— You ask, we (try to) answer.
A: Not exactly, but it could have an even more chilling impact on the NBA than the NFL's procedures.
The NBA appears headed toward a "harder" salary cap, but not necessarily a hard cap. So instead of previously allowing teams to sign any and all of their incumbent veteran free agents to salaries that put the team above the cap, word is ownership would limit such a designation to a single player per season.
Look no further than the Heat's salary structure to see the genesis of such thinking,
Currently, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh each can opt out of the deals they signed in the 2010 offseason in the 2014 offseason. If the Heat are operating above the salary cap at the time, which is anticipated, such a "one-Bird" rule would allow Pat Riley to only re-sign one of the three above the cap.
(Note: To the Heat's possible advantage, not only do the trio have early termination options in 2014, but also opt-outs in 2015 and then expiring contracts in 2016. So it is possible their re-signings could be staggered to fit under such a "one-Bird" rule.)
The point of such a rule would be to keep teams from hoarding star players, as the Heat, and, to a degree, the Knicks did this past season.
But it also could entirely change the way teams establishing their contract books. Indeed, if "one-Bird" becomes law of the NBA landscape, it could have teams purposely slotting players into Bird-year slots, if you will, so they don't have multiple top-end salaries expiring at the same stage.
The upshot could be that teams, perhaps even the Heat, trade players simply because of the expiration year of their contracts, so they know they will be able to retain players above the salary cap. In other words, a team that otherwise might want to keep a player with an expiring 2014 contract might actually trade that player for someone whose contract expires in 2013 or 2015, just to be positioned to maintain the core of their roster.
Suddenly, salary "year" could become as significant in a trade as the salary itself.
To fans, one of the most confounding elements of the previous collective-bargaining agreement had been the notion of matching salaries, instead of trades that simply made basketball sense.
Now we could have an NBA economy where skill not only remains a secondary factor to the size of a player's salary, but also to the year of the expiration of his contract.
A: Hate to again use the word "chilling," but that also could be the impact of the new luxury tax being formulated by the league for the next collective-bargaining agreement.
Under the previous collective-bargaining agreement, if a team was over the luxury-tax threshold, say $70 million for argument's sake, then any salary added through various exceptions would be taxed dollar for dollar. So if a player was added at the $5.8 million mid-level exception, the team, in essence, would wind up paying $11.6 million for that player in the first season of his contract ($5.8 million to the player, $5.8 million in tax to a league fund that is redistributed to teams remaining below the tax threshold.)
But the new plan discussed could have teams paying $2 for every $1 spent above the luxury-tax threshold, or even $3-to-$1 or $4-to-$1 tax rates.
So let's say the next mid-level settles in at $4 million for 2011-12 (some have the number as low as $3 million). That means for a team above the tax, with a new $2-to-$1 tax in place, it would mean as high as a $12 million total payout for that player in 2011-12.
That would mean a team above the tax pursuing current free-agent prospects such as Samuel Dalembert or Shane Battier not only would have to pay $4 million in 2011-12 salary to the player, but perhaps another $8 million into the league's tax fund.
Say all you want about how a Dalembert could boost the Knicks or Heat in the middle, or how a Battier could upgrade the defense of a contender, it still doesn't make them $12 million-a-year players.
As with many aspects of the proposals from the league's side, it would be yet another step away from the middle class in the NBA.
Then again, some would argue that it would do nothing more than mirroring the U.S. economy as a whole these days.
A: I think Jeff Van Gundy put it best in his recent series of interviews when he said that almost no one beyond the diehards are paying attention to the lockout and that the league runs a huge risk of alienating those who do (paraphrasing here).
The one thing the owners have done well is the complete blackout of comment on the lockout from anyone beyond Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver (with those who have broken the ban fined, such as Michael Jordan). As much as anything, the rhetoric of billionaires and millionaires dickering is what gets to fans.
The trouble is there has been no similar ban on the players' side, when limiting such chatter to Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter probably would have been wise.
Even if the league starts on time, there is no way to undo some of the damage. For months now, each side has denigrated the other side's worth.
"The owners are greedy."
"The players are overpaid."
For the few who have listened, it has been highly unpalatable.
The most important thing after an agreement is reached is for both sides, in writing if necessarily, to come to some pact on no future disparagement of whatever CBA is agreed to.
The last thing fans would want to hear after months of acrimony is owners venting about how the new agreement limits their ability to retain their players, or players complaining that their new multi-million-dollar salaries aren't multi-million dollar enough. (We'll still hear from the agents, but we're used to that by now.)
The NFL had us quickly forgetting their lockout because they're, well, the NFL. The NBA is not the NFL. Even when it re-starts, it will be playing catch-up against the NFL, NCAA football and possibly even the Major League Baseball playoffs.
The sense is both sides will have issues with any new agreement. The key is keeping such dissatisfaction to themselves.