The word earlier today was that NBA Commissioner David Stern and the owners are seeking a hard salary cap and non-guaranteed contracts in the upcoming collective bargaining agreement. The current CBA expires at the end of June and the owners are expected to impose a lockout of the players like the NFL currently has and what the NBA went through back in 1998-1999.
The NBA wants a hard salary cap of $45 million in order to help their teams get their costs under control. This is sure to affect the start of the 2011-2012 NBA season as there is no way that the players will roll over and accept an initial offer that would severely limit their earning power.
What remains to be seen is whether the NBA is willing to ”go to the mattresses” like the NHL did and cancel an entire season. A lost season would damage the league’s relationship with not only their fans, but partners like ESPN and TNT, along with anybody who covers the league in the media.
As the NFL is learning, an offseason of court appearances with the threat of missed regular season games can incite a fan base that is dealing with a bad economy and the employment problems that go with it. Nobody likes to hear about millionaires and billionaires whining over a few million dollars when people are stressed out about their lives in these current times.
It could be a Midsummer’s Night Nightmare for the Heatles
Another effect of a hard salary cap will be the dismantling of high salary teams and the potential for a team like the Miami Heat to have to break-up their Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
If the salary cap for next season was only $45 million, then the Heat would be forced to renegotiate one or all of those players’ contracts or cut one of them to comply with the cap. Next season, the Heatles are set to make over $47.5 million between the three of them. Even if the cap was at, say, $48 million, the Heat would still have to maneuver to fit another 9-12 players onto their active roster.
Of course, the Heat aren’t the only team who will have players facing the chopping block in this situation. The Lakers have over $25 million tied up in Kobe Bryant all by himself. I’m sure he’d be thrilled to play with $20 million worth of teammates next year.
The Celtics have over $21 million wrapped up in Kevin Garnett and the three other all stars will make over $35 million next season. Rajon Rondo played with one arm after his injury against the Heat; would he be willing to play for half the money next season? These are the hard questions that will be posed and many players will have to check their egos and bank accounts at the door if they want to remain with their current teams.
How this plays out is anybody’s guess. But the first shot has been fired in the upcoming labor dispute in the NBA and it looks like the owners are going to put extreme pressure on the players to help them drastically change the current system. Think of it as a full court press. Former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson used to describe his team’s style as “40 minutes of Hell”. Well this upcoming labor dispute could be many months, if not a year of Hell for everybody involved, especially the fans. Expect this dispute to last longer than the NFL’s and expect a hard cap between $52 and $55 million to start next season.
- Brian Wason