sunsfn 2/23/2005 report

sunsfn

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Updated: Feb. 23, 2005, 1:01 PM ET



Both sides making concessions



By Chad Ford
ESPN Insider

NBA commissioner David Stern and union chief Billy Hunter sat together at a podium at the All-Star Game in Denver last Saturday, sharing a proverbial peace pipe.

Hand in hand, the two claimed they were hopeful they would reach a deal on a new NBA collective-bargaining agreement before the current one expires June 30.

"I'm really optimistic that we'll be able to do it," Stern said.

While they were heavy on optimism, they were thin on details.

"I'm just going to deliberately avoid answering your question, simply because I don't think that in any way helps to enhance or facilitate the negotiations," Hunter said when pressed to provide details of the negotiations. "I don't want to provide you an insight to what's happening in the room between our two sides."

What are the issues? Insider spoke to four sources, two from management, two from the players' side, all of whom are familiar with the negotiations. And all four confirmed a number of specifics about where the two sides are in the process, as of All-Star weekend.

Among the key points: The implementation of a 20-year-old age limit looks more likely than ever; contract length and raises likely will be reduced; and the salary cap might be raised.

Spokespeople for both the league and the players' association refused official comment, citing policies against discussing ongoing negotiations.

While all four sources agreed this is where the parties now stand, they were quick to reiterate a line from Stern's press conference: "No one's agreed to anything." That's the nature of collective bargaining. Concessions are all part of a larger deal. If one side tweaks a proposal, as they are wont to do in negotiations like these, the concessions change too.

"It really is a moving target," one union source told Insider. "But this is where we are today. Tomorrow, everything could change."

Here's where they are now:



Age limit

Currently, players are eligible to declare for the NBA draft after their high school senior class graduates, if they are from the United States. If they are international players, they must be 18 years old by the night of the draft.

For several years, Stern has been vocal in support of a 20-year-old age limit for players to be eligible for the draft. Hunter has been just as vocal opposing the limit.

However, there have been significant developments over the course of the past week. According to all four sources, the players have warmed to the age-limit idea to the point that several sources believe an age limit will be part of the new CBA. This comes as a major surprise, after both sides claimed for months it was unlikely an age limit would be implemented.

Why the sudden change? Many veteran players, say sources, see the age limit as a way to protect veteran jobs in the league. And conceding on an issue that primarily affects a constituency that isn't even technically part of the union is certainly less painful.

According to sources, high school players would have to wait two years after their high school class graduated before becoming eligible for the NBA draft. International players could not declare for the draft until the age of 20.

The rule likely would go into effect for the 2006 NBA draft.



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James

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Anthony

If an age limit is implemented, it would dilute the draft dramatically for the next several years. If the rule had gone into effect last year, for example, 11 of the first 19 players selected would have been ineligible. Under-age players such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard would've been ineligible for the draft had the rule been in effect earlier.

It would take several years for the talent pool to restock. By 2008, however, the draft would be stronger, giving teams an extra couple of years of scouting before having to make crucial – and expensive – decisions on players.

The league's main interest in establishing an age limit, however, is economic. With the rare exception of a player like LeBron, it is difficult to market players who are coming straight from high school. Two years of college publicity gives fans a chance to get to know players before they join the NBA.

"Everything is an economic issue," Stern said Saturday when asked about an age limit. "I mean that sincerely. Because it affects our business, in terms of our responsibility, the way we are viewed, the players' maturity and how they deal with the community.

"On a broader sense, everything we are talking about, even though it may turn out to be about a minor league or D League or age limit, it all relates to the operation of this league, and at the bottom it sort of all could be referred to as an economic question."

If the league does institute such a rule, it likely will be challenged in court. However, the league is confident the rule will hold up as long as it was collectively bargained. The NFL successfully defended a recent suit by running back Maurice Clarett. In May, a three-judge appeals panel said federal labor policy allows NFL teams to set rules governing when players can enter the league, stopping Clarett from entering last year's NFL draft.



Contract length

Currently, players can sign a fully guaranteed contract for a maximum of seven years, if they re-sign with their current team. Players signing with a new team in free agency can sign six-year deals.

This is a sticking point for owners, who often get stuck with the bill for players who become injured or don't pan out. Teams have few options if they want to part with a player with a bad contract. They can hope he retires, try to trade him (usually taking back another bad contract in return) or try to buy out the contract.



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Eisley

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Robinson

This fall, several players, including Howard Eisley and Eddie Robinson, were bought out for significant sums. The problem for owners is they wind up paying a player who winds up playing for another team. They also cannot get the player off the books until the contract originally would have expired. Once a team buys out a player, the buyout amount remains on the books until the original deal expires.

This has grown into a major problem. This year the Bulls and Nets will be paying more than $15 million in salaries to players who aren't on their current rosters. Three other teams – the Bucks, Celtics and Grizzlies – owe more than $10 million in salaries to players not with the teams. A number of other clubs, including the 76ers, Wizards, Rockets, Mavericks and Suns, also owe significant amounts to players who are playing elsewhere.

The owners' current proposal asks for contracts to be shortened to three or four years. They believe the shorter length will allow them to more easily swallow any deals that go bad. So far, the union has agreed to compromise a little, shortening the maximum number of contract years to five or six, but the owners feel that isn't enough.

Both sides expect a compromise in which players can sign for a maximum of five years if they re-sign with their current teams and four years if they sign with new teams in free agency.



Raises

In this area, players and management remain far apart.

Under the current CBA, players are allowed maximum raises of 12.5 percent per year if they re-sign with their current teams and 10 percent if they sign with new teams in free agency.



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Bryant

The effect of those raises can be devastating to a franchise over time. For example, the Los Angeles Lakers, who last summer signed Kobe Bryant to a seven-year contract with 12.5 percent raises, are on the hook for $14.175 million this year. In 2010-11, they owe him $24.8 million.

Owners contend the raises are out of whack with the current financial realities. Last year, the salary cap stayed flat. In years past, it has increased by small, incremental amounts. If salaries are rising 10 percent per year and the cap is rising 3 percent, teams that are avoiding the luxury tax now won't be so lucky in three or four years.

Some clubs have tried to counter this trend by offering players flat contracts. However, very few agents or players are agreeing to them.

To curb the growth of salaries, owners want to roll back the maximum raises to 5 percent for players who re-sign with their current teams and 4 percent for players who sign with a new teams in free agency.

This is a major sticking point for veteran players, who count on those nest-egg balloon payments at the end of their careers. So far the players are holding firm to the current numbers of 12.5 and 10 percent. The owners are standing fast at the other end of the spectrum.

Like most things that are bargained, expect compromise.



The mid-level exception

Some GMs feel the mid-level exception, more than any other "soft-cap" device in the CBA, is responsible for the out-of-control salaries in the league.

The mid-level exception is available every year to teams that are above the league's salary cap. It's based on the average salary of players in the league – currently $4.9 million. Teams can use the exception to sign players for a maximum of six years with 10 percent raises.



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Fisher

Derek Fisher, for example, signed a six-year deal with the Warriors last summer that totaled $37 million. While his starting salary this year is $4.9 million, it escalates to $7.4 million in 2009-10.

Owners argue that the exception has blown a huge hole in the cap. Because teams can use the exception every year, the numbers really start to add up. Owners believe lowering the mid-level exception and implementing shorter contracts will bring things under control.

Everyone still wants the loophole – they just don't want to be able to drive a semi through it.

Currently, the owners are looking to split the mid-level exception in two pieces. Teams could sign two players with the exception: one for 75 percent of the exception, the other for 25 percent. Under current exception figures, teams would have a $3.7 million slot and a $1.2 million slot.

Right now most teams are forced to offer the full $4.9 million to top players in free agency. That number would be lowered to $3.7 million. Most teams would choose not to use the $1.2 million exception, in effect lowering payroll.

Combine that with the shortened contract length the sides are working toward, and the mid-level exception won't be nearly as problematic.

A typical mid-level exception contract would be four years, $20 million, compared to six years, $40 million. It's a big difference.



The salary cap

The current CBA puts a salary cap in place based on basketball related income (or BRI). The cap is set at 48 percent of BRI. Last year that total came out to $43.87 million.

According to sources, the owners have agreed to increase that percentage, in effect raising the salary cap. This is a big concession to the players. With a larger cap, more teams will be able to spend on contracts each summer.



The luxury tax

The infamous luxury tax is something for which neither side cares. However, it's Stern's biggest stick in beating the owners into submission on out-of-control spending.

Last season, teams whose payroll exceeded $54.6 million paid a dollar-for-dollar tax on the amount they were over the threshold. For example, the Knicks' payroll last season was $94.4 million. That means they paid the league $39.8 million in tax penalties. The total taxes paid by teams last season amounted to more than $157 million.

The luxury tax kicks in when total player salaries exceed 61.1 percent of total basketball revenues. That threshold jumped to 63.3 percent this season – giving the owners their first shot in a long time at a season without a luxury tax.

The tax probably is not going away, regardless of what both sides might want. The latest proposal from the league, according to sources, pushes for a "super tax." Owners who exceed the salary cap by more than a certain percentage (roughly $10 million) would be penalized $2 for every dollar they are over the tax threshold.

That's actually a bigger penalty than is now in place and something to which the players are staunchly opposed. The union believes this would amount to a "hard cap," because the penalty is so severe that few teams would dare exceed it. For example, the Knicks, who pay hefty tax penalties as it is, would owe $80-plus million in taxes next season on top of their already exorbitant $108 million payroll. New York's payroll, in effect, would be $190 million. No team can afford that.

The league is looking for the stiffer penalty for two reasons. First, it believes the current penalties have not been enough to deter many owners from exceeding the threshold and paying the luxury tax. Twelve teams paid it last season. Second, the extra revenue derived from the tax would make up for the costs incurred by raising the cap and reducing the amount players pay into escrow accounts (see below).

According to all four sources, if the two sides can't reach agreement on a deal, this likely will be the stumbling block.



Player escrow account

Currently, players must pay 10 percent of their salaries into an escrow account each season. If at season's end the total amount of player salaries exceeds 57 percent of the league's total basketball-related income, that money goes to the owners. If it doesn't exceed 57 percent, the players get their money back.

For the past two seasons, salaries have been hovering at more than 60 percent of BRI, and the owners who have kept their payrolls below the league's luxury-tax threshold (and a few that fall within a certain "cliff threshold") have gotten millions back from the players.

The players, as you can imagine, want this to end. In fact, it might be the single most important issue on the table for them. The players already pay an enormous amount in taxes. Factor in the 10 percent that's taken off the top, and a player's take-home pay is far less than what it appears on paper.

Owners are reluctant to make the change. The windfall teams got last year from the escrow tax and fees paid by owners who were over the luxury-tax threshold put roughly $8 million back in the pockets of those owners who were under the tax or in the cliff threshold.

For several teams, that rebate meant the difference between turning a profit and posting a loss for the season.

Right now, sources claim the owners are willing to compromise by phasing down the amount players pay into the escrow account from 10 percent to 5 or 6 percent. They are, however, unwilling to eliminate it completely.

This is a major sticking point for both sides. While owners are pushing for a number of items that will get their finances under control over the long term – remember these proposals won't be retroactive; they would only apply to contracts going forward – they also are unwilling to take huge financial hits now to get it done.

That's why the phase-out is important to the owners. It means they give up less money now and more once the system begins improving.



Contracts

The NBA minimum wage, currently starting at $385,277 and going up each year a player is in the league, will significantly increase, sources say. This is an obvious concession by the league and should placate a large constituency of players who consistently sign deals for minimum wage.



Rookie salary scale

Currently, first-round picks are tied into a league salary scale. When a first-round pick signs a contract, the first three years are guaranteed, with a team option for the fourth year. Players are paid a set amount based on where they were selected in the draft.

The current proposal, according to sources, modifies that deal slightly in favor of the owners. Under the new rules, first-round picks would get the first two years of their contract guaranteed. The third and fourth years of the contract would be team options.



Roster space

Currently teams can have a maximum of 15 players on their rosters, with a minimum of 11. Under current proposals, the minimum would be raised to 14. This is another concession by the league.



Trade rules

For years, both GMs and players have been complaining about restrictive trade rules that mandate all trades be within 115 percent and $100,000 of each other. That restricts player movement to the point many deals become impossible.

Expect the league to significantly loosen those trade rules under the new CBA. That includes widening the gap between salaries traded and received to 125 percent.



NBA minor league

There has been a movement among GMs for some time to see the league turn the National Basketball Development League (NBDL) into something that looks more like a real minor league.

Stern told Insider last April that such a league already was in the works, with the possibility of the NBDL expanding to 15 teams and each team being affiliated with two NBA teams. Saturday, Stern reiterated his commitment to creating a true NBA minor league.

"One of the things we'd like to do is have young players subject to having their contracts assigned, but we understand that there can be differences of opinion on that issue," Stern said.

Creating a minor league has been an issue in the bargaining process. The players and league must collectively agree to a system. Hunter said he's still not convinced the NBA needs a minor league.

"It would be difficult for me to envision some of those guys [the players in Friday night's rookie-sophomore game] being in the D league," Hunter said. "But it's just something that we have to address as we go."

However, sources say it's likely the idea will move forward. Here a few details currently on the table:



<LI>Each NBA team would send young players to a designated NBDL team, along with an assistant coach to monitor the players' development.
<LI>Stern plans to expand the league beyond the Southeast to as many as four regional pods, starting with the Southwest. If the league expands to 15 teams, two NBA teams would share each NBDL team.
<LI>First-round picks would continue to be paid at the rookie wage scale. This was a key concession to players who didn't want owners to use the league as a way of cutting player salaries.
<LI>Teams would retain the rights to all of their players and could recall them at any time.
<LI>Players with three years or less experience in the NBA could be sent down to the NBDL. Veterans could not be assigned to an NBDL team.

The bottom line

The NBA is in better financial shape than it was before the current 1999 CBA kicked in. The luxury tax and escrow accounts have curbed spending, though not to the degree the owners would prefer. With the NHL embroiled in a nasty lockout, the last thing either side wants is an NBA work stoppage.

"Our players are making a substantial sum of money," Hunter said. "The league appears to be thriving, and we would be foolish, you know, to not make every effort to make a deal and to be separated by something that shouldn't be something that prohibits that from occurring."

Both sides also agree that getting something done sooner rather than later could help the NBA's image.

"We think there's a possible window of opportunity for which we can generate a lot of good will," Hunter said.

Despite the obvious differences, the two sides are close. The fact the players and the league are referring to changes as "tweaks," and the players essentially are calling for the status quo, is a major concession. They fought the current deal vigorously in 1998 and are now conceding it has been good for the league.

NBA players still are among the highest-paid athletes, on average, in the world. More than 60 percent of revenues still are coming their way. Both sides have too much to lose if there were any sort of work stoppage.

If the proposals currently on the table become reality, both sides can claim victory. The league would have won much-needed changes that protect owners from the long-term risks of guaranteed contracts. The players would maintain a salary structure that makes them the highest-paid players in professional sports.

----
 

coloradosun

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Bring back the ABA as the minor league. Same names and locations, Kentucky, St. Louis, San Diego, Pittsburgh and then other major league cities. Preseason games will be with the parent clubs.
 

elindholm

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I have reactions to a few of the points.

Minimum age: That's all well and good, but what are high school graduates supposed to do for two years while they're waiting to become eligible? If they go to college, not only do they risk injury, but the entire relationship is a farce, since everyone will know that they're just in a two-year holding pattern before entering the NBA. At least with "normal" college athletes, there is some chance that they'll stick around to earn their degree. I expect the NCAA will be very unhappy if the NBA creates this new age limit. But what else will the players do?

Contract length and Raises: The owners should compromise generously here if they are really going to get contracts shortened by two years. The difference between 12.5% and 5% is still a lot when it adds up over five years, but not nearly as much as when it's over seven. Maybe the maximum raises can be 8% and 10%.

MLE: If they split the MLE, the stakes in the salary-cap game will be even higher than they are now. Already, teams are way too preoccupied with cap flexibility; at least half the teams in the league are more worried about the upcoming summer than about what they can accomplish on the court during the season. If the MLE gets reduced (or split 75/25), the difference between teams with cap room and teams without will be even greater. Fans are already frustrated with how much money enters into personnel decisions, and this would make matters worse.

Luxury tax: Only a small handful of teams are ignoring it. Most pay very close attention to the number and modify their spending accordingly. The current system is working, more or less, and the owners should concede this point.

Escrow account: This could be a sticking point, as the article says. I think it's a good idea to have it in place, because it reminds the players that, ultimately, everyone needs to cooperate in order for the league to survive financially. I don't have a sense of how severe the numbers really are, however.

Other points: These are of minor consequence.
 

thegrahamcrackr

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elindholm said:
I have reactions to a few of the points.

MLE: If they split the MLE, the stakes in the salary-cap game will be even higher than they are now. Already, teams are way too preoccupied with cap flexibility; at least half the teams in the league are more worried about the upcoming summer than about what they can accomplish on the court during the season. If the MLE gets reduced (or split 75/25), the difference between teams with cap room and teams without will be even greater. Fans are already frustrated with how much money enters into personnel decisions, and this would make matters worse.


But they are talking about increasing the actual cap. I would think the increase would be more than 1.7 they loose in the MLE split. I would actually prefer if the MLE was only available every 2 or 3 years to a team.


I love the idea of an age limit, simply because it will make the college game better in a few years. Can you imagine how much fun it would have been to watch Amare or Lebron in college? I would think the NCAA would like the idea of it. They would make a ton of money from people watching Lebron on TV.

Not to mention a lot of High Schoolers would actually get a chance to learn how to play.

If the players go to college, and don't care about the education who cares? I mean they were just going into the league anyways, so maybe they will actually learn a thing or two in school? Maybe Darius Miles wouldn't be such a jackass if he had a college coach looking out for him for two years instead of the Clipper organization.....


Not to mention the draft would actually be worth something for more than the top 5 picks.
 

cly2tw

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I think that shortening the contract length is the most crucial. Not only is it good for the owners, it's also fair to the majority of the players. If one is still good after 4-5 with one contract, he will earn his next one no matter what. If too many players underperform with a lengthy contract, it squeezes the cap room left for currently more deserving players to get a reasonable contract. Thus, shorter contract is fair for the majority.

Given this issue solved, annual increase of 8% and 5% instead of 12.5% and 10% should be good.

As to the exceptions, it should be discussed together with the overall cap. With the other contraints above already in place, the role of the salary cap to control the overall salary expense is reduced, so that we can increase it a bit, say by 10%. Then, I'd propose to pool both the current MLE and the 1.5mil exception together as exception for teams over the now higher cap, with the constraints of:
1. Signing at most 3 players with this total of say 6.4mil.
2. The highest 1st year salary is say 3.7; the lowest 1.3.

With higher general cap, more teams can offer more good players adequate "large" contracts, while the pooled exception players get reasonably more beyond the minimum. With the luxary tax as the soft cap, this system is more flexible and thus serving the combined interest of the league in the long run better.
 

elindholm

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But they are talking about increasing the actual cap. I would think the increase would be more than 1.7 they loose in the MLE split.

Right, but the actual cap number doesn't matter that much to most teams. Everyone gets the full MLE, no matter how much they're over the cap. (Technically they get it even if they're under, but that's another discussion...) Chances are most teams are going to live over the cap no matter where it is, so they'll still have only the MLE to work with to attract new free agents.

I would actually prefer if the MLE was only available every 2 or 3 years to a team.

I could see that working well.

If the players go to college, and don't care about the education who cares?

Remember you're talking to a college professor. Not to make too big a deal of it, but it's an affront to all of higher education. We aren't here to babysit the next generation of spoiled multimillionaires.
 

myrondizzo

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the age limit would be cool i think but what about kids that dont get good enough grades to get into a school do they sit and rot for two years although it might only be one if they got held back. i guess they could go play over seas for a couple seasons. how sad would that be if amare had gone over seas and blown out his knee.
i also like the minor league system idea maybe the highschool kids could be placed there until they are 20.
 
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sunsfn

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The ones that have a hard time with grades could probably get into a junior college where the grade requirement is not high..??
 

thegrahamcrackr

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elindholm said:
Remember you're talking to a college professor. Not to make too big a deal of it, but it's an affront to all of higher education. We aren't here to babysit the next generation of spoiled multimillionaires.


:p

I see what you are saying, but I also think that most people go to college in order to get as much training for their future jobs as possible. Liberal Arts majors are on a steady decline. So do you consider it babysitting the next generation of spoiled multimillionaires if you have the top businessmen in your class, who may only be taking music because it fulfills a graduation requirement (and not because of interest)?

The way I see it, most of these basketball players would go to college in order to get prepared for the pros. However, it would benefit a lot of these kids in more than just basketball to attend college. Think of all the players who aren't as good as they thought, and would be out of the pros within a year or two. If they get sent to college and don't loose their eligibility, they may actually walk away with a degree and a shot to do something else with their life.
 

elindholm

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So do you consider it babysitting the next generation of spoiled multimillionaires if you have the top businessmen in your class, who may only be taking music because it fulfills a graduation requirement (and not because of interest)?

That's a valid philosophical question. Fortunately for me, the college where I teach is structured such that I don't get many students in that situation, but if I got more, then yes, I imagine I would find it a waste of time.

There's another issue, though. If some aspiring businessman takes a class from me and tries to blow it off completely, he knows I can fail him. So the result is that he has to put in at least a minimum effort, and who knows, he might actually find some part of the learning process rewarding. But if LeBron James was attending Big State U., you can guarantee there would be huge pressure on all of his professors to make sure that his grades remained respectable, regardless of the quality of his work. Even if he bothered to show up to class, he could spend the whole time playing games on his phone and counting the hours until his first NBA paycheck, and there wouldn't be anything that anyone could do about it.
 

coloradosun

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elindholm said:
I have reactions to a few of the points.

Minimum age: That's all well and good, but what are high school graduates supposed to do for two years while they're waiting to become eligible? If they go to college, not only do they risk injury, but the entire relationship is a farce, since everyone will know that they're just in a two-year holding pattern before entering the NBA. At least with "normal" college athletes, there is some chance that they'll stick around to earn their degree. I expect the NCAA will be very unhappy if the NBA creates this new age limit. But what else will the players do?

There has been only a handful of players that have made an impact right out of high school, KG, Amare, LeBron, Kobe. Others such as J.O'Neal, Telfair, Kwame, etc. will have to sit on the bench and not be able to learn in game situations. I think that the minimum age is a good thing. Even Spencer Haywood, the player who went to court to become eligible for the draft, has changed his opinion and thinks the age requirement is a good thing. I think the bonus that it will bring is more maturity to the league.

I believe you have to cater to the many not the few. A lot of the talent that is coming into the league right out of high school do not have the mentors they need in life. Money can buy them that but sometimes the money also leads them down the wrong path.

Maybe there should be a supplemental high school draft, which does not affect the status of a player. If he plays in this minor league for a season and does not advance as quickly, he can regain eligibility to enroll in some college. Kind of like a trade school.
 
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elindholm

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A lot of the talent that is coming into the league right out of high school do not have the mentors they need in life. Money can buy them that but sometimes the money also leads them down the wrong path.

I absolutely agree with that. The question is, where will they get that guidance?
 

coloradosun

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elindholm said:
A lot of the talent that is coming into the league right out of high school do not have the mentors they need in life. Money can buy them that but sometimes the money also leads them down the wrong path.

I absolutely agree with that. The question is, where will they get that guidance?

Along with this minor league system, have the veterans of the NBA create some sort of mentoring program. There are millionaires now retiring out of the NBA, I am sure you can get some volunteers from this group to travel with the teams and become guidance counselors. There is no other person to educate young people of the trappings of the road than the guys who have gone through it. Nobody can be trained to do this only the ones who have seen it first hand can explain it.

Although, if Charles Barkley volunteers, reject his offer.
 
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thegrahamcrackr

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elindholm said:
But if LeBron James was attending Big State U., you can guarantee there would be huge pressure on all of his professors to make sure that his grades remained respectable, regardless of the quality of his work. Even if he bothered to show up to class, he could spend the whole time playing games on his phone and counting the hours until his first NBA paycheck, and there wouldn't be anything that anyone could do about it.


Obviously you know more about this than me, but I always assumed that coaches enrolled the players in classes where they knew the prof didn't care. For example, if you are 1 of 2 music teachers at your school, the coach would make sure his players enrolled in the class with prof B.

So while they are cheating the system, they at least aren't bothering professors who actually care about education. Those professors certainly exist, usually the ones that see teaching as a necessary requirement for their research grants.
 

elindholm

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I always assumed that coaches enrolled the players in classes where they knew the prof didn't care.

That may be. I don't really know how it's handled at schools with big-time athletic programs, because I've never been strongly affiliated with one of those. I did take courses at Arizona State, but it was when I was younger and not really thinking about such complicated extracurricular issues. ;)

So while they are cheating the system, they at least aren't bothering professors who actually care about education. Those professors certainly exist, usually the ones that see teaching as a necessary requirement for their research grants.

Well... not caring about teaching isn't quite the same as not caring about education. My guess is that most of those professors would say something like, "Yes, education is very important, but I don't want to be the one responsible for it."

I'm in a similar boat with respect to music education in the public schools. I think it's vital -- and no, I absolutely will not argue this point here -- but damned if I'm going to be the one trying to show a bunch of eight-year-olds how to hold a violin. It's just not me.
 

Gaddabout

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If someone put me in charge of creating a developmental basketball league -- a serious D-league and not some lame attempt to make money off a far inferior product -- here's what I'd do:

- Create an 8-team league in one large metro area not currently housing an NBA team. San Diego would be great, but a better central location might be some basketball crazy state in the midwest like Kansas. So let's say we place it in Topeka.

- Build a campus type of environment with a gym that seats no more than 5,000. The campus would include extensive tech room, a theater-type lecture and film room, various meeting rooms and offices for staff and personnel. Off campus would a housing unit for players and visiting staff.

- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would be named head of this d-league. He would be surrounded with like-minded people like Eddie Johnson.

- The league would allow each NBA team up to three players each on various rosters, although they would not be guaranteed to play on the same team. Open spots would be filled with free agent tryouts, but there would be no guarantees.

- Each player would guaranteed $5K a month for the three months (July, August and September) they're involved. They would be insured for up to the league minimum (negotiable) for one year's salary.

- Each player contract would include behaviorial and good citizenship guarantees, plus bonuses for attending every practice. Additional bonuses (up to 10K) would be handed out for a variety awards for MVP, tourney MVP, most improved, best defender, all-league, etc.

- Four games a week for 10 weeks is 40 games. A four team championship would make up the final two weeks. ESPN2 would be awarded a contract to broadcast a series of games on a weeknight + the championship game. The intent would be to break even. Should be a cheap, easy deal for both parties.

- Coaches would be hired from a pool and paid out of one NBA fund.

- Screw flashy uniforms. Each team will be fitted with the eight basic crayon colors and matching shoes from a sponsorship deal with the shoe companies. A dress code will be strictly enforced and players could be fined, suspended or given the boot if they are chronically inspired to challenge the dress code.

Basically, we would have contained these kids to focus on basketball and limit their ability to get into trouble. The league doesn't have to spend a fortune to market an inferior product -- it's all TV driven and there's no travel involved. The league would have a developmental soul and a lot more control over their future, and there wouldn't be a huge financial loss associated with it.
 
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Errntknght

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I'm somewhat dubious about major sport athletes learning much of anything in college. I was engaged to tutor different athletes in basic or remedial math courses six times while I was in school - I was quite successful with non-athlete students so the math departments recommended me to the athletic depts. At no time did any one of those athletes exhibit or even fake an interest in learning the material. They were very open about wanting test answers ahead of time, homework done for them or a simple 'fix' of a grade. Other than that they had no interest in being tutored - in fact some were surly when I broached the subject of them studying to learn the material. And these were not great athletes, they were marginal players. (I actually made some money tutoring one of them - he skipped the first four or five tutoring sessions without notice so I got paid for those.)
I took stabs at gymnastics and swimming in college so I got to know a few of those guys - and as far as I ever heard they did not look for or get preferential treatment in their classes. One of them was another math major and he certainly didn't in his math & physics classes.
I also taught a wide variety of college math courses for ten years and never once had an major sport athlete in a class. I was a fairly typical math prof so I don't think they were avoiding me in particular.
 

Joe Mama

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Let's get something straight about a minor league system. We will never see players like Darko in a minor-league while they are under a rookie contract. Their agents simply won't allow it. The risk of injury would be far too great playing against a bunch of less talented players with something to prove. A minor-league could work for later first-round draft picks and second round picks though.

The NCAA would also love it if the NBA put a minimum age limit in place. It would mean more money for student athletics and the universities, and that's what the NCAA is really all about. It would be good for the NBA. It would be good for the NCAA. Nobody would complain but the players who want to enter the NBA early and their agents. This is really a good bargaining chip for the players union because most of the veteran players probably want the age limit anyhow. It's win-win for them.

If a player can't get into college they have several different avenues they could follow. in fact a lot of players might decide to go down one of these other roads instead of even trying to get into college. They could sign with one of the minor-league leagues that currently exist. They could go to a junior college. They could go play overseas.

If the league and the players compromise in most of the areas mentioned in this article I think I'll be happy with the new CBA.

Joe Mama
 

coloradosun

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Gaddabout

I like your idea, NBA University. Professors are ex-NBA players. Instead of a scholarship, $5000 a month salary.
 
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