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NBA PM: Is Another Labor Fight Smart?

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver warns that opting out of the current labor deal won’t just be about what the players’ want… Are the San Antonio Spurs finished?

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Be Careful What You Wish For: For several months, the new leadership of the National Basketball Players’ Association has been firing warning shots at the NBA and its owners. Taking aim at long standing processes like the minimum age limit, the idea of a salary cap and the concept of a maximum allowable salary, the NBPA is setting a tone for what many believe will be a messy and drawn out labor fight in the summer of 2017 (when both sides of the current agreement are able to opt out). The NBA, for the most part, has remained silent on many of the topics raised, simply pointing out that things between the league and the players are in a good place and that all of the topics broached will be discussed in due time.

As they say, it’s never wise to swing at a pitch in the dirt and really that’s the best way to describe what’s been coming out of the NBPA. The NBA has been tactful in avoiding controversy around much of what’s been said over the last year.

That changed yesterday when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver hinted that re-opening the contract between the players and the owners wouldn’t just be about what the players may want. There are things the NBA and the owners felt like they left on the bargaining table too.

“As you guys know… there were a lot of things we left on the table, as well [in 2011],” Silver told Howard Beck on Bleacher Reports’ NBA Sunday Tip. “We went into collective bargaining seeking — I don’t want to get into it now — but a number of things that we didn’t accomplish. And we compromised. And they compromised as well.

“If there’s a feeling that we should reopen the collective bargaining agreement, there will be things that we’re going to bring back to the table, too. And hopefully, just as we have in the past, we’ll work through all those issues and there won’t be any disruptions in the season.”

The last go around, the owners looked hard to reducing and removing guaranteed contracts, as well as increasing the minimum age to enter the NBA. The owners also started at a far more aggressive revenue split than what ultimately got agreed to.

There has been a sense that with new leadership at the Players Association and big-name players like Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James at the negotiating table, some of the ground lost over the last two labor deals could be recovered – or at least that is the pitch being sold to the Players. However, the truth is that in every labor deal in the modern era, the agreement starts as a blank piece of paper and a game of trades takes place to reach a deal.

In previous negotiations, everything that was part of the current deal was removed, and a new set of compromises had to be debated and negotiated.

While it may sound like it’s as easy as opening up the document and tweaking the current deal, it’s never played out that way. What the players currently have is taken away and what they want has to be paid for in new deal terms.

Everything in Collective Bargaining is a horse trade; one side gives up something in exchange for something else.

It may sound like a good idea to opt out in the summer of 2017, but what might lie on the other side isn’t necessarily a better deal than what the players currently have, especially considering the NBA and its owners have learned that while the business does take a hit with a lockout and the loss of games, they have always gotten a better deal being able to wait out the players and their franchises have not folded as a result.

With so much new money coming into the NBA via the new TV rights deal, there is a sense that even the current structure would be better for the players in the long run than trying to wage a huge labor fight.

This truly is a case of being careful what you wish for, as the next labor deal might not be better than the current one.

Is This The End For The Spurs: The San Antonio Spurs cleaned out their lockers and addressed the media for what could conceivably be the last time as the core we’ve known for so many years. Tim Duncan is an unrestricted free agent, Danny Green is headed to free agency and even Kawhi Leonard is headed toward restricted free agency.

So is this end of the road for this version of the Spurs? Maybe, but not likely.

While none of the core guys are ready to commit to anything yet, there is a sense that Duncan wants to continue playing and that if he is back, head coach Gregg Popovich will return too. If Pop is back, then Green is likely back. And while swingman Manu Ginobili has hinted that he might be finished, he won’t leave the band behind either.

The Spurs are in a situation where they could have as much as $20 million in usable cap space this summer and there is some talk that they will pursue the likes of Marc Gasol from Memphis and LaMarcus Aldridge from Portland. To achieve that kind of cap space, they would have to renounce rights to a number of guys or get them re-signed for far less than they made this season.

Given that Duncan played this season for $10.36 million, Ginobili for $7 million and Green for $4.025 million – there is some room for the idea of guys taking an even steeper pay cut for one more run together with another serious player added to the mix.

Now, admittedly, it’s a long shot that Aldridge or Gasol are going anywhere, but the Spurs aren’t your typical franchise and if Duncan and Ginobili decide to play one more year, that could be the free agent card that gets the Spurs a serious audience.

Are the Spurs finished? Maybe. But keep in mind that in the 39 seasons the Spurs have been in the NBA, they have missed the postseason just four times. No other franchise in the NBA has had that kind of longevity in the modern era and if they can put the same kinds of dollars on the free agent table, they might land a big enough fish to convince everyone else to stay in the boat.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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