How the proposed CBA would affect Paul and the Hornets (Part Two)

Published: May 15, 2011

In part one, we touched on some key parts of the proposed CBA that most fans are familiar with, a hard cap and a franchise tag. In part two, we are going to look at some of the more obscure, but equally important, parts of the CBA that the league is trying to get the players to sign off on. As in part one, we will also talk about how these changes would affect the Hornets and how likely they are to occur.

3. Reduction of Current Salaries

How it would work: This season, a little over 2 billion dollars was spent on players salaries. The league wants to cut that number significantly. What the league has proposed in the new CBA is an immediate reduction in players salaries; slashing them either 15, 20, or 25 percent, depending on what salary bracket they fit into. From what I have heard, salaries under 6 million would be slashed 15%, 6-11 million would be slashed 20%, and anything over 11 million would be slashed 25%.

How it would affect the Hornets: The Hornets currently have just five players under contract for next year (6 if West opts-in). Of those contracts, two would fit in the 15% bracket (Q-Pon and Jack), two would fit in the 20% bracket (Ariza and West), and two would fit in the 25% bracket. In total, the Hornets payroll would decrease by nearly 11 million dollars next year if this went into effect. Emeka would be hit hardest by this, as his contract would go from a 3 year/40 million dollar deal to 3 years/30 million.

While fans might think this is a blessing for the Hornets, I actually believe this is the change we should root hardest against. Yes, the Hornets get some savings and more room, but so does EVERY other team, and most of those teams have far worse contracts than the Hornets. The Knicks, for example, have nearly 45 million dollars tied up in Melo and Amare in 2013-14 (the first year of the proposed 55 million dollar hard cap). If this goes through, that gets slashed by more than 11 million dollars, and now they would have the money to add another max guy. Same goes for teams like LA and Memphis, who have given out some stupid contracts lately. It lets them off the hook. The Hornets don’t really have any horrible contracts, so this doesn’t help them as much as it helps others.

Likelihood that the players agree: 2 Percent

If the league and the owners are hell-bent on getting this from the players, then we are in for a long lockout. There is no way that the players should be penalized for the contracts that the owners agree to, and there really isn’t much precedent for this in other CBA negotiations. Yes, the system is broken, but you can’t retroactively change contracts that were agreed to under another CBA. If the owners draw a line in the sand and say “Take 75 percent or take nothing”, then the players will take 75 percent. But that will only come after the NBA cancels the 2011-12 season. Doomsday scenario.

4. Amnesty Clause

How it would work: Very similar to the amnesty clause that was given to each team after the previous lockout. Basically, a team can waive a player no matter how much they have left on their contract WITHOUT that money counting against the luxury tax (and in the case of a hard cap, the salary cap). The team still has to pay the player his money, but it simply won’t count against their cap. Good article here on some possible amnesty clause casualties.

How it would affect the Hornets: There are actually a couple ways this amnesty clause can play out. In the last agreement, the team could only use it immediately, but there were several owners who pushed for it to be a one-time thing that can be used any time. If it is the same as last time, I doubt the Hornets use it on Okafor because a small market team simply cannot afford to dump 40 million dollars down the drain. Marc Cuban can, and he did last time by releasing Michael Finley and paying the 51.8 million he was owed. Small market teams or teams who don’t have mega-rich owners can’t do that.

But if the league says that it can be used at any time, I could envision a scenario in which the Hornets use it on Emeka prior to the 2013-14 season, when he is due 14 million and a hard cap is set to come into play. That would make sense, as it would be ridiculous for a past-his-prime Okafor to be taking up 25% of your cap space.

Likelihood that the Players agree: 99.99999 percent

Who loses here? The player still gets his full amount AND gets to sign with another team. The owners get to right a prior wrong. The only thing to work out here is how this thing should work. To be fair to all teams, I think it should be able to be used at ANY time, as long as the player was under contract with the current team at the time the new CBA went into place. Therefore, you can not sign a guy after the new CBA, knowing that if he bombs that you can cut him, but Atlanta can amnesty Joe Johnson four years from now if they want to.

5. Partially Guaranteed Contracts

How it would work: In a lot of ways, this goes hand in hand with the hard cap, but not necessarily so. While it is true that it would be hard to have fully guaranteed deals and a hard cap, it could work. Basically, the NBA wants to ensure that teams are not forced to pay for a salary they negotiated three years ago if the player can no longer perform today. Therefore, much like we see in the NFL, players will be guaranteed only part of their salaries each year and the team will have the option whether to pay them the rest, re-negotiate, or release them.

How it would affect the Hornets: Much like the hard cap, the biggest pro for the Hornets if this were to pass, would be the fact that it would make them more enticing to a perspective buyer. Again, this is another way of limiting costs, and business owners love to have that in place.

Likelihood that players agree: 80 percent

Billy Hunter has stated that guaranteed contracts are the “lifeblood” of professional basketball and it is something that they don’t want to give up, but they will likely have to. The owners will likely have to concede the reduction of current salaries in order to get this, and perhaps they will give up a bigger piece of the overall pie as well, but the bottom line is that it just doesn’t make sense that Rashard Lewis, Michael Redd, Andrei Kirilinko, Gilbert Arenas, and Yao Ming were all in the top 10 in player salaries this season.

As long as that money goes to other players (and not owners), I don’t think the union will have a huge problem with giving in here.

Final Thoughts

I know that reading about this is not as fun as speculating on trades or free agent signings, but honestly, this is far more important, especially to Hornets fans. If the CBA breaks the right way, not only do we have a season to look forward to, but we likely will have a new owner on the way, a means to making a better offer to CP3, and a way to significantly improve the roster. If the old CBA were to stay in place, it would be a long shot for any of those things to occur. In all likelihood, we would be looking at the Larry Ellison owned San Jose Hornets, minus CP3, building from scratch.

And that is why I keep writing about the CBA, even though everyone from Ryan to the editors at ESPN advise me not to. I love hearing from all of you on this topic as well, be it questions, difference of opinions, whatever. Chime in.


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