Posts Tagged ‘Collective bargaining agreement’

Rule Tweaks, ‘Hornets’ Buzz Busy NBA’s Board Of Governors

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LAS VEGAS – And in a matinee clash in NBA Las Vegas summer action, it was Vespines 1, Felines 0…

Actually, that’s just a fancy-schmancy way of saying that “Hornets” is back in Charlotte and “Bobcats” is the league’s latest amnesty casualty, in a reset-by-nickname approved Thursday at the Board of Governors meeting here. The Board also approved five rules changes – three involving the expanded use of instant replay, a tweak to the clear-path foul and a reminder to offensive players to stay within the boundaries of play.

The transfer of “Hornets,” made available when New Orleans opted for “Pelicans” earlier this year, is intended as a reminder of a different sort. The franchise granted to Charlotte nine years ago, after sputtering on the court and at the gate for nearly its entire existence, will try to reach back to happier times by reclaiming the nickname that got relocated with the original expansion team to the Big Easy in 2002. The Board unanimously approved the switch, which will cost the Bobcats an estimated $3 million or more in changeover expenses and take effect after the 2013-14 season.

What’s in a name? Apparently, “Juliet” and the Bard had it wrong. Charlotte team president Fred Whitfield said the costs and efforts involved in this switch will be worth it to his team and its fans. He said the club wants to “grab those fans that love the NBA and haven’t connected with us.”

“Being a former season ticket holder of the Hornets,” Whitfield said, “I understood the energy that came into that building every night. So as we look forward to the future, we’re thrilled that our Bobcats fans and our Bobcat corporate sponsors that have supported us to this point will be able to connect to the old Hornets fans and have that galvanize our community around our NBA brand, not just in Charlotte, but in the Carolinas.”

This has been a basketball operation and civic relationship in need of a fresh start. Whatever obligation the NBA might have felt in returning to Charlotte two years after unpopular owner George Shinn moved the Hornets to New Orleans wasn’t returned with a honeymoon period. The new owner in town, Bob Johnson, didn’t seem to connect with the public much better than Shinn, the Bobcats nickname was a vanity choice based on his first name and, oh yeah, the basketball decisions and performances were shaky at best.

In 14 seasons, the Hornets had led the NBA in attendance eight times, stringing together 364 sellouts, while going 542-574 (.486). They won 50 games three times and reached the playoffs seven times.

The Bobcats, er, have been less successful all around. They ranked 28th in home attendance in their inaugural NBA season (2004-05) and 24th last season, only once averaging as many as 16,000 fans. They have finished above .500 and made the playoffs just once, posting a 250-472 mark (.346) since their inception.

They have been Michael Jordan‘s problem since he purchased control from Johnson, but have more in common with his Birmingham Barons stint than his Chicago Bulls majesty. Insiders say that even NBA commissioner David Stern, after initially dismissing the “Hornets” diehards, began to sell Jordan and others in team management on the value of some nickname nostalgia.

“I sort of laughed at it initially – you know, it is what it is, get over it,” Stern said. “But no. It stayed there, bubbling below the surface, and there is something to it.”

Chief among the Board’s other business Thursday were the rule changes that will take effect for the coming season. The first three involve expanded replay use:

  • When reviewing a block/charge play to determine whether the defender was inside or outside the restricted area, officials will be permitted to reverse or uphold the call based not just on the defender’s location but also whether he was set or not.
  • Replays can be used to determine whether an off-ball foul occurred before or after a player has begun his shooting motion on a successful shot attempt, or before or after the ball was released on a throw-in.
  • While reviewing a play, the officials will be permitted to assess penalties for unsportsmanlike and unnecessary acts that they spot during the reply.
  • Also, a clear-path-to-the-basket foul will not be assessed if at any point before the foul is committed the defender is positioned ahead of the offensive player in the frontcourt.
  • A team on offense will lose possession if one of its players leaves the floor and does not immediately return, unless he is injured, attempting to save the ball or in other extenuating circumstances.

As far as the application and effectiveness of flopping rules from last season, Stern said the NBA competition committee felt they were working well and warranted no changes.

Despite the commissioner’s label of “unremarkable” hung on this meeting in the desert, other topics came up either in the owners’ session or in the news conference that followed. Among them:

The CBA is working: Early indications after 18 months functioning under the current collective bargaining agreement suggest that NBA teams are navigating the rules, provisions and penalties in a way the owners had hoped. “Teams who are up against the tax level or even above it find themselves making hard decisions about what players are necessary to retain or not,” Stern said. “All of which strikes us as being pro‑competitive in terms of the league.”

Not only has the CBA led to shorter contracts and player movement for the coming season, it has boosted offseason interest in the league not unlike baseball’s “Hot Stove League” of winter.

“That’s a huge, huge builder of awareness and gets fans excited, teams excited and I think players excited about what their team reconfiguration is, so that’s all good,” Stern said.

Viva Las Vegas: The resort and gambling destination continues to loom large on the league’s radar. The summer league, a project of particular interest to NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver, Stern’s successor upon the commissioner’s Feb. 1 retirement date, has been a hit, they said, both for the basketball opportunities and its convention-like aspect. “What we’re moving to, in conjunction with Orlando, is a real sense of what baseball has in their winter meetings and where everyone gathers,” Stern said.

Added drug testing (eventually): Enhancements in the league’s anti-drug policy, particularly a “biological passport” concept and testing for human growth hormones, has been slowed by the National Basketball Players Association search for a new executive director. Stern said he expected that they could be added in time for the 2013-14 season.

Sacramento on track: The progress since Sacramento secured the Kings franchise continues with added season-ticket sales and an increase in sponsorship commitments. Reports on revenue sharing and the league-wide credit facility also were favorable. It all is part of what Stern called “another banner year for the NBA.”

Expansion spitballing: Silver said there has been no dialogue with Seattle and those behind efforts to restore the NBA to that market, and the deputy commissioner only acknowledged the potential for discussions about expansion “down the road,” be it in Seattle, Las Vegas or other possible cities.

But Stern, who enjoys dumping expansion questions on Silver, did note that plans for a new arena in Seattle are continuing, after mentioning similar plans in Las Vegas moments earlier. “It wouldn’t surprise me if Commissioner Silver was looking at strong applications from Las Vegas and Seattle in the coming years,” he said, “and I’m going to enjoy watching it.”

Home Teams’ Advantage Not Great Enough In CBA Free-Agency Rules

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With the moratorium now muerto, NBA free agency can proceed apace, though we’ve already seen most of what it can be in any given offseason. One massive marquee name (Dwight Howard) is changing teams. Another (Chris Paul) is staying put. The second-tier guys have added intrigue by going (Andre Iguodala) or sticking (David West). There have been surgical acquisitions (J.J. Redick, Kevin Martin), blowout deals (Josh Smith, Al Jefferson) and even some early activity with the restricted crew (Tyreke Evans, Tiago Splitter).

However, there has been one familiar scenario missing: the franchise player who abandons his small-market team for brighter lights in a bigger city. Traditionally the downside of free agency, such LeBron James-from-Cleveland-to-Miami type of moves that can rock teams for years, get people fired, tilt the league’s competitive balance and eventually lead to lockouts have been happily absent.

Howard left the allegedly un-leave-able Lakers, swapping huge pond and legacy for smaller. Smith had been told by Atlanta not to let the door hit him in the backside. Iguodala left money and an extra season behind when he exited Denver but he’d been a rent-a-player, a Nugget for one season thanks to the now-vaporish Andrew Bynum party-trade.

No, we’re talking about the franchise slams, the high lottery picks nurtured from NBA birth in whom fans invest their hopes and dreams only to see them head elsewhere, either by signing or preemptively pushing out via a trade.

And y’know what? That’s a good thing. Hooray for 2013! Because the system still isn’t set up right to handle such transfers of basketball wealth.

For all the changes in the current collective bargaining agreement that were made, we were told, to keep all 30 franchises competitive, one major flaw was left largely unfixed. Veteran free agents who re-sign with their current teams are eligible for raises of 7.5 percent of their first-year salaries, in deals running as long as five years. Those who prefer to change teams are limited to 4.5 percent raises and contracts no longer than four years. That, we’re told, is the advantage built into the system for incumbent teams.

It was about the same in the previous CBA. Under that one, the raises were either 10.5 percent or eight percent, the term length either six years to stay or five years to go. And just as in the current system, we were told that the rules were written that way to allow a player’s current team to pay him “considerably more money.”

One problem: They do not. Not in a relative sense, for fellows pulling in eight-figure salaries in nine-figure contracts. Not in the real world, where taxes and cost-of-living differences can dramatically alter one’s take-home pay. And not even in the fantasy land of professional sports, when you actually boil things down to apples vs. apples.

Consider Howard’s deal with Houston. Yes, the Lakers could have paid him more, but the $30 million figure he allegedly left “on the table” in leaving is misleading. Most of it ($26.6 million) comes from the guaranteed salary Howard would have earned in 2017-18 in L.A. — but who’s to say he won’t get a new contract from the Rockets or someone else worth close to that?

Over just the next four years, though, the Lakers’ deal would be worth only $3,692,370 more than Houston’s. Based on the payday he chose ($87,591,270), that’s only a 4.2 percent difference.

Can’t even call it an advantage, either, when the costs of living and playing in California are calculated against Texas. Remember, the top state-income tax rate in California for top earners is 13.3 percent, the nation’s highest. In Texas, there is no state-income tax. Even with a pretty good gouge from property taxes in the Lone Star State, its cost of living ranks second-lowest in the U.S., compared to California’s spot at fourth-highest.

A Forbes.com piece figured Howard’s cost in California income taxes along, on the $118 million offer from the Lakers, would be about $15.7 million His state taxes while playing in Houston — allowing for a web of complications faced by pro athletes and others who are deemed to earn their pay in multiple states — would be negligible by comparison, about $1.4 million over four years.

This means that by signing with the Houston Rockets, Howard could save approximately $14.3 million ($15,700,000 less $1,400,000) in state income taxes on his next contract. While that doesn’t make up the full $30,000,000 gross difference, it certainly eases the pain, and may be enough to convince Howard to flee for what he perceives to be a better basketball situation.

But wait, there’s more. Apples to apples, looking only at the first four years, Forbes.com concluded that L.A.’s $3.6 million “advantage” gets wiped out and then some:

Howard would pay nearly $12 million in California tax over the four years if he signs with the Lakers, but only $1,400,000 in state tax should he sign with Houston. This means that a four-year deal with Houston would actually yield an additional $7 million in after-tax income.

All sorts of discretionary things can get baked into any player’s spending pie. The CBA can’t account for all of them, unless it delved into complex, tax-neutral provisions. But it seems pretty clear that the advantages for incumbent teams allegedly built into the CBA can be nominal or even non-existent in certain circumstances.

Couldn’t they, shouldn’t they have done more?

Even as the latest labor agreement was being hammered out in 2011, the topic got aired at the league’s highest levels. What if the old raises and terms — 10.5 percent and six years — were retained for a player who re-upped with his current club, compared to the new limits — 4.5 percent and four years — for those switching teams? Surely that would have made incumbents’ offers stickier.

But the NBA, from commissioner David Stern on down, likes the concept of player freedom and views a certain amount of movement as an offseason marketing opportunity. Team owners generally like shorter contracts, so a two-year “advantage” and raises more than double what the competition can pay doesn’t excite them, no matter how effective they might be.

Also, a lot of owners seem to put more stock in that extra season of guaranteed salary in the current rules — “profit,” if you put it in terms with which they’re most familiar. Seems that might be a bigger deal to the person spending the money than the person earning it (and willing to go earn it from another job at the back end).

The view here, though, is that the so-called advantages aren’t big enough. They weren’t in the old deal and they aren’t in the current CBA either. The good news for fans in smaller markets is that many of the key free agents in 2014 will be restricted (those extension and resigning rules still are formidable in keeping players where they were drafted).

Others never were or no longer are franchise types (Luol Deng, Andrew Bogut, Dirk Nowitzki, Danny Granger). And still others will be veterans already on showplace teams. If James opts out next summer, for instance, he can’t possibly inflict trauma on Miami like he did on Cleveland. Ditto for Carmelo Anthony with New York vs. Denver.

No, it will be after that — heading into 2015 (LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love) and 2016 (Kevin Durant) — when the home-team advantage gets tested again in the smallest markets by MVP-caliber players. Under rules that aren’t all that great an advantage.

Stern bullish on NBA being profitable

CHICAGO – The NBA owners contend that they will suffer an estimated $300 million in combined losses for this 2011-12 season. The players’ union believes that number is significantly smaller, owning to alternative accounting methods. Both sides remain far apart overall in negotiations of a new collective bargaining agreement, fanning fears of an extended labor lockout after the current pact expires June 30.

So, NBA commissioner David Stern was asked Wednesday, what level of financial losses would the league find acceptable? The question got a swift rebuke from Stern.

“We’re not going to lose any money,” Stern said. “I’m not going to be commissioner of a league that is comfortable [losing money]. Because I don’t have a group of owners who find it acceptable for me to have that conversation with them.

“You don’t have $4 billion worth of revenue and pay out over $2 billion in salary and benefits to lose money. It’s something that we have sort of gotten used to as the revenues have gone up … but the world has changed about the prospect for all franchises, the world has changed for a lot of reasons – and economically – and now people who make investments in buildings and things expect not to lose money.”

Stern was in town to formally present the NBA Most Valuable Player Award to Chicago’s Derrick Rose before tipoff of Game 2 of the Bulls-Hawks playoff series at United Center. In meeting with reporters, Stern declined to respond to reports that the union was unhappy with the owners’ latest proposal, delivered last week.

He did expound more freely on Rose and one reporter’s mention in the same sentence of Rose and Michael Jordan. Not that Stern was in a comparing mood.

“I do know that he is the youngest MVP, that he deserves the award that he’s getting tonight, he had a heckuva season and he’s a heckuva teammate,” the commissioner said. “So you can check it all off – he’s a heck of a player.

“If we can keep him healthy, he’s going to have some career. And there are a lot of players who would like him not have this trophy next year.”

Lockout could send Jennings overseas

DALLAS — Brandon Jennings spent his first year of professional basketball overseas. He may also spend his fourth.

The trendsetting young Buck could easily see himself going back over the pond next season in the event of a lengthy lockout. A guy’s got to make a living, and Jennings knows the landscape having played in Italy straight out of high school.

“I’m sure my value will be higher than it was before, the first time I went over there,” he told NBA.com last night after helping Milwaukee snap the Mavericks’ 12-game winning streak. “I’m sure this time I’ll get some playing time. The will be the best thing, I’ll be able to play now, make a little money and keep some income coming in for my family.”

Jennings made the ground-breaking leap to Europe in 2008, signing with Lottomatica Roma of the Italian League, instead of going to college. The swift lefty played sparingly with Lottomatica, but did gain valuable experience and it didn’t hurt his draft stock. The Bucks selected Jennings 10th overall in the 2009 Draft.

NBA rules require players to be at least 19 and one year out of high school before being eligible to enter the league. (The union has asked to restore the minimum age back to 18 in its CBA proposal.)

It’s no secret that NBA players are considering playing in professional leagues around the world in the event of a work stoppage. The longer one lasts and the more paychecks are missed, the greater the possibility for many to find employment elsewhere. Players are within their rights to work and therefore play in another league, regardless of their current contract status with NBA teams, in the event of a lockout.

But a major obstacle would be obtaining a letter of clearance from FIBA to sign with international teams, given the relationship between FIBA and the NBA. The NBPA would undoubtedly fight any obstruction, perceived or otherwise, to its members earning a living.

Though his first move to Europe didn’t exactly open the floodgates for other prep players to follow, Jennings may well lead a new exodus to foreign lands.

“Oh yeah, of course I wouldn’t mind going back overseas,” Jennings said. “I’ve been almost everywhere overseas and I lived in Italy for a year. I know what type of game it is and I know what it’s about.”

In the second year of his rookie contract, Jennings said he’s living by a strict budget. He drives a Ford Edge, doesn’t have a fancy house and stays near the Bucks practice center.

“It’s a good thing I’m living in Milwaukee,” Jennings said, “because when the snow comes I’m not leaving the house.”

CBA meeting set for December

The league and the Players Association held another collective bargaining meeting today in New York. NBA commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt, NBPA executive director Billy Hunter and union executive committee president Derek Fisher were among those who participated in the session.

League spokesman Michael Bass issued the following statement:

“We held another bargaining meeting today that included frank and direct dialogue that allowed us to discuss some key issues. We still have much work ahead of us and we agreed to meet again in December.”

A firm date wasn’t immediately available for the December meeting. The league and union previously had meetings in September, August and February during All-Star weekend.

CBA talks set for Wednesday

The NBA and the Players Association are holding the second collective bargaining negotiating session of the offseason Wednesday in New York. The two sides had pledged to meet again before the start training camp after last month’s get-together.

The August meeting was attended by several high-profile players, including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. The league and the union issued a joint statement at the time, noting that “it was encouraging how many players and owners participated in the process and all pledged to continue to work together.”

The current CBA expires after this season. The league has experienced one work stoppage in its history, the lockout that wiped out 32 games during the 1998-99 season.

The league is asking for considerable changes to the current economic system. The union submitted a contract proposal in July after rejecting the league’s initial plan back in February.