NBA players face tough path to front office
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
Shaun Livingston could teach a course on running the break or defending the pick-and-roll in the NBA.
But ask him about the salary cap, trade exceptions, luxury tax thresholds and the like, and the veteran point guard is the first to admit he has a lot to learn.
“The cap is like an algorithm, you know what I mean?” said Livingston, who signed as a free agent with the Brooklyn Nets in July. “Once you really pick up and you understand that stuff, then you’re creating ways that you can put together a team and structure it. What can (each team) do? Where’s the (salary) room? How much room do they have? The tax situation, exceptions, how you use all the exceptions.
“There’s kind of a — I forgot the term, what they called it, where you can go up to four million dollars over the tax and (still get) an exception.”
The apron, they call it.
“Yeah, there it is,” he said with a laugh. “See. The apron. We’re players. We just understand our contracts. We’re learning all this stuff.”
And they’re learning it out of necessity now.
With the age-old trend of hiring former players to run teams appearing to be on the serious decline, more than 20 current players who want to eventually have a role in team building gathered in Las Vegas for a three-day leadership seminar in July and have been sharpening their studies ever since as they wait for training camp to arrive. The realization is setting in, it seems, that having played in the league is hardly qualification enough to win these jobs.
The front office frontier is a world of strategies, numbers and rules that are very different from the court, where players like Livingston thrive. And as franchise values have soared, new collective bargaining agreement rules have restricted the general manager’s playing field, and the focus on player analytics has grown, NBA owners have begun to rely on decision-makers whose backgrounds go well beyond basketball.
Only two of the past 15 additions of a top front-office position went to former NBA players, with three leaving the league in the … [For more on NBA players face tough path to front-office positions, click here.]