On Tuesday, we took a look at the increasing rhetoric from the players' side of the NBA's labor negotiations. Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, disputed financial information presented by NBA commissioner David Stern, dug in against some of the loftier proposals from the owners and let the world know that the players are ready for a work stoppage if it comes to that.
On Wednesday, further details of the players' desires came out, and a number directly contradicted positions believed to be held by the owners. For example, ESPN.com reports that Hunter called the idea of contraction "posturing" and said that he's ready to fight against a hard cap. Neither of those is a huge surprise as both issues -- jobs and the large guaranteed contracts that go with a soft cap -- are near and dear to the players' hearts.
But another issue of contention was also discussed: the NBA's "one and done" rule that mandates players can't enter the NBA until a year after their high school class graduates.
The union favors eliminating the current CBA's ban on players straight from high-school, but says that the issue has not yet been a big factor. Hunter explains the union's proposal: "I don't know if there has been much discussion. Our position is that players should be incentivized to stay in school if that's what they want. Let's reduce the duration of the rookie scale. For every year a guy stays in school, a year comes off the rookie scale. So if a kid decides to stay for four years, he'd come in, maybe spend a year in the league, then he'd be an unrestricted free agent."Now, see, that's a problem, because the owners not only love the one and done system, they wouldn't mind expanding it to multiple mandatory years in college. The logic is simple: The more years that players are forced to stay in college, the less risky they are as draft prospects and the readier they are for the NBA lifestyle.
Debating this rule isn't agenda item No. 1 for either side, to be sure, but it does represent another fundamental disagreement. To make matters worse, the owners generally feel like the protections afforded by rookie scale contracts -- slotted salaries, restricted free agency at the end of it -- are one of the best aspects of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. To compromise or change the structure of rookie contracts in any way (other than reducing the starting salary figure for top-end picks) is the exact opposite of what the owners have in mind.
The "one and done" rule has been one of the thorniest issues in the NBA for years now. Today's problem isn't determining whether or not forcing a young player to attend college for a year is just or legal. Today's problem is that the issue is just another one of many that the two sides don't see eye-to-eye on. Gulp.