- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The NBA owners want a system that makes a profit. The NBA players want to continue with a system they say already does. So with both sides in agreement about their long-term goals, hammering out a new collective bargaining agreement would appear to be a simple matter.

It’s not.

“We’ve been working on an agreement for two years. We’ve known that they weren’t going to extend the current CBA two years ago,” said Wizards forward Mo Evans, vice president of the NBA players union.

“The players are perfectly content with the CBA that we have. We’re not the ones who declined to pick up the option on the current CBA. We feel like the game is in a great place. The owners contend there are teams losing money, but the game is growing and revenues are up, so you would only assume that profits would be at record highs also.”

According to a report by CNBC, the NBA’s newly released data for the 2010-11 regular season on April 15 showed the following results:

c The NBA’s three national TV partners all had their most viewers ever this season. TNT had the highest increase at 42 percent, ABC was up 38 percent and ESPN had a 28 percent jump.

c Turner Sports also said its 1.6 rating was its highest in 27 years of NBA coverage and that it televised three of the five most-watched NBA regular-season games ever on cable this season.

c Arena capacity was 90.3 percent, the seventh straight year of 90 or better, and the 17,306 average was up 1 percent from last year and was its fifth-highest.

c Merchandise sales jumped more than 20 percent this year.

Nonetheless, following a recent meeting with the NBA’s Board of Governors in New York, commissioner David Stern said the league expects losses of up to $300 million this year, and deputy commissioner Adam Silver said about 22 of the league’s 30 franchises are expected to lose money. Following the meeting, the Board of Governors authorized the owners’ negotiating committee to make a new proposal to the union within the next week or two.

“Fundamentally, the owners are looking for a change in how contracts are signed. They believe the current system almost forces them to spend too much money on players’ salaries,” said David Aldridge, NBA analyst for TNT.

The owners are seeking a $700 million-$800 million rollback in players’ salaries, a hard salary cap and fewer exceptions to that cap. The salary cap for this past season was just over $58 million per team; the luxury tax at $70.3 million. Approximately 57 percent of cap revenue is spent on players’ salaries.

Salary cap exceptions include the Larry Bird rule, which allows teams to exceed the cap to re-sign their own players, and the mid-level exception, which allows a team to exceed the cap to sign a veteran player.

“The union contends that the league can show that it’s losing money on paper, and that actual losses are being taken out of context,” Aldridge said. “They think there are fewer teams losing money than the owners claim. For example, you can claim that the team itself is losing money, but the union would question if the figures include the building and the television revenue.

“It’s fair and realistic to expect that everyone should be willing to sacrifice a little so the sport can continue. The owners don’t need to be quite this draconian. There are smart people on both sides that should be able to tweak the system and come up with a fair compromise.”

Wizards rookie John Wall called the potential lockout a tough situation, especially for next year’s rookie class.

“For the guys coming out, I know it’s a tough decision for them. I feel like if you’re a lottery pick, just go ahead and test it,” Wall said. “It’s not guaranteed that you’d be in the lottery next year. If I was in their shoes, and I was guaranteed a lottery pick, or had a chance to go one or two, I would go ahead and come out. You can find somewhere to get a loan from somebody for a while.”

As for the players already in the league, Wall called it a waiting game.

“We’ve just got to sit back and wait. We want to play. We have to prepare like the season is going to start at the regular time. We all have to save our money.”

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