By Chris Sheridan
Any day now, Kobe Bryant will receive a check in the mail for $1,984,400, courtesy of the NBA.
Rashard Lewis’ check is for $1,565,817.
Even oversized and overpaid Eddy Curry, whose name has come up in lockout talks as the symbol of what is fundamentally wrong with the NBA’s salary structure, is getting another windfall: $927,746.
The money represents the 8 percent of each player’s salary that was withheld from their paychecks last season under the NBA’s escrow tax system, which was put in place to ensure that the players received no more than 57 percent of basketball related income in the 2010-11 season.
A total of $161 million in escrow funds were withheld last season, and the league office sent a stack of more than 350 checks to the Players Association last week to begin issuing the refunds, SheridanHoops has learned.
In previous seasons, 10 percent of players’ salaries were withheld under the escrow system, and in most years only a portion was returned. But last season, the amount of salaries paid out by the 30 NBA teams came in well below 57 percent, meaning the players will get all of their withheld funds back as soon as they notify the union where they checks should be mailed.
In addition, the league office sent an additional $26 million in funds to the union to satisfy its obligation to pay out 57 percent of BRI. (The union is hanging onto that $26 million until a vote is held to determine how it should be distributed).
That means a total of $187 million is going from the owners’ wallets into the players’ wallets at a time when the owners are counting on the prospect of missed paychecks to help force the union to make additional givebacks in collective bargaining talks, which will resume today in New York after a 5 1-2 hour session Wednesday.
Also, much has been made of the fact that most players will not feel the financial pinch of a lockout until they miss their first scheduled paychecks on Nov. 15, but sources tell SheridanHoops that roughly 25 percent of players with long-term contracts are being paid on a 12-month schedule, meaning millions and millions of more dollars are currently being disbursed by the owners, whose own revenue streams for the upcoming season are imperilled by the prospect of a prolonged work stoppage.
Just a little more food for thought when the assertion is made that the owners hold all the leverage in this dispute because they are holding onto all the money.
That is just simply not the case, as locked-out players are learning this month as those withheld escrow funds are finding their way into players’ mailboxes.
Here are some lockout links from around the Web today:
_ Sam Amick of SI.com: Union director Billy Hunter at risk of a mutiny.
_ Adrian Wojnarowski of YahooSports: Angry agents still pushing for decertification.
_ Howard Beck of the New York Times: Stern and Hunter seemed unusually upbeat.
_ Steve Aschburner of NBA.com: Apparently, no new formal proposals were made.
_ Brian Mahoney of AP: Players to be briefed on progress of NLRB complaint.