Approving NBA labor deal could mean 72-game season

Following another negotiating session that stretched past the 12-hour mark, the NBA players union has a new offer from the owners … and it looks a lot like the previous offer that they rejected.

According to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the new deal makes the mid-level exception slightly more attractive for players and comes with a promise from the league for a 72-game season that would begin Dec. 15 if the players approve the deal next week.

But is the deal good enough? For basketball fans it better be. David Stern has indicated the time for talking is over.

“There comes a time when you have to be through negotiating, and we are,” Stern said, multiple sources report.

So what’s in this deal, what’s in the previous deal and what’s in the “nuclear option” that owners say they will present if the current deal is rejected?

Let’s go chronologically, starting with the oldest deal, which is the one the players were reportedly stunned by and roundly rejected.

This is how Howard Beck at the New York Times characterized the deal:

The N.B.A.’s … proposal to the players includes a soft salary cap, a 50 percent share of revenues for players and these features:

¶ 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).

And while it was reported that the players agreed to a 50/50 split but only if the owners were willing to make concessions on so-called “system issues,” the concessions seemed to be minor.

From CBS Sports’ Ken Berger:

Like most moves the league has made in the negotiations, which hit Day No. 133 Thursday since the lockout was imposed July 1, the characterization of this proposal as “revised” was a stretch, according to multiple people familiar with it. Among the tweaks to the unresolved system issues entering the past two days of talks, the owners agreed to increase the mid-level exception for luxury tax-paying teams to three-year deals starting at $3 million. The exception, which was for two years starting at $2.5 million under the previous proposal, would be available every other year for teams above the tax threshold.

Though full details of the owners’ revisions weren’t crystallized Thursday night, it is believed that they agreed to make sign-and-trade transactions available to tax-paying teams with certain restrictions and make other minor revisions to issues the players indicated they needed changed in return for their economic concession from 51 percent of BRI to 50: the luxury tax “cliff” that affects teams that wade into the tax and the repeater tax for teams that stay above the tax threshold for a third time in five years.

Given that teams have only remained over the tax that long seven times since the luxury tax was introduced in 2005, according to NBA TV, the issue wasn’t one of substantial concern Thursday, according to sources in the negotiating room.

However, some new issues came to the forefront that concerned the players’ negotiators when it became clear that the league’s proposal would restrict teams from using a full mid-level exception — four-year deals starting at $5 million — if the signing itself pushed the team over the tax. Union negotiators want the mid-level restriction to kick in only if the team already is above the tax line before it uses the exception. The league’s version is the one that is in the current proposal, according to a person who has seen it.

And what does the owners’ back-up proposal look like? The one that they are basically using as a threat to pressure players into making a deal right now? It’s not pretty. Back to the New York Times:

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.

 

Topics: David Stern, Howard Beck, Ken Berger, Nba Lockout

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