Friday, January 13, 2023

Is an NBA lockout imminent? The optimism still lingers ahead of the important deadline

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With the NBA and Players Association last month extending the deadline to exit the current collective bargaining agreement to February 8, there’s a technical possibility that next season’s scheduled CBA could end on June 30.

But no one should expect an outbreak of hoopus interruptus, according to sources on both sides.

“I don’t think anyone feels like this is going to be 2011 again,” a source told Heavy Sports, referring to the lockout that shortened the 2011-12 season to 66 games. “There are some hardliners pushing on both sides but I think that will be a lot more sensible. The top people involved seem to be in a good place and there really is too much at stake.”

In fact, the bottom line is…well, the bottom line. There are certainly some issues for discussion (a spending cap for teams, whether potential expansion fees are shared with players), but in a system where defined earnings are shared on a 49-51 percent basis, there’s motivation for that everyone can keep their place at such a sumptuous table.

One can argue about the merits of the organizational side and the player side, but, said an executive involved in many aspects of this process, there is a certain acceptance.

“The principles of capitalism exist below the level of property. The owners are very socialist,” the manager told Heavy Sports. “Once they get to that level, these devices and this type of financial manipulation are meant to make sure nobody takes a bath. They too have a safety net underneath that they designed themselves. So it’s interesting. They live off some billionaire social security.

“That’s okay. It’s their league. And who are we who are working to complain? I’ve lived with that just fine, and this way of doing business has grown into a $10 billion business Any complaints should be minimal as the industry continues to grow, and it is growing in significant numbers.”

The league is clearly trying to mend that so-called safety net by restricting the ability of well-heeled teams (er, Golden State) to far outperform brothers in less fortunate financial circumstances.

While there are bound to be some who circumvent any new set of rules, this was the basis for the salary cap that was introduced in the mid-1980s.

“The compromise was that the players got guaranteed contracts to give them the salary cap they needed to get the necessary cost certainty,” said the latter source. “This is the fundamental basis for the success of the NBA. So the corollary to that, whenever players start saying, “Well, let’s get rid of the cap,” is, “Okay, if the cap is in place, guaranteed contracts will go.” I don’t think it’s going to get that far.”

Again, there’s too much money at stake for the sides to screw this up trying to figure out how to cut the pie. And the numbers will make a significant jump when the television contracts that have yet to be negotiated come into effect after the 2024/25 season. The league is currently in a nine-year, $24 billion deal with its broadcast partners

“If you factor in all the different platforms, that number could more than double — or even triple,” said a league source. “Forget what you hear about traditional TV ratings, with all the different technologies to get around things, sports on TV can still showcase corporate advertising.”

While the majority may be tuning in to watch their favorite players or because they have an interest in the outcome – an interest that will only increase with the rise of legalized sports betting across the country – leagues are also aware of the value to be derived from the additional drama results.

“The NBA, as well as the NFL and Major League Baseball, are unscripted reality shows starring the biggest and best athletes in the world,” said a league executive. “And the fact of the matter is that the more drama we have — the offseason with the Brooklyn mess, the Laker mess, the Westbrook controversy, Kyrie’s latest thing, whatever — the more we have that kind of reality show- Tickle our competition, the more popular we become.

“It’s a dramatic presentation with no scripted ending. So you keep coming back to it because you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

On the other hand, at least as it stands, there is no such uncertainty or gap in the CBA.

On the other hand, at least as it stands, there is no such uncertainty or gap in the CBA.

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