NBA PM: Europe Losing Leverage?
Is Europe Losing Its Leverage?
For all the talk of a “mass exodus” to Europe (which, by the way, is somewhat redundant), NBA players are still toeing the water in a fruitless attempt to gauge the temperature. The foreign markets are hot for NBA stars (Nets point guard Deron Williams has inked a $5 million deal with Istanbul’s Besiktas, a team that has already signed the Hawks’ Zaza Pachulia and was previously rumored to be interested in Lakers guard Kobe Bryant), but there has been more than enough financial and legal hurdles to douse the flames for the time being. The struggle to find suitable insurance in case of injury and the mediocre accommodations are just two reasons some NBA players are hesitant to cross the Atlantic (check out ESPN Ric Bucher’s recent interview with Suns guard and former Olympiakos star Josh Childress for more on the subject); and that means the players’ union will struggle to utilize the interest from abroad as leverage against the owners in the collective bargaining negotiations.
Another obstacle for wealthy foreign teams that hope to sign NBA talent came in the form of a memo. Union executive director Billy Hunter told ESPN’s John Saunders on Tuesday that there is plenty of interest from overseas, but he wrote the players to caution them about signing abroad, particularly if they’re in the midst of a long-term NBA deal.
“I can’t speculate where we’ll see them, John. I know that there are offers being made to many of our players, and obviously being made to marquee players that you identified such as Kobe, Dwight Howard and others like that. I know that Kobe has been on tour in Asia, I guess, as part of the marketing arraignment he’s got with Nike. But we’re aware that offers are being made to our players every day.
What we’ve done is put out a memo to all of our players saying that if they’re considering going abroad, first of all if they’re under a long-term contract, that they should have an out provision, but then they should make sure they have ample insurance for their contract in the event that they do suffer a career-ending injury.”
Williams’ case is the ideal situation for an NBA player who wants to make money during the lockout. He’s being paid well, he has an out clause, and, according to Hunter, Williams was “able to find an insurer and was able to work out a premium that he obviously found to be affordable.” Whether the onus of the premium is on the player or the team he signs with is inconsequential, but Hunter is quick to point out that insurance is a necessity for any NBA player who wants to play elsewhere during the lockout.
Hunter also wants NBA players to avoid conflicts with their current American teams, even if they are in the midst of fierce CBA negotiations.
“If he’s got a contract,” Hunter said of a hypothetical player, “let’s say a multi-year deal that runs for the next two or three years, even if we’re locked out for a year, he’s got an obligation to come back. If the lockout ends in two or three months, he would be in a conflict situation. He’ll have to come back and honor his contract and I believe the relationship between the NBA and FIBA would require that.”
Hunter acknowledged that free agents are in a different situation, but since that only represents a small fraction of players, the threat of a mass migration (again, redundant) to Europe, Asia and South America remains remote. It’s one thing for a free agent like Nenad Krstic to sign with CSKA Moscow. It would be much different if Dwight Howard, who is under contract with the Magic, was pondering a multi-year deal without an escape clause.
Europe is definitely an option for a handful of NBA players, but as leverage goes, it’s about as feasible as the owners using replacement players.
And Another Thing
ESPNDeportes.com’s Alvaro Martin did a nice job of mapping out NBA players’ international options (don’t worry, it’s in English), but he also did a good job articulating why we won’t see many players going abroad. Some of these have been touched upon, but he also discusses some items (such as group insurance rates) that weren’t mentioned above:
“Many factors conspire against a significant number of NBA players going overseas: Paying for insurance policies, a more strict drug-testing regimen, the confusion for many overseas teams and leagues about whether they can actually pursue and sign NBA players, the wait-and-see attitude of players toward the lockout and its duration, and the fact that serious overseas teams that can afford to pay top dollar may not grant escape clauses in case the lockout ends will turn a potential flood into a trickle.
And, according to sources, the NBPA has not yet alerted leagues outside the United States that NBA players with remaining years on their locked-out NBA contracts are free to play at will or arranged for group insurance for its members to lower the cost of securing such policies. Without those provisions, the (sic) might miss a chance to have some of its lowest-earning members (precisely the majority of NBA players owners will try to court in an attempt to pressure the NBAPA to settlement or vote for a management proposal that may be opposed by well-paid stars and/or union officials) secure employment, some income and a chance to further develop their skills.”
BRI or Not BRI?
The heart of the lockout debate is over basketball related income, of which the players got a 57 percent cut under the previous CBA. But while the players got most of that pie, they’re not allowed to touch any funds that don’t fall under the BRI umbrella.
According to HOOPSWORLD contributor Larry Coon’s “Salary Cap FAQ” (a must for understanding the CBA talks and impressing women) there are a few revenue streams the NBA has that do not fall under BRI. Writes Coon, “proceeds from the grant of expansion teams, fines, and revenue sharing (e.g. luxury tax)” are not considered BRI.
Another interesting tidbit on what is and what isn’t BRI was brought up by Mike Ozanian of Forbes.
The Celtics have signed a deal with Comcast SportsNet New England, which grants the company (Boston Basketball Partners L.L.C.) about a $20 million increase in the annual rights fee and a 20 percent stake of the regional cable outlet. The $20 million bump in television revenue is considered a part of the league’s BRI, so it is subject to the salary cap and the players will get their cut. However, anything the company makes from the 20 percent of the network that it owns wouldn’t be subject to the cap under the previous CBA.
The recently expired deal, writes Ozanian, was based entirely on a rights fee, so this was a nice way for the Celtics ownership to generate revenue that won’t get eaten up by the players.
The next logical question is: Why isn’t that BRI?
Were it not for the players who play the game, would Boston Basketball Partners L.L.C have been able to acquire 20 percent of a cable network? Should the currency with which a broadcaster pays for the rights to NBA games determine who gets a cut of the proceeds?
What constitutes BRI will assuredly be an issue when Billy Hunter and commissioner David Stern resume talks in August. So remember, the owners and union aren’t simply negotiating a cut of the pie, they’re going to be haggling over what goes into the pie as well.
Marshon Brooks Shines in NYC Tourney
Providence College product and future Nets rookie MarShon Brooks stunned the crowd at the Nike Pro-City tournament on Tuesday when he dropped 48 points in one game. After a slow start, wrote Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, Brooks finished with 48 points on 17-of-32 shooting and managed to hit half of his 12 3-point attempts.
Afterward he assured reporters that he has no interest in playing overseas because he has yet to sign his first NBA contract.
“If I would have signed my contract, maybe I would have thought about it,” Brooks said. “But with no contract signed, I don’t even want to take a chance.”
Even if the mass exodus (still redundant) to Europe is more bark than bite, one NBA player is very serious about playing for Team Canada. According to Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun, Team Canada coach Leo Rautins—who is also the father of Knicks guard Andy Rautins—is growing frustrated with the country’s lethargic approach to Spurs center Matt Bonner’s request for Canadian citizenship.
“I’m very frustrated,” Rautins said. “I see a lot of Canadians who are less Canadian than Matt Bonner. His daughter’s Canadian. His wife’s Canadian. His grandfather’s Canadian. He’s got a home here. When he’s not playing for the San Antonio Spurs, he’s here [in Toronto].”
Bonner is a native of New Hampshire (which borders Canada, for all you geography nuts out there) and previously played for the Raptors, but is being hampered by the fact that he spends most of his year in America, where he, you know, plays basketball professionally. He “got the ball rolling” towards Canadian citizenship back in 2008, according to Buffery.