When the NBA finally gets underway next week, it will be under a new collective bargaining agreement — the rules that manage player movements, contracts, team finances, and other basketball-related activity. Before we get into details of what moves the Grizzlies might make during the compressed run-up to the season or what might happen on the court, we'll start by taking a look at the new rules and what they mean for the Grizzlies.
In a general sense, the new agreement is comprised of two types of elements — financial system changes and “system” changes the league says are geared toward ensuring better competitive balance between large and small-market teams. Unsurprisingly, the league was firmer on the financial side, securing a significant pay cut from the players while relenting on a host of system issues to secure a final deal. The result is a CBA that should help all teams on the financial side and — provided the promised major enhancements in revenue sharing actually comes through — could significantly stabilize small-market teams. On the system side, the changes are more minor, but shorter, cheaper contracts with bring less overall risk and a bevy of restrictions should have at least some impact on the ability of big-market teams to horde talent.
If you want a good general overview of CBA changes, you couldn't do any better than cap czar Larry Coon, who breaks the major changes down here.
Rather than explore every detail of the new CBA, I'm pulling out eight changes that seem most relevant to the Grizzlies and speculating on how each change could specifically impact the team:
Issue 1: BRI Split: After getting 57% of basketball-related income in the last deal, players will receive 51.15% this season and between 49% and 51% for the rest of this CBA. Because of the reduction this season from 82 games to 66 games, players salaries will be prorated accordingly.
What it Means for the Grizzlies: There are two relevant numbers when it comes to player salaries: Their listed salaries for cap purposes and what teams actually pay them in real dollars, and these numbers aren't always the same. This season, all players will get have their salaries cut by 19.5% off the top because of the reduction in games. Further, the across-the-board cut from the BRI share reduction — a 10% cut this season and 10.5%-14% in following seasons — will mean teams as a whole will be spending less on player salaries relative to their revenues going forward. In real terms, this will put more cash into the Grizzlies coffers. A combination of reduced player expenses, increased revenue sharing (a non-CBA component we're still waiting to get details on, but the league has promised to at least triple the current paltry rev-sharing system), and increased gate receipts (from having a good team and a better season-ticket base) should combine to add, at minimum, an additional eight-figure bonus to the team's bottom line each season. This may well make the Grizzlies profitable and should at least mitigate losses, making the team more stable financially and increasing owner Michael Heisley's willingness to keep payroll high enough to compete. For all the talk of “competitive balance,” the biggest issue for small-market teams like the Grizzlies is financial viability, and the combination of lowered BRI share for players and increased revenue sharing should bring significant help in that area.
A fairly common joke among national NBA writers and fans during the lockout was about which players would get out of shape during the layoff and come back into camp packing extra pounds. Based on his pre-Grizzlies history, Zach Randolph has been one of the most popular suggestions.
Well, time to kill that talk. Here's Randolph at a recent charity game in Houston, looking — wait for it — "in the best shape of his career" and doing stuff you never see him do. Tip dunk? Oop? #Cmonson
Big Griz-specific, collective-bargaining agreement analysis post coming later today. Until then, this should get you amped for the coming season.
If I've learned anything in the years I've been covering the Grizzlies, it's to expect big news or big moments when I'm out of town at some internet-free family zone. Hubie Brown's resignation. Mike Fratello's firing. Marc Iavaroni's hire. Rudy Gay's season-saving, building-rattling game-winner over Lebron James. All occurred when I was trapped at my in-laws' house in Minnesota.
So it was somewhat of a new twist when the lockout ended while I was at my mother's house in south-central Arkansas, where the only internet is dial-up so slow as to be not worth using and my phone had died. (Yes, I forgot the charger.)
As everyone now knows, the process is underway to open the NBA season on Christmas day, with the Grizzlies likely opening — at home or on the road — on December 26th. (Which means — add this to the list — I'll likely be out of town for the home opener. Thanks, NBA!)
The schedule likely won't be released until the agreement has been finalized, but the NBA has released information on the general make-up of the schedule here. The uneven scheduling means not all of the 29 other NBA teams will be making an appearance at FedExForum this season. You can bet Grizzlies ticket reps are waiting anxiously to see if the team will get home dates with the Bulls, Heat, Knicks, and Celtics.
The early read is that the Grizzlies should be well-positioned to handle not so much the shortened season, but the shortened training camps and compressed schedule. There's considerable continuity, both on the court and on the sidelines. The team is young, with all rotation plays save Shane Battier (if he returns) under 30. And everything we know suggests most players have been active and focused during the lockout. As long as Marc Gasol is retained — a near certainty — the Grizzlies are poised to make good on their deep playoff run by pushing even further up the Western Conference standings.
And the new financial and competitive structure will hopefully make it easier to keep this core together and maintain a contending team for the next several seasons.
The new collective bargaining agreement is better for the Grizzlies, as a small-market team, than the previous CBA, curtailing overall player salaries and contract lengths while somewhat reducing mechanisms for big-spending teams to add talent. The revenue-sharing component — which is probably more meaningful to the Grizzlies than anything in the CBA — has yet to be fully revealed.
I'll start getting into detail on how the new agreement could specifically impact the Grizzlies and what to expect in the frenzied ramp-up to the season's start later this week, once I'm off deadline for this week's print edition of the Flyer.
And here are the position-by-position roster breakdowns I did earlier in the fall, table-setters for what's to come:
With attendance hurt by today's mandatory player's union meeting (Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony), illness (Zach Randolph), and reasons unknown (O.J. Mayo, Tony Allen), Rudy Gay's charity exhibition game at the Desoto Civic Center Tuesday night wasn't quite as star-studded as planned. But it was still surreal to see one of the game's two biggest stars, Lebron James, hooping it up in a half-full gym in Mississippi with the likes of Memphis natives and borderline NBA ballers Lester Hudson and Terrico White.
James led his Blue team to a 158-151 win over Gay's White team, scoring 43 points — no box score for this one — on a series of power dunks and three-pointers. Like most games of this kind, it was essentially a collection of fun highlight plays breaking up minute-long stretches of torpor — lots of long threes, little defense, almost no fouls. James' thunder dunk in traffic off his own backboard pass was the second most memorable play of the night. The best came from White, whose legs seem to be springs, when he caught an alley-oop pass in the middle of a mid-air 360 spin and hammered it home. Easily one of the best dunks I've ever seen in any game at any level. White might be the odds-on favorite for next year's D League dunk title.
In addition to James and White, the blue team included Hudson, former Griz point guard Kyle Lowry, former University of Memphis Tiger Tyreke Evans, and long-retired local legend Penny Hardaway, who wasn't moving well compared to his younger teammates but who knocked down several mid-range jumpers to the crowd's delight.
Among the players who have been announced so far [UPDATED]:
Listed as possible:
It's probably not reasonable to expect every player on that list to make the game, but the bulk of them should be there, with others sure to be added. (I'm guessing Griz rookie and Baltimore native Josh Selby ends up in the game, and it sure looks like the game needs a couple more big men.)
There have been a few such games in recent weeks — in Oklahoma City, in Miami — and Rudy Gay announced on his Twitter feed this morning that he's bringing a game to Memphis on November 8th. The game is expected to be played at the DeSoto Civic Center — with the FedExForum unavailable due to the lockout, it's probably the only viable option. The charity recipient is still unknown.
Who will play? Gay promised more details later this afternoon, but we can speculate.
Grizzlies players: I would expect to see Grizzlies players make up a large portion of the players involved. I wouldn't expect Marc Gasol, but pretty much anyone else could be in play. In addition to Gay I would think Tony Allen, Mike Conley, and Zach Randolph would be among the most likely. And draftee Josh Selby, who has been making the summer rounds, would seem to be a good bet.
Stars: Gay played in the Miami game organized by Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, but I wouldn't assume reciprocity — though it would be nice. More likely is Kevin Durant, a longtime friend of Gay's who has been looking for any kind of game he can find during the lockout. Another strong possibility might be Chris Paul, another friend of Gay's who has been active in other exhibitions.
Gay/Memphis connections: Former Grizzlies and Gay friends Kyle Lowry and Hakim Warrick have popped up in recent exhibitions and seem likely participants. And, Marc Gasol aside, the NBA's best Memphis high-school product, Thaddeus Young, is someone who might pop up.
Again, that's all just speculation. Hopefully, Gay will drop some more details about the game in the coming hours. We can also hope that there's an agreement between the player's union and owners in the next week to end the lockout, but even if that happens before November 8th, it will take longer to draft and ratify a new agreement, so I wouldn't expect a break in the lockout to squash this game. And, assuming it happens, if nothing else it will be Memphis' first chance to see Gay in action since his February injury.
Update: The Commercial Appeal is reporting some early player confirmations for the game. In addition to Randolph, Durant, and Lowry, whom I'd mentioned, and O.J. Mayo, the CA says Josh Smith and John Wall are on board.
And Gay has announced on Twitter that game tickets go on sale tomorrow at 10 a.m. on Ticketmaster.com, desotociviccenter.com, or via 1-800-745-3000.