That Was the Lockout that Was (told through comments)

Posted on Mon 05 December 2011 in Lockout Coverage by Cesar R.

Hey. My name is Cesar, I’m a friend of Aaron's, and the same guy he was talking about in the Andrew Bynum player capsule. Short version: I’m a Hispanic Lakers fan, I made a religion based off of Bynum's elbow, and I carry with me a sincere hope that a fight breaks out in every sports game I watch. I was unironically opposed to trading Bynum for Melo last season (and not just for the sake of my religion). Aaron is letting me write an article, which is very nice of him. Classy stuff: just the type of behavior you’d expect from a fan of the most boring team in sports. I don’t know if I’ll stick around, but it’s always nice to try new things, so let's get started.

As you all know, the lockout sucked. Crazy as it may sound, though, there were actually people who thrived in the absence of basketball. These folks engaged in acts of schadenfreude over the season that wasn't, due to their irrational hatred of basketball and/or the NBA. Others, too, thrived -- people who enjoyed the game didn't quite approve of a cancelled season, but still managed to display an incredible, inexcusable degree of ignorance about the lockout. There's no way around it: These people deserve to be scorned and ridiculed for their terrible opinions. So, who are they? Really very easy to find, just go to your favorite sports site, and then find any article about the lockout! Then you can scroll down to the dark soulless abyss known colloquially as the comments section. To save you some time, I've undertaken this dark work myself and made a record of it. Click the jump as I take you on a tour through the worst of sports fandom at one of the lowest points of the lockout. Make yourselves comfortable.

• • •

First up we have a CBS Sports article. Let’s see what we can find. Pictures of the comment, then my response:

They won't be able to get their rings you big dummy!

Eternal defending champs? Can’t argue with that! Mavs: 2011-2032 NBA champs.

90% of basketball fans think this post is terrible.

The owners also have to worry about willingly giving shitty players huge contracts and finding a way to blame it on the players. Don't forget that part.

• • •

Essentially nobody goes to CBS Sports for sports news, though, since there were only like 15 comments. Most of them were boring, so let’s move on to a more high traffic site like

He's still a starter for the Lakers in the year 2011 AD.

We’re paying Derek Fisher HOW MUCH per hour again? ... maybe there WAS some merit to this lockout after all.

Screw the economy too!

I have no sympathy for the thousands of workers who would be struggling to pay their bills after the lack of a season cost them their jobs either, Greg. Or the 400 people laid off from the lockout. High five man!

Bad news for the Blazers roster.

Hmm, pushing the player’s buttons more? Yes, this is a good idea. Has definitely worked well before.


Ahh, there it is. The “overpaid/unintelligent thugs” comment that you see so often when anything NBA related comes up. Say, Dave20190, when you say “thug” do you actually mean... (Editor's note: Redacted)

Dave's not here man!

Now this is one Dave that really does know best.

17 problems but a lockout ain't one.

Even the Celtics organization’s own fans were willing to skip a season. Ayo, 17titlesncounting, KEVIN GARNETT ISN’T GONNA GET ANY YOUNGER!

Those fundamentals that aren't so fun to watch.

Yeah those kids really have a passion to jack up bad threes after wasting 33 seconds of shot clock and they NEVER dream of one day getting drafted by an organization that pays them for their work instead of exploiting them like the child slaves they are under the NCAA. Because that would be crazy. They'd rather be NCAA for life. Screw "fraudville."

What a hoser.

A poverty sport? Does he think the players are on food stamps or something? Don't even know how to approach this one.

• • •

Fact: ESPN commenters are dumb. (Their columnists who link to this blog are the best though! And DDL is pretty ballin too.) Next on our tour of horrors is, these dudes REALLY love sports, so much that they have a dedicated section filled with only sports news links, surely the civil discourse here is better right?

"Overpaid Thugs" is also the name of my fantasy basketball team.

These damn gangsters! All they care about is money! I won't stand for it! I hope they never play again! By the way, here's the exact negotiating position I feel they should stake out in order to maximize their wealth and continue to play as soon as possible!

This is actually one of the least racist comments I have come across.

Welp, there goes the economy…

He is.

Spoiler alert: buckeyebrain is racist.

Do you guys even read the alt text for these images?

AHAHAHAHA. Bird and Jordan being "fairly nice" guys? Good one tetsoushima, tell me another knee slapper!

• • •

What’s that? Can’t take it anymore? You'd like to get off this planet to live in isolation for the rest of your days on Mars, secluded from the human race? You know, you could just... close this article. I wouldn't blame you. But if you're sticking with me, thanks. I’ll let you get the paperwork ready for your move to Mars soon, but we still have one more stop. This is the big time right here folks, feast your eyes on the black hole of human decency known as the Yahoo! Sports comment page! NO HOPE, FINAL DESTINATION, LET GO YOUR NOTIONS OF HUMAN DECENCY AND SUCCUMB TO ABJECT CYNICISM.

1-in-4 will win.

Heh, LeBron 4th quarters…THAT’S COMEDY GOLD LOUIE! GOLD! GIVE ME SOME SCRUBS PLAYING GOOD OL’ FUNDAMENTALS INSTEAD! And yeah those overpaid gangster MTV hip hop blingee rappers sure do hate playing for the love of the game that's why they played all those exhibition games frequently during the lockout.

I haven't read the whole thing either.

Almost every "sentence" in this comment contains a reasonably coherent thought. But I've been starting at it for an hour and it doesn't make any sense when you put it all together. It's like everyone in Richard's hometown got together around a big round table at a town meeting to write a good old-fashioned collaborative angry letter, only they never stopped to differentiate where one person starts and the other stops.

We go play hoop.

“Off with their heads!”- Eternal Emperor-Dictator Obama circa 2020, giving his blessing to execute the Miami Big 3 for giving the gentlemen’s sweep to his beloved Bulls all those years ago.

Tim Duncan is old.

Aaron is going to cry when he sees this one.

Only 3 titles in the past 3 decades were not rigged.

Next year’s story line will have Stone Cold Steve Austin kick David Stern’s candy ass and take over the NBA.

It's criminal bad opinions like these exist.



Seven people who claim to be sports fans liked this post and only one disliked it. That's very depressing.

There were comments worse than this that I didn't include.

Yeah you know what fuck this I’m done good riddance to you, Joseph.

• • •

So yeah, how about them sports “fans”? Between the apathy, irrational hate for pro basketball, criminally misinformed opinions and outright racism it’s pretty hard to feel good, right? I haven’t even dug through the basketball dedicated forums too, of course the most you get there are mildly bad opinions about the lockout and that isn’t as interesting as what you get in the news sites. Should you hate life now and wish you were never born? Of course not, because you exist, I exist, and millions of people who wanted an NBA season exist out there. And we easily outnumber these assholes.

Before we move on to trash talking all our rival teams, we should revel in this -- no matter what we do, no matter how rude we get, we'll never trash talk a fellow fan nearly as harshly as these people deserve to be trash talk. And there's a truth, here: we may have hated everyone involved in this lockout right now for being dumb about a lot of things, but at the end of the day we’ll never be like these guys above. Also, before I go, may I just suggest that the NBA give us League Pass for free this season as an attempt to win our loyalty back?

... No? Oh well, I tried. Until next time.

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Happy Days are Here Again (or: goodnight, sweet lockout)

Posted on Sat 26 November 2011 in Lockout Coverage by Aaron McGuire

Goodbye, lockout. Go ahead and leave us alone forever now. And go ahead and let the door hit you on the way out. Last night, not 30 minutes after I went to sleep, both sides came to an agreement and signed off on a settlement to end the litigation, complete the lockout, and bring us a season starting on December 25th. Dave Checketts' heart is smiling. Now, us here at the Gothic have been making the best of the lockout (see: our Lockout Coverage tag) and we'd like to think we did a good job of covering it. But let's not beat around the bush. Nobody seriously wants to cover the lockout for a year, and nobody seriously wants to read about the lockout for a year. That would've been awful.

Thank God it's over, and thank God that arena workers can at least get 33 games of guaranteed income starting in 30 days. And that the bars and eateries suffering from the lockout can get the patronage they need starting on Christmas Day, if they can just survive until then. In all the player/owner love, very few people have been mentioning them -- and that's a shame, because it's THESE people that we should be giving our love to right now. They're the ones who have done the majority of the suffering. And they're the ones who I'm most glad will reap the benefits. Regardless. The NBA hasn't released the full deal yet, but by tilling through a variety of sources, we can pull together just enough information to start commenting on the deal in hand. Once we get a full reveal of the new CBA, I'll do a long analysis of that working off my last analysis. But until then? Scraps will do. Click the jump as I examine these scraps and muse on their importance.

• • •

First, some nuggets from Chris Sheridan.

On the financial split, the players will receive between 49 and 51 percent of revenues, depending on annual growth. The players had complained prior to Saturday that the owners’ previous offer effectively limited them to 50.2 percent of revenues, but the source said 51 percent was now reasonably achievable with robust growth.

Well, that's a good thing. The band as it was previously designed made it virtually impossible for the players to drop below 49.7 or go above 50.3. So, a more honest BRI band that actually gives the players a fighting chance at 51 is a good "hey, we were offering you crap before, let's make that less awful" concession.

Owners dropped their insistence on what would have been known as the Carmelo Anthony rule, preventing teams from executing extend-and-trade deals similar to the one that sent Anthony from the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks last season.

It will forever mystify me that this became a big deal. The owners had already enacted a 3 year delay rule that ensured this wouldn't come into play until halfway into the new CBA. Sure, it's an annoying little rule, but it comes into play barely at all. Not nearly enough for either side to attach that much value to it. This should ensure that future players get the same levity afforded Melo, LeBron, and Bosh when they signed their extend-and-trades. Rather straightforward, and one of the few things here that is specifically written with top tier free agents in mind.

A new $2.5 million exception will be available to teams that go below the salary cap, then use all of their cap room to sign free agents. Once they are back above the cap, they will be able to use the new exception instead of being limited to filling out their rosters with players on minimum contracts.

Assuming we're taking the previously discussed CBA as a baseline, this was part of that CBA and will most likely be set up the same way. I won't rehash why it's a good thing here -- just see my bit in my CBA analysis on exceptions and take a gander at everything I said about the "room" midlevel. Then apply it to this. Good for the players that they kept this.

The rookie salary scale and veteran minimum salaries will stay the same as they were last season. Owners had been seeking 12 percent cuts.

I honestly have no idea how this is going to work. The cuts weren't strictly cuts, they were simply re-scaling those respective salary scales to fit the decrease in player BRI. I suppose if they aren't doing this, they'll simply not state the amount to which they're re-scaling all the salary scales. Which, all things considered, might be a good thing. They didn't really need to state it outright, I think we all get that it's happening. Still, this strikes me as a "maybe if we don't state it outright they won't realize that the exact same thing is happening" kind of thing that is at best intellectually dishonest and at worst trickery. Few people are going to call them on it, but this actually does bug me a bit.

Teams above the salary cap will be able to offer four-year mid-level exception contracts to free agents each season. ... from The mid-level exception for non-taxpaying teams will have a maximum length of four years every season (instead of alternating at four years, then three years). Starting salary can be as much as $5 million.

They bent on the number of years, which means less player movement due to contracts running down. If you add in the nuggets we've gotten from, a clearer picture emerges -- if I'm reading everything right, they've extended it so that the non-taxpayer MLE doesn't simply apply to under-cap teams, it also applies to teams operating in the sweet spot of right at the cap to the first dollar of tax. Which is, you know, where teams actually want to be. So it's a good compromise in the sense that the previous MLE suggested didn't actually make all that much sense. Combine the higher minimum salary provision with the fact that teams over the cap couldn't use it and you had a recipe for an MLE that would virtually never be able to be used. This way? Will be used about as much as ever. And that's a good thing.

Other compromises were believed to have been reached on the “repeater” luxury tax penalties to be paid by teams exceeding the tax threshold in four of any five seasons. Among the “B-list” issues are the age limit for entry to the draft (possibly upping to 20 years and two years out of high school), drug testing modifications, discipline and D League assignments. Both sides will have a 6 year opt-out.

Oh, christ. I really hope the age limit increase doesn't go through (for reasons I will be writing a column on at some point in the next few weeks), but the drug testing/D-League stuff should be interesting. The repeater stuff still thoroughly befuddles me. It was only going to be in effect for two years in the duration of this CBA, and was nowhere near a finalized thing that couldn't be removed in the next CBA. If the players extract concessions on the repeater tax only to have the league move up the tax's implementation schedule, it won't really do a thing for the players. Still. If it's a concession they want, and it'll get the deal done? I'm glad they got it.

EDIT: New from Zach Lowe after this piece dropped, a lot more information about the MLE compromise. Seriously. There's a lot in there, and I think you should probably just read it. Cliffs notes, though: the new MLE can be used so long as using it doesn't take you $4 million over the tax line, but if it does take you there, you can only use bird rights to get up to that particular line. That is, if you're two million under the tax line, then you use the MLE to sign a $4.5 million player, you'll be $2.5 million over the tax line. That means that any bird right signings you do can only be for $2.5 million dollars a year, maximum. That's a pretty good concession for the players, as that's system-positive for them even relative to the last player-positive CBA. So, good call on Zach for figuring that out and getting his sources straight. A lot easier to see why the players took the token concessions on other issues for a legitimate improvement of the system relative to the last CBA where the midlevel is concerned.

• • •

Overall? These are concessions the owners should've offered weeks ago. Don't let the lockout euphoria let you forget that. Just about every one of these concessions is incredibly minor, with the exception of the BRI band. Which isn't even a concession so much as it is making their previously intellectually dishonest BRI split into an actual band. Some of these, like the repeater tax concessions, may end up being a net positive for the owners if the players allow them to move up the implementation schedule, something I see as quite possible. When the final gravestone is laid upon this lockout, it's the owners who should be notably blamed for making this last forever. It's the owners who have the egg on their face for making this last so goddamn long after they'd already extracted ridiculous concessions from the players.

Just remember that. If anyone was flying too close to the sun, it was the owners. You know. If you want to recast Icarus as a greedy monopolist trying to bleed his employees dry. Which would, admittedly, be a really really weird recasting of a Grecian myth. Then again. This lockout WAS really, really weird. So I guess it fits. When we get more information about the new CBA, we'll be sure to get you detailed analysis. Until then? Rejoice, NBA fans. Season starts in less than a month. Get ready for some awesome content from your friends here at the Gothic Ginobili. Because personally? We can't wait.

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"You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Hunter."

Posted on Thu 17 November 2011 in Lockout Coverage by Aaron McGuire

So, despite this blog being around for less than a month, I've already written a heck of a lot of copy about this awful lockout. I wrote an angry rant about Jordan for his hypocrisy. I wrote a piece highlighting why my history with depression made me afraid to give up on the season. I wrote an excruciatingly long three part series (almost 9000 words, overall) analyzing the CBA proposal to try and cut through the spin from both sides. I did the research and tracked down an extensive list of lockout layoffs to try and shed some light on the front office impact of the lockout. I've done my time, in short. I would like the lockout to end. It won't, though, so I suppose I'll just need to keep writing furious rants.

On that note, today's furious rant!

If you didn't pick up the general tone of my CBA analysis (or didn't read it, which I can't blame you if you didn't), I'll state it outright: the players should have taken the deal. I say this selfishly , but also pragmatically. The cliffsnotes: not as bad for player movement as the spin suggests, the 6-year opt out is a huge get, the system stayed essentially exactly the same with different BRI and a stricter tax, and overall there was all the room in the world for the players to return to the old system the next time they had any leverage in a CBA negotiation. Despite this, the players DID have concessions even atop the BRI, enough so that I'm not surprised the players blew up the talks. BRI was a huge concession, and they weren't really comfortable with a 50-50 split in the first place. ANY concessions atop that were enough to make them liable to blow it up.

Despite that, I don't really think the union leadership thought this through particularly well, nor do I think (from the limited copy I've read from them discussing the decision to disclaim) the player reps had full comprehension of what they were getting into. See, I spent an unreasonable amount of time sifting through David Boies' suit against the NBA -- it's very well written. Lots of legalese, but the case is compelling. The general tenor of the suit, that the NBA simply never intended to negotiate in good faith, is something that's been on the lips of most every writer covering the league since this ordeal began. The problem is... there's no real way for the players to win this. The added leverage the players have is minimal, as it comes in concert with the owners gaining leverage by sitting back and doing nothing as NBA players miss paychecks and benefits. Like healthcare, which Delonte West and his 13 dependents are sorely lacking at the moment. It's been written in a million places, but the NBPA dropped the ball on timing something fierce.

And what's more, there's no particularly logical endgame for the players. Which is what scares me the most about this lawsuit. The general goal of the players in this suit is to be awarded treble damages, in which the owners would be on the hook for 3x the missed salary of all NBA players. That would, theoretically, be a "win" for the players. Would it, really? I'm not so sure. If the players were to actually win treble damages, the league would fight for as long as they needed to in order to have the ruling overturned in the higher courts. They'd take it as high as they possibly could. And the appeal process? Takes time, you know. Were the players to win treble damages, it would be unlikely that we'd see a season start until the appeal process was done -- after all, the owners aren't going to negotiate if they're fighting off the treble damages win, as that would undermine their case that the players won that suit illegitimately. Which would lead to an extremely circuitous legal path, one that has no real positive ending for the players. Several seasons lost, most likely. But, best case scenario, let's say they win out every appeal, it goes to the supreme court, and the court rules the NBA has to pay them. Then what? The NBA has an absurd amount of damages to pay out, but no money whatsoever from which to pay the damages. Because they STILL HAVEN'T NEGOTIATED A GODDAMN CBA!

They still would need to negotiate a new CBA, one that would be far harder to negotiate if the owners knew they would have to be using the vast majority of their money on repaying the damages. Because the owners would keep putting worse offers than the last one on the table trying to recoup losses, and failing miserably to get the players to accept them. I honestly don't see how that ends in any way other than the league declaring bankruptcy and dissolving, leaving the players with absolutely no market in which to play professional basketball and with minimal real return on the treble damages. Not to mention that rookies and free agents technically don't have contracts at the moment, meaning they wouldn't be eligible to receive treble damages. Whoops. Of course, that all is assuming they win, which I think is a silly assumption. There's very little precedent for the case that Boies is putting forth, but what little there is seems to indicate that the courts aren't going to look kindly on this suit. The most likely scenario is that even if Boies manages to win in the California courts, the NBA will overturn it in appeal. And then where are we?


Do you think the union explained all this to the players? It's nigh impossible to fathom how the union leadership could've endorsed this no-win-scenario kind of a tactic at this point, other than some absurdly rosy scenarios painted by their legal team. The agents are scratching their heads right now for that very reason. No legal expert I've talked to thinks this tactic has much of a chance of really improving things for the players, even with arguably the best lawyer on earth on their side. And the entire talk about how much money they're missing paycheck-to-paycheck ignores the most important part of an NBA player's salary, and the key reason that sports unions are way different from real life unions -- the career duration of an NBA player, despite the increased salary, is significantly less than virtually any other job on the planet. To demonstrate, let's say we have a player earning about $21 million over a 7 year career. Obviously less when he's a rookie, more after that. A relatively average player in every respect. That's $3 million a year, which is a hell of a lot of money all things considered. But it's only over 7 years. Assuming the income they receive for the rest of their life is relatively inconsequential, here's what their lifetime earnings are like compared to, say, a statistician making an average salary $70,000 a year (less when he starts out, more when he finishes) in a career that lasts 49 years. You may be surprised to know that the difference is only $18 million dollars in career earnings!

Wait, what?

Well, fuck, there goes my argument. Kind of. Consider that this random player is slated to make, say, $4 million dollars this season. Let's say he doesn't play this season, and while he stays in the league the same 7 years, his last year is a minimum deal instead of a $4 million dollar payday. Instead of earning $21 million, he earns $17 million. That's a big frigging difference. He just lost 20% of his career salary, the equivalent of the $70,000 a year statistician taking 10 whole years off his career. So my point still stands, even if my comparison was so silly I can't bear to take it out of this post. *

* Seriously. It's just adorable that I, in my sleep deprived ranting, even thought I could conceivably compare one of my peers' salaries to an NBA player. It is simply adorable.

Really, though. I'm exhausted and tired of writing about the lockout. This rant is awful, it isn't angry enough, and it's really restrained given how terribly mad this whole thing makes me. The point I'm trying to make is that for all but about 100 of the league's 450 players, losing a season is equivalent to losing 10 years off your career in a real job. That's an incredibly big deal. And when a NORMAL (ie, non sports) union decides to go on strike, or persevere through a lockout, the union is only talking a few months, or at most a year out of a 40-50 year career. A season-long lockout is the equivalent of the local teacher's union going on strike for 10 FUCKING YEARS, from the perspective of the players who actually have to deal with the financial ramifications of it. IE, not Hunter, or Boies, or Kessler. I really, really doubt that the union presented the threat of disclaimer to the players like this, which makes sense. They wanted to do it, and they knew the players were angry and raring to do SOMETHING. Channeling their energy towards something they wanted to do in the first place had to be nice. But it was an incredibly poor decision that will, no matter how it turns out, probably destroy the players. It can be a revolution (as Ziller says) without being a smart or reasonable decision. And when the union inevitably gets broken or the NBA collapses, I won't want to think back at how incredibly obvious it was that it was going to play out this way. I won't want to.

Unfortunately? I will.

Editor's note #1: This was going to be a furious rant. Then Aaron realized he's too sad to be furious and too meticulous to actually rant. Sorry!

Editor's note #2: I am the editor.

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A modest examination of the NBA’s proposal (Part 3)

Posted on Wed 16 November 2011 in Lockout Coverage by Aaron McGuire

This post is part three of a three part series examining the final doomed CBA proposal pre-disclaim.

The other day, the NBA officially released the terms of the final CBA proposal sent to Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher in the latest CBA negotiations. The players rejected it, throwing negotiations into a death cycle and all but destroying our chances of seeing a 2012 champion crowned. Before the proposal was killed, I started a series examining it point-by-point to see how bad it actually was. Being someone who finishes what he starts, I decided to finish the job despite the irrelevance of the act. This is the final part of this series. Join us tomorrow for an angry summation rant on the subject of the lockout. Until then, bask in the glory of the CBA none of us will ever see applied.

• • •

12. Salary Cap Holds

  • Salary Cap holds – i.e., amounts that are included in a team’s team salary in respect of the team’s free agents prior to signing, calculated based upon a multiple of the free agent’s prior salary – are as follows:

  • First-round picks: Reduced from 300%/250% (if prior salary is below average salary / above average salary) to 250%/200%

  • Bird: Reduced from 200%/150% to 190%/150%
  • Early Bird: 130% (same as 2005 CBA)
  • Non-Bird: 120% (same as 2005 CBA)

This part is a relatively inconsequential change to the CBA -- it helps player movement marginally by giving teams that haven't dealt with their bird rights players and rookies more room under the cap in which to sign players before they deal with those players, but in general, most teams deal with their hold space BEFORE they go trolling for free agents, not after. Not to mention the reduction in Bird won't be seen except on below-average salary free agents, so it'll be exactly the same for your Wade types and Bron types. And given the drop in salary by rookies, the difference in cap room will be marginal at best no matter how significant it looks percentage-wise.

13. Trade Rules

  • Extension-and-trades prohibited. If a player signs a contract extension, then the team is prohibited from trading the player for a period of six months following the date of the extension. If a team acquires a player in a trade, then the team is prohibited from signing the player to a contract extension for a period of six months following the date of the trade.
  • Cash paid or received by teams in trades is limited to an aggregate of $3M per team annually.
  • Waiting period for trading team to re-sign traded player who is waived by recipient team is extended until the earlier of (i) one year from the date of the trade, or (ii) the July 1 following the last season of player’s contract.

Hey, look! It's the part of the CBA where player movement goes to die.

Alright. This is sort of a lie. Actually, a big lie. Sure, this clause does a lot of damage to any player movement caused by trading -- what this essentially means is that if you want to trade your superstar, you need to trade him preseason in his last year of his deal, or he won't get bird rights on an extension and the team will have no incentive to give any value for him, given that they'd just need to woo him in free agency anyway.

On the other hand, we return to the key point I've been making throughout this series. Player movement is difficult to define. Does this hurt player movement via trades? Certainly. You aren't going to see a trade like the Carmelo Anthony deal any time in the duration of a CBA with these rules -- the Knicks would've traded for him without actually gaining the advantages of bird rights or extension rights. There would've been no reason for Melo to sign with them before free agency, nor would there be any incentive for the Knicks to give the Nuggets anything. The point where this gets sticky is in the OTHER definition of player movement. That is, where the players have free choice as to where they play, no front office required. And, again -- this actually strengthens player movement in the "more free agency" side of the mobility coin.

Make no mistake. The Deron Williams deal is a type of deal that simply would happen less under these rules. That particular deal could've still happened, as Deron had over a year left on his contract. But that KIND of deal -- one where a star is traded without his consent (better examples: the Gerald Wallace trade as well as the Stephen Jackson trade in the offseason) -- is one that simply could not occur in the season during the last year of a star's contract. Is that a bad thing? Personally, I don't think so. While this harms player movement in the sense that top-15 players won't have quite as much leverage to pick their team and get traded there, it doesn't really harm player movement for the broader group of players in a tangible way.

It harms trades, a bit, but it strengthens free agency by simply ensuring more and more players get to make their pick there as opposed to having their team choice essentially made for them, with their front office throwing them to another team for picks and cash. Which, in the long run, improves player mobility and gives the players MORE choice as to where they want to go. For all the grumblings about how supposedly awful this CBA proposal was for player movement, I don't really think it is. It was mostly extremely poor PR by the NBA and a media machine that was never given adequate time to truly read and think about the proposal in front of them. Given that this hurts the Melo trade, and the proposed Dwight trades, and the proposed CP3 trades, it's natural to assume it hurts player movement in general. Natural, but wrong. Free agency does the opposite -- it makes sure players have a fair chance to make their own choices instead of letting a front office team make it for them. And that, regardless of what you think of the players, is a pretty good thing for the league.

The waiting period thing is more of a big deal than it looks, too. It essentially is a "you traded him, he's gone" clause -- if you trade a player under this CBA proposal, you can't sign him again for a whole year. So, if you lose a player in a deadline deal, you better not be expecting him back for two seasons. If I didn't know better, I'd think this clause is a direct reaction to the sideshow back in late 2010 when the Cavs traded Zydrunas Ilgauskas only to re-add him to the roster a month later after the Wizards waived him. Back then, I was really happy about it. In general I think it was the right move for all parties involved. But I can see why the owners would prefer to make that something that teams can't do, as charges that Gilbert and the Cavs gamed the system on that transaction are relatively true to life. Don't like it, but I see why it's in place and don't think it's altogether unnecessary. The cash is also a bit of a big deal -- it essentially means you can't buy your way into the draft unless you abstain from trades with any of the franchises that are in the red, given that every team that takes big losses demands cash when you trade with them. Perhaps that would change given the rule. Doubt it, though. It's a big shift in the way the NBA would do business, though I'd need to look up transaction details to try and determine how many teams actually used more than $3 million in cold hard cash for trades last year. I don't care to do so right now, though, so let's move forward.

14. Amnesty

  • Each team permitted to waive 1 player prior to any season of the CBA (only for contracts in place at the inception of the CBA) and have 100% of the player’s salary removed from team salary for Cap and Tax purposes.
  • Salary of amnestied players included for purposes of calculating players’ agreed-upon share of BRI.
  • A modified waiver process would be utilized for players waived pursuant to the Amnesty rule, under which teams with Room under the Cap could submit competing offers to assume some but not all of the player’s remaining contract. If a player’s contract is claimed in this manner, the remaining portion of the player’s salary will continue to be paid by the team that waived him.

So, this was going to happen. It was going to be pretty awesome. There was a really weak free agent class entering the now defunct 2012 season, and this amnesty process would've made sure that every team would've had one waiver slot that they could use to remove a player from their docket and put him on the market. Essentially a giant jumpstart to 2012 free agency. There are a ton of cool (and a ton of not so cool) aspects to this codified version of the amnesty rule. If this ends up being the final one that's used whenever the hell we get our next season, there are going to be several extremely tricky parts to this proposal that would throw a huge wrench into a lot of the ink already spilled over possible amnesty targets and destination. I'll go over three of the big picture points.

1. Not everyone can bid for them. What do I mean? Look at the last bullet. The only teams allowed to bid for amnestied players are teams under the cap. Baron Davis to the Heat? Gilbert Arenas to the Knicks? Neither of them are happening if this incarnation of the amnesty provision is passed through to the next CBA, because you can't use your exceptions on amnesty players. They'd need to sign for absolute minimum salary. Also important: they don't get to double-draw salary, as the team that wins the bidding war for them (which, let's be honest, will end up with some of them being overpaid YET AGAIN) simply signs a contract with the team that waived him saying that they pay some portion of the player's salary rather than a new salary. This makes a lot of sense, but had never been released before, so nobody actually thought about it. In short, it means that ideas like Baron to the Heat aren't going to happen unless every single sub-cap team passes on him. And that's very unlikely.

2. One per season? This part confused me. The first bulletpoint, according to both my reading of it and Matt Moore's reading of it, essentially says you can waive one player prior to any season. Does this mean that you can only waive one player, but you can waive him whenever you'd like in the duration of the CBA? Does it mean that you can waive a single player per season? Can you waive traded players, but only if you waive them prior to the season's first game? I'd think the answer is that you can waive a single player, but whenever you'd like in the CBA. And there is absolutely no language that would preclude you from waiving a traded player, meaning that teams like Oklahoma City and Indiana that don't have any particularly awful contracts could use their trading leverage to extract an asset from a team that desperately could use two or three amnesty waivers and get rid of a player they don't like. In particular, I could see some kind of magical trade where the Thunder traded Westbrook and Collison for either Dwight, Gilbert, and Anderson or CP3 and one of the Hornets' awful contracts. It would fit with Presti's general competence as a GM to work the system like that, same with Buford in San Antonio.

3. BRI cracked down, possibly. If you combine the stretch exception with the amnesty clause, you could have some teams paying out amnesty salaries well into the late years of this CBA. That's bad news for current players, whose 50-50 BRI split would probably turn slightly negative as teams need to keep paying off these awful contracts to players no longer playing in the league. Much like the NBA's incomprehensibly stupid curse where they will forever have to pay a large percentage of TV revenue from all former ABA teams to the former owners of the ABA's St. Louis Spirit, the amnesty salary could have the unsavory effect of depressing the BRI share for players for years to come. Not fun, if you're a player already chafing under the awful BRI split.

Still. My guess is amnesty in the final CBA -- whenever the hell we arrive at it -- will be different, rendering much of this inaccurate or outdated. I'd still pay attention when the final CBA gets agreed to, though, because if they push through a similar amnesty clause these particular restrictions are going to make it a far different amnesty game than the one that Simmons talked about in his huge amnesty column.

15. Player Benefits

  • New benefits pool to be funded with 1% of BRI for post-career player annuity and welfare benefits.

The players union wanted this put in place for their proposed "50% + 1" deal they offered the owners at a previous negotiating session. My question is where this 1% comes from -- my assumption is that it's simply taken off the top before they calculate the 50-50 for the owners and the players, meaning it's more like 49.5-49.5. But I'm not sure, and the language is ambiguous enough that I don't care to extrapolate.

16. Revenue Sharing

  • _ The NBA will commit to maintaining during each year of the CBA the revenue sharing plan that the NBA has described to the Players Association._

Wow, this is truly a descriptive bulletpoint. I really feel the NBA has given me a lot to comment on with this incredibly detailed tour de force into the true guts of their strong, gravity-defying revenue sharing plan.

(Screw you, NBA.)

17. Term of Agreement

  • _ 10 years, with mutual NBA and Players Association opt-outs after year 6._

I think, overall, the players probably should've taken this CBA. There are a ton of concessions they'd be making for not only BRI but the system itself, as I've excruciatingly outlined in this series of posts. That much is clear. But by making a year 6 opt-out? How can you not take this deal?

I get the general consensus among some that the owners win every CBA negotiation. I get that some think the players should argue for a CBA that lasts a ridiculously long time, just to get more leverage. I just think that's wrong and misguided. In 6 years, there are going to be a lot of differences in how the league is run. Stern probably won't be the commish. Hunter probably won't lead the NBPA. New owners will have gotten into the game, and the Decision fallout will be ancient history. All of these are of negligible impact to negotiations, and certainly don't give the players a ton more leverage. This, however, does: the NBA will be going to a new TV deal for the 2017 season. This will give the owners a taste of the revenues they'll get from having a sport with a good TV deal. And it will also give the players far, far more leverage than they have this time. Because the revenues on the line will be far greater, and a cancelled season will have the potential to destroy the league in a manner far more comprehensive than this lockout would have if it had ended this monday.

They would have the ability to disclaim or decertify a lot earlier if they realize the league is going to strongarm them. They have the time to restructure the union in a more organized, powerful way. They have the time to learn from the mistakes of this lockout and take advantage of the record growth the NBA has been on, uninterrupted by a lost season or a hefty lockout. They would be able to get a better sense beforehand which owners are hardliners and which owners are doves, and use that against the league in the same way the owners were using the players against the union. In short, they'd be able to do the myriad of things they could have done this time to make things a bit less bitter, but probably wouldn't have gotten a much better deal in the first place -- the NBA, as it stands, is not a very profitable enterprise. And the owners are currently reeling from losses. But with this proposed CBA, plus the new TV deal, the owners would enter the lockout on a record profits binge and the players would, unlike this time, have all the leverage and preparation on their side.

Had they taken the deal. They didn't. And, as I've outlined -- it's a bad deal. I can't blame them. But it was the right call to take it, and in my opinion, there's very little to excuse the union leadership for not taking off their blinders and seeing just how well-positioned they'd be in 6 years to make a run at an extremely player-friendly CBA. And for seeing just how few of the problems with this CBA that would apply for more than 3 or 4 years of its duration anyway -- for much of this CBA, the system would be virtually unchanged from the current system and some of the proposals simply wouldn't come into effect until year 5 or later.

But hey. They didn't take it. So rest in peace, CBA proposal.

And with it, the 2012 season. We knew ye well.

• • •

I've already gone almost 3000 words on this crap. No way I'm adding my rant to this behemoth of a post. Expect a nuclear bomb style take-no-prisoners lockout rant tomorrow, because I sure as hell don't feel like writing it today after reading through this doomed CBA proposal so thoroughly. More tomorrow.

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Tracking the Lockout Layoffs, team by team.

Posted on Tue 15 November 2011 in Lockout Coverage by Aaron McGuire

Hello, everyone. I was going to finish my CBA proposal analysis series with a post featuring a long angry rant about the disclaimer process and the general tenor of the negotiations. But I got roped into a discussion earlier with the imitable Mr. Swanson of Rufus on Fire (who, by the way, you should vote for here to get him a scholarship -- stand-up blogger, hilarious guy) in trying to determine how many people had been laid off by the lockout. Ever since May, I've been keeping a text file with references for the number of employees each team has been reported to have fired. I realized during that conversation that not everyone has been keeping close tabs on the labor situation, and there's a pretty good reason for that. Namely, nobody has actually posted a compilation of all collected sources on employees laid off team-by-team.

Consider this a compilation for that reason. After the jump, I've put together a table including every current source for layoffs on a team-by-team basis, along with our most recent update for the team in question, the number of layoffs reported for that team, and a few choice notes whenever applicable. I'll keep updating this throughout the lockout as we get wind of new layoffs, or as unreported layoffs get reported. Please don't hesitate to email us at if you have any news of further layoffs that we don't have yet, any more reliable sources to back up our general hodgepodge of news sites, or any anonymous tips for the teams we have no sources for. Or if you just like emailing people, I guess...?

• • •

============ SOURCED LIST OF LOCKOUT LAYOFFS ============
           LAYOFFs  AS OF        NOTES
NBA HQ     >200     10.24.11     Approx 200 leaguewide layoffs OUTSIDE teams.
ATL           0     10.11.11     Confirmed zero.
BOS           ?        --        No source. Surrounding business layoffs, tho.
CHA           7     07.12.11     Includes their play by play guy.
CHI           0     10.31.11     Confirmed zero.
CLE           0     07.26.11     Confirmed zero.
DAL           0     11.02.11     Confirmed zero, with no plans for future layoffs.
DEN           ?        --        No source. Surrounding business layoffs, tho.
DET          15     07.12.11     Have laid off "at least" 15.
GSW           ?        --        No source.
HOU          13     11.21.11     Laid off a department of 13 sales execs last summer.
IND           3     08.09.11     Originally reported zero, then didn't re-up three key scouts.
LAC           1     11.18.11     Let go D.J. Foster, former Website Content Coordinator.
LAL          20     07.22.11     Includes assistant GM
MEM           7     09.21.11     Recently laid off 7.
MIA           0     10.05.11     Confirmed zero, however, all staff has taken a 25% pay cut.
MIL          20     08.20.11     Source says "close to" 20.
MIN         >11     11.25.11     Definitely more than 11, most likely >15. See 11/25 change log.
NJN           3     11.10.11     Source: anonymous former NJN employee I happen to know.
NYK           ?        --        No source.
NOH           ?        --        No source.
OKC           ?        --        No source.
ORL           ?        --        No source. Surrounding business layoffs, tho.
PHI           2     10.25.11     Only two scouts confirmed.
PHX           0     11.01.11     Confirmed zero.
POR           2     07.15.11     Only two confirmed.
SAC          11     05.14.11     Happened before the lockout in preparation for it.
SAS           ?        --        No source. Surrounding business layoffs, tho.
TOR           ?        --        No source.
UTA           0     07.18.11     Confirmed zero.
WAS           0     11.05.11     Confirmed zero.

A few housekeeping notes. First, in one of the more recent sources for the leaguewide layoffs, it mentions that the league has counted "almost 200" lost front office jobs among teams. This list accounts for 115 lost front office jobs. That means that, without question, most of the nine "no source" teams have probably laid off workers. And some of the teams with low layoff numbers most likely have laid off more than have been reported. Again, I appreciate any clarification anybody can offer as to sources for these team's labor dealings throughout the lockout and any updates that escape my view. Just drop me a line either through email or in the comments. The best way to get good data here is to crowdsource it. So, spread the link around, and don't hesitate to fix any faulty info here. Stay frosty, folks.


11/15 - List initially published. Zoinks!

11/18 - Updated to add the Clippers letting D.J. Foster go.

11/21 - Updated to add Rovell's find that the Rockets laid off 13 sales executives.

11/25 - A bit hard to sift through, but a new article declares that a 12 person T-Wolves broadcasting department has been cut from 12 people to 4 people over the last few months. Since the majority of the previously reported 11 were in sales, it stands to reason that of the 8 new layoffs at least a few of them are new. I've updated the Timberwolves number to reflect that we know it's greater than 11. If I had to guess. I'd put the intersection of these two sources at 15 or 16 confirmed layoffs.

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A modest examination of the NBA's proposal (Part 2)

Posted on Tue 15 November 2011 in Lockout Coverage by Aaron McGuire

This post is part two of a three part series examining the final doomed CBA proposal pre-disclaim.

The other day, the NBA officially released the terms of the final CBA proposal sent to Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher in the latest CBA negotiations. I began, earlier today, a point-by-point analysis trying to determine what the players would do. The more I looked at the CBA, the more convinced I was that they'd take it based on the tenor of negotiations. I was wrong. They rejected it, disbanded the union, and plunged the NBA into nuclear winter. Not the players' fault, mind you. This is supposed to be a relatively neutral look at the CBA proposal and an honest delineation of its merits and demerits. Although it's now little more than a curiosity for the sake of itself, maybe by going through it I'll come to some epiphany about why the NBA is, for all intensive purposes, gone. I will continue to go through it, point by point. Though only God knows why.

• • •

3. Guarantees/Escrow

  • NBA to guarantee players’ 50% share of BRI (or the applicable percentage between 49% and 51% if BRI Split “Option 2” is selected). If for any season aggregate player salaries and benefits fall short of the agreed-upon share of BRI, the difference would be paid by the NBA to the Players Association for distribution to all NBA players who were on a team roster in that season on such proportional basis as may be reasonably determined by the Players Association.
  • 10% escrow withholding used in all seasons.
  • If the 10% escrow is insufficient to reduce aggregate player salaries and benefits to the agreed-upon share of BRI, then the overage will be paid as follows: (i) first, from the new benefits pool to be funded with 1% of BRI (described in Section 15); and (ii) if an overage remains, from player salaries and benefits in a manner to be determined by the parties.
  • Parties to agree on mechanisms to adjust Salary Cap and Tax levels as may be needed so as to ensure that the agreed-upon share of BRI is not exceeded

One word that was on the lips of most NBA players entering today's doomed discussions was escrow. So it may behoove me to stop here for a second and explain the concept of escrow to the uninitiated. Escrow is, essentially, the wiggle room that allows the BRI splitting system to work. When the owners send out paychecks to the players under their team's employ, a certain percentage of each paycheck is withheld and placed in an fund. This fund is the escrow withholding. At the end of the season, numbers are calculated to see what percentage of BRI the owners made and what percentage of BRI the players made -- in order to make those figures match the agreed upon BRI numbers, the escrow is divvied between the players and owners to match it. For instance, if the agreed upon split was 50-50 and the players made $2 billion to the owners $2 billion over a full season, all escrow salary would be returned to the players, as giving any of it to the owners would throw off the 50-50 balance. If, on the other hand, the players made, say, $2.2 billion and the owners made $1.8 billion, 100% of the escrow (0.2 billion) would be split among the owners to make the salaries even.

The actual calculations are quite a bit more complicated in the current CBA, as there's a 57-43 split, but the idea is generally the same. Escrow is the mechanism that allows the NBA's financial structure to hit certain BRI thresholds on a yearly basis. The percentage of each paycheck withheld in escrow has, in recent years, been slowly going down. While escrow was at a flat 10% after the last CBA, it went down to 9% in 2007 and was at a CBA-low 8% last year. Last year, due to a record high BRI figure, the players received 100% of their escrow funds for the first time in the new CBA -- normally, they received $20-30 million a season back from a figure that tended to be around $150 million. The NBPA also received a check for $21.6 million to fill the gap between the amount the players actually received and the amount they should've received.

The current escrow structure proposed isn't that much different than the current system. In fact, it really isn't different at all. Sure, if the owners spend more than 50%, under this system they would get to take money from the 1% of BRI designated for pension and player benefits (see: section #15) and keep all of the escrow, possibly dipping more into player salaries if they needed to. But that's, well, basically how escrow works. If the player salaries don't meet benchmarks, they get all their escrow and then get extra money from the league to split the difference. If there are any cap-heads reading this that have anything more to say on it, or have something to point out that I'm completely missing, I'd much appreciate the shout (especially Larry Coon, though I sincerely doubt he has time to read this). But under previous rules, any overage not covered by escrow would be taken from next year's escrow. Owners could overspend and then take 100% of the escrow in the previous system, with overage being taken from the NEXT year's escrow. This isn't new.

Ric Bucher's fearmongering about how the owners would never be disincentivized from spending so much that they take 100% of escrow seems to me rather silly and misguided -- that's an aspect that's present in the current CBA, and while it's not fun, it is what it is. What the players may be protesting is the imposition of a flat 10% escrow across all years of the new CBA -- a reasonable protest, but not really a game breaking one. If that's not it, they're essentially opposing the system of escrow itself. A reasonable battle, but not one that has any particular relevance given that the escrow system is far and away the most efficient way to reach the BRI targets that this and the old CBA demand they reach. The change in escrow is more an accounting change than anything else, and far from some kind of draconian salary death star that was going to bankrupt the league's players.

4. Maximum Length of Contracts

  • Maximum contract length of 5 years for Bird players and 4 years for other free agents.
  • Maximum of 4 new years for rookie extensions (except maximum of 5
    new years for a maximum-salary Designated Player rookie extension –
    team can have only 1 Designated Player on its roster at any time).
  • Maximum of 4 total years for veteran extensions (e.g., 3 new years if
    extension signed during last year of player’s original contract).

For all the discussion about player movement being hurt (a discussion I'm in agreement with, this CBA proposal definitely hurt player movement with the tax issues and the exception cutbacks), this actually does help it. Even though it does so in a relatively shitty way for the players that they probably don't want to hear. Smaller contracts mean players will encounter free agency more often and ensure that there's more turnover for middle class guys, and more general fluidity around a few core players for each team. It also means bad contracts (the #1 source of wealth for many not-really-top-tier NBA players) will be shorter. Those players will be on the market more often, and going between teams more often.

You can make the relatively strong argument that this isn't the kind of movement players want, but you can also make the argument that players (at the end of the day) will encounter free agency more and have more control over their own landing spot with shorter contracts than they do in the current CBA. And you can make the argument that players will spend less time grossly underpaid. Well. Sort of. Until you get to the indefensible rookie clauses in this proposal. But lowering contract years in general is a good thing for player movement without the agency of teams.

5. Annual Increases

  • _ Maximum annual increases of 6.5% for Bird and Early Bird players, and 3.5% for other players._

This is interesting, because while the numbers are less, the structure of raises changes marginally here. In the current CBA all raise calculations are based on the first year of a player's salary. For non-bird players, you get a yearly raise of up to 8% of your first year's salary -- for bird players, you get a yearly raise of 10.5% of your first year's salary. Under this, if I'm reading it correctly, the raises are compounded, meaning that your raise in year 3 is 6.5% of your salary in year 2, not year 1. I may be wrong, but that's how I read it.

Regardless, this is a no-frills concession demanded from the players based on the current CBA. A four percent decrease in Bird player raises and a five percent decrease in non-bird players is serious business. Essentially cuts your raises in half on all contracts going forward, and ensures that Joe Johnson (in the event of contracts not being voided) signed essentially the last full-max Bird right deal ever. Pretty grim. Lowering the years at least has the tertiary effect of giving players more free agency -- lowering the raises essentially hamstrings teams into giving smaller contracts and continuing the league maxim of underpaying superstars. Great success.

6. Minimum Salaries

  • Minimum player salary scale reduced from amounts shown in 2005 CBA for 2011-12 in proportion to overall system reduction (i.e., approx. 12% lower than under the 2005 CBA). Scale grows by 3.5% in future seasons.

About the same, just scaled down for the BRI scaling. Scale grows by about the same amount it did before. This is status quo, although the pay decrease isn't great. It's a product of the BRI split -- with a 50-50 split, this is essentially a requirement.

7. Maximum Salaries

  • Rules governing maximum individual salaries for new contracts are the same as under the 2005 CBA.

This could not possibly be more Status Quo-y.

8. Salary Guarantees

  • _Salary guarantees remain the same as under the 2005 CBA; i.e., there will be no limitations on a player’s ability to receive 100% guaranteed salary in all seasons of a contract.

Wait. Yes it could. It could be this one. This is more status quo-y.

9. Other Contract Rules

  • __For new contracts, salary of waived players to be “stretched” for cash purposes such that the player’s remaining protected compensation would be paid over twice the number of remaining contract years plus 1 year.__In lieu of the usual Cap treatment, the waiving team may elect to have the waived player’s salary follow the stretched cash allocation, except that stretching a waived player’s salary for Cap purposes is not permitted where the portion of total team salary attributable to all waived players in any future season would exceed an agreed-upon percentage of the Salary Cap in effect during the season in which the player is waived.
  • _ Team and player options are prohibited in new contracts with first-year salaries that exceed the average player salary. Team options in rookie scale contracts continue to be permitted. Non-minimum players with first-year salaries that exceed the average player salary may opt out of the last year of a contract if the contract contains zero salary protection for that last year._
  • _ All salaries for 2011-12 to be prorated in proportion to the number of 2011-12 regular season games that are canceled

A few things to unwrap here. First, the Eddy Curry stretch exception. Not really a big problem, given that this will be rarely applied and when applied will happen between that player's lawyer and the team, to ensure the salary paid is inflation adjusted and all that good stuff. Not really a big issue, especially since the player can sign somewhere else as well. Should make trades more interesting, if it is still there whenever the NBA comes back years from now. The second is essentially the Wes Matthews exception, making sure that undrafted rooks don't end up with crazy salaries of over $6 million dollars a year straight up. There was... well, virtually no danger of this happening, but I guess they wanted to protect from Kahn signing a D-League player to a max contract? Whatever. Lastly, pro-rating the current season's salary. Don't see an issue there, frankly -- you're paid to play the game, you play fewer games, you get less cash. I'd be shocked if this wasn't in here.

10. Rookies

  • First-year salary amounts for first round picks are reduced from the amounts shown in the 2005 CBA for 2011-12 in proportion to the overall system reduction (i.e., approx. 12% lower than under the 2005 CBA). First-year salary amounts in future seasons’ rookie scales to increase by 3.5%. Year-to-year increases within each season’s rookie scale to increase by 3.5% in years 2 and 3 and by the percentages set forth in the 2005 CBA rookie scale for year 4.

Like minimum salaries, you knew the 50-50 BRI split would rear its ugly head at some point. This is where they chose to rear it. 12% decrease doesn't sound like much, but it's a pretty big gap, especially given the already gaping maw between what top tier rookies should be paid and what they are paid. 1980 Magic Johnson? 1999 Tim Duncan? 2011 Derrick Rose? All of them deserve pay cuts, apparently! Granted, so do rookie Darko, rookie Thabeet, and other such busts. So it cuts both ways. Still. The 50-50 split has to come somewhere, and scaling the system back to account for it certainly does it.

11. Free Agency

  • Sign-and-Trades -- Taxpaying teams prohibited from acquiring a free agent in a sign-and-trade, except during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. The maximum contract length for a sign-and-trade is 4 years, and maximum annual increases are 3.5%.
  • Offer Sheets -- Period for a player's prior team to match an offer sheet that a restricted free agent receives from a new team shortened from 7 to 3 days.
  • Qualifying Offer-- Qualifying Offer amounts for first round picks 16-30 who are “starters” (criteria to be determined by the parties) increased to a range of 55-65% over 4th year Rookie Scale amounts; picks 1-15 and picks 16-30 who are “non-starters” are the same as under 2005 CBA. Qualifying Offer amounts for non-first round picks who are “starters” increased to 140% over prior year’s salary (vs. 125%).All Qualifying Offers fully guaranteed.

The clause that purportedly blew up talks is the first one, here -- the sign-and-trade for taxpayers. Which is patently absurd, given that it has been used 3 times in the last ten years and two of those were Eddy Curry and Kwame Brown. And due to it not kicking in until year 3, it'd only be active in 4 years of the CBA if the players decide to use their leverage in the next negotiation to get it back. Though I seriously doubt they'd think it's worth that, because frankly, it's not worth using leverage to change. It means nothing.

The offer sheet caveat is more of a front-office thing, essentially meant to make sure teams don't mess up other teams a la the Houston Rockets screwing the Cavs last summer in free agency when Kyle Lowry was signed by Gilbert to a great and slightly overpaid contract. The Rockets sat on it a week while agents were getting signed, then suddenly and unexpectedly picked up the option leaving the Cavs with literally nothing to show for the summer. Still, don't think it's a bad addition. I like the qualifying offer pitch, too -- it ensures teams can't lowball their players as much as they tend to do. It's a rather cosmetic change, though the fact that they fully guaranteed the qualifying offer is decent of them.

• • •

I'm really angry and frustrated about the season's demise. Therefore, the last post of this series will be part analysis, part nuclear rant. I'd say "be there or be square", but really, it's an awful thing that makes me mad. My writing will probably suck. Regardless. Be here for the stirring conclusion wherein I determine whether this deal is worth the disclaimer. Spoiler: it's an awful deal and it probably deserves it. Further spoiler: I don't really care.

And tomorrow will be a better day than today.

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A modest examination of the NBA's proposal (Part 1)

Posted on Mon 14 November 2011 in Lockout Coverage by Aaron McGuire

This post is part one of a three part series examining the final doomed CBA proposal pre-disclaim.

The other day, the NBA officially released the terms of the final CBA proposal sent to Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher in the latest CBA negotiations. Among the myriad terrible PR moves by both sides during this excruciating lockout, this is one of the more transparent and respectable things they've done. The majority of the lockout coverage has been through hearsay and anonymous sources. To actually release the proposal on the table publically both opens the NBA up to criticism and allows fans and media to actually take a look at the real proposal and figure out what they like, and what they don't. How bad of a deal is it, essentially? If the players blow up talks today and decide to decertify (edit: they did, making this more a retrospective curiosity than anything substantial -- not that I'm going to let that keep me from finishing the job), is it a reasonable response? Given that we now have the ability to do it, I'm going to put on my thinking cap and find out just how crummy the deal is. So let's go through it, point by point.

• • •


Players to elect one of two system options:

  • Option 1: BRI is split 50%/50% each season between the players and teams.
  • Option 2: Same as Option 1, except in addition:

  • Players receive a greater share of BRI to the extent BRI exceeds projections, and a smaller share of BRI to the extent BRI falls short of projections. Specifically, the players' share will be increased by 57% of incremental BRI in excess of projected BRI for each season, and will be reduced by 57% of the amount by which BRI falls short of projected BRI for each season.

  • The players' resulting overall share of BRI in a season is no less than 49% and no greater than 51%.

So, here's the big pickle. Start the CBA proposal with the rat poison. The current BRI split is 57% for the players, 43% for the owners -- with, believe it or not, a flex exception that allows the player's component of BRI to increase if BRI goes over a certain threshhold (one that it never met, but came within 0.1 billion of happening last season and almost certainly would've happened this season). If it had, players would've gotten 57.5% of BRI, and they would've gotten 58% if BRI had ever gone above 4.8 billion (which probably would've never happened, but still). So, this is a really huge concession by the players. Enough so that you would expect some system levity going forward.

To wit -- full BRI was $3.81 billion last season. With a 57% cut, the players are cumulatively getting $2.16 billion. With a 50% cut? $1.91 billion. May not seem like a huge gap when calculated at the billions level, but that's $250,000,000 the players are giving up, straight off the top. That's huge. With the NBA's losses being reported as around $300,000,000 per year, this (plus revenue sharing, something that will be dealt with on the supply side) should essentially cover that. And that's if you believe the loss numbers. Personally, I don't, but that's a sticky issue we probably don't need to get into right now. Regardless. It's a huge concession. The owners getting the players to even consider agreeing to this level of BRI split is a measure of how thoroughly the players got flogged in these negotiations.

And, frankly, answers the question at the top of the post. If the players reject it based solely on BRI, I can't say I completely blame them.

2. System / Salary Cap

  • System includes a Soft Salary Cap as under the 2005 CBA.
  • Salary Cap and Tax levels set in relation to the projected escrow level (escrow level equals 50% of BRI, less Benefits, divided by 30) in same proportions as under the 2005 CBA. Salary Cap and Tax levels in years 1 and 2 to be no less than their 2010-11 levels.

Now, there's something relatively important here that isn't getting much play. Notice the last sentence of the second bulletpoint? The salary cap can't fall under 2011 levels for two years, and neither can the tax level. That's extremely important. Combined with some of the points I'll be getting into later, the fact that the cap can't fall from $58.1 million is a very player-positive development. The fact that the tax level can't drop below $70.3 million is a very player-positive development. And the fact that the players kept a soft cap -- even though the tax is on the edge of punitive -- is a good development both for the league and for player salaries going forward.

Let's go over the exceptions, starting with the new three-pronged midlevel.

  • Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception: Set at $5M in years 1 and 2, growing 3% annually thereafter; maximum contract length alternates between 4 and 3 years; can be used every year.
  • Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception: Set at $3M in year 1, growing 3% annually thereafter; maximum contract length of 3 years; can be used every year.
  • Mid-Level Exception for Room Teams: A new Exception is available for teams that use Room under the Salary Cap (and therefore forfeit their Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level and Bi-Annual Exceptions). The exception allows a team using Room to thereafter sign one or more free agents to a contract with a total first year salary up to $2.5M and up to 2 years in length. Exception amount to grow 3% annually.

Really, not great for the players. Though the room exception is interesting, and new. And new exceptions are essentially always player-positive, since they usually will mean more players getting more money. The fact that they're cutting contract length will ensure better free agency periods for the fans, and keep owners from making bad mistakes (like, say, paying Ron Artest $6.7 million a year past his prime). So, they're reasonable changes. But not fun ones, and not easy ones to swallow. For reference, here's what the starting level of the contracts will be over the duration of this CBA. Numbers in millions:

.... 2012  2013  2014  2015  2016  2017 ..
TAX  3.00  3.09  3.18  3.28  3.38  3.48 ..
NON  5.00  5.00  5.15  5.30  5.46  5.62 ..
ROOM 2.50  2.57  2.65  2.73  2.81  2.90 ..

Not great, but looking at those contract numbers, they're not as awful as expected. The 3% annual growth ensures that these exceptions will both get relatively more palatable over the life of this CBA. It's a beefed up biannual for taxpayers and essentially the current midlevel adjusted for the overall lesser BRI share of the players. Not great. But not a shellacking, realistically.

The most interesting aspect of this is the "room" midlevel exception, a new feature that probably should be labeled the Miami Heat exception. Why? Essentially what it does is it allows teams that start free agency under the cap and fill all their cap room to sign one or two more non D-League players to small contracts. As a general rule, neither previous midlevel could be used by a team who used their room under the cap to sign contracts. This exception allows teams that fill their cap to fill in tertiary players on 1-2 year contracts valued at less than 2.5 million annually. Which isn't bad, if you're a ring chasing vet. This also has the 3% annual growth caveat, which should push the collected value of contracts signed with this exception up to striking distance of $3 million by the end of this CBA. Not bad. And a decent new exception that throws a bone to teams that try to build their own Heat level super-teams.

  • _ Bi-Annual Exception can only be used by non-taxpayers. Amount set at $1.9M in year 1, growing 3% annually thereafter. Exception cannot be used in 2 consecutive years and has maximum contract length of 2 years (same as under 2005 CBA)_

This is actually a slight change from the current Bi-Annual exception -- it sets the value back from its current level of $2.08 million to $1.90 million, a difference of about $180,000 for players signed in the new Bi-Annual. Not a big concession, but a slight one that's worth calling out. All other terms of the exception remain the same.

  • Disabled Player Exception set at lesser of (i) 50% of the disabled player’s salary, or (ii) the amount of the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception. Maximum contract length of 1 year. Exception available to be used to replace player who suffers season-ending injury (same as under 2005 CBA).

This is also a slight rollback. Under the current CBA, the maximum exception value is the lesser of 50% of the disabled player's salary or the average NBA salary (last season: $5.7 million). Under this rule it'll be the lesser of 50% of the disabled player's salary and $5.0 million, a difference of roughly $700,000. Though I would caveat that average player salaries will certainly decrease under this CBA, meaning that long-term the $5.0 million mark might be better for the players, if only marginally so. Overall, a wash.

  • Traded Player Exception increased for non-taxpayers such that the amount a non-taxpaying team has available to replace a traded player or players equals the lesser of (i) 150% of salaries of players being traded plus $100,000, or (ii) the salaries of players being traded plus $5M. (For purposes of this rule, team is a nontaxpayer if its post-trade team salary is below the Tax level.)Traded Player Exception for taxpayers equals 125% of the salaries of players being traded plus $100,000 (same as under 2005 CBA). Base Year Compensation (BYC) in connection with the Traded Player Exception is eliminated, except in sign-and-trade transactions. Trades of players who otherwise would be subject to BYC prohibited until January 15. Criteria for whether a player is subject to BYC same as under 2005 CBA.

I don't really feel like going over the complicated intricacies of BYC right now -- it's complicated, annoying, and altogether hard to explain. The best source I can give you to glean your own understanding is here, where Larry Coon gives his take on it. He's a salary cap God, basically. Nevertheless. This is a relatively neutral development for players as far as I can see, as it basically just means that non-taxpayers will have more friendly math for their own trades. It'll be easier for teams under the cap to take back more than they give away, salary-wise, in trades. From an economic perspective I don't see how this impacts players so much as player movement. I could be wrong, though, and feel free to school me on this if you read it differently.

We're done with the exceptions, by the way. Overall, not player-positive, but the overall picture isn't entirely negative due primarily to the addition of the room midlevel. The increased ability of below-cap teams to take back more than they give in trades should lead to a more interesting trading market, too, which is fan-positive. Otherwise, the owners are placing small rollbacks on a few exceptions, but nothing too exotic other than the taxpayer midlevel that changes the old taxpayer midlevel into a beefed up bi-annual. Let's move on.

  • _ Minimum Team Salary increased to (i) 85% of Salary Cap in years 1 and 2, and (ii) 90% of Salary Cap starting in year 3. _In years 1 and 2, Tax rate for teams with team salary above Tax level is $1-for-$1 (same as 2005 CBA).

Alright. While this is nothing like the BRI concession the players made, this is actually a relatively meaningful middle class-positive concession, especially given the circumstances. There's been a lot of rhetoric about how this proposal could kill the NBA's middle class. This is the owners' first (and, frankly, only) real attempt to combat that. What this means is that teams like the Sacramento Kings and the Charlotte Bobcats can't continue to operate with payrolls significantly under the cap -- the current minimum salary is 75% of the cap, and the 85-90% level is definitely going to change the way teams like that (and the Nets, and the pre-LeBron Heat) operate.

If a team wants to enter a free agency period with a lot of cap room, they can't just keep hoarding it and paying virtually nobody to play basketball for them. They'll need to sign players. This is a good improvement for the NBA's middle class, although it may have the tertiary effect of curtailing player movement a touch (in that it'll be harder for teams to clear cap room for big time free agency periods, though nowhere near impossible if their team is well managed).

  • Beginning in year 3, Tax rates for teams with team salary above Tax level are as follows:
    Tax Level     Tax Rate

    $0M - 5M $1.50-for-$1 $5M - 10M $1.75-for-$1 $10M - 15M $2.50-for-$1 $15M - 20M $3.25-for-$1

    • Tax rates increase by $0.50 for each additional $5M above the Tax level (e.g., for team salary $20M-25M above the Tax level, the Tax rate is $3.75-for-$1).
    • Tax rates for teams that are taxpayers in at least 4 out of any 5 seasons (starting in 2011-12) increase by $1 at each increment (e.g., for team salary $5M-$10M above the Tax level, the Tax rate for a repeat taxpayer is $2.75-for-$1 instead of $1.75-for-$1).

A few thoughts on this. This isn't good for the players. That much is obvious. It means that it's going to get a lot harder for teams to pull a Dallas and spend gobs and gobs of money year in and year out to try and get a championship. I don't know if that's good or bad, but I think a progressive tax depending on the level to which you're overspending isn't an awful thing. It does make it essentially prohibitive to spend $15m+ over the tax line (remember, tax line is still up for negotiation, though even at current levels it'll be a good 12-15 million above the cap line). But there were only three teams that spent that much over the tax line last season, and teams that are that far over the line are actually relatively rare, historically. For example, back in 2007, only one team was over that line (the Knicks, at a cool $45 million over the tax line). This may not be as big of an issue as one would think. In fact, in the 2010-2011 season, out of seven taxpaying teams, four of them would be at the minimum tax level. It will be a change, but not a huge one.

There's also been a lot of ink spilled about the repeater tax. But really? This current agreement makes it essentially worthless. Seasons counted for the repeater tax START at 2011-2012, which means that the repeater tax is not going to be at all calculated until the 2017 season. Which means there will only be two seasons before the inevitable opt-out where the repeater tax is assessed at all. Two seasons! And they need to be taxpayers in 4 out of 5 years -- if they're close to the line a few years, they can make a small trade to get under the line. Or possibly apply the stretch clause. It's unlikely the repeater tax is going to affect more than 1 or 2 teams at a maximum -- in the 2011 season, it would have applied to the Mavs and the Lakers, and that's it. With the disincentive of the repeater tax present as a disincentive, the Lakers could've most likely taken a few mil off their salary in 2008 and kept from paying it. The Mavs were screwed. But if the tax is being paid only by Cuban, it's hardly going to be a big deal on a league-wise scale.

The remaining clauses to section two are essentially housekeeping -- non-taxpaying teams cannot receive more than 50% of tax revenue to ensure the non-taxpayers don't rip off the tax-payers. A team that uses the non-taxpayer MLE cannot turn around and balloon their salary above the tax line later in the season -- though, they can go over the tax line by less than $5 million so long as they do transactions later in the season to get under the tax line. Nothing too impactful, so far as I understand it.

• • •

Due to the length of the CBA proposal, I'm going to split this post into three distinct parts. The next post will cover article #3 (Guarantees/Escrow) to article #11 (Free Agency). The post after that will cover the remainder of the CBA proposal, with some overall thoughts about it and the union's rejection. Perhaps Alex and I will do a small thing with our joint thoughts on the disclaimer, depending on how thoroughly I choose to address it in this series. Regardless. Second part drops later today, while the third part will probably drop Tuesday morning. See you then.

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Depression, the NBA, and me.

Posted on Fri 11 November 2011 in Lockout Coverage by Aaron McGuire

Depression is, at its core, a selfish disease. I once heard someone describe his depression as walking into a McDonalds and immediately being paralyzed with the fear that everyone in there was judging him. It obviously wasn't true -- after all, nobody was looking at him, and everyone was wrapped in their own little world. It's honestly a pretty narcissistic thing to assume that everyone in a room is waiting on your every move to judge you. But despite that, to the mind of many people who suffer from depression, the faintest sideways glance, the most imperceptible frown, the offhanded sigh -- all of them are magnified to impossible levels. Their existence all seem to inexplicably signify the weight of the sins and guilt a depressed man carries on a day to day basis. It isn't logical. It doesn't make sense. And people who are depressed realize that, dwell on it, and feel worse about it all. Because self-obsession is actively harmful when you legitimately hate yourself. But alas. Still happens.

Another thing most are familiar with is the "I can't get out of bed" type of depression. Those days when the weight of the world and living with the mistakes you've made -- many or few as those may be -- is too much and you simply cannot bring yourself out of bed without some sort of substance, or incentive, or -- for some people -- simply convincing yourself that if you stay in bed you're a terrible, horrible person. Thus perpetuating the cycle. It's always a cycle, really -- you try to do something, do it wrong, mentally eviscerate yourself for it, feel bad for doing that, etc, etc. You try to stop feeling sorry for yourself and end up playing a mental cat and mouse game, pretending you're Kevin Garnett and screaming at yourself like you're a misbehaving stanchion. Stop doing that. Be happy. Stop it. Why do you do this. Great questions, even without proper punctuation. But the answer always seems elusive.

I have lived the majority of my life with severe depression.

• • •

I try not to talk about it too much. In fact, I probably will refrain from linking this blog to any of my friends in real life for a few weeks while Alex and I pour on more player capsules and stories and games and other distracting things. This is my first particularly public mention of my depression on the internet. It is also my last. Because I'm only really writing about this in the context of basketball, because I feel like writing it down and I've long since realized that in this stupid lockout, there's really not a damn thing a fan can do besides write stuff down. We have no power. And we shouldn't really have any power, but that's not really in the scope of this piece.

Back in late 2009, I took a bad dive headfirst from "got the sads" depression into serious "you need help right now" depression. For a several month period of my life, basketball wasn't just a hobby to me. It was essentially my daily drug. Every day, I'd sit down after I'd done all the homework I could stand to get done and watch whatever NBA games were on. Grainy streams, all, but everything I could find. The Spurs and the Cavs -- my two favorite teams -- were doing well. LeBron was working miracles every night, and while I dislike him now, I will never forget just how happy his good games made me. For that dark, dark period of my life, where I felt alone and hated myself and couldn't bring myself to get over a sad breakup and the death of my very close grandmother. Basketball was the thing that got me up every day. "Hey, Aaron. Wake up. Yeah, you have a lot of bullshit to do today, but after you get off work you're going to watch a shitload of basketball and forget about every other thing in your life."

Got me out of bed, regularly. Got me on my feet again. Got me to where I forgot about the things that triggered my descent and eventually got OK. I didn't get well, I got OK. And getting OK is a momentous achievement to someone who was (and still is, to some extent) in a place as low-down as I was. And having finished college and moved on to a job I love, I am alright now. Sort of. I still have my bad days. Sometimes my very bad days. Days when my antidepressant isn't strong enough, where my girlfriend and I have a minor tiff that manages to set me off in the worst way, where I get stressed out about something and need to latch onto something to calm down. And those are the days that the NBA's sheer existence actually helps me out. Keeps me from going to bad places. Keeps me chugging along on my overachieving, gray hair-inducing, self-loathing life.

In the end, this blog exists in its own little corner of the internet, a project for me and Alex to work on our writing and hopefully entertain the few who happen across our work. I don't expect nor particularly desire your pity for being a poor man who has a dumb, annoying disease. I don't really know what I want. From you? Nothing, really. From the league? I just want basketball. When I watch the NBA, I know none of the players are judging me while I ceaselessly analyze their games. I know that the storylines, the narratives, the rivalries don't matter. I know that in the broader sense I'm wasting a whole hell of a lot of my life immersing myself in something trivial, something that simply doesn't matter. But I don't care. I love this sport. There's a dumb ad campaign from the early 2000s where teenagers cited what their anti-drug was. Mine is the NBA. Because for a few hours a night, when the league is on, I get to watch a game and feel normal. I don't focus on myself at all. I don't think about what the people around me are saying, or thinking, or analyzing about me -- I'm watching a silly game played by athletically gifted people and it's well within my rights to act silly. I may cerebrally know that few people judge me on a regular basis every day, but when I'm watching basketball, I'm too engrossed in the action to really tell.

So, I'm scared about basketball being gone. I'm scared about my favorite players, people who I hold in admittedly far too much respect -- Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Steve Nash, Anderson Varejao, et cetera -- I'm irrationally scared about never seeing them play my favorite game again, or having a bad day when I realize that there's not going to be basketball for quite some time. My opinion on this matter sincerely DOESN'T matter. I say this knowing that full-heartedly. This is a labor issue, and the owners have lowballed the players to the point that the players are fully entitled and (quite frankly) probably SHOULD reject their offer. It's insulting. It's disgusting. It was made in bad faith and the owners are well aware of it. But I really, really want a deal. I want it so that I can selfishly reimmerse myself in basketball -- I don't even care if my teams are good. Because I love the league. I have a favorite player on every team, and there are hundreds of guys I want to see succeed in this league, and in this sport. It helps keep me grounded, in a lot of ways. Therapy helps. Medication helps. But having something to immerse myself in, a hobby where I feel I have true confidence in my opinions, observations, and actions? That's just invaluable.

When LeBron said after the finals that his haters will "wake up tomorrow with the same life and problems as they did the day before" it struck extremely deep for me. Because that's what basketball is, for me. As Scott Raab turns to drugs and idolatry and too many of my other depressed friends turn to alcoholism and smoking, I use my love for -- some would say my obsession with -- the NBA to keep me from making choices I'll regret and getting attached to substances that'll get me horrifically addicted. Or any other number of sins I could jump to. It's an escape, and I admit that. But there are far worse sins than basketball. But in the end, LeBron is absolutely right. If I'm honest. When the lights go out, I do indeed have to return to my life and the same problems I had the day before.

And with the lockout looming large, that's exactly what scares me the most.

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Jordan Rules, Part II: "Go Away, I Already Got Mine"

Posted on Fri 04 November 2011 in Lockout Coverage by Aaron McGuire

Today, I read two very important articles within about 15 minutes of each other. They set off an incredibly angry tirade in my head that I couldn't do all that much about, and still can't. Except write it down. Which, as millions of NBA fans everywhere are uncomfortably discovering, is virtually all we can do. We hold no leverage, no power, no pull. And while I'm not saying we should have all that much power here, there are moments when I can't help but get depressed by the fact that we have absolutely nothing we can do but wait and see what happens while borderline insane factions of owners battle a downtrodden and de-toothed player's union. Nonetheless. The first story I read, thanks to Kelly Dwyer, was a somewhat interesting exchange from the run up to the 1999 lockout.

During the mass owner-player meeting yesterday, Jordan engaged in a heated exchange with Wizards owner Abe Pollin. Jordan's showdown with Pollin and fellow Bull Steve Kerr's verbal battle with David Stern were the highlights of the 11/2-hour meeting, according to several players.

According to players, Pollin said about his fellow owners, "You just have to trust us."

Jordan fired back, saying, "You've got to trust our negotiators." Jordan also blasted owners for not bargaining in good faith in the offseason and said to Pollin, "If you can't make a profit, you should sell your team."

Sound familiar? Dan Gilbert's "trust my gut" line isn't really a new sentiment. Abe Pollin's pleading for the players' trust is just about the same, and just about as baseless. There's no particular reason to trust an ownership group who is trying to kill your union. Jordan was right for standing up to the owners. But, really -- the 1999 lockout isn't the 2011 lockout, as we're discovering. And to be honest? The owners during the 1999 lockout were clearly operating from a position of better faith than the 2011 lockout. As I discovered firsthand from this particularly infuriating piece from the New York Times outlining the demands of a certain faction of the owners. Led by none other than the league's all-time golden boy. The same person from the previous story, in fact.

A faction of 50 N.B.A. players is threatening to dissolve the union if it compromises further on player salaries. The league is facing an equivalent threat from a trenchant group of owners, who are vowing to oppose any deal that gives players more than 50 percent of revenue.

The owners’ faction includes between 10 and 14 owners and is being led by Charlotte’s Michael Jordan, according to a person who has spoken with the owners. That group wanted the players’ share set no higher than 47 percent, and it was upset when league negotiators proposed a 50-50 split last month. According to the person who spoke with the owners, Jordan’s faction intends to vote against the 50-50 deal, if negotiations get that far. Saturday’s owners meeting was arranged in part to address that concern. ...

Despite the misgivings of some owners, Commissioner David Stern has said publicly that he can garner support for a 50-50 deal and will continue pushing for it. But the longer the negotiations drag on, and the more games are canceled, it is more likely that the hard-line owners will demand reductions. That group backed an initial proposal that would have cut the players’ share to 37 percent (from 57), eliminated guaranteed contracts, rolled back current salaries and imposed a hard salary cap. The league has since dropped those demands over the objections of those owners.

This is a lot to digest. So let's start at the top. The picture I started this post with is a photo of Michael Jordan's house. Jordan bought that house in 2010. It's worth $12.4 million dollars -- $4.8 million for the land, $7.6 million for the construction. It's highly likely that my net worth over my entire career will be less than this house he built, using money he earned as a player and as an icon. And that's quite his right. What I don't think is quite his right is demanding that players submit to completely fucking insane draconian proposals. Jordan always had his brand behind him, and from the time he took off in the NBA, he essentially was set for life. Jordan was never a middle-class NBA player -- a star from day one, all things considered. But he didn't let that stop him from fighting for the players in 1999, and helped the players get a deal that was -- frankly -- the best deal any professional athletes had in any league.

Now? It appears that Jordan has pulled a Harvey Dent. He has lived long enough to not only become the biggest villain we've seen in this lockout, but to become a grotesque caricature of one to boot. A villain who demands the players' unconditional surrender with no recompense, despite the fact that not less than 10 years ago he was among their ranks. A villain who would rather endanger the legacies and careers of dozens of young stars with a lockout that lasts not just months, but years than accept a deal that lets the players save face and protect their sport for future players. You couldn't write a better comic book villain here. You may not remember when the owners released their original proposal -- nobody paid it much attention, because it was fucking crazy. The rollback of all current salaries? No guaranteed contracts? A rock-hard punitive cap, and a reduction of the player's BRI share by TWENTY PERCENT? No way any owner actually thought that was reasonable, the story went. There's nobody on the owner's side who's that crazy. That's the equivalent of walking into a new car lot, demanding a Mercedes for a nickel, then being flabberghasted that they won't sell you the Mercedes for five dollars -- after all, you've made some SERIOUS concessions. Nobody could possibly demand that in good faith. Right?

Oh. Wait. It looks like Jordan's batshit crazy competitive desire doesn't just apply to basketball. It doesn't just apply to the obsessive way he approaches gambling. It doesn't just apply to his rude, cantankerous, and altogether inappropriate Hall of Fame speeches. It also applies to the way he does business. And unfortunately for NBA fans, Jordan has finally latched onto the one place where he CAN do business this way -- if Jordan ran a business in a competitive market and made demands like this, nobody would work for him, and he wouldn't be able to be quite this insane and still pull a profit. But the NBA isn't a competitive market, it's a cartel. The owners have a monopoly on the only professional basketball league in the country -- there's no ABA to go to, no backup plan for the players. It's NBA or bust. And if the owners want to be pathetic racists a la Donald Sterling, the only person who can really do anything about it is Stern. If the owners want to be money-grubbing crazy people like Robert Sarver, nobody really can bat an eye. And if the owners want to demand insane concessions and cry foul at the players for trying to preserve their livelihood? Well, looks like nobody can even say much of anything.

After all, he's God disguised as Michael Jordan. Right?

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