Free agency is only two days old and the money is already starting to spread around the league as free agents agree verbally to contracts — they cannot officially sign for another week.
This is the agent’s game now and they are wielding their considerable power to reshape the league as much as they can.
All that money though comes with a caveat. The players have to save it. They see the dark clouds of another work stoppage brewing in the distance. Even with a friendly commissioner who has bought a lot of good will with the players and a players association that is in complete disarray without executive council and leadership, the union is preparing for the worst.
The NBPA sent out a memo to its members advising them to stretch salary payments out in case there is a lockout. Sam Amick of USA TODAY obtained the memo and read in part (from interim executive director Ron Klempner):
“We suggest that you consider including this provision in any multi-year contract you negotiate, specifically for the 2016-17 season. An 18-month payment schedule for 2016-17 will allow a player to continue receiving paychecks throughout the 2017-18 season, even if the players are lockout that season.”
Yes, we are only a few short years from the collective bargaining’s first expiration date and the ability for either side to opt out and send the league into chaos once again.
The players certainly would have good reason to opt out and go on strike if that is what they chose to do. The current iteration of the collective bargaining agreement is extremely owner friendly as the owners cut deep into the share of basketball related income heading to the players. The strict salary cap rules too will work to depress contract lengths and the amount of money owners will spend. In essence, the new collective bargaining agreement saves the owners from themselves.
More interestingly, the players will see the league pick up a hefty television contract after this upcoming season. Everyone seems to believe the NBA will get a big increase in its television rights package in the next round of negotiation with possibly FOX trying to enter the fray and get some NBA on their air. The league will certainly use that as leverage to increase its television rights package.
Certainly, the players will want a bigger piece of the pie if the NBA is going to bring in that influx of cash.
Once the union gets some leadership, prepare for both sides to start ramping up for labor war once again.