Lockout Hurts Some NBA Players
As the lockout drags on more and more NBA players are deciding to take deals overseas. Some of them, players still under contract, need built-in “outs” in their deals so if the lockout ends they can immediately return to their NBA team. Others, the free agents, have a little more flexibility if they are willing to stay somewhere for a full season.
Then there is Rudy Fernandez, who signed a four-year deal in Spain despite still having a year left on his NBA deal with the Dallas Mavericks. Either he’s super confident the season will be lost or he’s simply unconcerned with how Dallas will treat him as a lame-duck player.
Many of the players signing deals and heading overseas are established talents. Players like Deron Williams, who is already committed to a team in Turkey, and players like Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant who are flirting with the idea of going overseas, they aren’t necessarily doing it for the money.
The thing is these are the players the big names from overseas want. They want to bring in a NBA star in order to sell tickets to their own games as well as make their team better. And really, it’s more about selling tickets, because if a team is willing to bring in a dominant force when at any time they could leave (when the lockout ends), winning games isn’t the primary decision point.
Who should be going? Are there NBA players who should be actively looking for those jobs?
The answer is yes, and the primary group of players is the group of rookies from 2010-11 who played last season for the minimum salary of $473,604 AND are already under contract for 2011-12. These players are limited in their overseas options because they must have a NBA-out in their foreign contract, but they also have to get that job to make money.
It sounds odd, to most of us, that someone who made that amount would desperately need to find a new job in this case, but they do. The reality is when all is said and done the player whose contract is in that range isn’t bringing home a lot of money.
Let’s use New York guard Landry Fields as an example. (The following calculations are estimates based on public information, and should in no way be construed as his actual finances.)
First, let’s start with the $473,604 amount. The federal tax rate is 35%, or $165,761. The state of New York will take another 8% – $37,888. New York City has its own tax rate as well, which in that range works out to be $17,135.
So simply taking away income taxes, that $473,604 is reduced to $252,820. That’s hardly an amount to scoff at to be sure, but it’s a significantly smaller number.
Then you take into account the cost of living in New York City, which is higher than most (maybe all) areas of the U.S., and that amount can rapidly disappear.
Again, there is still a decent amount left, but now also take into consideration the average NBA career is about five years. A season lost to a lockout with no income takes 20% off the average, and if a player has not had the ability to build up a base – a nest egg if you will – this lost season is going to hurt.
Yes, Fields may have a longer career (plus a Stanford degree), but no everyone in his same contract situation will. Can we say the same with any assurances about Phoenix’s Gani Lawal? Portland’s Armon Johnson? Los Angeles’ Derrick Caracater? Maybe, maybe not, but all of them find themselves in the same situation (albeit perhaps without having to pay a city income tax on top of state and federal).
This also doesn’t address the players who made even less than Fields, the players fresh out of college who were not drafted and went in the D-League, who got called up later in the NBA season and signed a deal that also put them under contract for 2011-12. One example here is Atlanta Hawks big man Magnum Rolle.
Rolle was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 2010 out of Louisiana Tech and earned $50,000 despite being cut at the end of training camp. He played most of the regular season with the D-League’s Maine Red Claws, and probably made less than that initial $50,000. He signed with the Hawks late in the season, a deal that included a few days of 2010-11 ($7,893) plus 2011-12 for a non-guaranteed $788,872.
That means Rolle earned less than $100,000 last year and is in the same boat as Fields. He’s stuck, because he is under contract to the Hawks, but he didn’t make nearly enough money as a rookie to not work for a year.
These are the players whose agents should be working to find them a job overseas, because despite the big numbers on their contracts, the numbers we list on our site under NBA Salaries, they still need to work. They aren’t like a Deron Williams, who made $14.9 million last season and has earned $43.6 million in his career.
If there are players who are hurt by the lockout, who the union isn’t serving, it’s these ones. Unfortunately for them they are a small minority, so if the union wants to hold their ground and if the season ends up being lost, they will be the ones who lose out completely, who may lose a year of good work and the salary that goes along with it because of the disagreement on how much Basketball Related Income the Players or Owners should receive.
Good luck to them.
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