What are our baseline assumptions? Do we take the owners at their word that they're losing money and that the players are overpaid by about $700 million? For their part, they say they've provided certified accounting stattements and tax records to the players -- so there's at least some semblance of an open book. That doesn't make it impossible to hide things, but I'm more inclined to believe statemens that are backed up by data.
So let's go with a premise that the next agreement needs to bring down player costs by about a third. The solution needs to do three things:
1. Get them out of the mess they're in currently.
2. Implement a system where they can't get right back into the same mess.
3. Fix inequities created by differences in market size and owner financial resources.
The answer to the third point is easy -- increased revenue sharing. For their part, the league has said that they're addressing revenue sharing separately but in parallel to the CBA discussions.
The answer to #1 is principally salary rollbacks.
Finally, the answer to #2 is primarily dealing with long-term guaranteed contracts. It's not guys like Kobe Bryant -- earning $25 million but also having an MVP-caliber season -- who are the problem. It's the guys like Eddy Curry, who are raking in eight figures for almost zero production. The Knicks would waive him in a hot second if they can escape paying his salary. And I'm not sure fans should be made to continue subsidizing him with their ticket & jersey purchases while he languishes on the bench.
So here's a "tough love" proposal:
*. A salary rollback. The owners will want 33%, the players 0%, but let's compromise at 20%. The rollback will be progessive, so that minimum-salary guys aren't touched at all, and the max salary guys take the greatest hit -- but the overall reduction is 20%.
* The salary cap is based on net revenues rather than gross revenues. The inclusion/exclusions and the percentage split needs to be figured out, to ensure a correct revenue split.
* Contracts can be guaranteed for two years, plus the "following" year (on January 10). A new contract is guaranteed for two years. The third year becomes guaranteed on Jan 10 of the second year. The fourth year becomes guaranteed on January 10 of the third year, etc.
* All minimum-salary contracts are fully guaranteed. Protect the guys whose entire career might be just a couple seasons.
* Max salaries stay where they are, but they become just that -- the maximum. No more exceeding the maximum via raises.
* Teams retain Bird rights, but sign-and-trade goes away. It's like someone having a credit card that allows them to make purchses they can't afford, and having a heart attack when the credit card bill arrives.
* Contracts are limited to five years. The mid-level exception is limited to three. The bi-annual goes away.
* Non-simultaneous trades go away (and with them, trade exceptions).
* A franchise tag is available, which can only be used on one player at a time, can't be used on the same player more than twice, and when applied, constitutes a one-year contract at the maximum salary.
* A revenue sharing system is devised that equalizes teams based on market size and owner wealth, but rewards well-run and financially successful teams. This system takes the place of the luxury tax, which is eliminated.
* Oh, and finally, sportswriters get 10%. We'll ask for 10% of the gross, but we'll settle for 10% of the net.