NBA players and owners came to their senses during ten-hour settlement talks Friday, and will advance a tentative agreement to their respective memberships for approval. No, the lockout’s not over, not yet. But the lawsuits will be withdrawn, the players’ union will reform, and approval of the deal is expected from all parties.
Many reports cite “significant concessions” by the owners. Whether that happened is highly suspect, considering that objective observers at Yahoo Sports, The New York Times and CBS Sports had weeks ago decided that the divisive issues were relatively minor.
The real issue at stake here was respect. NBA commissioner David Stern had made too many ultimatums, issued too many deadlines and given us all the high hat. The players responded by disclaiming interest and filed an anti-trust. This tentative settlement, ten days later, was more of an apology from the NBA than a compromise.
- The split of Basketball Related Income was set at a “band” of 49-51 percent. This reflects the 50-50 agreement that had been previously reached. One percent will go to the fund for retired players, a nice play by the union and a swell gesture by the owners. Apology accepted.
- The “Carmelo Anthony rule” was dropped by the owners. This would have prevented players from exercising their Larry Bird contract extension rights in “extend-and-trade” deals like the one that sent Anthony from the Nuggets to the Knicks last spring. It’s very unclear as to why the owners were trying to stop these deals, which amount to a player limiting his own movement in deals that all parties have to agree to. This was never a sensible bargaining item, and not much of concession. Shrugs all around. The OK City Thunder are still stuck with Kendrick Perkins (also an extend-and-trade deal last season).
- Mid-level Exception (MLE) contracts for teams over the salary cap were set at four years. The owners had wanted to alternate four-year and three-year deals, but what was the point? There’s no rule that says a team has to use its MLE at all. Don’t want a player for four years? Don’t sign him. And how was a team limited to three-year deals going to compete with a team that could offer four? More shrugs at the bargaining table.
- Sign and trade deals by teams paying luxury tax would be allowed but “limited,” according to reports. Huh? These types of deals occur too rarely to figure out what that means.
- Qualifying offers to restricted free agents would be raised. Aha. The Bucks had two restricted free agents, Luc Mbah a Moute and Chris Douglas-Roberts. Because they were 2nd round draft picks, their pay scale was low and the Bucks only had to commit $1 million to retain their rights to the players. That’s pretty low risk, especially for Luc, who’s due to get a raise. The Bucks decided not to retain rights to CDR, despite the low financial commit. Raising the qualifying offer would not necessarily drive salary higher for a player like Luc, whom the Bucks want to keep. But it would make it more difficult for teams to restrict players they have little interest in retaining. Freedom! – but not necessarily for players in high demand.
- The owners conceded on when to assess the Mid-Level Exception (MLE). Teams not paying luxury tax will be allowed to use the full $5 million MLE, regardless of whether, on paper, the MLE nudges the team into tax territory. This keeps any number of improving teams in small and big markets from being penalized as though they were repeat tax offenders like the Lakers and Celtics and Spurs, which is what the owners wanted to do. I’ve wondered why Herb Kohl or any small market owner agreed to this and questioned whether this was a clause to level the playing field for the luxury tax payers, contrary to the owners’ rhetoric about “competitive balance.” If the owners actually conceded on this, I can finally stop blogging about it.
“Yessssssssss!!!!!!!!!!” – Andrew Bogut tweeted this morning.
“Does the beard and mullet stay or go?” wondered Jon Brockman.
“Es finalmente todo esto verdad o sigo soñando ???” That was from Carlos Delfino.