While no one can predict with 100 percent accuracy that there’s going to be a disruption to the 2017 NBA season, since we have to allow for the possibility that something could solve the impending problems in the two and a half years between now and then, we can say that it would be a bad idea to bet against a lockout or a work stoppage. Particularly in light of the impending television agreement, set to go into action for the ’16-’17 season, and how poorly the last lockout went for the players, and you could see why the opt out date has become the de facto time for the current collective bargaining agreement to expire.
For NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, it’s enough of a certainty that he’s got to at least entertain the idea while being far enough away that he has to pretend he’s not thinking about it. “It’s premature even for me to be concerned,” Silver told reporters at a press conference. “We negotiated a 10-year collective bargaining agreement, there is a six-year out for either side. We are going into year four.”
Put another way, of course, that means that the league is about to be two-thirds through the CBA’s grace period, and will have to deal with one side or the other opting out from the deal as soon as possible. The players because the 2011 lockout went about as badly as you could imagine for them, and the owners because, as Silver said, “we didn’t get everything we wanted in the last collective bargaining cycle, either.” Hardly a ringing endorsement of the idea that no one should worry about it.
Silver’s bigger concern seems to be making sure that the salary cap doesn’t completely explode that year, when the television deal is poised to come into effect. Since things like max contracts are structured around percentages of salary caps (one of the reasons why contract discussions are so tricky, particularly when it comes to the idea of a max deal, is that the percentage of the cap that a player is eligible for changes with their tenure in the league), players are planning around a significant boost in the amount of money that’ll be available that season. Which is part of why LeBron’s contract, for example, was only for two years. The players, not to mention their agents, know what’s up.
So, for the commish, the priority, at least, the stated priority, is to make sure that there’s a gentler curve, something he’ll accomplish via the league office, which “will in essence artificially lower the cap and then make a shortfall payment directly to the union, and then they will distribute that money proportionately to the players.” Of course, how that stands to work when the inevitable lockout/work stoppage that Silver doesn’t want anyone to think that he’s planning for happens is anybody’s guess.