Posted by: natehughart | August 9, 2009

I’ve got an idea with regards to the 2011 CBA negotiations: Let’s keep it the way it is!

This has been simmering for awhile, so forgive me for being irritated (and I am irritated) on matters such as this. Because it’s summer, and August with relatively few NBA news of note, (with all due respect to the Rashard Lewis steroid suspension that won’t be discussed here), and because the 2011 CBA has been talked about ad nauseum by practically everyone (I got over 234,000 hits by typing in “2011 NBA CBA” in Google for instance), unfortunately what has happened is that we’ve seen a ton of variety of opinion on this topic. One such opinion (which is what prompted me to write this) is Andrew Feinstein of Denver Stiffs. In short, he wants non-guaranteed contracts, a better farm system, getting rid of the age limit, simpler trades, and a higher luxury tax line.

Umm, I don’t even know where to begin with this. (Well, other than it’s somewhat preposterous and pointless.) So, I’ll guess I’ll start at the top and ignore his article for a minute and get it to later as I wind this monstrosity up.

So as you read, I’ll provide some tunage:

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About 2 weeks ago, TZ, of Fanhouse slash Sactown Royalty (StR) wrote a piece that a lawsuit by the NFL could allow the NBA to consolidate it’s own power.

I think it’s without saying that it’s best for everyone if that ruling is ruled against the NFL by the Supreme Court. Lester Munson did point out the possibility that it very well could go in the NFL’s favor, however, because of the pro business contingent that currently exists on the Supreme Court.

Needless to say, like TZ, I’m a bit freaked out, and I even started my own post on this. I ended up rambling about the makeup of some of the ownership in the NBA (Bob Johnson, former owner of BET, the only majority NBA owner who isn’t white–he’s black, Mark Cuban—he shouldn’t need an introduction–and Paul Allen–again no introduction) and why perhaps that giving owners more powers in the financial realm of the NBA is not necessarily wise.

Right now, the players currently receive 57% of BRI. (Click on the link if the term BRI confuses you.)

A few days ago, I was reading on Clips Nation about the salary cap, and while there are a few things that raised my eyebrows, nothing was too greatly egregioius about that particular knowledge shared over there. In fact, it’s probably on par with most “reasonable” fan’s knowledge. (Or perhaps slightly above.)

What was interesting was the David Aldridge article that was linked to held some very interesting information that I had to check the actual CBA for.

First part:

The owners, according to several sources, are looking for a rollback on the revenue guarantees to players. Currently, players are guaranteed 57 percent of all Basketball Related Income — just about any money that comes from an NBA team, including ticket sales from all games (including exhibition and playoff games), broadcast rights to games, concessions and parking sales, merchandise, team sponsorships and beverage sale rights. In addition, players get 40 percent of the take from the sale of luxury suites and arena signage, and up to 50 percent of arena naming rights.

Basically, the interesting part is the 40% take of the luxury suite, and 50% of arena naming rights.

Think about this for a moment. This makes players corporate partners in a league venture, and even though the owners pay them to play basketball, many of these young men become successful business people as they move on from the NBA in one way or another.

Of course, this is part of the problem. Well, for the owners.

Later on in Aldridge’s piece:

Owners want to reduce the players’ split from 57 percent of BRI to somewhere around 50 — and more than a few owners want a split in their favor. Either idea, union sources have told me over the past couple of months, is DOA.

Yeah. Michael Heisley is more valuable to the NBA than LeBron James. Yuh. Right. (Ditto with clowns like Bruce Ratner, Donald Sterling, George Shinn and Jerry Reinsdorf. If you had a scumbug all owner 1st team, those guys would make it up. Bob Johnson gets a pass only because he’s been an owner for 5 years and he paid an expansion fee.)

And (even) later on in Aldridge’s piece:

“In our case, lots of things over the years played out,” Holt said in Las Vegas, when he was named chair of the committee. “I get credit, R.C. (Buford, the general manager), Pop (coach Gregg Popovich). But we lucked out on some deals, to be blunt with you. Then, we have an ownership group that’s strong. No money has come out of that business, ever, or at least since 1993. So the debt on the Spurs is way down. And so we, as owners, have decided to give us a transition period, are willing to take some hits. But the main reason is that because we have such little debt on the business … it gives you opportunties that in the past, we didn’t have to take advantage of.”

Right before Holt’s little nugget, you should also let this roll around your noggin:

• Implementing a hard cap. “A hard, hard cap,” the source said. The NBA has operated with a “soft” cap since the implementation of the salary cap in 1984 it’s inception (1946–the modern salary cap started in 1984 as Coon notes), with several kinds of exceptions allowed to either re-sign players already on a team’s roster or to entice players from other teams to sign. These include the famous “Larry Bird” exception that allows a team to exceed the cap in order to re-sign its own player; the “mid-level” exception, starting with the average salary paid in a given season, and going out up to five years with annual eight percent raises; and the “bi-annual” exception, which teams can use every other year, and is generally used to help sign veteran players.

A hard cap, such as is used in the National Football League, would eliminate all exceptions. Teams would have a specific amount they could spend on salaries, and could not exceed it for any reason;

• Higher luxury taxes. A “supertax” that would basically double the luxury tax to $2 for every dollar a team exceeds the tax threshhold, from its current $1. The league tried to implement a supertax in the last negotiation with the players, but the union held firm against it, feeling it would have a devastating impact on free agency;

• Shrinking the gap between salary cap and tax threshhold. A smaller spread between the salary cap figure and the tax threshhold. Next year’s cap is set at $57.7 million; the tax threshhold is $69.9 million.

The funny thing here is that this doesn’t necessarily benefit every team. Do you think Mark Cuban, who has payed the luxury tax almost all decade long wants to pay 2 dollars for every dollar he’s over the limit? No, of course not. Owners are angry that Cuban spends his money on the Mavericks, and they want some extra income from Mr. Cuban in case he wants to spend so dangerously (as he would likely continue to do).

Which is kind of funny, because I already mentioned Peter Holt, and what’s even more interesting is this particular insight by Michael Heisley a few months ago in his discussion with 3 Shades of Blue:

3SOB: There is a rumor swirling that the Grizzlies could be having serious financial trouble, including possibly declaring bankruptcy. Is there any truth to this story?
MH: No. That is not true. The Grizzlies financially are operating at a break-even. Our expenditures are in line with our revenues.

I don’t know where that story comes from. They aren’t talking to me. Now the league is allowing teams to tap a credit line. The league has allowed teams to access their credit line before. I don’t know any team that hasn’t used it at some point but right now our credit situation is in good shape.

Funny, even though Heisley is a scumbag, he’s claiming that he doesn’t have bad credit and his spending is in line with his income.

I wonder what Heisley will say when it comes time to negotiations, and I equally wonder how many owners will admit that this is about making as much as money as they can in the interim.

Why?

So they can sell their teams if the economy improves and other prospective owners come around. Now, this doesn’t apply to the Maloof’s, but usually there are 3-4 sales of NBA teams in a decade. I also doubt that Bruce Ratner would stop short of anything he could to make the New Jersey Nets more valuable than they are now. (I don’t think the Nets would mind being sold to Seattle simply because they may not feel New Jersey is appropriate for them in the long run. Of course, this doesn’t mean anything either.)

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Back to Peter Holt. This was the other important part of the Aldridge piece:

Holt says there is a method to his seeming madness. Basically, the Spurs are loading up for two years — which coincides with all but the final year of Tim Duncan’s contract. By 2011-12, the Spurs will have just two players under contract — Duncan and McDyess, and McDyess’s deal is only partially guaranteed. San Antonio’s time among the league’s top spenders has an expiration date.

Funny, this is the same Peter Holt who mentions that the outside business isn’t subsidizing the Spurs, the same Peter Holt who mentions that the Spurs are making a short term run at a title the next 2 seasons, and yet, he doesn’t seem to think the NBA system is hurting him! He (and his co-ownership) has that choice! Guess what if you institute that hard cap. Guess what happens to that choice? (Nevermind that the Spurs are in a similar small market like the Kings. Nevermind that the Spurs have won 4 titles despite the fact that they’re have been terribly low ratings for all the Finals games they’ve been in minus the Knicks series in 99.)

It makes the Lakers, the Knicks and the Bulls more valuable. They constitute 1/10th of the NBA. It doesn’t take a genius to see that anything that gives the Bulls, Knicks and Lakers more advantages is stupid. (Oh, I might add that it’s not like Bulls, Lakers or Knicks fans don’t complain about anything either. Every fan complains. But, let me get there. This is a long piece I promise.)

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I suppose my point here is that well run teams are definitely worth far more than poorly run teams, and like 2005, which definitely felt like the owners were setting the players up long term. Read this by one Dan Rosenbaum (at the time a PhD economist out of UNC, and now a consultant for the Cavs) had to say about the players vs the owners in 2005:

Shortly after the new deal was announced between the players and owners, I declared it a big victory for the players. But with a caveat. We shouldn’t pretend that the fat lady was singing until the fat lady was indeed singing.

And not a peep was heard from the fat lady until more than a month later when the final details were hammered out. Based upon what I am hearing, the owners did quite well. This deal is pretty even for both sides and the ultimate outcome will depend largely on what happens to revenue growth over the life of the deal.

The initial details suggested that the teeth were taken out of the luxury tax, but that does not appear to be true. The luxury tax is guaranteed in every season of the deal at a lower threshold than used in 2004-05. Perhaps most importantly, teams not paying luxury taxes will likely continue to get larger luxury/escrow tax distributions than teams paying the tax. The new luxury/escrow tax system will be different, but it may deter spending just as much as the old system.

Hmmm. What exactly happened to the revenue over the life of the deal? Well, until recently (like last season), the corporotacy in America ran supreme. Then, they (they being the worthless corporacy–I shouldn’t say worthless, but definitely hyper-ego inflated–sound familiar?)got butt-fucked. And, well, a bunch of their profit’s went down the drain. By extension, what happened is that now the upper middle class (whom has feasted (by & large) off this corporacy for the last 30 years in the US) is running scared which is why (seemingly) every other word you hear out of Bill Simmons these days is about the economy. (Bonus: I just read this Kobe post Finals article, and, Simmons happened to nail it. In fact, if I was to make a NBA analogy about Simmons, I’d say that Kobe is probably very similar to Simmons in many respects although the analogy is completely imperfect on many levels. And, the conclusion that Kobe’s legacy of the last 2 seasons ranks up with among the greatest 2 years put on many of the game’s greats is completely accurate. Where was I?)

Oh yes, the revenue stream of the NBA changed because the corporacy (aka multinationals) decided that paying all this money to these teams for signing rights was asinine! Guess what? Guess who this hurts?

The NBA has always been oddball to the extreme, and always will be. It’s always been one of the premier social orchestrator’s of any league in the WORLD, and always will be. It’s the game of the poor man. The game of the poor man around the world. Once the Dream Team hit in ’92, what happened was it showed everyone else how it could be done. And, it made the NBA better, but American’s jealous simultaneously. (Well, stupid Americans. But they don’t count. All 350 million of them.)

Want some proof? When the Celtics were winning title after titles in the 60’s (with a predominantly black team with definite white talent–hell almost every NBA team had white Hall of Famers in the 60’s) couldn’t draw a fraction of what the Red Sox did in the 60’s because of Bill Russell. Yet, Red Auerbach, the Celtics, and the Celtics Family endured. Two more titles, in 74 & 76, with a beloved scrappy knee scraper like Dave Cowens, out drew those Russell teams in the 60’s. Let’s not even compare the popularity of the Larry Bird teams in the 80’s to Russell.

I’ve strayed somewhat away from my point. Back in the 60’s, there was a time where the players held out of the All-Star game and threatened to strike. The players president at the time? Oscar Robertson. Robertson was an agitator for players rights (along with black civil rights generally) and did it in his own way with the NBA Players Union. Unfortunately, since Robertson quit broadcasting games, and save a moment where the NBA “celebrates” it’s heritage, and has to honor Robertson, it doesn’t have much involvement with him.

On the other hand, Jerry West is the quintessential white player of the 60’s in the NBA. It’s not a coincidence, that even though the league was going through a tough time financially in the 70’s, and with a dogfight against the ABA, it chose West to be the new “Logo”.

Certain things sell better than others. You stick a 6 foot blonde with big tits on TV and enough men will watch to make whatever that blonde is doing sellable. It’s not any different with male athletes, but the angle is not necessarily sex.

I’m not canonizing Robertson, or villianizing West here. What I’m pointing out is that Robertson, who has run a successful business in Cincinnati since his retirement from the Bucks (which he has claimed was forced in part of the Oscar Robertson suit that he had filed against the NBA in 1970), where West has remained in contact with the NBA working with the Lakers as a scout, assistant coach, head coach and GM of the franchise (for nearly 20 years–starting in 1982), and later for a few years with the Memphis Grizzlies.

West, even if he wasn’t beloved by particular owners (and he’s probably always been loved by Jack Kent Cooke–former owner of both the Lakers and Washington Redskins– and Jerry Buss–the current owner of the Lakers), certainly was appreciated by them because of his marketability. And, a great story that Kelly Dwyer once told me about West and Heisley went like this:

Heisley: “We need to make a move.”
West: “Okay. I’ll make a move.”

The move? He signed Brian Cardinal to a 5 year 29 million dollar deal. Ask yourself who lost out on that deal?

Anyway, what’s my point? The players in the 60’s and 70’s fought for something that was beyond their own attainability, and it’s had an everlasting effect. (Beyond individual stats, I definitely think that is the legacy of those players in the 60’s. Including West. He just didn’t suffer some of the angst and antipathy that many black players faced. Or, he faced it differently than they did.) One such item that was heavily fought for was that of guaranteed contracts was something that was necessary in a league like the NBA that would desperately do anything to get rid of a player who has emotional issue’s, monetary issue’s, or “something”. (I think we all can assume that the class of ’86 isn’t happening again.)

Oh, you see now. Guaranteed contracts. Does that mean they aren’t holding teams back, like, say, the Denver Nuggets? No more than Kiki Vandeweigh’s bad decisions did. (Or the interest’s that pushed Stan Kroenke to allow that to happen in the first place.)

Bad owners, and good owners, make all the difference in the NBA. Look no further than Peter Holt and Jerry Buss.

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2nd music break.

Note: Anybody who thinks Phil Collins discovered Philip Bailey in 1984 is probably pretty stupid.

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Now we come full circle to Feinstein. The guy is neither stupid, nor misled. I just disagree, and I assume this is partly due to our fandom. I don’t care for the NFL standard that currently happens with players, and I think most NBA fans would agree. The NBA and NFL are different leagues. Thus, treating them differently, and utilizing how you focus energy towards what works and what doesn’t in the NBA versus NFL is not usually a test case that works.

The NFL has 32 teams. No franchise in LA. The NBA has 30 teams. 2 in LA, and 2 in NYC as well. (If you count the Nets. I wouldn’t.) The NFL pools it’s money across the league. The NBA hasn’t, and probably never will. No owner in the big markets (LA, Chicago, NYC) wants to give up that advantage, and no owner that is rolling in dough like Paul Allen (Portland), Mark Cuban (Dallas) or Dan Gilbert (Cleveland) want to give up their inherent advantages. That’s just 6 teams (if you discount the Clippers, and I doubt Sterling would want to give up his inherent advantages that he currently has either), and if you include the Clippers, you got 7 teams. Then you have the Warriors and the Bay Area, and I can’t see why they would want to revenue share when their market has always yielded a high return if the Warriors are playing well. (Which, is of course the conundrum for the Dubs. But, whatever.)

If you have 8 teams (and I mean 8 teams that I seriously don’t want to even consider giving up their market advantage), and that doesn’t include markets like Miami, DC, Philly or Detroit, that’s almost half the league. That doesn’t even include Toronto which is one of the 5 biggest markets by virtue of having all of Canada as it’s market.

That’s 13 teams.

I can keep going. This isn’t that hard. I don’t know why Toronto would really want to share it’s profits (as a franchise) when they can keep themselves and build a winning Raptors team.

Oh, and, how exactly can the US Supreme Court rule for a team located in Canada? (It can’t. Players who play in Canada and who are from over-sea’s are required to have a Canadian and American work permit.)

That’s the biggest difference between the NFL and the NBA. There is a team in Canada (and was 2 until that scumbug Heisley ruined that synergy– I am bitter about the NBA not having a NBA team out of Vancouver), and I find it hard to see how exactly a Supreme Court ruling applies to a team in another country (albeit in the same league).

Anyway, that’s besides the point. I’m sure there are ways (like the Canadian Supreme Court or their equivalent) to get around the Toronto issue, but still, it’s unsettling.

The NBA as it’s constituted is made up of large markets, mid-size markets, and small markets. And, the definition of which is which is often up to the person writing the opinion. Sacramento is considered a small market by media definition, yet it is the 16th largest media market in the US. (Which is barely smaller than Seattle, Tampa or Cleveland. But, I digress.) The difference between Sacramento, and say the 3 cities I mentioned in the last sentence is this: Sacramento is not the major center of the California Region. It does have it’s draws (duh!), but other than the State Capitol, a few elite corporations (Apple and Intel–computers–I’m sensing a pattern here), and the agrifactory farming business that exists throughout the Central/San Joaquin Valley, there isn’t a ton of heavy corporate money.

Which explains why the Kings have always been in a precarious position when it comes to money. (And why such a push for an arena has always been about a parking lot (which lacks foresight but whatever) and those extra concessions that teams had before. In many ways, Sacramento is getting lucky that it can design an arena without some of those constraints. Of course, it will still get done wrong. But, this is for another day.) But, the Kings still benefit from the market being relatively a choice-filled one by owners and how they spend money. There is the luxury tax which keeps some teams (like Cleveland, Dallas, New York, Lakers) constantly staying in that tax despite the relative market sizes.

The irony is, as Djturtle of Straight outta Vancouver pointed out the other day, is that Michael Heisley is actually a competent businessman who is spending with accordance to his income. He did actually lose money because the best teams in Grizzlies history weren’t good enough to get beyond the 1st round (and not even win a game) which is usually difficult for fans to root for. Beyond even that, Pau Gasol never drew fans in Memphis either. (Which is something conveniently forgotten, but hey, whatever.) I do have a point, though, which is that money spent, even if it makes sense basketball wise, is not always a financial boon.

I understand that. Most fans do.

Which, finally, brings me back to Feinstein, and his piece on Denver Stiffs on Friday.

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First, there was some stuff I did agree with.

Fourthly, the minimum age rule should mirror MLB’s. The one-and-done rule by which kids have to play at least one year of college basketball or enter the NBA after the age of 19 has backfired on the NCAA. It should really be called one-semester-and-done because that’s exactly what’s happening. What’s the point of having great coaches like Roy Williams or John Calipari or Ben Howland kill themselves to recruit and coach top prospects only to have those prospects jet off to the NBA after a semester on campus? Like baseball, I’d like to see the NBA scrap the age limit. If you’re ready to come into the NBA – a la LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, and so on – then they should be allowed in right away. And for those who stay in college, they should stay at least three years or wait until they’re 21, as they do in Major League Baseball.

Absolutely do I agree with all of this. Either, let the kids come into the draft out of high school, or make them commit at least 3 years to the college that they go to. Hey, a college degree isn’t exactly invaluable. (Don’t I know it, Mom.) Anyway, the point here is that this is exactly one point I do totally agree with.

The other main point Feinstein came up with was this:

The catch to this last point is that while MLB has a great farm system, the NBA needs an actual farm system. We were getting there until some NBDL teams went broke during the recession. Because ideally, each NBA team would have its own NBDL team stocked with coaches and prospects of their choice. I’ve always wondered if Nikoloz Tskitishvili would have been as big a bust as he turned out to be had he played 40 minutes a night for the 14ers for a full year before competing in the NBA. Imagine an NBA where solid veterans get to keep a bench spot for an extra season or two while rookies and raw prospects play 40 minutes a night on an NBDL team or in college. The quality of basketball in the NBA would rival what we saw in the late 1980’s.

Absolutely do I agree with this portion (of the age requirement) as I believe the NBA should use the NBDL in some similar fashions to the MLB and the way they use Triple-A for Major League players (like rehab assignments). Also, I’m going to have a piece here in awhile on what I think the NBA should do with all the various things in the next CBA. (It’s one thing to think something’s wrong. It’s also another to have no solutions. I have solutions–some have been thought out already–but also I have idea’s that expand on my idea’s here.)

Now, to what I disagree with. Which is the rest of it.

First off, the guaranteed contract in its present form must go. How many more Tim Thomas’s or Darius Miles’s or Erick Dampiers do we need to see to recognize that the guaranteed contract must be scrapped? The word on the street is that the owners will aggressively fight the union on it in this next go-around of negotiations. And they absolutely should. The Nuggets current situation with Kenyon Martin being owed $15.4 million and $16.5 million over the next two seasons is a textbook example of the guaranteed contract becoming an albatross for an entire organization. The Nuggets have an owner willing to lose money to bring Denver an NBA championship, a competent management team in place and a deep, talented roster that’s just a solid big man away from possibly winning that championship. And yet because of K-Mart’s deal, the Nuggets will be lucky to score a Jeff Foster-caliber center.

Umm, no, don’t get rid of the guaranteed contract. The NBA is not the NFL. It doesn’t have 11 positions on each side of the ball (plus special teams) to fill. You only have 13 guaranteed players (at a minimum with an average of 14 across the league) needed on a roster. There are only so many players in this league, and only so many players that will come & go. There are already devices for teams to not guarantee contracts to players. Plenty of teams use bad contracts as a way to trade a valuable player and move that bad contract. That’s the way value works. Value works in different ways for different teams at different teams.

The biggest problem with Kenyon Martin is that he’s not injured chronically to the point where the Nuggets can’t medically retire him and take him off the cap. Everything else is a function of paying for a top level team in the NBA (which the Nuggets were, and I might remind they didn’t pay the luxury tax). However, by not paying the luxury tax last season, they did set themselves up to do so if they wanted to continue to compete.

Which is the problem. Nuggets fans had gotten used to saving money, and now the Nuggets have to spend it again. NBA fans get confused by the in’s & out’s of the CBA, and how it’s used. But, that’s not necessarily guaranteed contracts fault.

Would Nuggets fans have a problem with cutting Chauncey Billups at some point? What about Carmelo Anthony? And, what about a team that’s successful (like the Nuggets) that wants to keep it’s core of players around for the long term so they can compete? One way to have that is guaranteed contracts. Guaranteed contracts suck (if you’re badly overpaying Kenyon Martin which the Nuggets are), and they can work for you in keeping the core of a competitive team together rather than risking losing that player whose looking for the biggest payday at every turn which not may be with the Nuggets.

The NBA is not the NFL. It can’t afford the parity the way the NFL can. There are so many built-in advantages of the NFL that sometimes fans (like Feinstein) get caught up in the whole “guaranteed contract” issue. It’s an issue yes, but not for the fans. It’s an issue for the owners in how much money they pay. But, the moment that it costs owners a winning team, or a way to make more money, they will complain. That’s what owners do. They’re competitive people too.

I don’t have an issue with encouraging owners and GMs to stay away from dumb contracts (like the one Joe Dumars gave Ben Gordon this summer), but I don’t think owners – like the Nuggets Stan Kroenke or the Mavericks Mark Cuban – should be penalized for being willing to spend to reward their fans. The K-Mart trade-and-sign was a disastrous decision in hindsight, but it came from a good place: Kroenke wanted to reward Nuggets fans for supporting the team by adding an impact power forward. Why are we making owners suffer for that?

Owners are suffering? Since when? Much of South East Asia is suffering. Californians who are losing their homes (that they shouldn’t have been able to buy) are suffering. Stan Kroenke being penalized for spending money over an arbitrary money line that he agreed to is suffering? I think not.

Secondly, trades need to be simplified. In order to make an NBA trade today, teams must swap salaries that are within 125% of each other plus $100,000. Throw in trade exceptions and non-simultaneous trades and completing an NBA trade can rival doing your taxes: it’s an overly complicated system that no one really understands. I have no issue with salaries having to matchup to a point, but the difference needs to be higher than 125% plus $100,000 to give GMs more flexibility to make deals. Too many solid veterans are shipped around (see Smith, Joe) as contract fodder only to be cut and re-signed by the teams that dealt them in the first place. Why not allow trades to be within 200% and ditch the trade exception stuff altogether?

Actually, this isn’t true at all. Not all trades need to be done with 125% + 100K in order to complete. Like, for example, the one that Denver announced hours after Feinstein wrote his piece on Friday, the trade that Denver completed with Memphis trading Steven Hunter, cash (3 million), and swapping their first rounder next year (with protection that won’t matter) for Memphis’ 2nd rounder.

Now, why did the Nuggets do this? First, the 3 million in cash they sent actually got rid of Hunter, and they actually pay a player cheaper, and still save money than what they would have paid if they had kept Hunter. (Do you think teams don’t do this stuff for a reason? Cmon.)

But, none of this is the point. Feinstein misses out that cap room is a function of a team not having committed money. And, cap room can always (and increasingly) used in multiple ways. These effects have ranging effects. Orlando has cap room, negotiates a sign and trade with Seattle for Rashard Lewis, Orlando gets Lewis, Seattle gets a trade exception. Seattle uses that trade exception for Kurt Thomas, and 2 unprotected 1st rounders from Phoenix (in 2008 for Serge Ibaka–who was picked 24th overall, and another pick in 2010). Plus, later in the 2007-08 season, Seattle ended up getting a 1st rounder (in 2009) from San Antonio in exchange for a few expiring contracts.

Wait a minute here. How is the current system hurting Oklahoma City (Seattle) in rebuilding it’s team? With so many high draft picks the last 3 seasons (2nd overall in 2007 picking Durant, 4th overall in 2008 picking Westbrook, and 3rd overall picking Harden), this has made OKC stronger just by it’s lonesome. But, along with that they’ve also been able to pick players in the later parts of the 1st round that may pan out. Not all of those players do, but if you don’t have those picks, you will never know. OKC used their asset’s to gain that advantage.

Which is why I don’t understand why the trading system has to change. It works fine. It’s just that maybe some fans don’t understand the ins & out’s. Well, a lot of fans don’t understand the American political system that they (should) take part in. Does that mean the US should scrap democracy because enough people don’t pay attention? I don’t think so.

Moving on.

Thirdly, the luxury tax line needs to be raised. As a Nuggets fan I’m admittedly biased here, but it’s not fair for Stan Kroenke to be asked to lose triple what the Lakers lose to put a similar product on the floor. If a small market owner like Kroenke is willing to shell out as many salary dollars as a big market owner like Jerry Buss or Cuban, why is he getting penalized so much for it? As reported a few months back, Kroenke allegedly loses about $10 million a season before the Nuggets exceed the luxury tax line. As of today, Kroenke is on the hook to pay out $76 million in player salaries – or $6 million over the $70 million tax line which means another $6 million goes into the NBA’s coffers. So between the $10 million Kroenke allegedly loses plus the $12 million he’ll be paying out in salary/to the NBA, this could be a $22 million loss. Conversely, the Lakers don’t lose any pre-luxury tax line money and while I’m sure they’ll say differently, I doubt between their ticket sales (double Denver’s), TV and radio package (triple or quadruple Denver’s) and sponsorship deals (also probably triple Denver’s) they lose any money all – even when they exceed the tax line. Whatever percentage of basketball related income (BRI) the NBA is using to set the tax line needs to be adjusted.

Because that’s the system. If Stan Kroenke wanted to own the Mavericks he had has chance. He didn’t attempt to buy the team then. And, since when is Denver a small market? That’s a crock of shit that is worse than my garbage can. (Which I promise you is awful.)

If you want to complain about the differences in market I understand. What I don’t understand, and don’t have any sympathy for (and I’m a Kings fan remember), is the understanding of why this matters. When you’re Stan Kroenke, and you have your wife billion’s to spend, than essentially you get to do what you want.

First off, it’s not that hard to figure out the answer to why the Nuggets won’t make as much money as the Lakers. They’re not as profitable. Yeah, and the point is? And, I’m supposed to care? No, not so much.

Secondly, every “question” that Feinstein poses has an answer that is simply answered. Basketball Revenue is Basketball Revenue. That same system that is hurting Kroenke this time around helped him last season. Part of what goes into Basketball Revenue is the big market’s revenue. Which, last I checked, applies to every team in the NBA. So, how exactly is Kroenke hurting by the system?

And, wait a minute, where is that pointed out in Feinstein’s post? (It isn’t. Hypocritical, if I had a word, but hey, whatever.)

I’m not even calling Feinstein a hypocrite in his own personal actions (never met him), but his post surely is. And, that’s where I’ll stop.

I get where Feinstein is upset that the Nuggets may not have the inherent advantages that other teams have. And, so what? Is that those teams problem? What about the Nuggets? Would he complain about the system if Denver was the biggest city with the biggest revenue stream? (No, I think not.)

******

I’m picking on Feinstein a bit, and I do apologize for that by the way (it’s not personal), but his opinion is hardly a solo job. Many fans believe some/all of what he does. Yet, if you look at a Nuggets blog like Roundball Mining Company, all I read is complaint about Stan Kroenke and his spending habits. Quite honestly, and Feinstein may not care, but Kroenke’s personal wealth actually is greater than Jerry Buss’, and that doesn’t even probably include his wife’s holdings (which are extensive). Which is of course one of the ironies of this deal, but hey, whatever.

My solution to lack of fan knowledge is simple. Education. Educate. Yet, if you read the comments of that very post, some of his own readers don’t even agree with him! It’s so obvious why the NBA works differently than other leagues: The NBA is a totally different league than other leagues!

So, I’m not being a part of the problem, and not to inundate long time readers with stuff they already know, this is only for those who would like to be better educated on the subject.

Feinstein linked to the CBA that is available on the players website, but all the rules that govern the NBA are not fully on that particular site. Larry Coon’s FAQ is particularly great for the novice who doesn’t want to delve into dense legalese. A word to the wise, however. Reading Coon’s FAQ is dense. Reading it a bit at a time is a good idea. At the top there are questions that could lead you to a various level of topics. There are also parts where they contrast the 2005 CBA agreement to the one agreed upon in 1999. That’s always good reading. There are other parts that link. It is the best Salary Cap resource out there for anyone. If there is anything that isn’t in that CBA, it’s partly because an issue–Darius Miles is a good example even though Coon did have some of the Miles issue explicitly stated in his FAQ beforehand–hasn’t cropped up yet. I have seen very few things (I have questions and may send them to Coon, but I don’t wish to bother him either) that I have a question and feel vague about.

One such example is regarding trade exceptions and BYC players. Does a trade exception only cover that players salary, or the trading salary? (I’m sure Coon can find out, but it’s very unlikely to happen anyway. But, still, it’s one thing that’s come up after reading that FAQ over & over.)

Media Wags like Marc Stein, Sam Amick and others read it. I suggest the fan does as well. There’s no way a fan needs to be as knowledgable as I am about the salary cap (that isn’t required), but at least being able to figure out the way the salary cap works is a good start.

Now, beyond even that, there is better sites for salary information. I always say to avoid Hoopshype because it’s stupid and is full of dumb error’s. Sham Sports happens to be my favorite, but that’s because I’m partial to the English. Draft Express has a good site as well, but it’s maintained by the same guy who runs Sham. I’ve found ESPN to have good figures as well, but it’s not necessarily consistent.

(Kings Note: Donte Greene’s salary went up in scale from last season. I wonder what information changed there.)

Now, I’m not going to make a crusade of anything else beyond those 2 sites. There are others, and I have them linked on my sidebar. I like Wyn (Of Canis Hoopus) because I like his spreadsheet, but I don’t trust that fans can tell what is what on his page. So, I don’t always recommend it. If you do understand all that stuff without hesitation, than go for it. StoryTellers has interesting salary information (trade exceptions, trade kickers) that can be useful in determining a players value in trade. As a Kings fan, we learned that first hand about John Salmons when it was found out about by Amick a few days before he was traded to the Bulls we found that he had a 15% trade kicker.

Why was that important? Because that goes into Salmons salary (he had about 5.5 million that went up to about 6.2 million after the trade happened) that then needs to be approved by the Bulls before they make that deal. (Kevin Garnett also had one as well, but with a much higher salary, it made the C’s-Wolves deal more complicated.)

******

Anyway, to wind this up, and I want to keep this under 10000 words if I can, I want to say that the best way to educate yourself is knowing what sources work, and which one’s don’t. That takes experience, and knowing whom you can trust, and can’t, is a big part of that. There is a learning curve, and it takes a lot of exploration. (Trust me, I understand why people Hoopshype. I’m trying to make it clear why I don’t.) This is why owners can get away with much of the disseminating hyperbole that is currently going on about the terrible circumstances of the current CBA. (I’m writing about this in part 2. This is part 1.)

It’s really easy to say players are to blame, but if you take the players away, you don’t have a league. There aren’t any current superstars waiting to be drafted by the NBA at the moment (that we don’t already have an idea of whom they are) that aren’t in the league. The NBA does a good job of drafting it’s talent (which is the most useful way to acquire a superstar), and part of that is simply luck (a player drops to your spot or you win the lottery by getting a top 3 spot on any given year). The NBA, though, is not a league for the meek fan. If you’re a fan of the Kings, the Nuggets, or the Mavericks, you might not have as many chances to win if you’re the Lakers. That’s just part of the deal. (I think it’s safe to say that Mavs, Nuggs or Kings fans would find the championship sweeter though.)

The NBA is a players league, and where one guy (say LeBron James vs Kevin Martin) makes all the difference, there is no way to make it equitable for everyone. The NBA does a very good job of currently doing EVERYTHING IT CAN to make sure that every team has the same advantage. With the luxury tax being what it is, the Lakers aren’t as profitable. If you raise that luxury tax, suddenly it’s much easier to be the Lakers. I don’t think Feinstein, unfortunately, has enough knowledge to understand that the CBA is a very tricky thing that before you suggest how to fix it, you might want to know enough about it. Nothing I read in that piece suggests he knows as much as some of his own fellow bloggers.

Beyond even all that, Feinstein’s piece definitely is one thing that owners want to see (if you’re not an owner who stands to lose anything by a major CBA change which is what Feinstein would like). Michael Heisley wants a system to make it equitable, and it’s not hard to see why. In Memphis he will always be at a disadvantage. You take the LA factor out of the Lakers, the Chicago out of the Bulls, or the New York out of the Knicks, and that suddenly goes away.

But, that’s really not something that works. The NFL has 16 games a year (plus 4 potential post-season games for 2 teams), and 4 exhibition games. It’s a very different concept with a different style of sport. The NBA has 82 games, and a possible 28 games in the post-season for 2 teams. Then you factor in the 6-8 pre-season games, and you’re talking about 100 games over a season.

That’s a lot of revenue. There are a lot of NBA fans who want their team to gain every advantage they can. (Why should Feinstein be any different in that respect?) On the other hand, none of them would hate being a Lakers fan if they grew up being one.

I won’t lie though. I’d rather be a Kings fan through the thick & thin than be a Lakers fan and be lumped in with a shitpot full of morons like the Lakers fanbase. For every Larry Coon you have, you have 100000 morons who collectively lower LA’s IQ every time they talk about the Lakers. Every league has a big bandwagon team, and the Lakers are the NBA’s team in that respect.

I’ve never wondered what it would like to root for a team to win a lot of championships, and I’ve never felt that the Lakers (because they’re in LA) have this greater opportunity to win championships. The current CBA gives EVERY TEAM A CHANCE! to win a NBA title provided they have luck, intelligent management/ownership, and a commitment to doing whatever it takes to win a ring. If Stan Kroenke has that commitment, I believe it’s possible.

(I don’t believe I need to recount how the Lakers got Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Kobe Bryant or Shaquille O’Neal. I don’t need to do the same with the Celtics with regards to Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Len Bias among others.) The system is fair and brutal to everyone. Stan Kroenke is one of those owners. (I would kill the Maloof’s publicly, and hard, if they ever complained about the market differences. That’s their problem. Not mine as a Kings fan, or any other owner.) I dont’ believe market size is an excuse, I don’t believe guaranteed contracts are a real problem if owners don’t make intelligent informed decisions, and there’s always luck involved. Some teams get more luck than others. Since there isn’t a real way to capture luck other than to observe it when it happens, I suppose NBA fans are going to have to demand that their ownership/management is more astute, players play harder because that’s their job, and educate themselves on the in’s & out’s of what the NBA really is.

(Oh, if you’re wondering why it took nearly 8000 words to state my point, I felt like doing it that way. If you don’t like it, you can always sit on a 10 foot pole and rotate for as long as you like.)

Good day minions.


Responses

  1. I agree with you Pook, although at 8000 words there must be some parts I don’t agree with you on but I can’t remember them.

    What the average fan forgets is that the average NBA career still lasts only 3 years. For every Kenny Thomas or Raef LaFrenz (pick any bad contract you want) most players drafted out of the lottery and particularly in the second round don’t stick in the league past their first contract.

    My sympathy for the owners is at best limited. They made a choice on every contract on the team. Somebody thought Jermaine O”Neal was worth $23 mil in the last year of his contract.

    In life in general, but the NFL in particular owners screw the players every chance they get. In the NFL if you get dinged up, lose a step or if your contract hits the sweet spot for the player or the player the team drafts out of college is decent…….bingo………. the player is cut, waived.

    That’s why most of the contracts in the NFL come with large signing bonuses, there is little chance the player is actually going to be under contract when the contract begins to pay the player. The contracts aren’t worth the paper they are written on.

    One of the reasons I prefer basketball over football and baseball is the continuity of the roster. In most (certainly not all by any means) the players you have on the team at the end of the season are going to be the players you have on the team at the start of the following season.

    I have largely stopped following the 49ers and SF Giants because the players are waived, cut and traded so often I can’t keep track of them any more. In short, I don’t KNOW “my” teams anymore.

    Yes players are overpaid to play so called “children’s games” but they aren’t overpaid by entertainment standards. Hey, if a producer wants Tom Cruise to star in his next blockbuster he is going to have to cough up $20 mil and a percentage of the gross and there is no guarantee the movie is going to make any money.

    As fans we complain about K9’s contract forgetting that it helped up get out from under CWebbs much worse contract. The human element, injuries, declining skills due to age, bad player attitudes etc., all contribute to making it almost impossible to know which contracts signed this summer will turn out to be great values and which will turn out to be toxic to the fans of that particular team.

    Nevertheless, I much prefer the current CBA over the contract situations of other professional sports. The fact that we are seeing players and coaches contracts go down in both dollars and duration due to the current economic downturn means to me that the Association has enough flexibility under the current CBA to deal with most situations.

    The current CBA works and while it may need a few adjustments there is no point, as my grandmother used to say in “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.” Great post Pookey!

    • A legendary comment in it’s own right BJ. Thanks for getting through that monstrosity.


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