So, Are You Ready For A Lockout? Owners Propose $45 Million "Hard Cap"

There is going to be a ton of information about the new collective bargaining negotiations over the coming months.  If the leaked details of the owners' latest proposal is any indication, the two sides are miles and miles apart:

The NBA’s initial proposal for a new collective-bargaining deal called for a $45 million per team hard salary cap along with non-guaranteed player contracts and significant cuts in annual salary increases.

The details, spelled out in an April 26 memo issued by National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter, marks the league’s push for a major overhaul of the NBA’s economic model and emphasizes to players an aggressive bid to significantly slash costs and shorten contracts.

Among the details:

Hunter also alerts players to the league’s effort to alter the structure of current contracts while detailing the owners’ proposal that no player contract be guaranteed for more than 50 percent for the first $8 million in salary and 25 percent for any amount above $8 million.

The league also strikes directly at a team’s cap room to re-sign players at a maximum salary, known as the "Bird" exception, after hall of famer Larry Bird. Annual contract increases would be no greater than 3 percent for players meeting the Bird rule, down significantly from the current 10.5 percent increase, according to the memo. Owners also proposed that the Bird rule contract length be cut to four years from the current six-year length.

It has been reported elsewhere that the owners hope to phase in a hard cap over three years, and that their plan calls for "roll backs" of existing salaries of between 15% and 25%.  The proposal is also thought to include an "amnesty" provision, to allow teams to clear one bad contract off their cap, as well as an elimination of the sign-and-trade rule.  There's also a proposal on the table for a "franchise tag", although this tag would be drastically different from the NFL's version.

In other words...  good luck with that.  It sounds like the owners are committed to drastically changing the league's financial model, and it seems likely the players are going to fight that tooth and nail.  As fun as it is to talk about free agents and trade scenarios, such musings may all be resigned to the world of hypotheticals for the foreseeable future.

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