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 1, 2007
Posted on: December 26, 2011 7:49 pm

Stern admits new CBA will make it tough on OKC

Stern just had to find a way to keep Dennis Gilbert, a billionaire by the way, happy. Gilbert's front office saddled his team with a bunch of ridiculous contracts. No big name players are willing to sign as free agents now that he's shown his true colors. Who'd want to play for him after they saw how he went public on LeBron James. After all, his Cavaliers had a pretty good run thanks to LeBron James. But, now he's pretty much toxic. He personally caused his franchise more harm than anything else. And now, he's got Stern catering to him for doing so. OKC has small market teams with horrible front offices to blame for this. Teams that do good jobs like OKC, Memphis, and San Antonio realize they can easily compete by doing their jobs better than the competition. You think they were worried about teams like the Knicks with Isaiah Thomas running the show? Hell no! Who does Stern think he's kidding? Not me, that's for sure.

Since: Jul 26, 2009
Posted on: December 26, 2011 7:35 pm

Stern admits new CBA will make it tough on OKC

The bad part is if you put a team together like the Thunder you are being penalized

Since: May 25, 2009
Posted on: December 26, 2011 7:15 pm

Stern admits new CBA will make it tough on OKC

It's not the hotel rooms, it's the city--Stern just can't come out and say it.  NBA is all about the glitz.  (gotta ask though--are you counting Motel 6's?)

Since: Oct 16, 2011
Posted on: December 26, 2011 4:40 pm

Stern admits new CBA will make it tough on OKC

You're never going to have true parity in basketball until you have more revenue sharing. The problem is that's an issue with owners who have "equal say" versus a strictly player's union versus owners; where each side has clear demands but the owners have more power. It's one thing to beat a deal through the players union, it's another to get the 7 premier teams to share with some of the other teams.

A great basketball player has more effect on a team than any other great player in the other 4 majors sports. 2 great players is the basis for a potential dynasty. In football you can compensate by getting a lot of good players rather than a few stars, in baseball you need stars (and ace, closer, cleanup hitter) but because both these sports have so many more positions it takes more than just 2 great guys. Hockey you have 3 lines although a hot golie can carry a team almost as much as a super star in baskeball. My point is that in basketball "spreading the wealth" won't work as well as in the NFL which David Stern seems to want.

I could see this actually backfiring, if two superstars just decided to take less money because they want to play togther, they could gang up on a bunch of 1 superstar teams. Especially if they gang up in a market where they can get a lot of outside endorsements. Stern may actually make the Heat or other big market teams even stronger.

Since: Dec 5, 2007
Posted on: December 26, 2011 4:38 pm

Stern admits new CBA will make it tough on OKC

this CBA hasn't really been about competitive balance. really it's just the owners all along wanting to get half of the basketball related income. in the process they forgot about competitive balance. i feel they should have extended the lockout to resolve this competitive balance problem for the small markets but everyone just want to play basketball. in the long term we see if the nba turns out like mlb where small markets are left to die for decades and maybe have a few years of competitiveness before it repeats again.   

Since: Aug 22, 2006
Posted on: December 26, 2011 3:58 pm

Stern admits new CBA will make it tough on OKC

RE: ALL-STAR GAME & HOTELS.  OKC has over 15,000 rooms that are within 15 minutes of the downtown arena.  There are easily over 2500 rooms in downtown!  Plus, the motel district on Meridian Ave., that has around 45 motels (easily has 6000 rooms).  The large hotels on NW Expressway have over 3500 rooms.  The motels and hotels on Memorial Rd. in North OKC must have another 2500 rooms.  The motels in Mid-Del probably add another 2500, and the motels throughout S. OKC and Moore could exceed 2500 rooms.  

My educated guess (based on my personal business with OKC motels & hotels), that the large number of hotels within 15 minutes of the arena yield 12,000 rooms.  If you extend that radius to 20 minutes, 20,000 rooms.

Since: Dec 9, 2011
Posted on: December 26, 2011 3:57 pm

Stern admits new CBA will make it tough on OKC

David Stern says to just watch and see, because by the time teams are really hit by this, he'll be retired and in Boca while Adam Silver deals with finding a middleground. Though I do havce faith Sam Presti can keep the Thunder viable under the new CBA like he did under the other, it's just going to be more difficult. Signing Nick Collison to that extension that paid him a lump sum last season and low subsequent years is looking more genius by the day considering the new payroll restrictions.

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