Posted Oct 3 2010 1:21PM
The same week Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is fined for uttering a bargaining no-no, the Rockets declare a policy stance regarding contract extensions. Both incidents are unrelated, but telling in what promises to be a long year ahead of heels digging into the CBA sand for owners and players.
There's no escaping the specter of collective bargaining this season. In the team picture for 2010-11, it'll be there just off to the side of LeBron and Kobe and D-Wade. Though it might be a little out of focus, those with a trained eye will see it clear as day.
This is the contract year, after all.
The league docked Leonsis a cool $100,000 for saying the league will get a hard salary cap in the next CBA, mirroring the NHL model. NBA commissioner David Stern acting swiftly with the punishment, while also pointing out that a hard cap is one of the league's negotiating points.
It's hardly the only one, but a fixed limit on payroll is one way for owners to build "cost certainty" into the next economic model. Should the owners stand firm on implementing a hard cap, it could be a "deal-breaker," as CBSSports.com's Ken Berger writes.
One team union representative wondered if Leonsis' slip of the tongue wasn't without a hidden agenda. Leonsis did immediately backtrack on the hard-cap remarks, but maintained the NHL system is a "good one." He also owns the NHL's Washington Capitals.
"They're going to test us," the player rep said. "Some guys have money problems, some guys don't. They're going to throw things out there and see if we bite. Owners are pretty smart and they're going to try to get things. We just have to stand our ground."
The Rockets are standing their ground on contract extensions, as in not offering any this season. Using the uncertainty of the labor situation as a backdrop, in addition to a longstanding aversion to such deals, Houston general manager Daryl Morey said, "We're not doing extensions."
Rockets such as Yao Ming, Aaron Brooks and Shane Battier are among those entering the last year of their contracts. Despite each being integral pieces going forward, to differing degrees, Houston is taking a practical business approach with salary rollbacks, changes to guaranteed contracts and other adjustments possibly in the works.
Brooks and Battier have expressed their frustration with Houston's position. Considering his status as the Most Improved Player in the league last season and as one of the top young point guards around, Brooks is understandably upset by the standoff.
"It's kind of stressful," Brooks told the Houston Chronicle. "I was hoping we maybe could get something done this summer, but we couldn't, so I'm stuck in the position I'm in.
"I understand, but it's bothering me. It's the business of basketball. You have to take it like it is. I'm stuck with that."
He's also not the only the only one in the wait-and-see boat.
Kevin Durant is the only player from the 2007 Draft to sign an extension so far. Brooks belongs to that class, which also includes the likes of Al Horford, Greg Oden, Joakim Noah, Jeff Green, Al Thornton, Jared Dudley, Thaddeus Young and Rodney Stuckey.
Players have up to Nov. 1 to sign extensions, and at this point it appears few teams are in a rush to lock down these young stars. Without knowing what the next deal will call for, most owners don't see the financial sense in getting tied into a deal that could be obsolete in nine months.
Horford and Noah are the best bets to get strike a new deal before the deadline. The rest could be headed into a potential lockout with the benefit of longtime security. The same holds true for any free agents. Carmelo Anthony and the $65 million extension he's has sitting on the table is the most obvious example.
"Guys just have to save their money and work on basketball," the union rep said. "There's going to be a lot of talk about lockouts. We've just got to be ready for change."
Leonsis and the rest of the owners are expecting it. Players are bracing for it.
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