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NBA players’ union head believes new labor deal can be reached without a work stoppage

Michele Roberts, the Executive Director of National Basketball Players Association

Michele Roberts, the Executive Director of National Basketball Players Association

The Washington Post/Getty Images

NBA Players Association executive director Michele Roberts has taken a hard-line stance against virtually anything commissioner Adam Silver has proposed where a new collective bargaining agreement is concerned, and that has many believing that another lockout is inevitable when negotiations ramp up following the 2016-17 season.

But if her most recent remarks are to be believed, that may not be the case.

While there will most certainly be a new deal (because the union will opt out of the current one, as is its right), Roberts believes there is enough money in the league’s new broadcast rights deal to go around, so therefore the talks shouldn’t be so contentious.

From Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe:

While the NBPA quickly rejected the “smoothing” concept suggested by commissioner Adam Silver and owners regarding the expected exponential increase of the salary cap for the 2016-17 season, Roberts said she views the $24.9 billion war chest from the nine-year television deal as a positive, suggesting the league is fully healthy.

“We want a deal. We want a deal that is as fair as we can get. We understand you’ve got to give a little to get a little,” she said. “There’s going to be a deal and my view is let’s get it done. Silver has said the same to me, so I think the good news is we don’t have the backdrop of poverty. There’s all this money. The game is growing in popularity. Everyone should be singing, ‘Hallelujah.’ They’ve got a new commissioner. I’m new. I have no bad blood with Adam because I don’t know him. Nor he with me. Everything in the world suggests we should be able to get through this without a problem. And if that doesn’t happen I would be, and I think Mr. Silver would be, disappointed.”

When asked whether a deal could get done before 2017, Roberts said, “Sure. Wouldn’t it be great for everybody, the players, for the owners, and God knows the fans, if we could say these were the major issues that we knew we had to deal with and we saw no reason to wait until 2017, so we got them done? Not only is there not going to be any opting out, but we’ve agreed to these new terms and an extension of the CBA. Wouldn’t everybody just be delighted? It would be great for the game.”

The “smoothing” concept that Silver proposed was indeed rejected, which was a move that favored the small percentage of the league’s superstars, instead of looking out for the bulk of the league’s players. The reasoning was supposedly based in a feeling that the union shouldn’t be responsible for trying to protect the owners from themselves in terms of over-bidding for players and doling out contracts that were more lucrative than necessary, but it’s going to create a chaos in free agency, the likes of which we’ve never seen.

As for the comment about there being “all this money,” that much is true. And while the days of teams crying poverty are over, thanks both to franchise values skyrocketing as well as the influx of dollars from the new broadcast rights deal, there may be a short-term cash flow issue that Roberts is either unaware of, or is simply choosing to ignore.

From Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

“$24.9 billion ain’t a problem,” --- it is when its not paid the first day you have to start sharing it with players.

The reason the NBA and its owners want to “smooth” the salary cap increases is because not every team has the cash flow for the new amounts

The TV payments don’t come in the day the season opens - they need a year of those checks to get enough bankrolled to meet the new numbers.

More than anything, this just shows that there’s still plenty to sift through before a new labor deal can be reached. These are the softest and most optimistic comments we’ve seen from Roberts yet, but that doesn’t mean a work stoppage is any less likely, at least at this extremely early stage.