“I THINK IT’S GONNA HAPPEN ANYWAY” – Why Paul Pierce believes we will have a lockout

“I THINK IT’S GONNA HAPPEN ANYWAY” – Why Paul Pierce believes we will have a lockout

The main counterargument to Kyrie‘s suggestion for players not to play in Orlando is the financial consequences such a decision would cause. Most people think those would only happen in the form of salary lost from this season. The reality is, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Even if the bubble in Orlando works, we don’t have a dramatic spread of COVID-19 on the NBA campus, and someone wins the ’19/’20 NBA title, the ’20/’21 season will most likely happen in front of empty arenas. As we learned, ticket sales and arena spending is about 40% of the BRI (basketball related income) – the money divided between the owners and players. That makes the future of the CBA very clear. 

It is my understanding that regardless of whether the players play in Orlando or not, the owners will invoke Force Majeure and rip up the CBA.

Amin Elhassan, The Jump

The fact the bottom eight teams will not play any more games in the season, and the rest of the league will play a shortened season, is enough for the owners to activate the force majeure clause and end this current CBA. That means we are looking at negotiations about a new CBA, negotiations that are going to happen in uncertain times. It is much easier to talk about splitting up a growing cash pie than a shrinking one. Trust and good faith are crucial here – just look at what’s happening with MLB and their negotiations. That is why playing out the games in Orlando carries extra weight. 

If you play, you make this money not only for yourselves but obviously for the owners. That they take as good faith. ‘OK, we’re good. We’ll try to work this out.’ But if you don’t play, the owners are out for blood. They can go after a lot more to make up for the money they lost.

Amin Elhassan, The Jump

Either way, the players can expect tough negotiations. Revenue will undoubtedly go down, and the owners will probably ask for the players to take a smaller amount of the BRI than currently negotiated (between 49% and 51%). This will significantly impact where the cap is, negotiating future contracts and how already signed contracts are handled. For instance, take a look at Russell Westbrook‘s contract.

  • ’19/’20 – $38,506,482
  • ’20/’21 – $41,358,814
  • ’21/’22 – $44,211,146
  • ’22/’23 – $47,063,478

These were astronomical numbers even when the expectation was the cap would rise. For instance, the projected cap for the following season was $117 million. Let’s say it dropped 40% due to the season being played in empty arenas – that would mean the cap would be around $70 million. Westbrook and Harden make $82 million combined. Just with players under contract, a lot of teams would get into significant luxury tax issues. All this is oversimplified math based on limited info to demonstrate there are ripple effects that will have to be renegotiated.

When the cap spiked, Michelle Roberts and the NBPA refused ap smoothing. That was a mistake, one I don’t expect they’ll make again. The owners will ask for the players to give up more of their share in the BRI, and that may lead to a lockout. Paul Pierce believes that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

I think it’s [the lockout] gonna happen anyway. I’ve been a part of two lockouts, and I’ve seen how the owners have always got their way in each lockout.

Paul Pierce, The Jump

In addition to the financial pressure, we are looking at a very short offseason. This season is planned to end mid-October, and ’20/’21 is presumptively starting at the beginning of December. That gives everyone involved six weeks to agree on a new CBA, have free agency, training camps, and start to the season. All this in times where no-one can predict how the country or the economy will look like.

Adam Silver has a lot of work ahead of him.