The NBA claims 22 of its 30 teams are in the red. With only eight profitable teams, the league is looking at each team's biggest expenditure, player salaries, as the way turn those 22 teams around.
But NBPA Vice President, and New York Knicks shooting guard Roger Mason Jr., disagrees with that.
JZ: Do you think the NBA's report that 22 teams were in the red accurate?
RM: We're not out here questioning their books, so do we think that 22 teams lost money because of the system? No, we don't feel like the system is the reason that 22 teams lost money.
The follow-up question there should be "what IS the reason 22 teams lost money, then?"
Good thing Wages of Wins has already answered that question.
- Player’s salaries have stayed even with inflation. Essentially this means their pay has not been going up.
- Owners have been increasing their spending. Management’s operating costs (per their own numbers) have been going up at five times the level of inflation (that’s a lot).
- Even in the ideal case for the owners with the new CBA these problems will repeat themselves in 2020.
- The Owners are asking the players to take a pay hit to make up for bad management practices.
That's it in a nutshell. However, this isn't completely on the owners. Yes, they're spending money at a faster rate than they're earning it. But, a lot of what owners spend goes right to the players.
The players aren't on the hook for what they wear before and after games, they actually get food per diem, they have food brought into the locker rooms both before and after games, they are shipped around the country on private jets for road games, and they are given rooms in the choicest hotels at no cost to them. Not a single penny, all covered by the owners. Want to come to your league-mandated charity appearance? A car, hired by the team, will be there at 10:30. Toss in insurance and on-site health care, and you've just covered the tip of the iceberg.
I've never understood the whole "per diem" thing for players. They make plenty. Even the rookies make more than enough to get a decent meal on the road. And not to sound like an old fart, but players did once have to share rooms. These five-star hotels in 41 cities a year for a 15 man roster, full coaching staff, trainers and executives can really add up.
What's the answer there? Do teams start signing up for Priceline? Do players give up certain travel costs and have medical coverage deducted from their checks like the rest of us? I don't know the answer to those questions. I do know owners need to look at their non-salary expenditures as hard as they look at the player salaries.
So Mason has a point that I'm sure has already been made in negotiations. To put the blame squarely on player salaries is misleading. It's certainly a contributor because it's the biggest chunk of a team's spending. But teams are losing money in other ways. And until we all see everyone's books (which we won't), we won't know exactly where all that money is going.
Getty Images photo via Daylife.com