NBA Lockout Update: The Season Is Slipping Away

Neither side wants to be the first to blink on the two big issues because neither side wants to lose on both. Now we're all left staring at more lost games, and possibly a lost season.

Thirty hours of negotiations have left the league and the union close on a couple of small points, and still staring at the same chasm on the biggest issue, the revenue split. To recap, when we last met, the owners wanted 53% and the players wanted 53%. About halfway through these negotiations, the owners put an ultimatum on the table - split the difference or there's nothing for us to talk about. The players response, we want 53%.

When the meetings broke, with no future talks planned, the gloves came off. Derek Fisher called the owners liars, in no uncertain terms. Dwyane Wade stepped out on the front porch of his glass house to throw a stone with the word "greed" on it at the owners via Twitter. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about these negotiations is seeing the players pat themselves on the back every time the talks break up, like they've somehow won something by sticking together.

If you sort of read between the lines, it seems like there's a bit of a communication problem, or maybe a trust problem. The owners want to get this 50/50 split done before they move on to the luxury tax (which is the other huge issue). I'm hoping the level-headed faction of the union (if such a thing even exists), would be willing to bend on the split if it meant the luxury tax wasn't punitive to the point where no owners would dare spend into the luxury tax. Neither side will blink, though, because neither side wants to lose on both issues, and it remains unclear whether the league is willing to lose the entire season in order to have their cake and eat it too.

Here's a novel idea: The union should get together with their economic guru and come up with a luxury tax system they can live with. They should come back to the table with an actual proposal, something their guy came up with, that wouldn't prohibit teams from spending into luxury tax territory, but would still punish teams enough to make them think twice about it. Bring this proposal to the table and say, "We can live with a 50/50 split if this is how the luxury tax is handled." Instead of acting like petulant teenagers who stomp their feet when they don't get their way, the union should act like their top priority is ending this lockout rather than proving to everyone just how united they are. 

The impasse seems to be centered on the players not wanting to agree to the 50/50 split and then start from scratch again on the other issue. They don't want to lose on both things. The same goes for the owners. They won't even begin to budge on the luxury tax system until they're guaranteed 50% on the split, at least. They don't want to water down the luxury tax penalties and wind up with 47% of revenues. That won't solve the macroeconomic problem. So here we stand. The owners have put their best offer on the table on the split, the players can't or won't agree to it without a better luxury tax system, so do something about it. Bend on the split  and come up with your own luxury tax plan, and if the owners won't do it, then go to the press with details. "We met them halfway on the split, now they need to meet us halfway on the tax." If the owners don't bite at that point, then maybe the perception of this work stoppage swings and the public will start to put some heat on the owners. This strategy of letting the owners come up with proposal after proposal, saying "No, we're so united!" and stomping out of the room isn't going to accomplish anything, it's time to change it up.

Adrian Wojnarowski has the scoop on the small points that were sort of ironed out here.

 

  • The MLE will probably be $5M/year, with a max of three years (down from $5.8M/year, 5-year max).
  • A bonus pool of money would be created for young players who outplay their rookie contracts based on All Star appearances and Rookie of The Year awards.
  • And the amnesty clause. Teams would be allowed to cut one player from their roster and take 75% of his salary off their books (against the cap, not just the luxury tax) for the duration of his contract. They'd still have to pay him the full amount (over what period of time they'd have to pay him is up for debate, the owners want to stretch it out), but only 25% of that amount would count against the cap.
The first two points are neither here nor there for the Sixers. Shorter MLE contracts are good for the owners. So many teams make bad decisions with the MLE, at least it would only be a three-year mistake instead of five. If you've got a young player good enough to earn more money, then give it to him. Just make sure the criteria used to award this money is meaningful.

The amnesty clause, though, that could be useful. The knee-jerk reaction is to say cut Brand. If this season is played in its entirety, Brand is owed north of $35M before he comes off the books after next season. If they used the amnesty clause for Brand, they'd save $26.4M against the cap over the two years. This would leave them with about $50M committed this year and $43M next season (without factoring in an extension for Thad, if there will be one). You can make the argument for cutting ties with Brand, if it's part of a larger rebuilding plan that would probably also include trading Iguodala, but I think it's unlikely the team would move in that direction.

Depending on when the lockout ends, and how much time is left in the season, I think the Sixers would instead opt to let Andres Nociono go. Cutting Nocioni would save the team about $5M this year, which could give them a little more wiggle room, but the psychology of it makes more sense. They'd be cutting someone who isn't going to contribute on the floor and possibly opening up some flexibility to improve the team. They'd keep Brand, who was a vital part of their improved play on the floor last season. If they cut Brand, they're going to be eating $35M to get rid of a productive player simply to create more cap space which they may have a hard time using anyway if they gut the team in the process. You can argue the merits of either plan, but my gut feeling is Joshua Harris and Co. aren't going to come in here and severely devalue the product as their first move. Maybe they can sell it as a clean slate. Maybe they can energize the fan base around watching Jrue and Turner take over the team, but I think it's far more likely they'd get rid of the dead weight and plan for a big splash down the road while building momentum by continuing the upward trend in the standings Doug Collins started last season.

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