After the dust settled following the latest breakdown in negotiations between the NBA and the players' association the reality sets in that both sides remain really close to a deal. The problem lies in that the last remaining hurdle, the split of basketball related income, is the biggest hurdle on the playing field. No talks are scheduled as of yet but the two sides are expected to get together once again at the end of the week to try to hammer this thing out.
SI.com NBA writer Sam Amick takes a look at the current negotiations and outlines many of the system issues that have been agreed upon. Such items as shortening contract lengths from six to five years for "Bird rights" free agents and from five to four years for everyone else. The two sides have also agreed to include an amnesty clause which will enable a team to waive a player with an existing contract and have it come off of the salary cap. Teams will still be responsible for paying the full contract to the player but it will no longer count against the cap.
Amick also reports that items such as Luxury tax, mid-level exception and a new "stretch" exception has also been mostly agreed to. The stretch exception would allow a club to waive a player then stretch out his pay and the salary cap hit over a number of years. Amick reports that it is unclear how often a club could do this but it would likely be limited to one per season.
Among issues that have yet to be decided, the BRI debate has been front and center throughout most of the lockout discussions. The players took 57 percent of the income during the old CBA and the league is seeking a 50-50 split this go around. The union has negotiated down to 52.5 percent but has been unwilling to this point to go below that number given the number of concessions they have agreed to within the system.
Other items that have not yet been agreed upon include annual increases on signed contracts, early termination options, sign-and-trades for tax paying teams and the length of the CBA deal. The league would like to do away with the early termination option which have been negotiated into players contracts giving them an out clause to become a free agent. The sign-and-trade was a big part of the last CBA and the league would like to see its use limited to only teams that are below the luxury tax.
Once the BRI hurdle is cleared, the rest of the system is likely to fall into place quickly. That is if the two sides get back to the negotiating table. The danger lies in that both sides could move further apart if as David Stern has indicated, future proposals from the league could be made with the losses from cancelled games in mind.
"We expect there to be a $2 billion loss for us for the loss of the season, which we will then begin to dig out from under and try to get back, if there were a season's loss," Stern said. "And the players would lose $2 billion. Period."