Players Feeling Heat From Wednesday Ultimatum

Howard Beck of the New York Times has acquired the details of the deal the NBA will offer the NBPA if a deal is not reached by the end of business Wednesday. The major issues in this new proposal are a 53-47 BRI split in favor of the owners, current salary rollbacks and a flex (hard) cap. These are the details of the current Union proposal:

¶ Salary-cap and luxury-tax levels in Years 1 and 2 of the new agreement will be no less than they were in 2010-11. By Year 3, they will be adjusted downward to conform to the new system.

¶ Sign-and-trade deals and the biannual exception will be available only to nontaxpaying teams.

¶ Extend-and-trade deals, such as the one signed by Carmelo Anthony last season, will be prohibited.

¶ The midlevel exception will be set at $5 million for nontaxpaying teams, with a maximum length between three and four years (alternating annually). The value of the exception will grow by 3 percent annually, starting in Year 3.

¶ The midlevel exception will be set at $2.5 million for taxpaying teams, with a maximum length of two years, and cannot be used in consecutive years. Its value will also grow at 3 percent annually.

¶ A 10 percent escrow tax will be withheld from player salaries, to ensure that player earnings do not exceed 50 percent of league revenues. An additional withholding will be applied in Year 1 “to account for business uncertainty” stemming from the lockout.

¶ Maximum contract lengths will be five years for “Bird” free agents and four years for others.

¶ Annual contract increases will be 5.5 percent for “Bird” players and 3.5 percent for others.

¶ Players will be paid a prorated share of their 2011-12 salaries, based on the number of games played once the season starts.

¶ Team and player contract options will be prohibited in new contracts, other than rookie deals. But a player can opt out of the final year of a contract if he agrees to zero salary protection (i.e., if it is nonguaranteed).

The new “reset” proposal, that will be on the table if a deal is not met by Wednesday, contains these monumental changes.

The “reset” proposal features a flex-cap system that contains an absolute salary ceiling — to be set $5 million above the average team salary. In addition, the N.B.A. would roll back existing contracts “in proportion to system changes in order to ensure sufficient market for free agents.”

The other major differences in the “reset” proposal are:

¶ The midlevel exception would be set at $3 million in Year 1, with a maximum length of three years, and would grow at 3 percent annually.

¶ Maximum salaries would be reduced.

¶ Sign-and-trade rules would remain consistent with the 2005 labor deal.

¶ Contracts would be limited to four years for “Bird” free agents and three years for others, but each team could give a five-year deal to one designated player.

¶ Raises would be limited to 4.5 percent for “Bird” players and 3.5 percent for others.

¶ Changes requested by the union on restricted free agency rules and salary-cap holds would not be included.

Both proposals include an “amnesty” provision that will allow every team to waive one player and have 100 percent of his salary removed from the cap.

If the players association has half a collective brain, they will work to get a deal done Wednesday. While there is question to whether potential decertification rumors are union generated smoking mirrors, there is no doubting that the owners are serious about this proposal. The owners know that the players do not want to lose a season and decertify. The owners realize that the NBA is a league of 450 not a league of 25 greedy stars. This newer proposal is not one, not two, not three, not four, not five steps down from the current proposal. This newer proposal is like comparing Madison Square Garden with Arco Arena. Not only do the players receive a worse labor deal but this new proposal would bring rollbacks to current player salaries. Rollbacks have not been in the discussions for months but it is more and more apparent that the owners will squeeze the players more and more the longer this goes on.

I have always said the players deal only worsens the longer this ordeal continues but even I am shocked to see how different this new proposal is as opposed to the current proposal. If the players were to go ahead and pass up the current proposal, I believe there is NO way they get close to 50/50. As I have said, the owners hold all the leverage in these talks. While decertification is an option for the players, I do not see it happening due to the fact that Billy Hunter clearly wants to keep his job and that the players do not want to and cannot afford to lose a season. In this economy very few can afford to be losing paychecks and even in the inflated economic world of the NBA this reigns true.

The players have scheduled a conference call with all 30 team representatives and I cross my fingers that some logic prevails in these talks. I believe the owners have gone as high as they will go. They will not go any higher than the 49-51 band which really is 50-50. Conversely, while they will not go higher, the owners will not hesitate to drop the BRI split for the players. The window for the players to get the best deal they can is now. The window will close on Wednesday and for the sake of this season I hope the players jump through that window. It is no longer about a fair deal because the players will not get fair. They need to take this deal and get what they can rather than hold out for nothing and lose more than they already have. Its not about fairness, it is about reality. As Stephen A Smith says, “A fair is where they judge pigs”. Take the deal players. You will not regret it.

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