‘Stale Contracts’ Offer Lockout Insight

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Some efforts to dig down to the root of the NBA’s labor problem have produced results that vary from foolish to the downright preposterous.

But few items hit home harder than the “stale contract” issue raised in this reflective piece by Washington Post columnist Mike Wise, a longtime NBA scribe who knows his way around the league better than most.

Wise hammered home his point with this passage:

If Kevin Garnett’s contract was the flash point of the 1999 lockout — his $126 million dwarfed the $85 million paid years earlier for the entire Minnesota franchise, thus making it hard for a small-market team like the Timberwolves to put enough help around a star to contend — the salary of a player believed to be a dud is at the heart of this dispute.

Owners are sick of paying premiums for damaged goods. Players are putting the onus on the people who signed them to those deals, irrespective of who turned out to be a lousy employee.

Nowhere was the impetus for a long labor stoppage more obvious than here in Washington, where what was once thought to be a blockbuster deal — Gilbert Arenas for Rashard Lewis this past December — was in reality one franchise’s lemon traded for another.

Only in the NBA can a town be excited by moving a player with three years and $60 million left (Arenas) for another with more than two years remaining on a $118 million deal. Why were the Wizards ecstatic? Because as bad as Lewis’s $19 million-plus deal per year was for a player with declining numbers the past three seasons, at least they only had to have his contract around for two years instead of three. That’s sadly called success before the trading deadline.

Beyond finding a more equitable split of income, stale contracts are why the union and the league may not come to terms this fall and perhaps beyond.

While some observers like to label this NBA lockout as simply a chicken contest between millionaires and billionaires, it’s so much more than that. There are legitimate issues that must be resolved before we get our game back.

Regardless of whose side you take in this fight, it should be clear by now to anyone paying close attention that fundamental changes to the way the league operates will have to come before the two sides agree to get back to the business of basketball.


  1. Brian says:

    Pay all the players a max of 2 million. Lower the ticket prices for the fans. We will loose a few of the most arrogant players and will be left with those that love to play the game.

  2. Ant-Live-72 says:

    I think the issue is about money. Both sides have legit arguments. I’m not sure of the exact specifics but I think an arbitrator or outside 3rd party should come in and settle the matter. Let the owners open their books for the players. If they have nothing to hide it should not be a problem. Secondly, I do think contacts should be honored by the owners during the lockout. This would show that they are negotiating in good faith. A side note about contracts, if a player out performs a contract the owners think the found a diamond in do not complain but if a player is a quote unquote bust the owners want to complain. It’s called a bad investment. Live with it. My recommendation, hire people who know about basketball, knowledgeable scouts, GM’s and better negotiators. To the players…allow a hard team salary cap (and the league should penaltize teams that go over that amount). Agree to shorter congrats but still have it guaranteed. That means you have to continue to perform at a high level to get a pay raise. Hey meet the rest of working America. I get reviewed every year. If I don’t perform, I don’t get a more money, Heck, I’m lucky if I keep my job. If you are the best in the world. Prove it! Put your money where your mouth is.

  3. Knickfan212 says:

    I can understand owners not wanting to pay top dollars for players who turn out to be duds.They should have the right to void contracts if it looks like no effort is being put forth ( Curry from Knicks) but not if they fail to do the job. Someone that refuses to get in shape or come to pratice I wouldn’t want to pay either.
    Other then that, the owners have only themselves to blame for these high salaries.

    • SYED F AKBAR says:

      A ‘contract’, by definition, is an agreement between two parties. Accepted, agreed-to and signed by both at ‘free will’ and in the mutual interest of both.
      No one forces an owner to sign a player for a multiple-year contract. It is the owners who are eager to ‘lock-in’ a talent. Or what they perceive to be a ‘talent’ … it is no different than buying a piece of real estate in Manhattan, investing in a software company … it is a business decision based on the promise of a future pay-off. Every so often it fails to deliver … So what !
      Don’t feel sorry for the owners even on that account.
      And don’t hate these kids just ‘cause they made it out of the ghetto while you and I are still stuck in there.
      They are only fighting for a previously accepted and ‘agreed upon’ contract … nothing more.
      Don’t be fooled by fancy words and fake numbers that attempt to hide greed and ineptitude on part of the owners.

      • R4 says:

        More you write you sound like a player trying to tell me players are right. Majority of people that actually work for living decided to stop working hard after they receive their contract, what are the result of that? They get fire buddy. But in the nba you can collect a your whole contract and stop playing and they decide to play your contract years. That needs to stop. If I lose my job because of performance so should they… Everyone is human there no such thing as one man greater than another, my mother raise me to believe in that.

  4. Professional Athletes David says:

    It’s normal to have a lockout to be able to improve a player’s skill and be able to learn from all the mistakes they did in the last season. It is important to have a lockout and it is essential for players to take part on it.

  5. josh says:

    I like rugby league too!!!

  6. bballsbrain says:

    this whole issue is beyond fan control, we all can bicker and complain but the fact remains is that WE as fans wont have NBA basketball anytime soon..the business model of the league has been garbage forever…u cant rightfully be upset about a guy signing a contract that will pay him a ridiculous amount of money if it’s OFFERED 2 him…yall know damn well if burger king offered u more than mcdonalds thats where u would go…it isn’t the players fault..THE OWNERS ARE the ones who sign paychecks..but now they wanna cry because they are losing money.. i dont see any side havin to call for food pantry appointments no time soon.

  7. Chris says:

    i agree with MackDaddy..some of these contracts are out of hand! unfortunately, these owners started paying these guys these large contracts and now they have opened a pandora’s box they will never be able to close…these guys will never accept a 50-50 split and a hard cap.it’ll probably take missing an entire season before the players agree to something like that.

  8. Chris says:

    I am not really into all those contracts though i would like to see basketball again. As far as i understand there is the players union versus the owners but why do the owners even have to fix something with the players?

    the owners among themselves could have an agreement how to sign future players with whatever special contract agreements they like. When they agree to pay the next future free agents 1 mio only then that player cant do anything about it except if there is no owners union either.

    It does look like the owners ( also from the lakers celtics heat bulls etc ) agree to whatever stance the owners union has so why not just fix max contract payments and whatever they need to make the small market teams profitable on their own.

  9. Dirk is Da Maaaaaan!!! says:

    I hear u buddy (fellow Aussie) !!! Rugby League is awesome!!! However, I’m a scrooge & not a million dollar lock-out player so, I don’t wanna pay to watch league on bigpond!!! Why can’t it be free like NBA.com??? I live & work in Japan so, I get most of my sports jollies for FREE from The NET coz there ain’t much decent sport except for maybe baseball!!!

  10. blue20 says:

    i agree to you kamotee nice comment very realistic and a win-win for all owners and players all the owners must have a rules all superstars must average like this 30ppg 8apg 10rpg 6spg pergame and for the middle stars they must average 20ppg 6apg 7rpg 4spg per game and for the so so players must average 14ppg 3apg 4rpg 3spg and for all the bench players if they got in to the court to play they must average a 10ppg 2apg 2rpg 1spg and as a team they must have at least 5-8 turnovers only and its required per game o better no turnovers its a worth for what they get paid for and they are not going to get their salary if they dont get this average because owners are not paying a player like they are in the bench only and at the practice only they must give their best to win the game thats why they are a players and its good for me to watch like this its a win-win for all and for all the viewers and fans i think they will agree on this i maybe a stupid for the average but owners are not paying a millions and billions for a player that is not a competitive for playing inside the court they must give all their best thats why they are getting paid for millions and billions right they are not geting paid to go practice only and sitting on the bench for the whole season……

  11. kamotee says:

    How about reconstruct some bad contracts. For example, a superstar player signed a 5 year contract worth 100M in flexible terms. First year will be a guarantee 20M; the following and succeeding years depends on the previous seasons he played, like, base on the first year, he must average at least 20ppg, 10rpg, 5apg, and 1bpg. If he reach this goal, a guaranteed 20M for the second year. Now if he came up short, a decrease of 10% or 18M for the 2nd year. They can also add some clause like, the team must reach 48+ wins or at least have a seat on the playoffs. I red some time ago about a clause ina players contract guaranteeing him to have a big amount of bonus if he wins the MVP plum. If they can make some ridiculous clauses, why not add some realistic ones. At this rate, it will be beneficial to the owners for they can save some amount, as well as the players, they will be pushed to their limits. Let’s face it, some of them are not really worth it.

  12. Gary says:

    That’s a great example Sekou. Arenas was at one point worth that amount but then he just started playing like crap. Really is unfair to the owner(s) when players do this kind of thing.

  13. Lockout says:

    mine was deleted 🙂

  14. tom says:

    the players brought this upon themselves. they are a bunch of uncompetitive prima-donnas. i am with the owners on this. the hard cap is the only thing that will save the nba.

  15. Connor Prine says:

    This is very disappointing. I do not give a crap about what the problem as long as it is fixed. I can speak for millions when I say we want to see professional basketball this year.

  16. David says:

    what happened to all the players who are/were saying they always dreamed about playing in the nba and how basketball is their life? all i see now is money isuess and grabing more than they need

  17. tanduay5years says:

    It should be, 25- 25 players and owners and 50 percent goes to the fans! Doesnt matter who got he dough but we get to see our team and players play and entertain our fantasy. IF NOT, IM GOING TO LOCK OUT MYSELF AGAINST ANYTHING BASKETBALL. (which sadly is impossible)..

  18. watcher says:

    I fully expect one whole season to be lost before the players realize they can’t win this one. Then again I think they already know this, so they see it as a stalling tactic to try and get a few extra percentage points of gross revenue, or a few concessions which will definitely be stipulations as part of the next CBA.
    So the players legacy will be one of staving off the inevitable for a few years while ensuring the next gen has to go through this rubbish again. And the after-thought the fans are likely to lose out not once, but twice.

  19. Wall Street - Main Street says:

    NBA players must realize that without basketball, the likelihood of securing a similar pay range employment is next to 0. China has already come up with the ‘no sign’ for players under contract, European leagues might run them in the game but given the current market I dont think ‘millions will be paid out’

    Basketball is like any other business, it needs revenue, costings and PnL to operate. A superstar league is nothing without fans and endorsements.

  20. jimmythekush says:

    how about the players play for their contracts amount and thats it. If they get endorsments on their own good for them. in return the owners can keep all their profit and pay a percentage to the nba like a union fee. thus allowing them to lower prices for the fan and allow more people to come out and enjoy the games in person and buy the merchandise. I mean I go to work and mak my salary I dont get extra if the company sells more product thats called owning a business u make the profit and pay ur employees an agreed upon amount. If the company makes less money his month they dont come to me and ask for pay back right?

  21. bostonfan says:

    It really isn’t clear to me why the league is going after the mid level contracts, all the evidence is that if anyone’s salary is sinking the ship, it’s the maximum salary players. They’re also the ones that can best afford the paycut since they are the ones with endorsement deals, and they have 40-50% of the teams player expense. I haven’t looked at the CBA proposals, but it seems that capping the maximum salary to avoid these bidding wars is the best way to make the league more profitable. It will also let the smaller market teams compete better. Isn’t this management’s goal?

  22. xela says:

    I think it reasonable that owners and players agree to lessen the maximum contracts they can provide to “star” players and instead add more performance bonus then simply increase the minimum salary of players for everyone to have an equal share of profits and revenue. While still meeting the salary cap space. I mean look at the Arenas and Lewis case, this guys are paid more than they deserve and yet they perform at a sub par level. If there is a ceiling for maximum contracts w/ performance bonuses attached to said contracts then at the end of the year the player who performed better, earns more. While everyone has their fair share of team profits and again meeting salary cap space.

  23. wompus says:

    I totally agree with this article. The current structure of the CBO is that the players get gauranteed profits and pay no expenses while the owners HAVE to share gross profits, bare all the burden of paying the expenses and get what’s left over, while they are required to meet payroll obligations to the players.

    Tell me the business, beside the federal government which isn’t a business at all, that would dare to pay employees while the company is in the red…. The owners were taken for a ride in the last CBO and I pray and hope that they are strong enough to not give in this time. I am a fan, but I am sick and tired of seeing teams strapped by bad contracts. The NFL can quickly get rid of bad contracts and rebuild quickly, however bad contracts in the NBA can affect a team for an entire decade… how is that remotely possible for the league and especially for the sport. If the players don’t want a hard cap, fine, then get paid by perfomance….. even better, how about make their salaries based on how much the team profits…. that way it pay to work as a team and even game counts.

    There are countless ways to solve this issue and still pay the players ridiculous amounts of money, but the fact that the players outright refute any idea that their pay could decrease on bad performance and they get gauranteed money regardless if their obscene paycheck is dragging down the team, the sport and the fans, that’s shows me that they care only about themselves. I hope the lockout lasts so long that they come begging back for a 1/4 of what they were getting paid before, serves them right!

  24. Jamie says:

    I feel the players should accept the 50-50 split. It sounds fair to me. How many businesses world wide split their earnings 50-50 with employees? And out of the owners 50% they have to pay GMs, coaches, receptionists, cleaners etc. The competition needs to be fair also. In Australia, they have a $4 million hard salary cap for their rugby league competition and there are severe consequences for teams that breach it (1 team had to play for nothing last season) and it is the best sport to watch in the world (You Americans really need to get into this, awesome sport). Yes, I know that USA has more money than Australia and the big market teams make alot of money for the NBA but small teams need to have a chance too, otherwise Basketball will go in the direction of Football (Soccer) where only 4 teams have a realistic shot at the championship (how boring). Come on NBPA, come to an agreement, the fans want the season to go ahead. If not, then I guess, I’ll have to learn more about Ice Hockey and have that as my new American sports fix

    • MackDaddy says:

      Yeah, but the owners arent just asking for 50/50 split. They are asking for 50/50 split PLUS a reduction in other revenue (worth billions).

      The owners are quick to point out that NFL players and MLB players get far less. OF COURSE they do! NBA players play 82 games plus finals (if required). The other leagues dont even come close to matching that. Also, the superstars play most of the minutes every one of those games… NFL and MLB play half the game.

      50/50 split- fine, lock it in.
      Hard cap- fine, lock it in.
      Better revenue sharing to the smaller clubs- fine, lock it in.

      Shorter contracts and less guarantee? leave it for next agreement.
      Revenue sharing? Leave it alone.

      • Truth says:

        Actually Baseball plays 132 games each season

      • Lacedogg says:

        The last 2 issues you listed are probably the most important, especially player contracts. If they are not addressed, there will be no new agreement.

      • Aussie says:

        In Rugby The superstars actually play the whole 80 minute game or at least 70 minutes and they dont have the option of leaving for 5 and going back they also have the limited interchange rule. I know it is only a 24 round season plus finals. But superstars also represent their state and country in up to 10 games each year as well. So I think the point Jamie was trying to make was the players need to look at being more reasonable. I mean damm I wish the place where I work gave the staff a 50/50 split Work would be so much more enjoyable. but MackDaddy you make some good agreements so I just want to let you know more about Rugby League. (The worlds best kind of football)

      • R4 says:

        162 games plus playoff and Football has much of a toll on your body in 60 minute than entire nba season. no contact in the NBA anymore because of all the stupid calls they give the players nowadays

  25. SYED F AKBAR says:

    There is a way to break the stale mate.
    The NBPA should come up with a demand of 59.1% of BRI and start advocating it in all regional meetings, press confrences and the media in general. Yeah, it is a random number. The NBA has thrown around random numbers of its own to put pressure on the players. Most negotiations deal in random numbers any way.
    It is a myth that the owners would rather not have a season (at the status quo), hog wash.
    15 players do not a franchise make. The owners are still paying the GM, the Coach and hundreds, if not thousands, of other employees in the organization. Other contracts also have to be honored and sustained, games or no games.
    Then there is this small thing called ‘the cost of money’.
    No investor would ever buy an auto plant if no cars were made there.
    Billionairs have more money but they also have more to lose, and they are not stupid (otherwise, arguably, they would not be billionaires).
    50/50 is chest beating. Demand 59.1% in response … call it the “Akbar Number”.
    Oh’ you are very welcome.

    • Lacedogg says:

      So you’re suggesting raise the BRI number in the players’ favor from 57% to 59.1% when that’s one of the reasons the lockout is in effect? Explain why this would make things better. The two parties will have to meet somewhere in the middle.

  26. defdun says:

    For sure, both sides have to move towards each other, and I mean MOVE, as they are a couple of hundred millions away. If negotiations don’t get on the way soon and exaggerated positions are reviewed / given up, greater values will be destroyed meaning the fan base. Many fans are sick of the way nothing is moving and I could well imagine some will be so ticked off, that they will withdraw from the game for some time if a significant part of the season is lost. Thats what you call a lose/lose and it will take months/years to get back to where we were in June 11 – which was an admirable stage for the NBA or any sports league…

    • R4 says:

      Understand where your coming from but NBA problem is that same teams continue to win and small market team continue to win lottery picks. What the owner want is a chance at the ship and what the players want is a chance at playing where they want to play. If players continue to make up super teams then the small market teams will have to fold. I live in Toronto and if Raptors don’t win in the next 10 years. I’m done with basketball. I rather see a team like Hornets win a ship than the Lakers to do it all over again. Change is good, players need to get with the program.

      • aj says:

        Small market teams have and do win Championships.Not as frequently, but they do. Owners know the risk when they buy these small market teams. No excuses. Detroit is considered a ” small market ” yet has 3 championships, San Antonio 4, Portland and Seattle , all small markets have had Championship success. It’s less to do with the market and more to do with the decisions by the owners.

        That San Antonio had ” Pops ” during all of those Championships, and Detroit had Daly and Larry Brown prove that with the right coaching, right GM and right players, market share doesn’t matter, desire to win does.

      • R4 says:

        Basketball structure needs adjustment to have balance we can say small market team win but Detriot use to sale out games now then can’t give them away at the gas station. Big market teams have proven in every sport that winning doesn’t effect fans. New York, Chicago, and LA don’t not even need to go to the playoff to be profitable but when they do go and win the chip there are more teams that suffer because of that. Small Market team can’t compete in a market where players decide where they want to go at draft time or even after.. Now it time to start building teams not players. Do it like NFL and put team first and players second. NFL makes good money so no one can say different even european soccer is star base but teams come first. The two top money making sports are putting teams first why can’t the NBA be apart of that.

    • Rolando says:

      This ain’t about the players and owners, it’s about the fans. To bad money is ruling the NBA and other sports for people to figure out. How can you pay players around 20 million a year for trowing baskets? You should be crazy. I think the NBA would be better off with a structure like: pay everyone a minimum salary and pay after the season the rest of the money based on prestige. Come on man take Joe Johnson from the Hawks. I would never pay him 23 milion dollars a year, he is not even worh 16 million. I think it’s a good thing that the owners lock out the players becausee if you continue paying players to high salaries, the owners can better file for bankcorruptie. The NBA should go back in the time of the 80’s and early 90’s,where players were pay 2 million max with couple of exceptions. In that time money didn’t rule but the players desire to let the world see there capacity. To bad in this time, it would be never like that, however it is in the players hand. Choose the money or take less and enjoy playing the game you love.

  27. jimt says:

    Hopefully we can at least have a small dose of THE JUMP during this stale lockout!
    I propose a weekly showing of Sekou and company playing 2on2 in studio.
    thx 🙂 call it the TJL (thejumpleague)