NBA training camps are supposed to open in just a matter of weeks, but the doom and gloom forecasters – which constitutes a vast majority of analysts and observers – have long predicted that date will come and go without a labor agreement between the players and the owners. Yet for those of us with an optimistic disposition, Tuesday morning brought a refreshingly new take from long time NBA writer Chris Sheridan.
Sheridan, who has nearly a quarter century of writing with the Associated Press and ESPN, has just started a new blog in which his first post serves as a beacon of hope for NBA fans everywhere. And while the aesthetic of the site may resemble something put together by a 13 year old during his junior high lunch break, there is no questioning the reporting credentials of the author.
According to NBPA director Billy Hunter, the NBA players and owners are nearly $8 billion dollars apart in the compensation discussion. But Sheridan concludes that the chasm is not nearly as wide as the negotiating rhetoric would have you believe.
Yes, under the 10-year collective bargaining agreement the owners have proposed, the gap is indeed somewhere in the area of $7-8 billion range.
But if you look at the six-year deal the players have proposed, which includes $500 million less in annual revenue (than what they would have received under the old deal) over the six upcoming seasons, the simple math tells a different story:
Over those six years, the difference in proposed revenues that would go to the players adds up to $2.97 billion.
That is still a significant amount of money, but it is nowhere near as significant as what is being put out there publicly.
Moreover, if you look at years 1, 2 and 3 of the proposals, the sides are a total of $870 million apart. (The players are asking for $2.17 billion in salaries and benefits in 2011-12, $2.33 billion in ’12-13, and $2.42 billion in ’13-14. The owners are offering a flat $2 billion per year.)
Or to put it another way, in a business that brought in $4.2 billion in revenues last season, the sides are only $170 million apart for next season.
Sheridan goes on to point out that the most recent deal proposed by the owners would have a steeper impact on player salaries in years 5-10, but that any deal would likely only last six years anyway, making moot the large disparity at the end of that proposal.
Unfortunately, while I hope that I’m wrong, I fear that Sheridan’s assessment of the money issue misses a significant point. The owners are seeking a large give back from the players overall, and were only willing to ease into such cuts because of those larger differentials at the end of the deal. In order for many of the young gun owners of financially strapped franchises to agree on a new CBA, there must be a way for them to increase profits (or even make a profit) during the course of this deal, be it in the beginning or the end of the term.
In the post, Sheridan also surmises that the league would do nothing (i.e. imposing a hard salary cap after year three) to jeopardize the continuance of the big three in Miami, not to mention star studded rosters in Los Angeles (you know which team I mean), Chicago, and New York. This point is salient, as David Stern and other NBA owners don’t want to destroy the hugely successful brands that brought the league to new heights last year, just to mollify owners in cities that inherently provide much lower value in marketing or selling the league as a whole.
Meanwhile, representatives from the two sides are set to meet again this week, for just the third time since the lockout began. Little progress was apparent after last week’s session, yet a new conciliatory tone, and a seemingly increased sense of urgency to get a deal done does provide a truer sense of optimism than previously existed. And it is that quiet urgency that eases my fears of a lost season ever so slightly, as I can almost hear the faint squeak of sneakers on the NBA hardwood in the distance.