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Benefits of Goodwill in CBA Talks

Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

The NBA and NBPA are hoping to finish negotiations on the new collective bargaining agreement by the end of the 2015-2016 season. Some of you may be confused; you thought the CBA had another two years before it was up. Are we going to be facing a work stoppage a season earlier than expected? No, believe it or not, the NBA and the player’s union are trying to get this finished BEFORE the last minute, hoping to avoid a strike, lockout or any sort of work stoppage whatsoever.

This is considerably different from what we’ve been accustomed to seeing, thanks to the NBA lockout in 2011 as well as the NFL lockout in the same year. In both of those negotiations, the league’s owners locked out the players to try and achieve more favorable revenue distribution between the owners and the players. Negotiations became tense, and players became angry at the leagues for holding their livelihoods hostage to get them to take pay cuts.

The NBA’s position in these negotiations were that too many teams were losing money, and that they needed to cut player salaries to make up for the loss in revenue. There was a lot of arguing about accounting and disputes about the difference between investments, losses and expenses, but ultimately the two sides came together in the middle after a lot of scorched earth and missed games. Nobody was really happy, least of all the fans, and there was a whole lot of bitterness to go around.

The NBA lockout was very similar to the NFL’s in that the owners were trying to get the players to take significant pay cuts to help their bottom lines, (the NFL couldn’t even pretend to claim they were losing money, so the owners said they weren’t increasing revenue quickly enough). The NFL didn’t have to miss any games because there are far more NFL players who can’t afford to miss even a single game than NBA players in the same position. However, by playing hardball, the NFL has continued to face a lot of acrimony from the player’s union, and will likely face another contentious work stoppage when its CBA expires.

The NBA is trying to avoid that path. By starting negotiations now instead of closer to the CBA’s expiration, commissioner Adam Silver is removing the threat of lost game checks from the bargaining table. They’re working together to find a deal that’s agreeable to both sides instead of the best deal one will accept under duress.

A lot of this is because of the new TV deal and the boom in revenue the league has enjoyed and will continue to enjoy. While I do believe the NBA was using accounting tricks to claim more losses than they were really suffering, I think there were some owners who were dancing on the line between red and black and nervous about the future of their NBA assets. With the new TV deal and surge of revenue, a lot of those owners’ fears are being assuaged. They’re treating the players like business partners and they’ll see, rather quickly, that negotiations go more smoothly between partners than enemies.

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