Some big-market owners hawkish on hard cap

September, 17, 2011
9/17/11
10:56
PM ET
Broussard By Chris Broussard
ESPN.com
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Since the NBA lockout began nearly three months ago, it’s been assumed that large-market, big-money owners are more willing to accept a soft salary cap while the small-market owners are adamant about a hard one.

But in actuality, several large-market owners are hawkish on the hard cap, according to sources close to the situation.

The reason for this seeming contradiction is related to the enhanced revenue-sharing system the league will implement. The big-market owners will bear the brunt of the new system and, according to sources, some of them are adamant about having a hard cap so that if they must share revenues, they’ll have more money from which to pull.

“The big markets want to revenue share but not with their current profits,’’ one of the sources said. “Instead, they want to share from the profit they would get from a harder cap.’’

Boston’s Wyc Grousbeck has been widely reported to be a hawk, but it is not clear which of the other big-market owners – some of whom are New York’s James Dolan, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Jerry Buss, Chicago’s Jerry Reinsdorf and Toronto’s Larry Tanenbaum – share his philosophy.

One of the sources added that some large-market owners want to delay revenue-sharing for at least one season.

This illustrates the complexity of the situation, and why the “large-markets-are-doves/small-markets-are-hawks’’ equation doesn’t work. For instance, while it’s long been reported that Phoenix’s Robert Sarver is a hawk, two sources close to the situation insist he’s one of the biggest doves in the ownership ranks.

Commissioner David Stern has said on numerous occasions that the new revenue-sharing plan will be roughly three times greater than the current system, which lends $60 million to struggling teams. He said the owners spent roughly half of Thursday’s Board of Governors meeting in Dallas discussing the issue.

Of course, the owners also discussed the state of their negotiations with the players. While both sides gave negative descriptions of last Tuesday’s meeting in New York, they also agreed that they had nearly found common ground on the economic issue.

While the players did not make an offer, they presented several concepts to the owners in which they agreed to drop their cut of Basketball Related Income from 57 percent to between 52 and 54 percent. The owners’ latest proposal called for the players, who made $2.17 billion last season, to settle for $2.01 billion in each of the next 10 years. The players, however, are insistent that they will not drop below last year’s earnings. But they have offered to freeze their salaries at $2.17 billion for the next two seasons, as long as they keep a soft cap system.

There are three reasons why the owners favor a hard cap, with each owner falling into one of the three camps. Some, such as some big-market owners, want a hard cap because of the increased revenue-sharing plan that’s coming. Some want a hard cap so that they cannot be outspent by their opponents, and others want a hard cap to protect themselves from giving out bad contracts, according to sources.

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