The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association expect to finalize terms on a new collective bargaining agreement “just after Thanksgiving” or in “early December,” a source familiar with the negotiations told The Ringer. The source confirmed previously reported details of the new CBA — such as the addition of two-way D-League contracts and more lucrative rookie-scale and veteran-minimum contracts.
Negotiations have gone smoothly largely due to two major factors. First, there were new faces involved in the process: NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts have taken over for David Stern and Billy Hunter, respectively. Silver and Roberts have “a relationship built on mutual respect and trust,” said a source — and that respect has gone a long way. In the past, with Stern and Hunter at the helm, the two sides “wouldn’t even be able to have a conversation about topics because there was so much animosity in the room.” The players’ executive committee has similarly been “engaged,” with leadership from stars like Chris Paul and LeBron James and from role players like James Jones and Anthony Tolliver — players who remember what led to the 2011 lockout, and have joined in on negotiations with a firm understanding of the CBA as a result.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, both sides agreed early on to keep the Basketball Related Income split the same, with 49 percent to 51 percent of the share going to the players. In the past, when factors like working conditions, the schedule, or the D-League were brought up, said a source, “the other side would always say, ‘Well, we can’t talk about that until we figure out the BRI split.’” This time around they were able to address those issues that might have been brushed aside in the past. “They weren’t going to let the revenue derail things,” a source said.
In interviews with two league sources, The Ringer has learned of a few new details in the upcoming CBA. Here are four changes to look out for:
The Preseason Schedule Will Be Shortened
The sources indicated that the NBA preseason schedule will be shortened under the new CBA. Stretches of four games in five nights and back-to-backs were reduced to all-time lows in recent seasons, but steps are being taken to further decrease those instances. “There’s a lot of talk from the player side about doing more to keep players healthy,” a source said. “There are things that can be done to make it so a greater percentage of games played involves the best players at their healthiest, and that’s been a goal for everybody.”
It remains unclear just how much the preseason will be shortened from the current maximum of eight games, but Silver did hint in 2015 that the league would explore reducing the preseason as a means of starting the regular season earlier. Doing so would allow for more flexibility in game scheduling, which could lead to more days in between games.
Expect a More Detailed Domestic-Violence Policy
Multiple NBA players have been suspended for violations of the domestic-violence policy over the past few years, but there’s a lack of consistency with punishment compared to how the league has handled drug abuse and other off-court violations. The current CBA calls for a minimum 10-game suspension for players convicted of a violent felony.
In 2014, Jeff Taylor was suspended 24 games without pay after pleading guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence assault and malicious destruction of hotel property. The NBPA’s Roberts called the sanction “excessive” and “without precedent,” stressing that the NBPA was ready to appeal. Ultimately, Taylor decided not to appeal and accepted his punishment.
The new CBA will likely clarify the disciplinary procedures in dealing with domestic-violence policy violations, according to a source. The terms haven’t been finalized, but the measures will go well beyond a fine and a suspension. “I think as we’ve all seen in those situations that it needs to be more than discipline,” a source told The Ringer. “It needs to be about counseling, support services, intervention, outreach, and providing resources behind the scenes to help.”
Minor Tweaks to the Drug Testing Procedure
Silver told GQ in 2014 that it’s the league’s “strong preference” that players don’t consume marijuana, though the league would “adjust to the times” as far as testing for it. A lot has changed since then: Last week, California and Massachusetts voted to legalize recreational marijuana, meaning there are now seven teams (Nuggets, Trail Blazers, Lakers, Clippers, Warriors, Kings, and Celtics) that play in states where marijuana use will be completely legal. With Florida recently voting to legalize marijuana for medicinal use, there are now a total of 20 teams — including Toronto — that play in places where weed has been legalized in some form.
However, the league’s marijuana policy is not expected to change under the new CBA. At most, there could be tweaks to the drug testing procedure, according to a source, but nothing more. Players want the process to be “tightened” and “more convenient,” so no player is forced to hang around hours after a game waiting to get drug tested.
Marijuana bans have not been prominent in the NBA like they are in the NFL because of the league’s already-lenient standards. In the NBA, a first positive test results in treatment through the league’s marijuana program, a second results in a $25,000 fine and further treatment, and a third calls for a five-game suspension. Subsequent violations call for suspensions of an additional five games (10 for the fourth violation, 15 for the fifth).
Expanded Definition of BRI
It was previously reported that the percentage of Basketball Related Income will stay the same, which a source confirmed: 49–51 percent of BRI will go to the players, with the remaining share going to the owners. The two sides haven’t fought over economics, but there were still some significant matters to work through. The players association hired more outside experts than in past years to comb through every inch of the nearly 400-page CBA and team financial records/audits to find areas that needed to be addressed.
They “went through the couch cushions,” said a source, “and found a number of areas where owners in the past were able to keep some parts of revenue out of BRI.” Nothing nefarious happened, but there were instances, for example, when an owner could sell a luxury suite to a company year-round. Access to the luxury suite covered events like concerts, ice-skating, and wrestling, but also happened to include NBA games.
In the past, the revenue from that luxury suite on nights NBA basketball was being played wasn’t always accounted for in the BRI. That won’t be the case anymore. “The union has effectively argued those things belong in BRI. They’ve expanded the definition,” said the source. “So in addition to the game just growing overall, they’ve increased the pie themselves.”
NBA players received 57 percent of BRI before the 2011 lockout, but with a bigger pie, and changes to the BRI definition, the end result is roughly a $1.7 billion increase for the players, according to a source. Keeping the BRI split the same enabled them to make progress in other areas. Had the players union argued for 52 percent or 53 percent, “they wouldn’t then have gotten the extended definition of BRI,” said a source. “The union probably got their way on 70 to 80 percent of the issues.”
The NBA and NBPA can opt out of the current 10-year deal on December 15, but a new deal is expected to be in place before then. “There’s generally a spirit on both sides that the game is healthier, stronger, and they have a really good thing going,” said a source. “It’d be stupid to blow that up.”