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NBA Oklahoma City Thunder Kevin Durant

Fixing The 2011 NBA CBA

The NBA didn’t foresee creating the Golden State Warriors super team when they signed the 2011 CBA, but a few small changes might have helped prevent it even with the new National TV contract causing such a massive increase in the Salary Cap. In the owners rush to parity, they changed how teams compete for their own players after the first contract past the rookie deal and combined with a rising Salary Cap, made unanticipated super teams possible.

“Part of the discussion today was how much of what happened this summer was an anomaly in terms of the system,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said at the Board of Governors press conference. “As I’ve made clear before, we did not model for such a large spike in the cap, which is what we saw this summer, and so it enabled teams to make moves that they would not otherwise have been able to make.

“And then the question becomes what corrections should we make in the system. As I’ve said before, from the very beginning, we had two priorities when we went into the last collective bargaining agreement. One was to correct the finances of the league and put every team in a position where if they were well-managed they had the opportunity to be profitable.

“The other issue was we wanted every team, regardless of market size, regardless of how deep the pockets were of the owner, to be in a position to compete for championships.”

Well the owners are certainly making out like bandits under this version of the CBA, competitive balance? Not so much.

The new CBA made extensions for players nearing the end of their first contract after their rookie deal a non-starter. The restrictions were just too tough and the benefits almost non-existent. So, not surprisingly, nearly every player about to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) declined extension discussions and played out their contract.

Under the old CBA, players in these circumstances could sign extensions that would be comparable to what their own team could offer them after their contract ended. Teams could sell their own players on eliminating the risk of injury entailed by waiting until their contract expired without the player having to give up future income, but not anymore.

The 2011 CBA has definitely made things more interesting in the off season. Free Agency is more exciting because more players are “forced” into becoming an UFA in order to get paid. More UFAs equals more excitement, but it has also become mind-numbingly difficult on general managers who really don’t know for sure what to do at the trade deadline with their star players that will become UFAs in the summer.

The new CBA has also nearly wiped out Sign-and-Trade scenarios as players can no longer get any more money in a sign-and-trade than they can as a free agent signing directly with another team. This has almost wiped out any chance at compensation like draft picks or the sometimes valuable traded player exceptions that were often acquired when another team signed your team’s UFA prior to 2011.

“Of course we discussed the activities from the last two weeks for free agency,” Silver said. “I would say we had a robust discussion in the room of various views of player movement that we’ve seen.

“I think we can make the system even better, and I think it is critically important that fans in every market have that belief that if their team is well-managed that they can compete.

“Certainly it’s important to me that markets in this league, those that are perceived as small, as those that are larger, all feel like they have an equal chance.

“My sense is that some of the player movement we just saw is not necessarily a function of market size. It’s clearly, in the case of one particular player, a desire to be in a situation with a group of players who have already proven that they can win. And by the way, I don’t mean to be so cryptic; in the case of Kevin Durant, I absolutely respect his decision, once he becomes a free agent, to make a choice that’s available to him. In this case he operated 100 percent within the way of the system, and same with Golden State.

“Having said that, I do think to maintain those principles that I discussed in terms of creating a league in which every team has the opportunity to compete, I think we do need to re-examine some of the elements of our system so that I’m not here next year or the year after again talking about anomalies. There are certain things, corrections we believe we can make in the system.”

Free agents changing teams is exciting. It keeps the NBA in the news cycle when their isn’t much basketball being played. However, not giving teams, especially small market teams, a chance to extend their own star free agents at maximum salaries prior to the start of free agency means general managers will often be forced into taking the risk of hanging onto players past the trade deadline and losing them for nothing in July.

If the NBA wants to give small market teams like Oklahoma City a chance to fairly negotiate with their own pending UFAs like Kevin Durant, they need to be able to offer an extension on similar terms and at similar dollars to what that free agent could sign for in the summer.

At least then when their pending free agent declines to discuss an extension, the general manager knows for sure prior to the trade deadline that he is facing a very real risk of losing his star player for nothing.

Also, by bringing back the ability for an UFA to obtain the same contract in a sign and trade as he would by re-signing with his old team, teams losing an UFA could at least obtain some compensation when the player forces his new team’s hand by asking for the better deal.

There are no perfect solutions to obtain competitive balance, not with unrestricted free agency a reality that’s here to stay. However, the new CBA took things a step too far when striving to limit players’ contract options and salaries, and the unintended consequences were the best regular season team in NBA history obtaining yet another superstar player and the small market team losing Kevin Durant getting the shaft.

As Silver says, “There are certain things, corrections we believe we can make in the system.” The union wouldn’t even fight you on these two.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 


 

NBA commissioner Adam Silver

NBA Implements New Better Hack-A-Shaq Rules

Every NBA player should be able to hit at least a modest free throw percentage, but some just can’t and NBA coaches have been implementing a Hack-a-Shaq strategy to change the momentum of games at a level never before seen. Something had to change and it has.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has announced a solid reasonable compromise between “it’s ruining our game” and “just learn to hit your free throws.”

“We had a discussion about so-called Hack-a-Shaq, and I know we sent a release out already,” Silver said. “We adopted a new rule there. I would say it’s not everything that some people were looking for us to do, and it was a compromise. In essence, the rule is now that the last two-minute rule that’s been in effect for almost 40 years is now in effect for the last two minutes of every quarter. In addition, we wanted to ensure that players would not be jumping on other players’ backs as we’ve seen during free throws. So we made it clear that that would be presumptively a flagrant foul if that were to happen. We also clarified the rule for fouling when the ball is not in play, that that would also fall under the so-called special last two-minute provisions, where it would be a free throw and the team would retain possession.

“So again, that release was sent out. Kiki VanDeWeghe is here, our head of basketball operations, and I’m happy to discuss it, but Kiki will be around for a while, too, and he can discuss it.”

“In looking at the data and numerous potential solutions to combat the large increase in deliberate away-from-the-play foul situations, we believe these steps offer the most measured approach,” said Kiki VanDeWeghe, NBA Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations. “The introduction of these new rules is designed to curb the increase in such fouls without eliminating the strategy entirely.

Rules Changes Relating to Deliberate Away-From-The-Play Foul Rules

  • The current rule for away-from-the-play fouls applicable to the last two minutes of the fourth period (and last two minutes of any overtime) – pursuant to which the fouled team is awarded one free throw and retains possession of the ball – will be extended to the last two minutes of each period.
  • For inbounds situations, a defensive foul at any point during the game that occurs before the ball is released by the inbounder (including a “legitimate” or “natural” basketball action such as a defender fighting through a screen) will be administered in the same fashion as an away-from-the-play foul committed during the last two minutes of any period (i.e., one free throw and possession of the ball).
  • The flagrant foul rules will be used to protect against any dangerous or excessively hard deliberate fouls. In particular, it will presumptively be considered a flagrant foul if a player jumps on an opponent’s back to commit a deliberate foul. Previously, these type of fouls were subject to being called flagrant but were not automatic.

As Silver says, this change is not cosmetic, even if it is a bit of a compromise. Everyone knows NBA games are often won or lost in the last couple of minutes at the end of games, but equally significant changes to the momentum of games happens at the end of quarters and denying teams the right to stop that momentum by fouling poor free throw shooters who aren’t in the play will improve how the game is played at those critical junctures.

“I know we wouldn’t have done it if it were only a cosmetic change,” Silver said. In fact, our projections are that with the rule changes we put in place, we’ll reduce roughly 45 percent of the incidents of the away-from-the-play fouls right now. The process was one of trying to build consensus.

“I mean, look, this is a rule that has been in effect since the beginning of the game, the last two-minute rule for the fourth quarter. It was instituted roughly 40 years ago, and there’s a dramatic change in the league, and you all know from things I’ve said, even as recently as last summer after this same meeting, I said I’m on the fence in terms of whether the issue should be — guys should make their free throws and if they can’t, they should be taken out of games at strategic points.

“I’m also a bit of an incrementalist, and I think especially when it comes time to change rules. Remember, to change a playing rule, it requires two-thirds of our teams. I will say the vote was not unanimous today, but obviously in order to make the change, we did get two-thirds of the teams. But I’m also being a realist in terms of how much we can get through.

I think there is a part of me that would have preferred to have done something that was more holistic and impacted the entire game, but I’ve also learned, I think to have made this change, again, if we can deal with roughly half the incidents and then full stop have the competition committee re-examine it and see where we are — and that answers the last part of your question. This was discussed over a year and a half with our competition committee, and then we got to the point where the competition committee, it was unanimous in terms of the NBA team representatives on the competition committee. We brought it to our Board of Governors and we said we think this is a change that should be made and it will allow us to keep — nobody suggested that we’ll never have to discuss this again, but I think I’ve also realized that there’s sometimes almost a faddish quality to how some of these techniques are used on the floor. We’ll see. But I definitely do not think this is cosmetic.”

These minor rule changes should help the NBA accomplish their goals of keeping the game from deteriorating into a free throw contest by guys that can’t shoot at the end of quarters while still giving coaches the opportunity to put pressure on the typical big man who just can’t hit a free throw, but has been killing them on the glass in the middle of quarters. A compromise to be sure, but likely the right compromise and definitely not just a cosmetic change.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.