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Mysteries of the NBA Lockout - Part 1

The longer the lockout goes on, the more I try to understand it all, the more mysterious it gets. At the most basic level, there's the mystery of whether the league is actually losing money. They say yes, but the closest thing we have to a legitimate outside source (Forbes magazine) says no. But there are other, smaller puzzlements along the way as well. In the absence of almost any other news, I've decided to write a series focusing on the lockout mysteries that currently have me scratching my head.

Mystery the first - Why does the league want a hard salary cap when they already have one?

What's that you say? The league doesn't have a hard cap? Well, actually, they do. As long as we're talking about league-wide losses (the NBA doesn't want to focus on the Lakers and the Bulls), it's important to bear in mind that the last CBA established a figure for player salaries at 57% of basketball-related income (BRI). During the season, 8% of player salaries goes into an escrow account, and then money is withheld or supplemented to ensure that the players are paid exactly 57% of BRI. So while David Stern on the behalf of the league wants us all to believe that the players are greedy and are making way too much (an average salary of $6M - absurd!), the simple fact is they are paid EXACTLY what he agreed to pay them the last time the league played hard ball and locked the players out. The owners 'won' that round and got what amounts to a league-level hard cap - and they STILL can't make money.

The fact is, total player salary, far from a spiraling expense that is bankrupting the league, is exactly where it is supposed to be. In fact, this season, for the first time ever, the league had to pay out all of the escrow monies, and then pony up another $26M, in order to reach the agreed to 57% of BRI. Given that this inconvenient truth doesn't fit the NBA's narrative particularly well, the league released the information after business hours on Friday. Wag the dog, Mr. Stern. Tom Ziller has a pitch perfect response to the league's disingenuous and self-serving Friday afternoon press release at

Next mystery - Where did the money go?