Price heads to Dallas for NBA labor talks

Published February 14, 2010 12:28 am
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As Deron Williams prepares to step onto basketball's biggest stage for the first time at Sunday's All-Star Game, another Jazz point guard will be heading to Dallas on a trip that is all business.

Ronnie Price will be the Jazz's player representative at a Saturday meeting of the NBA Players Association. The foremost topic to be discussed will be a response to the league's proposed overhaul of the collective bargaining agreement.

NBA commissioner David Stern delivered an initial proposal to the union in advance of All-Star weekend that would dramatically reduce contract lengths and values as well as the share of revenue guaranteed to players, according to reports.

The current CBA will expire after the 2010-11 season and predictions of a lockout are widely heard. Price was looking forward to hearing more specifics about the proposal and the reaction from Players Association executive director Billy Hunter.

"You never know because there's two sides that are going to fight extremely hard for what they want," Price said. "Of course, there's going to have to be a middle as far as what we agree on and what the NBA agrees on and everybody else agrees on.

"The biggest thing is that no one wants the game to be hurt because of this. I'm pretty sure we're going to work everything out."

"I'm pretty sure there's going to be an agreement because of the fact that the fans want to see us play, we want to play, and the owners and Stern want to see us play. It's something that will be worked out. There may be some changes, but so be it."

Lakers guard Derek Fisher, the Players Association president, declined to comment Wednesday until after the meetings in Dallas.

"This weekend, obviously, the focus is on the game and our All-Stars, as it should be," Fisher said. "But the business part of the discussions are really important and we're looking forward to it."

With franchise values declining and many teams projecting to lose money this season, owners are pushing for what would be comprehensive changes to the CBA, which presently uses a luxury-tax system to discourage teams from excessive spending.

According to reports, the league's proposal effectively would set the stage for a hard salary cap. The maximum length of contracts would be shortened to five years for players re-signing with their current teams and four years otherwise.

Even then, only half of any contract would be fully guaranteed, ESPN.com reported. The value of maximum contracts would be less than $50 million for players coming off rookie-scale deals and less than $60 million for veterans.

That would significantly reduce the amount the league's biggest stars -- from LeBron James and Kobe Bryant to Williams -- would stand to earn. ESPN.com also reported any preexisting contract would have to conform to the terms of the new CBA.

The mid-level exception, which offers a way for teams over the salary cap to sign free agents, also would be abolished. Such was the means by which Ron Artest, Trevor Ariza, Rasheed Wallace and Drew Gooden all signed with new teams last summer.

"We still have the rest of this year and all next season before we even come to any type of an agreement," Price said, "and something that needs to be enforced then doesn't need to be enforced now."

"We can work on that and kind of get an estimate of what things are being talked about right now so then when that time comes, it can be an easy process. But as far as it being something that we need to worry about right now, I don't think it is a big problem right now."

The Jazz would like to see a leveling of the playing field for big- and small-market teams, though that does not have to come through revenue sharing. One of their biggest objections is to mid-level exception signings made by luxury-tax paying teams.

Under the current CBA, players receive a 57-percent share of the league's revenues, otherwise known as Basketball Related Income. The new proposal would drive down that share to less than 50 percent and possibly as low as 45 percent, according to reports

Price described such numbers as changing almost by the week. He has been a player rep since his rookie season in Sacramento, when he shared responsibilities with Corliss Williamson, and continued in the role along with Jarron Collins after coming to the Jazz.

"You want to know all the details in what's going on with your job," Price said. "Being a player rep is something that I take a little pride in. The information that's going on, everything that's goes on with my occupation, of course I'm going to have some interest in it."

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Staff writer Steve Luhm contributed to this report

New model

The proposal made by the league to the Players Association would drastically change the collective bargaining agreement:

Old New

Maximum contract length6 years, 5 years5 years, 4 years
Revenue sharing for players57%50% or less
Mid-level exceptionYesNo
Payroll regulationsLuxury-tax systemHard salary cap

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