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Report: NBA players who choose not to play will lose higher share of salary than suspended players

Nets star Kyrie Irving and Lakers center Dwight Howard

Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving (11) shoots over Los Angeles Lakers’ Dwight Howard (39) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)


The public messaging on players who choose not to play in the NBA’s resumption at Disney World: They won’t face discipline.

But they won’t get paid, which is no small matter.

Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski:

they will lose payment on games missed -- 1/92nd of the money owed them, sources said.

I wonder whether that’s actually 1/92.6th, which is the amount salaries are reduced for each game canceled through force majeure.

Either way, it’s a higher proportion of salary than players lose when suspended.

Here’s the share of salaries players lose per game when:

  • Suspended for fewer than 20 games: 0.7% (1/145th)
  • Suspended for 20 games or more: 0.9% (1/110th)
  • Choosing not to play at Disney World: 1.1%

That seems unfair – especially when players on the eight done teams will receive the same percentage of their salaries as reporting players on the continuing 22 teams.*

*Almost certainly, no players will get their full slated salaries with league-wide revenue way down.

Players have expressed a variety of concerns about continuing play – safety amid the coronavirus pandemic, standard of living in a closed campus, advancing the Black Lives Matter movement. For someone to choose not to play would be a heavy decision. It feels crass to treat him more harshly financially than a suspended player.

There’s not necessarily an easy way to handle this unprecedented situation. Nobody signed up to play games under these circumstances. It’s also tough to make a case that owners should pay players who choose not to play.

In practical terms, players who choose to sit out would lose 9%-41% of their salaries, based on this reporting. The continuing 22 teams will each play eight seeding games plus potentially one or two play-in games and up to 28 games through the playoffs.

For the three players most commonly linked to sitting out, here would be their lost wages:

  • Kyrie Irving (Nets): $2,760,174 – $9,660,609
  • Dwight Howard (Lakers): $223,022 – $780,577
  • CJ McCollum (Trail Blazers): $2,396,257 – $8,985,965

Obviously, it’s highly unlikely any team reaches a Game 7 in every round, especially a team that participates in a play-in. So, the high end of these ranges are mostly theoretical.

But if enough players sit out to force the NBA to cancel the rest of the season, lost 2019-20 salaries would be just the start of financial ramifications for players. Owners would almost certainly terminate the Collective Bargaining Agreement, leaving players locked out and negotiating at a time NBA games are less valuable.

Back to this season… Irving almost certainly won’t have his salary docked. He underwent season-ending surgery. His injury excuses him – with pay.

Really, I wonder whether any players – whatever their main reason(s) for not returning – will actually have their salaries reduced for not playing. NBA players put their bodies through incredible physical tolls. Some could undergo surgery for a lingering issue that doesn’t necessarily need to be addressed immediately but would make them legitimately unavailable. There’s a playbook for this.

But it’s a shame players would have to resort to that type of subterfuge just to get treated better than a suspended player.