NBA Lockout 101

By Andrew Skaggs

Shades of 1998 have resurfaced again for NBA fans, as the chance of having a 2011 season seems less likely by the day. In that 1998 season, however, they managed to play 50 games and salvage the season, but as of now, the NBA can only hope for a result such as that.

The National Basketball Association is currently in a lockout and owners and coaches are prevented from contacting the players. The lockout means there are no practices, no workouts with the rookies, no development going on between the players as teams and managers. In all major professional sports, the leagues’ owners and their players have a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which basically outlines the rules of the league in financial terms as well as rules for the players to follow. The NBA saw their former CBA expire on June 30 of this year; just 18 days after the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat 4 games to 2, to win the NBA Championship.

If this word, “lockout” sounds familiar to you , it should. The NFL just ended their recent 130-day lockout in July, agreeing to a new 10-year CBA that will put lockout talk aside for the next decade. While the NFL lockout seemed bleak at times, in reality they only missed training camps and one pre-season game. Other than that, the season went off without a hitch. Unfortunately, every source close to the situation with NBA believes their lockout is much worse than what the NFL dealt with. Let me break down the reasons why:

  • Despite NBA popularity being at an all-time high, 22 of the 30 NBA teams lost money last season.
  • The NBA claims to be losing $300 million dollars per year, an alarming statistic.

In the current NBA system, the teams operate under a “soft” salary cap for its players of $58 million dollars. This simply means that teams have to build a roster of 12 players whose total salaries shouldn’t exceed $58 million. What makes it a “soft” salary cap is that teams are allowed to go over $58 million, but are penalized with each dollar they are over the cap. The NBA owners want to cut the salaries of the players by 40% in attempt to stop losing money. They also want to have a “hard” salary cap of $45 million dollars. “Hard” means that teams are not allowed to exceed $45 million, no way around it. This would make it much harder for teams to couple big-salary players together, such as the Miami Heat did last season. The players however, would like to keep a “soft” salary cap, but increase the number up to $62 million.

As you can probably infer, the two sides are not very close to reaching a new agreement, simply based on the different figures that are proposed.

So the question is, if there is no NBA season in 2011, what will the players do? The popular idea lately is that players will go overseas to play basketball. Almost 60 current NBA players have already signed contracts to play everywhere from Tokyo to Istanbul to Italy. Some of these contracts include an option to leave the team if the NBA happens to strike a deal. Others however, have signed contracts that won’t let them come back if the NBA comes back, which is a bold leap of faith from those players. While there are many NBA starters and good players that have decided to go overseas, it might be just the beginning of something big in terms of NBA superstars. Kobe Bryant recently said it is “very possible” that he will play in Italy this season. NBA All-Star Deron Williams has already signed a contract with a team in Turkey, which has an opt-out clause if the NBA makes an agreement. If Kobe decides to play overseas, who knows what the domino effect will be on other stars?  Bottom line: the NBA need to figure things out before they see all of their stars playing thousands  of miles away from their home courts.

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