Blog Entry

Stern admits new CBA will make it tough on OKC

Posted on: December 26, 2011 3:34 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 3:45 pm
Posted by Royce Young

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Commissioner David Stern had himself a double-header Sunday, watching the Heat pound the Mavericks in Dallas and then making a short trip north to Oklahoma City to check out the Thunder.

His formal address to the media was the usual stuff. He talked about OKC's chances of getting an All-Star Game (the city needs more hotels), talked about the new collective bargaining agreement and how wonderful it is and talked about the NBA's business.

But after he wrapped, a couple of reporters chatted Stern up some more (or listened, if you're me). Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman led the charge asking Stern about how this new CBA that's supposedly designed to help small markets like Oklahoma City could be what tears the Thunder apart.

First, there's the new "Rose Rule," which allows -- actually scratch that -- forces teams to pay a superstar more money if he meets certain criteria. That's already happened in Oklahoma City as Kevin Durant has qualified by being named to two All-NBA teams. Durant will make roughly $15 million more over the life of his extension and some $3 million more per year. A number that has actually put the Thunder over the cap.

The new luxury tax, which is more punitive than before, goes into action in two seasons. Right around the time the Thunder will have potentially locked up Russell Westbrook for big money along with needing to re-sign James Harden and Serge Ibaka. Plus, if Westbrook makes another All-NBA team, he'll qualify for the Rose extension, which would hurt the Thunder even more. So that's where the Thunder are at right now -- needing Russell Westbrook to NOT make an All-NBA team.

Stern disagrees with the idea the harsher luxury tax hurts small markets like the Thunder though.

“The idea that the luxury tax hurts small markets is ludicrous," he said. "It may impact a small market that's a great team and has to raise its payroll. But at the bottom, it's designed to eliminate the ability of teams to use their economic resources to distort competition"

He's right. Because that's a blanket statement. It doesn't hurt all small markets. But specifically applied to this Thunder team and its current roster structure, it absolutely does. Stern put it this way though: If you're good enough to have to be forced with making the decision to "go for it," as he put it, that's a good thing. At least that's the league's perspective.
And then he dropped this bombshell:

“People are saying to Miami, ‘Well, you're going to have a decision to make with respect to one of your big three.' And they may say the same thing to Oklahoma City, and that's a good thing. That means you've arrived and you're out there being competitive."

So David Stern thinks it would be a good thing if the Thunder are forced to give up either Westbrook, Harden or Ibaka because they can't pay to keep them all. The way Stern put it is that the new CBA doesn't just share more revenue, but shares more talent. He sees it as "player sharing."

A small market team like the Thunder, who have become the poster child for small market viability, could potentially be punished for their slick management and wise draft choices. Stern sees that as a good thing. I get his point -- if you're having to pay players lots of money that means you're doing something right. But at the same time, Thunder general manager Sam Presti has always preached on "sustainable success," which this new CBA makes a bit difficult to accomplish. You can have Durant plus either Westbrook or Harden. But not all three and definitely not all three plus Serge Ibaka. Something about that just doesn't seem right to me.

I wrote about this over the summer when the idea of a hard cap was floated. Build a team like Oklahoma City using the "Thunder model," as so many people like to call it, and you may be breaking it apart in just a few seasons. The irony here is that Presti might've done too good of a job assembling his team.

The idea with the new tax is that teams won't be willing to bust into it, large or small. Of course Oklahoma City can just choose to pay the harsh tax penalty. But are they really going to do that? Stern seemed extremely confident that not many would.

“They could, but they won’t," he said. "There are going to be very few circumstances where someone is going to go $20 million over to pay $65 million in total unless they’re sure this is their time and they’re going for it once.”

Basically Stern is banking on big markets shying away from paying the harsher tax. He could be right as it's possible the Lakers dealt Lamar Odom for virtually nothing to get away from paying so much of it. The Blazers, who once had a $57 million tax bill, won't be going into that territory again. But let's face reality: Stern talked about teams choosing to pay the tax to "go for it." Big market teams like the Lakers and Knicks will have the chance to "go for it" a lot more than the Spurs, Grizzlies or Thunder because they have a bigger slice of the pie. If they swing and miss, oh well, they can try again later.

No bother to Stern though. He's sure of this new system. Positive of it, in fact.

“You’ll see. It’s beauty,” he said. “It’s all going to happen and then we’ll look back at it rather than prejudge it. I happen to think it’s going to be good for all of us, and it’s going to hit small market and large market teams alike.”

Or destroy one like the Thunder. But whatever.

Since: Apr 8, 2008
Posted on: December 27, 2011 2:17 pm

Stern admits new CBA will make it tough on OKC

So, you read an NBA article and then go on to post how you don't care about the NBA and will not watch???  Do you also go to restaurants which serve food you don't like just so you can complain about the taste??  What a fool.

Since: Apr 22, 2009
Posted on: December 27, 2011 12:51 pm

Stern admits new CBA will make it tough on OKC

Just because the HEAT could not sell out the NBA Finals is not a reason to say that Maimi is a small market. Marlins and Panthers are small market teams BECAUSE they are not supported.   Minnesota is a STATE.  Everything in Maimi is small!!

Since: Mar 30, 2010
Posted on: December 27, 2011 12:13 pm

Actually, Nobody Cares

After the football season is over, I will start watching reruns of 'The Biggest Loser' before I watch any NBA nonsense. You should all take the time to ask yourselves if the NBA deserves your patronage as well. So dissapointing to see people simple minded enough to jump right into cheering after the fiasco that was the "canceled season."

Since: Sep 20, 2010
Posted on: December 27, 2011 9:12 am


Whoever said Miami is a small market hasn't really been there or seen  the census. There are approx 8 million people in south Florida, brother that ain't small market, and part of the reason Florida is the 4th largest state and soon will be 3rd, surpassing NewYork.

In reading between the lines it's looking to me that this new CBA will probably in a few years prevent those crazy contracts to mid level players i.e. Turkalou, Rashard Lewis, and whoever else; basically the contracts that are being amnestied (that's paid to not play) and this is how the Thunder in a few years would stay together because Ibaka might not get offered 60-75 million but rather 30ish. A 60-75 million dollar contract would become nearly a 100 million dollars with luxury taxes. Big contracts need to be for big palyers - Kobe, Dirk, Howard, Carmelo, Wade and not Hedo, Arenas, Curry and any of those other big bucks but reasonable stats of 16 points and 7 rebs kinda of guys. Sorry guys the money is for Superstars not stars. Whatever GM understands this the soonest will probably look bad at first but then his owner will be happy and beers and such at the games won't go to $15-20 each in a few years.

Hopefully soon we can talk stats and not player contracts, Amen.   

Since: Feb 15, 2008
Posted on: December 27, 2011 5:30 am

Stern admits new CBA will make it tough on OKC

I'm so sick of hearing this "big market-small market" nonsense. What it should really be called is "teams willIng to spend vs teams unwilling to spend". Let's use Miami as an example. Miami is actually a smaller market than the city of Minnesota. But when it comes to basketball they are willing to spend, so does that make them a bigger market? The Marlins?......small market team. The Florida Panthers?.....small market team. The Heat...... Big market team or owner willing to spend?

Since: Dec 17, 2011
Posted on: December 26, 2011 11:27 pm

Stern admits new CBA will make it tough on OKC

Theres just too many dam teams.  Very simple.  The whole thing approaches scripted entertainment - that is Stern's legacy.

Since: Apr 22, 2009
Posted on: December 26, 2011 9:04 pm

Stern admits new CBA will make it tough on OKC

The owners had their chance to start over but they LACKED the guts to end the NBA and they failed.  The big market teams will ALWAYS have the advantage over the small market teams.  NBA wants a NY-Boston vs Lakers (for the TV numbers)

Since: Mar 2, 2008
Posted on: December 26, 2011 8:58 pm

Stern admits new CBA will make it tough on OKC

This is a dumb article.  First of all owners are supposed to make their teams win (unlike that Sterling in LA), second of all you cannot whine about the situation.  David & the owners wanted to make it economically fair for every team, thus every team now has this problem.  Making OKC into some the awsomes example is ludicrous as the NBA goes beyond the problems of OKC or Miami.

At the end of the day the players dictate what team can win, in this already ludcrous UFA league that now exists.  You want to keep the superstar, you better over-pay him, since they have clearly ripped off the UFA rights of players in this CBA.  Waiting 7-8 years for your UFA status is a pretty big joke.

Since: Jun 29, 2010
Posted on: December 26, 2011 8:44 pm

Bitter in Seattle

Seems poetic as a Sonics fan.  We know what its like to get bent over by David Stern.  Cant say I feel bad for OKC since they used to be my Sonics.

Since: Dec 5, 2006
Posted on: December 26, 2011 8:39 pm

Stern admits new CBA will make it tough on OKC

The ownership of the Thunder paid $75 million to the City of Seattle (includes $30 million if no replacement team given to Seattle in five years) to take the team prematurely our of Seattle. It would appear that they have money to burn in luxury tax while selling out the arena and energizing their fan base in Oklahoma. When you win, the luxury tax is an annoyance. When you fail to win and then pay that tax it becomes a disincentive. The commissioner is right - you have to decide if your team is ready to 'go for it'. The expectation by the league is that luxury tax will be paid by enough teams that the small market teams will get a considerable windfall every year. Even in Oklahoma City's case the team will still share that windfall with all other teams so it will somewhat mitigate the cost.

Anyone who tries to stockpile young talent will find similar experiences. While rebuilding there is substantial windfall distributions that should be saved for the years when that talent matures and needs to be paid. In OKC's case the talent is deep and the cost is going to be excessive. Look for them to trade some players as soon as the trade deadline this year or at the 2012 draft to allow for extensions to the critical core.

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