Age minimum, bigger cap, shorter contracts

Updated: June 21, 2005, 7:56 PM ET
By Chad Ford | ESPN Insider

The NBA and its players' association are close to agreeing on a new collective bargaining agreement that would institute a new 19-year-old age limit, reduce contract lengths and raise the salary cap, sources close to both negotiating committees said Monday night.

The potential agreement would run for six years and would allow the two sides to avoid a July 1 lockout.

The two negotiating committees were scheduled to meet again on Tuesday morning in New York, NBA spokesperson Tim Frank said. Union spokesperson Dan Wasserman declined comment on the story.

A source close to the NBA negotiating committee and a source close to the union's negotiation committee claim that all of the major issues between the sides have been agreed to in principle, and the purpose of Tuesday's meeting is to work out some of the finer points of the agreement that weren't addressed during a lengthy, breakthrough negotiation session Friday. Both sources asserted that none of the issues left on the table are major sticking points.

If those issues can be worked out in a timely fashion, the two sides would be ready to announce a deal.

If a new agreement is reached soon, the players would have the opportunity to ratify it during a summer meeting on June 28. It might take several more weeks for the final agreement to get drafted, possibly delaying the start of the free agent period scheduled to start July 1.

The owners will have won several key concessions from the players, if the current proposal is agreed upon, according to sources on both sides.

• A 19-year-old age limit would be implemented. Players who are not 19 by draft night would be ineligible to declare. Under current rules, American players are eligible for the draft the year their high school class graduates. Foreign players must be 18 by draft night. The new proposed age limit would bar most, but not all (Amare Stoudemire was already 19 when he was drafted), high school players from entering the draft.

• Contract lengths would be reduced by one year. Currently, players can sign a fully guaranteed contract for a maximum of seven years if they re-sign with their current team. Players signing with a new team in free agency can sign a six-year deal. Under the new proposal, maxiumum contract lengths would shorten to five years for players signing with new teams and six years for players re-signing with their current team.

• Raises in contracts would be reduced. Under the current CBA, players are allowed maximum raises of 12.5 percent per year if they re-sign with their current team and 10 percent if they sign with a different team in free agency. Under the new proposal, raises would be reduced to 10 percent if a player re-signs with his current team and 8 percent if they sign with a different team in free agency.

• Teams would pick up an extra option year on rookie contracts. Currently, first-round picks are tied into a league salary scale. When a first-round pick signs a contract, the first three years are guaranteed, with a team option for the fourth year. Players are paid a set amount based on where they were selected in the draft. Under the new proposed rules, first-round picks would get the first two years of their contract guaranteed. The third and fourth years of the contract would be team options.

In return the owners would make the following concessions to the players if the current proposal is ratified:

• Total player salaries would be guaranteed. The proposed agreement guarantees that players receive a minimum of 57 percent of basketball-related income (BRI) in the form of salaries each year.

• The salary cap would increase. The current CBA bases the salary cap on BRI. The cap is set at 48 percent of BRI; last year, that came to $43.87 million. According to sources, the owners would agree to increase that percentage to 51 percent, in effect raising the salary cap. Sources say the cap would, in that case, rise to between $47 million and $50 million next season.

• Escrow would be reduced and distribution of escrow moneys modified. Currently, players must pay 10 percent of their salaries into an escrow account each season. If, at season's end, the total amount of player salaries exceeds 57 percent of the league's total basketball-related income, that money goes to the owners whose teams stay below the luxury-tax threshold (and a few that fall within a certain "cliff threshold"). If it doesn't exceed 57 percent, the players get their money back. Under the proposed agreement, that number would be slowly phased down to 8 percent by the end of the agreement.

There is potentially another significant development in this area. Under current rules, the NBA has sole discretion over the use of the escrow money. Currently, it redistributes the cash (and luxury tax revenues) to teams that are under the luxury tax threshold. In essence, Clippers owner Donald Sterling gets a bonus for being cheap. Under the new proposed agreement, distribution rules would be changed so that luxury tax revenues would now be distributed equally among all 30 teams.

• No super luxury tax. Owners had been pushing for a "super tax" for teams who exceed the salary cap by more than a certain percentage. They would be penalized $2 for every dollar they were over the tax threshold. However, the owners dropped their demand for a super tax under the newest proposal.

Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.

Chad Ford

Senior Writer, NBA Insider

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