Wednesday, September 14, 2011

NBA Lockout, the issues

The usual topic of discussion around the NBA in September is training camp, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 3. Unfortunately there will be no training camp, as NBA owners and players unions have failed to come to a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and are not even close, according to
respected Yahoo! sports writer Adrian Wojnarowski.

To NBA fans, this situation is not only disappointing, but confusing. NBA.com has a list of frequently asked questions and a glossary of terms used in the negotiations that may be helpful to those of us who understand a 2-3 zone defense better than CBA jargon.

For now I'll give you the abridged version of the NBA Lockout by discussing some of the issues at stake.
  • Salary Cap - The 2010 salary cap for an NBA team was $57.7 million, however; big market teams have been allowed to exceed that amount by paying a luxury tax. The Los Angeles Lakers payroll is over $91 million, but they generate huge sums of revenue and can absorb the luxury tax associated with exceeding the cap. This type of salary cap structure is called a soft cap. Collectively, NBA owners want to reform to a hard salary cap, like in NFL and NHL, which would even the playing field for smaller market teams. The majority of the owners are small market teams and are willing to hold out until the NBA reforms to a hard cap. Naturally, the players are against this, as it puts a finite number on the potential amount of money available.
  • Revenue Sharing - This again is the plight of the smaller market teams that want a bigger piece of the pie, such as revenue generated from TV. This particular struggle is amongst the owners.
  • Split of Basketball Related Income (BRI) - The balance of BRI is currently tipped in the direction of players and this doesn't sit well with billionaire team owners. The owners want more, the players want status quo.
  • Guaranteed Contracts - The owners want to get rid of guaranteed contracts and protect themselves from getting stuck with players who don't live up to big contracts, case and point Rashard Lewis of the Washington Wizards. Lewis is set to make over $22 million this year, second most to Kobe Bryant, and averaged a disappointing 11 points per game last season. As disgusted as I am by players like Lewis who get apathetic after cashing in on the big pay day, I feel it is still ultimately on the team owner and general manager to take responsibility for the players they sign.

Overall the owners have the upper hand on current negotiations, as a union of 30 owners is more cohesive than the players union of 400. Most NBA fans would like to see a hard salary cap, unless you are a Lakers fan. The Lakers $91.3 million team salary is roughly $17 million more than the second highest pay roll which belongs to the Orlando Magic. The Warriors, who are a mid market team and on the rise with the affluent new ownership, stand to benefit from a hard cap, especially in the same division as the Lakers, who are the New York Yankees of the NBA in the disparity of payroll compared to the rest of the league.

Bottom line, it looks like NBA fans might be waiting awhile.

Of Note
The last NBA Lockout was in the 1998, which shortened the season to 50 games and cancelled the All-Star game. The work stoppage lasted 204 days and ended on Jan. 20. It was considered a win for the owners as it capped players' salaries.