NBA AM: Stop Blaming Player Contracts
Negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement have seemingly hit an impasse which will continue to extend the ongoing lockout – possibly delaying or cancelling the entire 2012 season.
No one on either side of the labor disagreement denies the NBA as a whole is making money; in fact the league generated $4 billion in revenues during the 2011 season. The issues center around the profitability of its franchises as the league continues to claim that more than seventy percent of its teams are unprofitable.
While revenues are at an all-time high, the expense associated with driving in those dollars has undoubtedly changed over the years. In a downward trending economic climate businesses have had to invest more and more marketing dollars to maintain their competitive position and keep their consumers spending.
Indeed, the NBA has a spending problem that must be addressed, but some areas that need the most tweaking such as team expenditures like expensive last minute flights, thousand dollar a night meals and luxurious hotel accommodations for staff members are seldom reported by media outlets.
The biggest scapegoat at least in perception always gets redirected back toward bloated player contracts.
This week retired center and future Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal suggested the owners needed help to protect them from themselves. The target of his message was directed at Atlanta Hawks All-Star forward Joe Johnson who signed a six-year $119 million deal last summer.
“I love Joe Johnson and I hope he doesn’t get mad with me, but he’s not a $20 million a year guy,” O’Neal told the New Orleans Times Picayune. “Business-wise, Atlanta isn’t making that much money. But if you are going to offer a kid a lot of money, he’s going to take it. I think we need a system that protect the owners from each other.”
O’Neal has a point. You’d have to search far and wide for someone who puts Johnson in the same class as Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki or Dwyane Wade, but it isn’t the player’s fault to accept a deal which should give him financial freedom for life when an overspending ownership group shows up with a bloated contract to sign.
And why should owners be protected anyway? These guys have amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in personal wealth, if not billions, by making shrewd business decisions throughout their lives. In the case of Johnson, the Hawks had plenty of leverage in their favor. Under the old CBA they were the only club who could offer a sixth year on a contract and they also could’ve negotiated a sign-and-trade with one of his suitors to bring in a fresh new set of talent instead of investing the money and then pulling the unprofitable card.
Admittedly, losing Johnson would have hurt the Hawks from a fans standpoint but now the team faces criticism from signing him to such a large deal from those same fans after last season’s playoff ouster.
Current Washington Wizards forward and former All-Star Rashard Lewis is set to earn $22 million next season which would make him the second highest paid player in the league. Lewis is in a similar position to Johnson in that it is widely believed his contract far exceeds his current talent level.
However, Lewis isn’t apologizing for his deal and doesn’t believe the current NBA crisis is the direct result of his earnings structure.
“Talk to the owner. He gave me the deal,” Lewis told Michael Lee of the Washington Post. “When it comes to contracts, the players aren’t sitting there negotiating that contract. I’m sitting at home and my agent calls me, saying, ‘I got a max on the table.’ I’m not going to sit there and say, ‘Naw, that’s too much. Go out there and negotiate $20 or $30 [million] less.’”
Lewis went on to state that ownership is the last line of defense when dealing with team finances and they ultimately hold the responsibility – not players.
“I thought my agent did a good job of negotiating my contract, and at the time I was coming out of Seattle, averaging 23 points, playing well. It was perfect timing for me,” Lewis stated. “At the same time, I understand the owners don’t want to overpay players, but you’ve got to do better negotiating. Try your best to save money.”
According to reports, league owners want the players to give back $800 – $900 million in salary each season under a new deal.
One thing is for certain, even if the owners get all of their demands this time around, unless foolish spending is addressed overall you better believe player contracts will once again be a scapegoat when it’s time to negotiate another CBA in the future.
Bismack Biyombo Makes A Guarantee: Bismack Biyombo, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2011 draft, acquired by the Charlotte in a draft night deal is confident he’ll be wearing a Bobcats uniform once the season starts despite still being under contract to a Spanish league team.
“I can guarantee a lot of people,” Biyombo told Brian T. Smith of the Salt Lake Tribune. “There’s a lot of things going on with that and we’re working on that and hopefully before the season start we can get it done. I’m pretty sure [this] season I’m going to be there and I’m in my team jersey playing for Charlotte and be in the league. For sure I’ll be in the league. A lot of people heard different stuff, but I guarantee people I will be in the league. We’re working on the contract and everything and it’ll be OK. There is no worries about it.”
The Bobcats are banking on Biyombo to become one of their young cornerstones after blowing up the squad over the past year after making their first postseason appearance in 2010.
The emerging big man has spent his summer in Florida playing alongside league veterans.
“I’m playing already in Tampa with different NBA players,” Biyombo responded to how he’s been training this offseason. “I’m playing with a lot of guys, like, over 20 NBA players around the city. … Hasheem Thabeet. … I’m doing it two, three days a week. … I’m working on it with Mark Jackson, the big Mark Jackson.”
Other NBA News & Notes
- Many believe the San Antonio Spurs may have gotten the steal of the draft back in June when they dealt well respected point guard George Hill to the Indiana Pacers for former San Diego State University standout Kawhi Leonard. If the deal is being judged on work ethic alone, then Spurs are already winners.
From Steve Fisher, Leonard’s old coach at SDSU: “Nobody is in the gym more than Kawhi. People said, ‘Well, can he shoot the ball?’ He can shoot the ball at the NBA level. No one’s worked harder on his shot than Kawhi. He’s living in San Diego still. I had our AD call me up a couple weeks ago when I was gone. He said, ‘Coach, we’ve got an issue with Kawhi in the arena. Event management called and the lights are not on, and Kawhi’s in the arena for two straight days at 6:30 in the morning. And he brought two lamps from home, and he put them up in the arena and shot.’ And that is a true story.”
- According to NewsOK, Oklahoma City Thunder center Bryon Mullens has signed a deal to play with the Panionios of Greece. The contract will allow Mullens to return to the NBA once the lockout is lifted.
“Basically I was pretty much just waiting to hear about what’s going on with the lockout and was talking to my agent about it,” Mullens explained on his decision. “And we decided to see if we could get a deal going overseas to play. I’ve been working out all summer. We thought it’d be best to just get a different feel. You can only get better to a certain point working out by yourself.”
NBA Chats: There are two chats on the schedule today. Joel Brigham is set to run the point at 1:30PM EST. Joel covers the Chicago Bulls and Eastern Conference. Be sure to get your questions in early. Next, HOOPSWORLD’s publisher Steve Kyler will host his chat at 3:30PM EST. Steve has the latest news regarding the lockout, trade rumors and offseason buzz. Submit your question here. You can always find the upcoming chats here.