The NBA lockout is looking like it's as near to ending as it has been. David Stern issued an ultimatum with a "stern" warning that next time it gets worse. The deadline has passed, the sides are still talking and people are optimistic. Here are some questions people have had and some answers to what might happen.
Question: What's different this time? Why is everyone so excited?
There are two things that are very encouraging. First, the sides have agreed in principle to what is essentially a 50/50 split of the Basketball Related Income or "BRI." This has been the biggest sticking point as it determines what the salary cap is, which determines how much money the players can make.
On the owners' side, allegedly most of the teams were in the red. Most accounts are that the previous 57 percent split in favor of the players was lopsided in their favor. The players agreement here to the owners last offer on the BRI means that the biggest issue is resolved.
Question: If the BRI split is resolved, what are they still talking about?
The BRI was the biggest issue, but it's a long way from the only issue. There are other things that the sides need to work out. Mostly right now, these issues have to do with the players being able to move to teams that are in the luxury tax and/or the salary cap.
The NBA has a soft cap, as opposed to the hard cap that is in the NFL. In the NBA, if a team is too far over the cap, they have to pay a dollar in tax for every dollar in excess of the tax amount in salary.
Most of the talks right now are about the exceptions. These are a variety of rules which allow the various teams to sign players while they are over the cap, and at times, even doing so without having to pay the cap.
It seems that right now one of the big things on the table has to do with the way one of the exceptions is presently carried out. This might end up being called the "Carmello Anthony Rule." It might make it harder for teams to acquire players through a trade and then sign them to a max contract.
The reason some of the smaller market owners would like to see some exceptions in this is that it would give them some leverage when they have a star player "force" a trade the last year of his contract.
In general, the players want exceptions, and the owners are somewhat split.
In part, this is almost an issue between owners and other owners as it's players and owners. The "hard-line" owners are primarily from teams that are bleeding losses, in part because they are not competitive. The owners making money are somewhat sympathetic but not to the point of wanting to prolong the lockout over it.
These are still major issues, they just aren't as major. It's still possible that the rift between owners could dismantle the entire thing, though it's unlikely. The hardline owners aren't perceived to have enough support to cut off the talks.
What is the amnesty thing all about?
There has already been an agreement to an amnesty clause for the owners. Essentially what this means is that they would be able to buy out a contract at 75 percent of the value without the amount being applied to the cap.
While it's a huge chunk of change, it would give the clubs the opportunity to get out of some "bad contracts," i.e. contracts where the level of play is not commensurate with the level of pay. Some of the highest paid players in the league are a very long way from being the best players in the league.
Sometimes players look promising, get good contracts, and then for various reasons underperform on those contracts. Each team would be given a one-time shot at buying out a bad contract.
Some teams have bad contracts though, and others don't. Some of the owners want to be able to reserve their amnesty rights. Others want to make it a one-time, 2011 or lose it deal.
Provided everything gets worked out over the next day or two, does that mean we'll start the season as soon as it ends?
No, the earliest the season would start, even if it ends tonight, would be early December. There are a number of things that still need to be done before we start seeing regular season games played. There will be about a week to finalize the deal.
Then it will be another week of free agency. This should be an extremely exciting time for most teams. Players will be getting bought out, teams will be signing players. Teams will be matching offers. Imagine a full offseason of activity in a week! It will be a hectic time.
After that, there will be a week of practice and then another week of preseason games. These are essential to not only making sure that the game is not horrible but also for the players' health. Remember new players will be on teams. Some teams will have new coaches and new systems. Also, some players (*cough* Carlos Boozer *cough*) might not be in NBA game shape.
All of this means that there has to be a minimal amount of time for both a preseason and a training camp and a week apiece is minimal.
All of that together means that regular season games are still a month away, but there will still be some exciting times in the coming weeks with all the wild player movement.
When they start, will they just play the remaining schedule?
That's highly unlikely. More likely what will happen is that there will be a revised schedule. Most are speculating a 60-game schedule. This would be a considerably more packed schedule than normal with more back to backs than usual.
Which teams stand to benefit the most from the condensed season?
The teams that would benefit the most from this would be the younger teams who have been together and had some success. Teams like Memphis, Oklahoma City and Chicago would benefit the most because they will need rest less and practice less.
Teams that are younger, but not successful, or with new coaches like Minnesota would suffer more because they wouldn't have near as much practice time before or during the season. Teams like the Celtics or Lakers who are longer in the tooth would be more likely to get worn down by the grueling schedule.