Today, the NBA and the Players Association reached a tentative deal on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement for professional basketball! This is very exciting but questions remain: what does the new agreement look like and how will it change the NBA?
The details of the new agreement are sketchy but it looks similar to the proposal voted down by the Players Association two weeks ago. The basketball related income (BRI) splits will hover right around 50/50 and the biggest system change will be simplification of the cap rules and loopholes combined with a much stiffer luxury tax penalty.
The simplification of the league's cap rules and harsher taxes translates to more freedom to spend but at a very stiff price. The old CBA had a series of complicated, arcane loopholes designed to give teams the ability to resign their own stars and improve their rosters while in tax territory through the "exceptions" contracts. Now, those contracts will exist but in a much smaller form. Teams will be able to trade more easily (because it will be easier to comply with simpler cap rules) but it will be difficult, if not impossible, for any teams to sign impact free agents if they are already spending close to, or more than, the cap number. In plain English, that means teams like the Lakers and Mavericks will be severely hamstrung by their larger, old CBA contracts but big market teams like the Bulls and Knicks with leaner balance sheets will have interesting opportunities.
On the player's side, there will be more freedom of movement but contracts will get shorter and smaller over time. With owners ever conscious of a near-unbreakable tax ceiling, they will be not tie themselves up in contracts over four years for anyone but a true superstar. However, players will get a significant piece of a growing revenue pie and of the NBA's overseas interests, which should keep the money flowing their way.
What about the fans? Now that a deal has been struck, free agency and training camp will begin in a week or so, which should result in some entertaining blooper videos of very out of shape players. No doubt Kobe Bryant will be in top shape but stars with a less stellar fitness history could be the butt of many jokes. The season itself should begin December 25th, which is exciting for fans and good for basketball. At 65 games (or so), it will be long enough to keep most of the NBA's new fans (and old die hards) and stave off what could have been a terrible public relations disaster if an entire season was missed!
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