A lot of talk has been made about the possibility of an NBA Lockout next summer. Some say it is ridiculous for the owners to cry broke when they just handed out all these top dollar contracts this summer. While I am currently not on either side in this matter, I find that notion to be unfair. The market for player’s talents is set based upon the agreement in place now. Certain players are going to command max contracts no matter whether the max number is large or low.
If free agency started and no NBA owner was offering max contracts because they were broke or didn’t have the money, the players union would be alleging collusion, as well they should. If free agency started and some teams decide to take a hard-line stance on what they were willing to offer free agents to prove their dire financial situation, they would simply miss out on players and possibly set their franchises back. For example, if New York decides that due to the economy and the impending collective bargaining agreement they are only going to offer players 80% of the max allowed, this strengthens the owners position in the upcoming negotiations but the Knicks would not have Amare Stoudemire and their franchise would be slipping either further towards the back of the pack.
The owners were in a difficult situation. They were forced by the market to pay what the players are worth in this climate. This summer, if all of a sudden every team would have decided nobody was worth the max and contracts offered were way below what was expected, I assure you the owners would not be applauded for their cost saving measures. The only thing they would have gotten would have been a lawsuit by the players union.