Franchise Tag - Sort Of

Below is a link to an article explicating a potential aspect of the coming collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and the Players Association (the "CBA").

The salient points are contained in the following quote from the same article.

... a team would be allowed to designate one player for preferential contractual treatment, including more overall money, more guaranteed money and at least one extra year on his contract. A player would have to agree to such a designation. It is designed to work as an incentive to get a player to remain with his team rather than as a roadblock to free agency, the sources said.

Any Nets fan hoping for a shot at acquiring Dwight Howard from the Magic has to be greatly concerned that a new CBA would effectively prevent the team's acquiring his services by way of structural obstacles (i.e., teams are allowed to tie a superstar to a team peremptorily).  The model most of us have in mind is the NFL's franchise tag.  That mechanism allows a team to designate a player as a franchise player and re-sign that player to a contract that at minimum averages the value of the top five contracts at that player's position.  I believe a team is not restricted to doing this only once by the NFL's CBA, so theoretically a player could be franchised his whole career, if a team were so inclined.

The key difference in the NBA's proposed mechanism is the less draconian treatment of the player's contractual right.  The NFL's CBA allows the player no say in being named a franchise player.  The proposed NBA's mechanism would require the consent of the player.  Given the nature of fan support in the NBA and how the league is marketed - players are truly the stars of the league, not teams - and how much more aware of their business clout players have become in the last few years, it seems unlikely that a unilateral desgination option would become a part of the next CBA, especially if the Association significantly trims back the players' salaries.

What this proposal would do, ironically, is hand even more bargaining power to franchise superstars and, in essence, give them a more stable platform from which to argue for input on a team's front office moves.  If LeBron James had wanted to stay in Cleveland and this option were in place, he could have gotten jobs for all of his family and friends - like a cellphone plan - and anyone else he wanted.  LaMelo would have been able to force a trade from the Nuggets to the Knicks..., oh, right.  In essence, this would codify the acknowledged superstars of the league as business partners of their respective teams and make them almost a hybrid of management and labor.

However, I digress.  This post is intended to spark conversation about the chances that this would give the Nets in landing Howard, not essay a discourse on labor relations.  As far as I can tell, it doesn't make the Lakers go away as an option for Howard, nor the Clippers - both of which are more viable than I would like to admit, as a Nets fan.  In fact, this may strengthen Orlando's push to keep Howard in the land of the Magic Kingdom.  As I mentioned before, this proposal would codify the evolving business relationship between superstar and team.  Going forward, Howard, CP3, D-Will and all other free agents-to-be will effectively become co-general managers of a team.  We have seen just that in New Jersey, with B-King's trumpeting his seeking D-Will's input on players.  Instead of having to work through intermediaries and responding to calls for commitment via obtuse tweets, players will be able to openly demand formal sitdowns with management and ask this key question: where is the team headed in the next 3 - 5 years?  What would be different is the now clear line between managment and labor and the pressure to "be a good soldier" and "do as you're told."

Any superstar worth his salt has already found his way around this arcane notion of the athlete/management dynamic, but with this proposal in place, the "veil of impropriety" that surrounds a player's effort to hold management accountable (question authority) will not be quite so stifling and restrictive.  In reality, would James have stayed in Cleveland for more money and more time on his contract than he otherwise could have gotten?  Probably not, I say.  Would LaMelo have stayed in Denver for more money and more time?  Most likely not, I say.  CP3 is another for whom the answer is going to fall in the category of No, is my best guess.

Let's look at Dwight, though.  Ric Bucher, as catalogued by our own Net Income, reported that Howard and "his people" are sitting down and making the decision as to whether or not he will stay in Orlando.  There are always a ton of variables to be considered in any career decision such as this and I will not attempt to list them.  Yet, after all is said and done, Howard's decision should turn on whether he believes Orlando has the proper mix of assets, cap space, draft picks and players to make him an NBA champion.  In other words, can current managment get him to the promised land?  Most of us would agree that it will be a very cool day in the nether regions before this Magic team will be in a position to compete for a championship.  The question to ask Dwight is how long are you willing to wait for this team to get you a championship?  My guess is the answer is not long at all.

In other words, I do not believe Howard will stay and waste his prime years on a team that cannot win a championship, despite the increased financial benefits this proposal would allow.  After all, if you are thinking of getting a divorce, an extra year of matrimony may not be worth the tax breaks that come with filing a joint return.

What say you?

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