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A Word For The Players

"If the season is going to begin on time, the players need to come to terms with their situation and the next time the owners make an offer, they can't just walk away from the table without so much as a counter-proposal."

Well-said sir!

I heard someone say that the owners have already conceded to not doing away with gaurenteed contracts and not having a hard cap. If all of these points have been conceded, what are the owners insisting on?

The latest proposal they made, prior to the lockout, made those concessions. The last I heard was that once the lockout began, the concessions they made were off the table and they were back to their original proposal as the starting point.

But to answer your question, that proposal essentially locked the players' share exactly where it was last season for the next decade and created a hard cap (of sorts) to keep it there. In the players' eyes, that proposal would mean the players wouldn't partake in any growth the league experienced over the next decade, which is kind of the point for the owners. Their profits wouldn't be that great in years 1-3, maybe, but in years 4-6, if revenues grew, the owners would make a bundle. Economically speaking, their labor costs would be fixed for 10 years, which is a pretty solid position for management.

I think guaranteed contracts need to be done away with. I would concede to having only the first 3 years of a contract to be guaranteed. I think these guaranteed contracts are killing many franchises.

In general I am not strongly or anti union. But in the NBA the way the union is constructed is not an accurate reflection of the league. It would be like having wait staff having an equal vote in a chef's salary at a fine restaurant, or having the roadies vote on what the lead singer makes. In all of these cases people show up and pay good money because of the Chef/singer and the rest are replaceable parts.

Basketball is a team sport, and all of the players have an impact on the game... but in terms of packing the arena and having a chance to be an top team it is all about a small group of stars. And yet the union seems mostly concerned about protecting its "middle class." That may make sense with a normal union or in politics- but not in the NBA. The "middle class" in the NBA are generally replaceable parts. Have terrible 4t-9th players will hurt you- just like having lousy back up singers at a concert or having poor service at a fine restaurant... but ultimately these are not the people who bring in the money so they should not be the driving force of the union.

Just look at the Sixers. They are a like a famous band touring without their lead singer. Like if the E-Street Band toured without Bruce Springsteen or if U2 went on tour without Bono. People show up for the concert and are entertained- but they don't pack large arenas.

If the NBA was more like other entertainment, or even more like Baseball, then the Stars would make gigantic salaries and the basketball middle and lower class would make pedestrian salaries. And that is probably how it should be given the distribution of available talent. But for that to happen the union would have to be run by Lebron and Durant (or their agents) instead of giving a big voice to Derrick Fisher and Collison.

Bascally the union is going to hold up any deal that dramatically reshapes the salaries of the role players. But if an agreement let the stars make huge salaries at the expense of the vast multitude of NBA role players then it would be much easier for the league to be profitable.

Right now the wait staff and dish boys are making big bucks and get to decide how much the chef makes in negotiations with management. That is a recipe for a failing restaurant- especially one where the patrons are paying big money for a celebrity chef.

Charlie H reply to tk76 on Jul 5 at 12:10

If this were true, there wouldn't be an NBA. It would have gone broke years ago.

I don't think the issue is really about class warfare on the players' side. The whole reason for the union is to protect the little guy and middle class guys, and the only way to do that is to use the leverage of the superstars. Remove the superstars and the league could and probably would just walk all over the league-minimum guys who can be replaced by euro and NBADL league players without a significant dropoff.

There's more of a big vs. small thing among the owners in terms of their local tv and radio broadcasting rights, but again, the union can't stand on its own w/out the superstars just like the league probably can't stand on its own w/out the lakers, celtics and knicks.

Tray reply to tk76 on Jul 5 at 14:30

So just out of curiosity, how low do you think the minimum player salary should be on a 1-year contract, and how much do you think LeBron should get paid? Or, leaving the raw numbers aside, what should the ratio between Hawes's salary and LeBron's be? 40:1? 80:1?

Currently, it's between 15 and 20 to 1 for a max player and a minimum player. That doesn't seem out of whack to me. The problem is owners/general managers have a tough time accurately assessing who's worthy of the max contracts.

Tray reply to Brian on Jul 5 at 15:18

So I would say that 15-20 seems a little low. LeBron's put up as many as 20 win shares in a season, and even that, I think, underestimates how many wins he meant to Cleveland, as their total collapse after he left suggests. Granted, they had a ton of injury problems this year so we can't place too much emphasis on what happened when he left, but subtracting just 20 wins means that a LeBron-less Cavs team would have gone .500, which... I mean, how? With Mo Williams inefficiently scoring 20 a game? They had a great defense, but he was a big part of that. But let's say 20. If that's the case, there are a lot of players in the league he's more than 20 times as valuable, because there are a lot of players who don't even add one win, or who actually make you worse than you'd be if some competent D-leaguer played their minutes. And that's just considering basketball. When you take TV, ticket sales, sponsorship deals and all the rest into account, LeBron was probably a hundred times more valuable to the Cavs than Jawad Williams. I suspect he'd still be a good investment at 40 million a year, for the value he brings to a franchise.

That makes sense if LeBron makes the highest salary in the league and you have the worst player in the NBA make the minimum, and you're ranking players from #1 to #400 or whatever. If you're talking about a max level where a certain number of players are getting that max amount, then you should factor all of them in. Likewise, you're talking about a level for the minimum player as well. So the absolute worst player has to be paid more than he's worth to set that floor, and the absolute best player probably has to be paid less than he's worth to set the ceiling.

Personally, I think the salary cap is pointless if a team can afford to have the two best players in the league on their roster and another top 20 guy.

Tray reply to Brian on Jul 5 at 16:57

Well, that's the thing, there shouldn't be a ton of players making what LeBron makes. There should really only be about two, him and Howard. If you had a really high max, there wouldn't be so many players running around with max deals. But we have an artificially low max, one which every quasi-superstar thinks he's owed, so you have this absurd situation where Arenas and LeBron make the same amount of money. (Which was an absurd situation at the time Arenas got that deal, not just today.)

Making the max higher isn't going to save the owners from themselves, though. And the superstars are going to suffer (and I use that term VERY loosely) for being in the union, that's just the nature of the beast.

100:1, 200:1?

Like I said, the stars are the lead singers, movie stars, celeb chefs. Without them:

1. The team won't win (ie Cavs with and without Lebron)

2. people will not fill the arenas.

3. You don't have big TV deals.

Try and start a competing league without the stars and they won't generate nearly the revenue of the NBA. Just look at the XFL, USFL as examples. The only way a competing league survives (to merge like the ABA or AFL) is if they get big name players.

The being name players are all that matters- it is just the way of entertainment. And the NBA is the most extreme example of this. Those are the players that should be taking home the big bucks. The good players (rotation guys) can get nice salaries of 1-4M per (based mostly on bonuses for performance), and the reserves should all make under 1M.

This is not the NFL were players are shortening their life expectancy. And these guys are easily replaceable. So other than the fact that they have a union where every player gets one vote, I see no reason why Willie Green should get a a big contract just because fans show up to see Chris Paul.

Like I said, should a dishwasher or a waiter make 6 figures because the work at a restaurant with a celeb chef? Should an extra make millions because Brad Pitt is in the movie?

Tray reply to tk76 on Jul 5 at 23:58

Well I agree with this, but would that make the league's overall financial picture rosier? I suppose it could if you dramatically shrunk the role players' salaries. What the stars should do, though I don't know if it's feasible, not knowing anything about labor law, is form their own union. Can you imagine, though, how that would go over with teammates?

And to put how grossly underpaid LeBron is into perspective (or how grossly overpaid most of the league is), LeBron makes:

0.72 times as much as Rashard Lewis
0.83 times as much as Gilbert Arenas
0.87 times as much as Carmelo Anthony
0.89 times as much as Joe Johnson
1.06 times as much as Andrew Bynum
1.06 times as much as Antwan Jamison
1.07 times as much as Rudy Gay
1.13 times as much as Chauncey Billups
1.14 times as much as Al Jefferson
1.15 times as much as Baron Davis
1.18 times as much as Andre Iguodala
1.19 times as much as Carlos Boozer
1.78 times as much as Andrea Bargnani
2.29 times as much as Travis Outlaw
2.31 times as much as James Posey
3.20 times as much as Kyle Korver
3.67 times as much as Ronny Turiaf
6.16 times as much as Eduardo Najera
9.57 times as much as Renaldo Balkman

100 to 1 and 200 to 1 is kind of ridiculous. If the waiter is making 30K, which is low, the chef of any restaurant isn't going to make $3-$6M, at least not in salary from that particular restaurant. Now he may make that money total when you include the reality TV show he makes and the book he writes, which is the same thing that happens in the NBA. LeBron gets the Nike contract, Jason Smith doesn't.

In fact, I think if you use the restaurant model, I be the NBA stacks up pretty well. Even the best celebrity chef isn't going to pull down $1M in a year from a single restaurant, unless maybe he's getting a percentage of the company, which is another argument altogether. Say his salary from the restaurant is somewhere in the $500K range, the next step down is the other chefs who make maybe up to 20% of the head chef's salary, then the waiters make maybe 10% of the head chef's salary.

I mean, maybe that's part of the answer here, you give teams the ability to designate one "superstar" player who gets a limited ownership stake in the team and gets a certain percent of the team's profits to share in. One player per team qualifies, and when he's traded or signs w/ another team, his "shares" disintegrate. This compensation happens outside of the cap, and his base salary must be the max amount allowed under the cap. You'd probably have to regulate the amount superstars get based on league-wide, average team profits to keep teams like the lakers and knicks from being able to offer a higher total than the Bucks, for example. Like maybe there's some kind of pool for "max players" to share, much like the revenue sharing pool the teams have right now.

Anyway, if we're talking about fairly compensating the superstar players, which really we aren't, this would probably be a better method. This would allow you to drop the max allowable contract number, it would allow for the true max players to get a significant amount of money above the other players, and it would also mean players would have to seriously take a paycut if they wanted to team up with other superstars. Something like the max contract is $8M/year, and the superstar "bonus" was another $10-$12M/year above that.

Tray reply to Brian on Jul 6 at 10:20

Aren't chefs a whole lot more replaceable than NBA superstars? There are hundreds of really great chefs in the world, but only five or six truly dominant basketball players at any given moment. I think the better analogy is executive: middle management, or maybe senior partner: junior associate. The 20:1 ratio, also, really understates how few players get the minimum, and how many really ordinary players there are who get paid a fifth or quarter or third of superstar money. And not just guys who get signed to stupid deals - 5-7 million a year is the regular market price for a decent role player.

There are far fewer great chefs in relation to the number of restaurants in the world than there are superstars to the 30 teams in the nba.

Then look at the music industry or Hollywood. The big time box office stars easily make 100X what a person with a bit part makes. And what do you think Madonna takes in from a concert as compared to a back-up singer? And yet actors are all in a union (not sure about the nmusic business.)

I think sports is more akin to other entertainment ventures than trying to make parallels to other businesses.

rswknight reply to tk76 on Jul 6 at 11:05

That would go back to Brian's comment, because the Hollywood A-listers often have a base salary that is supplemented(and even replaced in some cases) by receiving a percentage of the gross.

IMO, It is a tougher thing to do in the NBA, because that type of this is based on the fact that certain actors are super draws. How does the NBA compensate its stars for that if there are some teams, especially winning teams, that often sell-out anyway, regardless of the opponent? Why should LeBron get a cut of the gate draw in OKC, given that the house was packed the night before to watch Thunder-Raptors anyway?

I really don't think you can compare the NBA to unions in other industries, simply because there's no artificial cap in other industries. There's no rule saying a movie can only cost $100M, there's no minimum number of actors, etc. The union in the film industry sets a minimum scale, only.

and maybe that should be the end result of this CBA. Cut down the number of guaranteed years on a contract to three, adjust the minimum contract level (and do away w/ the veterans' minimum nonsense, the minimum is the minimum, period) and then remove "max contracts" altogether. Let teams pay as much as they want, but it's a hard cap. If they want to pay $30M for Dwight Howard, fine, then they have $32M to fill out the rest of their roster with no exceptions. Let the market dictate what a "max" contract is, and even the worst mistake only lasts three years.

My only real point is that the Union seems to want to preserve the big contracts for the "middle class" of NBA players. And IMO it is the 5 year deals at 4-7M per year that are both killing teams flexibility and hurting the leagues chances at long term labor deals.

The stars clearly generate enough income to be worth whatever they are paid. Even Kobe at 25M is worth way more than that to his franchise in terms of ability to win and market their team. But teh Willie Greens, Korvers, Kaponos and Lou Williams of the world should not be able to get 20-30M guaranteed.

If they want to keep players on a team forget franchisng guys or long, guaranteed contracts.

Instead they should work out a vesting system. Have a percentage of your earning deferred. The longer you stay with a team the more vested you are (you don;'t lose out if you are traded or cut.) Then after a certain age or years in a town you can be 100% vested.

The money can still go 100% to the players. But the individual player only gets 100% if they chose to stay. Otherwise the remaining % goes to a pot equally split between all of the players. This would give a huge incentive for players to stay with their teams when their (short) contracts are up.

This would have the side benefit of partly deferring compensation for players, which would give them better pensions and long term financial health. Meanwhile the money could be generating interest that can go to the health of the game.

And at the extreme you can have what Brian suggested, vesting could include a share of team revenue for the "franchise" players.

Not a bad idea. Unfortunately, I don't think the issue of how much superstars make is even going to come up. The "important" superstars all got their big money in the past 13 months or so. The only guy left out of the party was really Dwight Howard. The next guy will be Rose, I guess, but he's a couple of years away, as is Westbrook.

Probably the thing that should be gone asap is the MLE. More mistakes are made w/ that money than you can imagine.

And the superstars make a ton of money outside of the NBA anyway.

Tray reply to Brian on Jul 6 at 12:39

But most restaurants aren't even interested in serving really good food. I think there are more really good chefs per expensive restaurant than there are superstars per NBA team. I mean, are good chefs a scarce resource, such that when one leaves a great restaurant that restaurant struggles to find another really good chef? In the NBA, once your superstar walks out, you may spend years, even decades trying to find another.

I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure the great chefs own their restaurants, or at least partially own them. I don't think there's a ton of turnover.

Yeah, forget the whole chef thing, I was probably hungry when I wriote the post, and probably should not have brought it up.


A worthy read, if you haven't seen it already.

My favorite part of the Deadspin article:

"Portions of the analysis below are wrong."

The basic concept is true though. Teams are never owned n a vacuum, so it is very easy to make the balance sheet look better or worse than it really is. When Comcast Sports Net "negotiates" the TV deal with the Sixers you know one of the parties is going to be fudging the numbers. And even if CSN ended up over-paying based on ratings, their entire network would fall apart without having game rights to Sixers/Flyers/Phillies. Without those games the network would lose ad revenue from all of its other programming.

Likewise, when they own the arena expenses can easily be shifted to and from arena management. They can easily shift a lot of the costs to the Sixers for the expenses that make the arena viable and profitable to other events (say concerts.)

And the combination of tax write offs for depreciation while the actually franchise is generally appreciating is a huge issue that goes well beyond the yearly balance sheet. The owners are lying. The players are off base about who should be making the money. Both sides are messed up.

Regardless, there is a lot revenue that is generated, and the public sector have allowed pro sports to carve out a nice racket/monopoly. There is no legitimate reason why both sides could not come to agreements where they both are racking in an inordinate amount of cash off of the backs of local taxpayers.

I get that their are accounting rules out there that I don't comprehend. What I don't get is why that means NBA owners should be forced into being unprofitable (even if it's "unprofitable on paper") when owners in no other private industry in America are forced into being unprofitable, even if just on paper. That's why I think the Deadspin article (and the clown from ESPN pushing the same thing) is completely irrelevant. This is America, these are the accounting rules in America, every owner of a private business in America is entitled to set his labor costs in order to make a paper profit (limited only in the sense that pay must be above minimum wage).

It's up to the quality of the worker and the availability of other jobs for that worker, supply/demand, to determine how much that worker gets paid, with the expectation that the ownership will intend to set costs to make a profit.

The NBA is not exempt from this, regardless of whether Deadspin and ESPN.com think GAAP is funky.

Tray reply to stoned81 on Jul 5 at 23:37

But I believe the claim is that GAAP, as applied to the NBA, is unusually funky.

Tray reply to stoned81 on Jul 6 at 10:33

Isn't the response to that that Google's employees would also have a right to be upset if Google came to them and said they were losing money and needed to make pay cuts, when in reality they're just diverting all their profits to Ireland?

Whomever has more power will win (likely the owners.) And then once the individual owners start handing out contracts things will slowly revert back to the players favor.

IMO it is not about who is right- but who has the power. And I don't care either way- just make a deal and get back to having an operating league.

But I flat out don't buy that the owners have some sob story. You don't own an NBA team to make money off of it. You own it to show off how rich you are :) If they are unhappy that their expensive hobby might lose them some money then they can sell their team (usually for a hansom profit) and throw their millions away on some other hobby, like a mega-yacht.

I really have zero empathy for either side in this labor dispute.

"If they are unhappy that their expensive hobby might lose them some money then they can sell their team (usually for a hansom profit)"

Not anymore. Franchise values have not risen for several years. And just because traditionally there have been a lot of owners who buy teams for fun, that does not mean they should be expected to operate at a loss year after year. I'm sure a guy like Mark Cuban doesn't care if he loses money. But the Maloofs do. They bought their franchise fair and square, and it's not unreasonable for them to expect a profit every now and then, especially considering their small payroll.

Video interview highlights of Andre Iguodala from the 2010-11 NBA season:


As of now Igoudala is the 27th highest paid player in the league based on salaries for next year. I say he is a top 25 player, so I guess that salary is fair.

Looking at the list, there are a few players who are just dead wieghts to their teams: Rashad Lewis, Gilbert Arenas, Antwan Jamison, Elton Brand, Brandon Roy, and Baron Daivs. I know that players get injured doing their jobs and that it doesn't seem fair to cut their salaries for the injuries they sustain while on the job. But there needs to be some way for a team to cut loose the players that are not performing to the salary that they are awarded. I like the idea of making contracts garaunteed for only 3 years. Teams have the opportunity to correct their mistakes, and players still get paid 3 years of salary and get a pension when they retire.

I like the idea that the first three years only can be guaranteed, but I think they should make a player option count as a guaranteed year for those purposes. If it's 3 guaranteed years, followed by three player options, that doesn't solve the problem. To be honest, I'd like to see the player option completely eliminated, or I'd like to see a financial penalty for players who opt out, the same way teams typically have to pay a buyout to get out of a team option year.

Brian, you see this article on your favorite NBA player? Looks like Cousins hasn't matured just yet.


Talks about his immaturity off the court and has some good info on his downside on the court as well:

On the court, Cousins was one of the most inefficient offensive players in the league, and that should concern Sacramento just as much as his alleged character issues. He ranked 405th among all NBA players in points per possession on offensive plays he finished via a shot (turnover or drawn foul), according to Synergy Sports. Elementary math tells you that is really, really bad, especially for a big guy. He turned the ball over on nearly 19 percent of those possessions, one of only five players 6-foot-10 or taller to have a turnover rate so high. He took too many long jumpers and shot them very poorly, as Tom Ziller illustrates here in comparing Cousins’ shot selection to those of other heavy-usage centers.

Yeah, none of this is news. The guy was simply a terrible basketball player last season, a fact most seem to want to ignore. The emotional stuff is on top of his pitiful on-court performance.

Scott reply to Brian on Jul 5 at 17:13

Sorry should have pointed out the last paragraph of the article. The author says:

But mock him now, because chances are pretty good that by 2013 or so, this will be one of the best big men in the league.

Personally, I think Sacramento will deal with him now and then he'll do something on or off the court that is so bad that he is basically forced out of town. Then from going through whatever horrible experience he goes through he'll somehow mature and in 5 years be a great NBA player for a different team. He is definitely destroying one team first before he matures, but if does one day grow up he could be great for some team.


Tray reply to Juan on Jul 5 at 23:39

Now, I am a Cousins fan, but Randolph, statistically at least, was very good out of the gate. Whereas with Cousins there are legitimate questions about whether he's even capable of being a good basketball player, or at least, whether he's willing to play like one.

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