Anthony Davis says his goal is to play in all 82 games

If there is an NBA lockout next summer, it will be because of infighting between NBA owners, not a disagreement between owner and player.

At the urging of some owners, the NBA will offer a tough “upper spending limit” that could replace a luxury tax as part of the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), according to reports by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and longtime NBA writer Marc Stein on sub-pile (The Associated Press confirmed the news). Although the language is different, it is a strict salary cap, something the NBA has never had.

It will be a non-runner with the players’ union, which their representatives have expressed. From Stein’s newsletter:

League sources say there is growing pressure from various factions on the league/ownership side to push for a system closer to a true hard cap…with a twist. The current proposals, sources say, don’t actually call it a hard cap, because those words carry such a negative stigma.

“Upper spending limit,” I am told, is the nomenclature at play…

“There will be a lockout,” a source on the player side told me, “before there is a hard cap.”

Not all owners support this plan, according to reports.

This news comes about six weeks before the December 15 deadline, when either the players’ union or the NBA (upon the owners’ vote) can opt out of the current CBA, end it on June 30, and possibly put in place. places a summer lockdown (the CBA naturally expires in 2024). Negotiations over a new CBA have been ongoing for months between the league and the NBPA, with hopes of reaching an agreement on a new framework before the December deadline.

This decision by some owners is not driven by the rapid increase in player salaries (the distribution of NBA income that accrues to players is locked in and should not change in the new CBA) but rather by the desire of some owners to rein in the spending of other newer, wealthier owners willing to dip into their pockets and pay the current luxury tax.

For example, the Clippers – owned by former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer, who is estimated to be worth more than $75 billion and is one of the 10 richest people on the planet – are about to spending $144.7 million in luxury taxes on top of $191.9 million. in payroll this season, which means a total of $336.6 million in wages and taxes. The Warriors are expected to spend more than $360 million in wages and taxes this season, and the Nets are expected to be in the same ballpark. For comparison, the Atlanta Hawks are 15th in the NBA in salary this season at $148.5 million, a figure that doesn’t include the luxury tax — Ballmer’s Clippers will more than double that spending once the tax added.

After extending Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins, Golden State’s salary bill + luxury tax for the 2023-24 season already stands at $483 million, and that’s without Draymond Green opting or signing a deal. new agreement with the team, or complete another list. spots, which would push the number north of $500 million. Again, the Clippers and Nets will be north of $350 million a year from now, the salary cap is expected to be $134 million (luxury tax kicks in at $162 million).

It’s a change in ownership seen in other sports, including the NFL. Longtime owners or family properties — like the Buss family with the Los Angeles Lakers — often don’t want or don’t have the resources to spend at the same level as the extremely wealthy billionaire owners entering the league now. . These new NBA owners are more willing to pay a luxury tax bill and not blink. Add top teams that improve their practice and training facilities and the expenses demanded of NBA owners increase rapidly. Don’t cry for these poor owners, they are more than making up for the money they lose if franchise values ​​rise quickly, but they have to pay a little more out of pocket now.

The conventional wisdom was that there would be no NBA lockouts because everyone – owners and players – makes too much money and doesn’t want to kill the goose (so to speak). The money coming into the league is expected to increase with the new TV/streaming deal coming in 2025, which is even more of a reason not to spoil the ABC too much. That’s why there is ultimately optimism this will be resolved with no lost matches.

But never underestimate the will of the rich to fight for money.

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