NBA offers players an NHL-like ‘flex cap’


Globe Staff

NBA owners and players met Tuesday in New York, and owners offered a flexible salary cap as a compromise to avoid a potential lockout July 1.

NEW YORK — The Celtics want to follow the Bruins’ championship pattern next season and may be following the Bruins in a more dramatic way for years to come. The NBA owners offered the league’s players a $62 million “flex cap”, commissioner David Stern revealed Tuesday at the Omni Berkshire Hotel in midtown Manhattan, a plan that deputy commissioner Adam Silver said is similar to the current National Hockey League salary structure.


Owners and players met for four hours today and the league offered more details about their proposal, which would set a $62 million salary limit for all teams that could be exceeded by teams re-signing their own players to contracts (Larry Bird Rule) and mid-level exception contracts. However, this proposal is dramatically different than the current plan that sets a $58.044 million salary cap and levies a dollar-for-dollar luxury tax at teams that exceed $70.3 million, which the Celtics have done the past several seasons.

This plan would set a median for salaries for all 30 teams at $62 million, and if the total aggregrate salaries exceeds that amount, the players would financially be obligated to make up the difference. Under the current system, the players bear no responsibility for teams over the salary cap. Eight percent of players salaries are withheld in case those salaries exceed the the 57 percent of players revenue and is returned to the players if they don’t.

The players did not respond to the owners’ proposal and requested another meeting for Friday in New York. The current collective bargaining agreement expires June 30 and the owners have threatened to lockout the players, similar to the current NFL situation.

“The owners believe that the system modifications that we have requested make a lot of sense to make sure that our teams are both competitive and profitable,” Stern said today. “We have modified our proposal to a ‘flex cap’ where there is a targeted salary but teams can go above it and a minimum below, which is more flexible than our last offer. The (owners) committee met for a long time alone and decided to make what we think is a very significant offer to the players in order to avoid a work stoppage.”
Players Association representatives and NBPA director Billy Hunter reiterated their refusal to accept a hard salary cap, which would limit guaranteed salaries, reduce salaries league-wide and shrink players basketball related income. The question is whether the players view this new proposal as a hard salary cap disguised by semantics, and it appears they do.
“So far there hasn’t been much movement at all,” Players Association President Derek Fisher said. “It’s been characterized in different ways but essentially they want to create a hard salary cap. We just don’t see for the reasons we’ve been given as being necessary. We feel that teams have shown the ability to be creative and pay the guys that they want to play and not pay the guys they don’t want to pay. We feel they should have the opportunity independently and be able to run their businesses they way they see fit.”
When asked if the players would accept any deal with a hard salary cap, Fisher said, “No.”
The NBA Board of Governors has a scheduled meeting next Tuesday in Dallas, which they could vote to institute a lockout.

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