From the mailbag:
I have a simple idea to solve the guaranteed contracts issue and wanted your opinion…
Make each contract guaranteed for the first 2 years and allow each team to dump one player per year that has played for more than 2 years on their contract (in essence the last 3 years are not guaranteed but teams can only dump one guy per year if they so desire). A grossly overpaid player hurts the game, enrages fans, and can hinder a team for years. I’m upset the owners caved on guaranteed contracts because a simple compromise would improve the NBA. Every team has 1 to 2 players that we all know aren’t producing…and if the cap gets a little harder it becomes even more important to dump those players. And guys who are producing will reap the benefits because more money becomes available to them. The owners should keep contracts long, 5 to 6 years (good for teams and fans) but should adopt a hybrid guaranteed system that works long term, IMO. Your thoughts on this?
Ray Bilsey, Belmont, Calif.
Here is the thing with guaranteed contracts: Not every contract is fully guaranteed. Agents and teams write different guarantee language into different contracts. (Rookie contracts for first-round picks have gone from being fully guaranteed for three years to two years). Chauncey Billups, for instance, had only a $3 million guarantee on his contract with the Knicks for the upcoming season, but New York had to decide before June 30 whether to guarantee the entire $14.1 million. In this negotiation, the owners initially wanted to make all contracts non-guaranteed to a certain degree, but they backed off because the union called it a “blood issue” — a term they are now using to describe their opposition to a hard team salary cap. (There is already a hard cap on individual contracts, which is why all of LeBron James’ suitors last summer were offering the same money).
If a hard cap vs. a soft cap is the primary issue holding up an agreement, there is an easy compromise: Keep the current luxury tax structure, but make the tax much more punitive — instead of a dollar for dollar tax, transition it to a $3 tax for every $1 a team exceeds the luxury tax threshold. That keeps the soft cap system in place, provides more money for revenue sharing, and gets the sides one step closer to ending this lockout.