 24, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBA Owners May Push For Franchise Player Tag In New CBA

Franchise player tag would make it easier for NBA teams to keep star players under contract
There is a "growing movement" among NBA owners as they negotiate with the NBPA for a new CBA to "add a new weapon to their arsenals -- a franchise player tag," according to Chad Ford of ESPN.com. The franchise tag, which the NFL has employed since '93, exists to "avoid losing a team's best player in free agency." NBA owners are "not unanimously in agreement on this one," and the charge is "being led by smaller-market teams that are becoming increasingly fearful that the teams in huge markets ... are creating dynasties that are impossible to keep up with." Owners such as the Lakers' Jerry Buss "aren’t fans of a franchise player tag because it would limit teams ... from luring top free agents in the summer." But several GMs believe that a "majority of the owners are on board and willing to fight for it." Ford noted while the "details of what the tag would look like are still up for negotiation (it may or may not follow the NFL model), the desire is there to get something done." One GM said, "It would be a huge coup for the owners if we can get this done. Not only would it give some modicum of control back to teams, but it would also help us to reduce costs by ending the bidding wars that have been taking place on the higher-end players." The franchise tag also "limits the power of NBA player agents to socially engineer teams." A separate GM said, "Agents have proven to be clever. ... The new way they are asserting power is by trying to aggregate their star players on the same team." An NBA player agent said, "The franchise player tag has been devastating for NFL players. ... In the NBA, with smaller teams, the impact would be paralyzing. You can pretty much kiss free agency goodbye" (ESPN.com, 1/21). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said, “Players, quite obviously, hate this idea.” ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said, “Players are going to hate this, agents are going to hate this. What this says is that the NBA no longer believes in the Bird Rule because the NBA’s now afraid that players will take flight for less money to go to different teams.” Wilbon: “A lot of things that players want they’re not wiling to stay out for and they’re not willing to fight for because they caved in 1998. But this is something worth fighting for” (“PTI,” ESPN, 1/21).

READY TO HELP: Celtics F Paul Pierce said that he "plans to participate in a negotiating session at All-Star Weekend" in L.A., as he did last February in Dallas. Pierce: "I’ve been keeping up with it and if we have a meeting, I probably will participate. I’m one of the older players. I’m probably one of the ambassadors of the league moving forward. I basically just want to see the league in good hands when I’m all done. That’s basically my reasoning. Even though the other (younger) guys moving forward are going to be around a lot longer." He insisted that the "veterans will have the best interests of the younger players at heart" throughout negotiations (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/23). T'Wolves F and player rep Anthony Tolliver said, "I did a lot of research last summer, before I signed the contract here, about the collective bargaining agreement. So I'm pretty well-versed on the current one." He added, "The general mood is the owners are far away from what we want, so we're preparing (for a lockout). So the advice we're giving is be prepared for it. It's a pretty big deal" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/23).

TIME TO MAKE CUTS? Lakers coach Phil Jackson "agrees with his girlfriend," Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations Jeanie Buss, in regard to contraction in the NBA. Buss in an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week said, "Contraction is something we have to consider. ... We may be in some markets we shouldn't be in." Jackson on Friday said, "I think that's what the commissioner said. So I think she's probably parroting what the commissioner said. I will parrot what both of them said" (L.A. TIMES, 1/22).
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