With a Dec. 15 mutual opt-out date looming for the NBA and the Players Association under their current collective bargaining agreement, both sides are in serious conversations over key points that will make up the league’s new CBA.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver, NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio and their respective parties have held extensive talks recently in a positive environment that is the result of both sides having success at tweaking and adding new elements to the current CBA throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2020 and 2021, the NBA and NBPA worked together to navigate multiple high-level aspects of the CBA amid unprecedented circumstances that kept the league running. Now, they must carry that momentum forward to sort through new issues together.
Top officials from the NBA and NBPA will hold their next in-person meeting this week, sources told The Athletic, a critical session that will set the stage ahead of the December deadline. Sources said that the NBA has sent new proposals to the NBPA recently.
Before the league’s ruling on Suns owner Robert Sarver led to her calling for his ouster, Tremaglio recently spoke with The Athletic about new issues being considered and where things stand in negotiations. One new, major goal for the NBPA is the idea of building lasting equity for its players beyond their playing days.
The word ‘partnership’ has been a constant theme over the past few years when talking about the relationship between the league and its players. For the Players Association, the belief is that the partnership should create financial staying power for its constituents beyond their playing days in the form of equity.
“Creating generational wealth is critically important in this next chapter of the Union,” Tremaglio told The Athletic. “It’s critical to their legacy. Historically we have been so focused on making money — salary cap, etc. — but we all know that to have money, you’ve got to invest. We also know that the uncertain lifespan (of an NBA career) makes it crucial to plan for what happens after the ball stops bouncing — creating this generational wealth.
“Thinking about the players’ contributions to the game and how they can be compensated for it will mean there will have to be more equity structures in place. It could be the sale of a team. It could be the deals they are entering where they are receiving equity beyond the four or five years that a contract exists. It’s much broader, and I don’t think historically we’ve looked at it. It’s been the here and now.”
To Tremaglio, what she wants for the players is clear. As for the key word ‘equity,’ sources with knowledge of the situation say that the NBPA has brought up the idea of a players-only fund able to be used post-playing career as an opportunity to be part of ownership groups of franchises that are up for sale. Players like LeBron James and Steph Curry have set a high bar of increasing franchise values due to their star power.
“Our players having money when they’re done playing, and setting them up in a way that it happens for them – that’s what equity is,” Tremaglio said.
To do that, Tremaglio thinks it will require setting up an infrastructure alongside the league that does not currently exist. And she feels very positive that it is something both sides can come to an agreement on.
“In a partnership, you look at where are we being treated fair and equitable — where are we creating opportunities that go beyond the game. That is going to be a big focus from a business perspective,” Tremaglio said.
“I remain optimistic that we will resolve all of the issues, and I remain very intentional about what we want to get accomplished.”
The NBA declined to comment on specific reporting for this story.
Here’s a look at some of the key issues the NBA and NBPA are working through as well as what to expect in the new CBA, according to various sources with direct knowledge of the discussions:
New draft eligibility rules
The league and NBPA are expected to agree on moving the age eligibility for the NBA Draft from 19 years old to 18, clearing the way for the return of high school players who want to make the leap to the NBA, per sources with knowledge of the talks.
The NBA set the draft age limit at 19 years old in 2005. Silver said in July that he was “hopeful” for the rule changing in the next CBA cycle, and both sides appear motivated to reduce the age eligibility for the draft.
The reduced age limit for high school-to-NBA jumps would go into effect as early as the 2024 NBA Draft.
New mental health designation on injury report
In what would be an unprecedented and progressive change for American pro sports, the NBA and NBPA are discussing measures to allow players to cite mental health issues as an ailment similar to physical injury, per sources with knowledge of the talks. Similar to when players treat external injuries, this new addition would give players the ability to treat their mental health concerns with the same gravity, allowing for things such as the seeking of second opinions and psychiatrist visits.
Chicago Bulls All-Star DeMar DeRozan and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love have been at the forefront of shedding light on mental health battles and bringing awareness and acceptance to the issues in recent years.
Last season, Brooklyn Nets three-time All-Star Ben Simmons missed the entire campaign partly because of revealing to his then-organization, the Philadelphia 76ers, that he was not mentally able to play. His admission came after requesting a trade in the summer of 2021.
Potential for harsher luxury tax penalties
While the prospect of a hard cap on team salaries appears to be a non-starter for the NBPA, more punitive penalties for the luxury tax system is a point of emphasis for the league and some team governors. Team executives believe the tax penalty will be arguably the biggest issue to resolve in the next CBA.
However, changing the overall structure of the tax could be an aspect both sides address.
An emphasis on player/fan civility
Tremaglio added she and Silver will soon release a joint statement stressing civility among the players, fans, the league, the players union and everyone surrounding them.
Under Tremaglio, the NBPA has a strong desire to share a deeper, holistic view of their players with the world — “(our players are) amazing men who are incredibly generous, are businessmen, who have family, who struggle with work-life balance just like everyone else.”
(Top pic: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)