Posted by Neil Paine on February 8, 2010
Labor issues abound as we head into the week of the NBA's biggest party, with the Commissioner reportedly presenting to the union a proposed CBA that would drastically reduce the players' share of basketball-related income, kill the Larry Bird exception, and severely limit long-term contracts & guaranteed salaries -- including existing deals! Understandably, NBAPA reps are miffed (Adonal Foyle called the proposal "rash", "unfair", and "ludicrous") but one effect of the new NBA financial landscape could be a generation of mercenary players who sign short contracts and hop from city to city, seeking max money and/or rings. Or at least that's how Bill Simmons saw it in his last mailbag:
"Q: Imagine if LeBron started a complete new trend starting in 2010 where he just decided, "Eff it, I'm winning a ring EVERY year" and signed one-year contracts EVERY YEAR for the biggest contender with cap space that could afford him. In true LeBron style, he begins a completely new type of superstar -- the "Superstar Hitman." It's as if we could have the 2010 LeBron sweepstakes EVERY YEAR! Can you imagine?
--Chris S., Brisbane, Australia
SG: Don't laugh -- you might see a modified version of that. One of two things will happen with the NBA's next collective bargaining agreement: Either they'll have a harder cap with no luxury tax (like what happened with hockey), or they'll change it so that no contract can be guaranteed for more than three years. I'd wager on the latter idea because it protects the teams from themselves as well as one deal crippling them -- like Elton Brand with the Sixers right now -- and swings things a little more in their favor. (For instance, you could sign Amare Stoudemire to a six-year-max deal this summer knowing that, if things go wrong for whatever reason, you have an out after three.) But if it goes this way, and I think it will, LeBron would never have to sign more than a three-year deal anyway. So he could play for the Bulls for three years, then the Lakers from 2013 to 2016, then the Knicks from 2016 to 2019, then back to the Cavs to finish things out. The ultimate gun for hire."
Over the next few days, I'm going to create a simulation of this very scenario, where one transcendent, LeBron-esque 26-year-old free agent decides to go for a title every year by hopping onto one of the league's 5 best teams. How many rings would he win? What if he could only do it every 3 years? What if he stayed in his original location? These are all the kinds of crazy scenarios I'll be playing out, Monte Carlo-style, and if you have more bizarre, unintended consequences of a new CBA to ponder, suggest them down in the comments and I'll see what I can do.