Can NBA Players Renegotiate?

Thursday, Feb. 26, 2004

If you'd like to pose a Question of the Day to Conrad Brunner, submit it along with your full name and hometown to Bruno' Brunner’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Pacers players, coaches or management.

Q. Can you take a moment to explain the high-level differences between NFL and NBA contracts? Frequently I see that NFL teams restructure deals to create cap room. In some cases, the overall payout is the same but the payout method changes (e.g. signing bonus vs. salary). Other times veteran players assume a pay cut in order remain on the team. By contrast, in the NBA situations like the one with Austin Croshere arise and it becomes a detriment to the team's ability to retain players like Brad Miller and a hindrance to making a trade. Is it as simple as saying that NBA contracts are guaranteed and that NFL contracts aren't? In Austin's situation in particular, is it that he doesn't want to restructure to a lower amount, or is he not even given the ability to do so? (From Rudy in Austin, TX)

A. You obviously have good instincts, because you almost answered your own question. Because all NBA contracts are guaranteed, there are some restrictions in place in the Collective Bargaining Agreement when it comes to renegotiation. As it applies to your question, the important rule is that you cannot renegotiate a player’s salary downward. What commonly happens in the NFL is that a player’s upcoming annual base salaries will be drastically cut, but he will in turn receive a large up-front cash payment as a signing bonus. This gives the team some cap relief, and the player also benefits. In the NFL, players are often willing to do this because their annual salaries aren’t guaranteed. Some agents like to say the only “real” money in an NFL contract is the signing bonus, because it’s the only money a player knows for certain he can bank. With very rare exception, NBA players know they’re going to be paid the full balance of their contracts, so there is no potential benefit to renegotiate downward. And even if they wanted to do so to help out a team’s salary cap situation, it wouldn’t be allowed.