Report: NBA, union confident on striking new deal

Steve Aschburner

Steve Aschburner

Sometimes the goose is so magnificently golden, its eggs more valuable than Fabregé’s, that nobody dares to even think about killing it. That would appear to be the case with the NBA, where business is too good to have a lockout or work stoppage foisted upon it.

According to a report from The Vertical.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have made enough progress on a new collective bargaining agreement that a deal could be struck in the next several weeks.

That would be a departure from the last round of negotiations back in 2011. That’s when the two sides failed to come together, the owners imposed a lockout and the 2011-12 season was reduced to 66 games, not starting until Christmas.

The CBA finally ratified that year was negotiated as a 10-year deal with an option to revisit the agreement after five years – as in, Dec. 15, 2016 – at either the owners’ or the players’ discretion.

The boost in the league’s overall financial picture since then suggested the deal would be re-visited, especially given the union’s willingness in leaner times to negotiate its share of basketball revenues down from 57 percent to approximately 51 percent. The prospect of a lockout in July 2017 loomed, with a stalemate risking another ruptured season.

But the league’s new broadcast deal, worth a reported $24 billion over nine years, flooded the market this summer. The salary cap for this season jumped from $70 million per team a year ago to $94.1 million, a 34 percent year-over-year increase. It is projected to jump again for 2017-18 to $102 million.

Compared to the 2011-12 cap of $58 million, this season’s $94.1 million represents a 62 percent increase in player’s salaries, with the owners 49 percent cut soaring as well. The pie, in other words, has gotten big enough to more than make up in absolute dollars for the players’ giveback from 57 percent to 51.

Or, depending how a new CBA shakes out, big enough to restore some of the players’ share without pinching owners of the league’s 30 franchises.

Talks between the two sides have been ongoing, intentionally non-public and apparently productive, according to Wojnarowski’s unnamed sources:

During several months of discussions, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts, as well as their respective committees and staffs, have agreed upon many of the significant collective bargaining issues, league sources said. Much of the remaining talks are centered upon smaller elements of the CBA, league sources said.

From the outset of the talks, there has been a spirit of cooperation between Silver and Roberts, largely reflective of strong economic times in the NBA.

Among expected changes in the new CBA, league sources told The Vertical: A significantly higher rookie contract scale and two-way contracts between the NBA and NBA Development League that will add playing jobs for the union.

A boost in the rookie scale is an especially smart and fair-minded move. The salaries for first-year players were locked into dollar amounts, rather than a percentage of the cap, and have not kept pace with other players’ compensation. For example, Kyrie Irving, the No. 1 draft pick in 2011-12, came in facing a scale salary of $4,286,900. This season, No. 1 pick Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons was looking at $4,919,300, a five-year boost of only 14.8 percent.

The league’s Board of Governors meeting will be held later this month in New York, with an update on the CBA status certain to be on the agenda.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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