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NBA players see new TV deal and say owners better not plead poverty now

LeBron James

LeBron James


“There’s never been a better time to be an owner of an NBA team.”

Ya think?

That statement is from Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, something he said on the stage as the NBA announced a new nine-year television package that will pay the league north of $25 billion. Starting with the 2016-17 season each NBA team should receive double the national television revenue they will get for this season — from $35 to $70 million. Enough that, even after a 50/50 split with the players, it would cover the losses of all but one team reporting to have lost money last season (the Brooklyn Nets paid dearly for their spending spree).

Combine that with NBA franchise values skyrocketing — everyone noticed the Clippers sold for $2 billion — and there are a lot of NBA players looking ahead to the next round of collective bargaining and thinking they want something back.

Back in 2011 the owners said the system was flawed, that the 57 percent of league revenue that went to the players was too high, and they couldn’t make money. LeBron James summed up the feelings of a lot people, as reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

Danny Granger said this in Miami:

Thing is, you know some owner will say they still can’t make money, that the system is unfair.

The NBA players feel they gave up too much in the last CBA — seven percentage points of revenue, plus the length of contracts shrunk. A new, heavy tax system was put in to discourage the building of super teams and to flatten out the talent pool (of course, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert was one of the hardliners on that, and the first chance he got he went out and formed his own super team).

The players want some givebacks from owners. If not percentage points of revenue (the owners are not going to surrender that) they will want some things.

“Our job will be to ensure that the players receive their fair share... and that we do everything possible to maintain the growth and popularity of the game,” National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said in a statement, explaining the line the union wants to walk.

If you think the owners will be in a mood to compromise and not go after a hard cap… how many rich people do you know who say “I’ve made enough, I should make sure my workers get more, too?” That’s not how these people got to be billionaires. Some will want to go for the jugular.

It would be nice to think that since everyone is making money both sides will want to find a fair deal in 2017 when the CBA is opened up again. But the players are already pointing to a harder line than they did back in 2011.