NBA's targeted cap memo upsets NBPA

Updated: July 9, 2009, 12:46 PM ET
By Chris Broussard | ESPN The Magazine

The National Basketball Players Association strongly disagreed Wednesday with the NBA's decision to issue a memo projecting a salary cap between $50.4 million and $53.6 million for the 2010-11 season.

Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBPA, says the league neglected to share its evidence or reasoning for making such a serious declaration with the players union. It has been common practice for years for the league and the union to share such pertinent information, according to a spokesman for the NBPA.

The projected cap is a drop of $5 million to $8 million that could negatively affect free-agent contracts this summer. Based on a projected 2.5 percent to 5 percent decline in Basketball Related Income, the luxury tax for the 2010-11 season was projected to be between $61.2 million and $65 million in the memo.

Teams were advised to take the projections, which were included in a league memo regarding the salary cap and luxury tax that is sent annually at this time of year, into consideration and to "plan accordingly."

Unlike most years, the league included projections for next season because of the economic recession.

"The NBPA has no basis whatsoever to confirm the projections the NBA has released for the 2010-11 season," Hunter said. "The NBA has not shared these forecasts or the basis for the projections with us. What we do know is that a large portion of next year's Basketball Related Income -- especially national and local broadcasting deals and many sponsorships -- is already committed and locked in with increases for next year."

Said Tim Frank, the NBA's vice president of basketball communications: "The memo speaks for itself and it was issued to give our teams our best, good-faith projections."

Hunter said the league has been wrong about projections before, including this upcoming season, when the cap dropped a mere $1 million from $58.7 million to $57.7 million.

"On various occasions the NBA has publicly speculated on revenue projections for the 2008-09 season that have since been proven inaccurate," Hunter said. "The salary cap and luxury tax projections for 2009-10 based on these revenue projections have thus likewise been proven inaccurate."

The memo was sent to NBA teams at about 10:15 p.m. ET Tuesday, approximately two hours before teams were allowed to sign free agents.

Hunter found the timing of the release, which could lead teams to offer less money to players, at best puzzling, and at worst malicious.

"A memo of this nature can have a chilling effect on the market for free-agent and rookie signings," Hunter said. "If it later turns out that the league did not have a good faith basis for making these projections, the NBPA will pursue all available legal remedies, including a treble damages claim for collusion."

Chris Broussard covers the NBA for ESPN The Magazine.

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