Blog Entry

NBA says it could void all existing contracts

Posted on: November 13, 2011 10:57 pm
By Matt Moore 

There's been a quiet response to all the decertification talk this weekend, and in a fairly embarrassing Twitterview, the NBA presented it front and center Sunday night. The league has given the players a choice between a proposal they obviously find unacceptable, and even worse deal which will be the owners' new starting point for negotiations should the players reject the current offer. In response, the players have pushed even closer to decertification or potentially a disclaim of interest to dissolve the union and pursue antitrust lawsuits against the league.  The league has answered every move the players have tried to make. So their response to the threat of decertification?

They will pursue voiding all existing contracts.

It's not as simple as just saying "your contracts are void," there's a legal process. It involves the suit currently filed by the league against the players which they filed months ago, and even if that didn't go through, they'd file again post-decertification in pursuit of the same goal. It's a complex, and messy situation that could take years to resolve if it came to that. But much like decertification, it works better as a threat than as a legitimate weapon. 

If you're a max player, say, Carlos Boozer, and you just landed that last big contract to set you up guaranteed for the next four seasons, and the league says it can nullify that contract and set you back, how do you consider the proposal tomorrow as player reps meet in New York? If you're Joe Johnson, and you know there's no freaking way you get the deal you got in 2010 in a wide-open free agency, how do you respond? Every player earning more than he probably would in an open market would pause. Yes, you have your Derrick Rose's, your Blake Griffins, but there are far more players playing on longer-term contracts with considerable value than there are young players bucking for an open market.

And the threat works both ways for the owners. If you're Donald Sterling, how do you feel about the idea that Blake Griffin could be a free agent? Or Clay Bennett with Kevin Durant? How about Ted Leonsis and John Wall? But still, much like the CBA debate itself, it's not about the stars, it's about the rank and file guys, and those guys would be devasteated financially to lose their current contracts, especially if they also lose the ability to negotiate a guaranteed contract in the next agreement. 

It's a hefty threat, the kind of nuclear weapon for the owners that decertification is for the players. Both sides continue to get closer to the button and there appears to be no cooler head to walk things back.  

Since: Oct 20, 2008
Posted on: November 14, 2011 1:13 am

NBA says it could void all existing contracts

The owners have to protect the sanctity of the league.  Once the season is irrevocably lost (probably by mid-January), the focus will turn to the draft and the possibility of another lost season.  Fans have been increasingly siding with the owners, who are at least proposing fair offers and willing to negotiate on outstanding issues (what- 50/50 too "unfair" ?).  Voiding the contracts and starting fresh with scabs and the lower-salaried players who would cross the picket line is more than a viable option.  Sure, a small number of highly paid "elite" players might hold out and maybe jump ship for Europe, but the NBA's the only game in town in North America (and the only one paying mega salaries).  But it's a small price to pay, versus the guaranteed $3.8 billion loss, for each lost season.  One way or another, the NBA seasons will restart, and voiding existing contracts is a way to do that.

I'm not sure of the legal ramifications, but perhaps the owners could have a gentlemen's agreement not to poach free agents for a set period, to allow as many re-signings to their original teams as possible.

Since: Jun 25, 2009
Posted on: November 14, 2011 12:56 am

NBA says it could void all existing contracts

I don't know about anybody else, but this makes complete sense to me.  The CBA expired and as long as the NBPA remains in tact and the players remain the union they were when they signed their deals, the contracts are still good when the players get back on the court. Whatever is left on their respective deals when they get back is owed to them in full, minus of course any concessions their union signs off on with the player's permission.   BUT..... if there is no CBA and no union, why would the contracts still be valid?

Either way, just the thought their contracts could be voided will make the players think for a while before they agree to begin the decertification process.  And even if 30 percent get the ball rolling for now, it'll take 50 percent 60 days from now to make it official, and I have a feeling the union won't have enough votes to get it done.  And when you consider it could take years to settle all of this, you have to ask yourself if NBA players are willing to sit out 2 or 3 seasons in the hopes they get back paid later.  I'm willing to bet most players can't afford to miss 2 or 3 seasons,  even if they knew they'd get their money later, the players would be financially screwed if that happens.

It'll be interesting to see how this pans out.....  

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