Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010
By Aggrey Sam
A historic summer for the NBA has passed and for the Bulls, while they didn't acquire quite the star power many expected andor hoped for, optimism runs high, both within the organization and throughout the team's fan base. With the offseason coming to an end, the time to fully delve into the upcoming NBA season is here. Instead of a traditional season preview, issues both throughout the league and in Chicago will be probed daily here on CSNChicago.com up until the squad officially convenes for training camp toward the end of September.
18. Will there be a lockout after this season?
It's still far too early to gauge whether a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) will be reached prior to the 2011-12 NBA campaign and without more prior knowledge about labor negotiations, this writer isn't the one to get too deep into the current state of affairs, let alone the end result, such as a work stoppage. Still, it's worth it to at least probe the surface of the issues at hand.
In the wake of the spending by NBA franchises this offseason, an easy argument can be made that teams must be healthy financially to be able to line the pockets of its players, whether the various contracts deserving or dubious. The league, however, claims that franchises have suffered drastic losses--a major point of contention--and are hamstrung by constraints resulting from the last CBA.
"According to their theory, it's because of the system that's in place that forces them to spend the money, so it's not that they want to spend the money," a vice president on the NBPA's executive committee told CSNChicago.com. "It's the only option they have to be competitive, according to them."
"The thing is, it's still just posturing," the player, who wished to remain anonymous, continued. "We're still working off the last deal. From my standpoint, the last CBA has obviously been working for the last five, six years, so it's been doing what its supposed to do...the owners are trying to make it make a little more sense for them from their perspective. In their words, they're trying to make it make a little more sense for them from a business side."
"It's hard to know what goes into it from a player's perspective because there's really no rhyme or reason at times to why one player gets a deal versus another player. There's been numerous players that you can look at that should have got better deals than what they did, but for whatever reason they ended up having to go elsewhere," he went on to say, using Lakers point guard and NBPA executive committee president Derek Fisher--who he claims had to fight for a new extension despite always wanting to remain in Los Angeles--for an example. "That's the kind of stuff that needs to be stressed, as well. Allowing players to more easily move from team to team, allowing players to be secure, distributing the money to the correct players who are actually performing in those free-agent years."
After a three-hour meeting of the two sides last Wednesday--described as "cordial and constructive" in a joint statement issued afterwards by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA)--all indications point to no progress in sight until after February's All-Star weekend (when the next meeting will occur), at the earliest. That leaves approximately four months--the current CBA expires on June, 30, 2011--to reach a resolution.
"It was more of a discussion on what can be done to make the game grow and what's our perspective and what's their perspective," the player described the negotiations to CSNChicago.com. "It's still no numbers, no nothing...it's basically setting the stage to bring forth changes and it was positive in the sense that they got a better understanding of where we're coming from and we got a better understanding of what they want. Somehow we can make it all work out and it makes sense where we don't shut down the business."
The league reportedly is in favor of imposing a hard cap, similar to the NFL, under which organizations wouldn't be able exceed the NBA-wide salary cap. That would mean the end of deep-pocketed owners being able to exceed the salary cap and pay a luxury tax, as well as player exceptions that enable veterans to re-sign with their teams, regardless of the cap.
While the NBPA objects to such an idea, the recent meeting in New York was more of a forum for proposals and was described as a "positive" interaction by the aforementioned source, a veteran who signed an offseason extension to remain with his current team.
"Just suggestions about making it easier for players to move from team to team, to loosen up restricted free agency so that when a guy who's performing well for his team, for example, doesn't have to be confined to that contract," the player, who indicated that base-year compensation is another told CSNChicago.com. If a player is still on his rookie wage scale, maybe he can get out of it a little sooner so he can go out and be a major player for another team if his team doesn't want to pay him."
"Things like that are ways to improve the game and allow it to even out the competitive balance and that's what one of the issues is," he added. "Every team wants the opportunity to be competitive every year. That goes into making decisions about who to draft and paying the right players. that goes back to the owners policing themselves."
The league and its owners, on the other hand, are more concerned with revenues, over half of which reportedly go to the players. The current economic climate plays its part in their concerns, but overall, they seemingly desire to have a new CBA go in the other direction, with lower player salaries one of the end results.
Although no marked progress was made at last week's meeting, it appears that the league and players are both committed to avoiding a lockout. For those who don't remember the last NBA work stoppage--which ended up abbreviating the 1998-99 season--the threat of fans resenting the pro game as a whole (players, owners, teams and the league alike) will hopefully spur the two sides to come to agreement before going down that less-than-scenic path.
"I don't think there's much frustration on either side because we both understand it's a process and we both understand that if we're both willing to take in each other's ideas and consider each other's ideas to grow the game for fans...people will continued to come out and support it. We both agree that the game is in a great place," the player optimistically told CSNChicago.com. "I think we're definitely on the right track...I don't know if it's going to be anything in place by All-Star weekend. I know that we're working to be further along in the process by All-Star, but how far along we come by that point remains to be seen."
"I think, for the most part, again, as players and the perspective that we're taking, it's a partnership and we're trying to be open to...hearing their suggestions," the NBPA vice president, who ironically took part in the league's Leadership and Development program--designed to help players move into coaching or management positions after their playing days are over; one of the sessions included in the July session in Las Vegas was a CBA tutorial--continued. "We're trying to be open to trying to grow the game, to make it better...I think the owners will hopefully be willing to continue to see that and again, it's so early in the bargaining stage."
Time is on their side--both sides--but it's not too early to consider a potentially negative outcome, no matter how much none of us wants to right now.
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.