NBA AM: Where Do We Go From Here?
The What If’s: With the possibility of a lost NBA season, a large number of you have asked about the various what if scenarios, so rather than continue to address them separately, I’ll put them all in one place for you.
So here are the scenarios if a full season is lost:
The 2012 NBA Draft: As Bill Ingram covered a few weeks ago, the prospects of a NBA Draft become cloudy without a labor deal.
All of the details of how a draft takes place is mapped out in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, including how picks are issued, how teams can manage workouts, how eligibility is established and so on.
Sources close to the process swear that there has been no meaningful discussion about how a draft happens if the season is lost and given that a season has never been lost to a work stoppage there is no blueprint going forward.
Sources speculate that if the NBA does lose an entire season to a work stoppage and resolution to the labor dispute does not happen in court, the NBA will claim a negotiating impasse with its Players and impose its own terms of employment and open for business.
This would basically be the owners establishing their own labor rules and hiring replacement players.
This move would also pave the way for a draft, and the terms of that draft would be up to the NBA.
Sources speculate that the only fair way to distribute draft picks would be a 30 team lottery, especially with so many future draft picks having been traded already.
Sources say they cannot envision any scenario in which the 30 teams would allow the 2011 draft order to be re-used as some have speculated.
One thing is abundantly clear as you talk to insiders about the Draft – there is no plan for a lost season and that a labor deal of some kind needs to be reached before teams and the NBA would hold a draft.
The 2012 Free Agents: There are a number of high profile players that have the option to be free agents on July 1st 2012. If an entire season is lost to labor strife, those players would hit free agency as planned.
So yes, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams would hit the open market if they chose to. Again, some level of a labor deal would need to be in place, but the clock does not stop on contract expiration. NBA teams enter into a term of years contract, not a term of games or seasons contract.
There is a small wrinkle to this and it pertains to restricted free agents such as Wilson Chandler of the Denver Nuggets.
According to Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ, in order for a team to secure restricted rights on a player the following must occur.
A team must submit a qualifying offer to the player by June 30.
The qualifying offer must be accepted by March 1.
A qualifying offer cannot be accepted after March 1.
If the deadline passes and the qualifying offer is neither withdrawn nor accepted, then the player continues to be a restricted free agent.
Assuming a player’s team issued the required Qualifying Offer sheet, they will hold that player’s restricted rights going forward.
There had been some talks of restricted free agency being abolished in the new labor deal; however the NBA’s last labor offer included restricted free agency with some modifications to the process, including a higher guaranteed value of the Offer Sheet.
So to recap, players with Options to hit free agency or players whose contracts officially end on July 1st, 2012 will hit the market regardless of whether a season is played, so there is the chase of 2012 being a Super Free Agency class, featuring the 2011 class and the 2012 class combined.
Restricted free agents that were given Qualifying Offers will remain restricted, regardless of whether a season is played.
Contraction: There has been a lot of chatter about contracting NBA teams, and that maybe some teams would not survive if an entire season were lost.
Former Union director and now Players’ attorney Billy Hunter has made comments to this effect a few times, suggesting there would be less teams if this thing claims a season.
Sources close to the process say that contracting teams has not been seriously discussed in months, and that the option of contracting teams in the event of a lost season has not been put on the table for meaningful discussion.
There had been reports that one of the “B-List” items the NBA was pushing for in the next labor deal included the right to contract teams without the Players’ consent and that if contraction occurred the NBA wanted the right to adjust the revenue split downward.
Sources close to the process said the idea here was simply to remove the approval process from the Players’ hands and that there were no plans to eliminate teams.
The New Orleans Hornets are still owned by the NBA, and they have been mentioned a lot as a possible contraction target, however sources near the Hornets say there are as many as nine possible suitors willing to buy the team and that as long as there are buyers for the team, the NBA plans to keep the franchise on the market.
NBA commissioner David Stern in addressing contraction several months ago did say that with new revenue sharing on the horizon that contracting a team that would always need revenue sharing to be profitable might be a better candidate for contraction, but that at this point there was a belief that revenue sharing combined with lower player costs should move every franchise to profitability.
Sources contend that contraction is not actively on the table and that even if a full season is lost, there are plans in place to help teams meet their obligations until the work stoppage is resolved.
How teams fare going forward remains to be seen, but contracting teams is not in the immediate future unless things get really bad going forward.
Oops. Did They Use An Intern?: The attorneys for the anti-trust case filed in Minnesota made something of a procedural gaffe this week when they served notice to all 30 NBA teams.
The Players’ lawsuit names all 30 NBA teams in its claims, and therefore required them to be notified of the lawsuit. All the teams but one, the Miami HEAT.
That was quickly remedied but instead of serving the notice to the Team President or General Manager the HEAT’s notice was sent to the HEAT’s cap guru Andy Ellisburg, not Pat Riley.
The Knicks’ copy was sent to Donnie Walsh who is no longer working for the Knicks.
Not exactly the best way to start this process.
According to Ken Berger of CBS Sports, the conference call held by the Owners yesterday was more of an update call to let all 30 team owners know where things stand.
According to Berger, there was very little discussion about a strategy going forward.
David Stern updated the full Board of Governors via conference call on the state of the collapsed collective bargaining talks and the litigation. In addition to the antitrust lawsuits filed against the NBA in California and Minnesota, the league has a pending case in the Southern District of New York in which it is asking a federal judge to rule that the lockout cannot come under antitrust attack by virtue of the players dissolving the National Basketball Players Association.
There was chatter yesterday after the call that there was not a lot of confidence that a speedy resolution was going to happen, and sources mirrored Berger’s claims that additional meetings on the league side were expected after the Thanksgiving holiday to develop a strategy going forward.
As of today there are no talks scheduled.
Not What They Want To Hear: Orlando star Dwight Howard held a book signing yesterday in Orlando and is common in Dwight’s life these days he was again asked about his future and if he’s made any decisions about how he’ll handle his possible free agency in 2012.
“Everybody’s worrying about the wrong stuff,” Howard said to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. “I didn’t come here today wanting to discuss where I’m going to be next year. At that point, it really doesn’t matter.”
“The biggest thing for me is taking advantage of every opportunity that I have in front of me, and that’s how anybody should look at it. I’m 25 and I have a full life ahead of me, God-willing, and I have to do what’s best for me, and that’s it.”
Howard was quoted last month by Scott Raab of Esquire Magazine as saying:
“There’s more you can do in a bigger place. I’m stuck in a tough position because I feel like right now, where I’m at, I’ve done so much. And I just don’t know what else I can do. I can’t live for everybody else.”
“I don’t know what decision I’m gonna make as of right now. It’s been crazy. Everybody wants me to come here, come play here, come to our team, do this. It’s a great feeling, though, to be wanted.”
“The toughest part for me is the city — the people. They’ve got burgers named after me in Orlando, they’ve got a Web site saying, “Please stay.” I love the people in the city. I’ve literally sat on the bench with a towel on my head crying, because I feel the passion in the stands.”
“I just think about what’s going to be best for what I want to accomplish in my life. And I don’t want that door to close on me, wherever that door is. I don’t want it to close.”
Howard was asked last Sunday at his charity game in Orlando about his future in Central Florida and he ducked the question. Josh Robbins asked again yesterday and kind of got the same answer.
Not exactly what the Magic faithful wanted to hear and with the NBA season in legitimate jeopardy, Howard may have played his last game in Orlando.
If that’s not the case, he’s not doing a very good job dispelling the idea.
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