Approximately 40 NBA players met with union leaders in Las Vegas Thursday to discuss negotiations with team owners concerning the current lockout.
With owners assembling in Dallas at the same time, both sides reported a grim outlook to their respective parties.
With the two groups firmly digging their heels into the ground, one can only wonder how the lockout will be resolved and, if it isn’t, how it will affect the Toronto Raptors.
“Not sure what’s going to happen in the next few weeks,” said Toronto Raptors centre Andrea Bargnani on his blog at HoopsHype.com. “It’s all going to depend on if there’s training camp.”
The owners are reportedly looking for an adjustment to the league’s financial system, including a hard salary cap, which would benefit non-traditional basketball markets like the Raptors.
As Toronto sports fans will recall from the NHL’s most recent collective bargaining agreement, the idea behind a hard cap, in its simplest terms, is to help teams with less money be competitive with the richer, large-market teams.
According to HoopsHype.com, the Raptors payroll last season was $46.9 million US, just over half of the $91.3 million the Los Angeles Lakers spent on their players.
Imposing a salary cap would certainly help the Raptors close the gap in talent between themselves and the Eastern Conference’s powerhouses like the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls.
The biggest hurdle from the players’ perspective is imposing a hard cap fails to give them the financial security they seek.
“If you move to a hard cap system, it virtually eliminates guaranteed contracts,” said Matt Bonner, former Raptor and vice president of the NBA players association, in a radio interview with Sportsnet radio’s the Fan 590. “That kind of security is obviously important to a professional athlete who puts his body on the line every night.”
With regular training camps generally scheduled to begin during the first week of October, time is quickly disappearing for an agreement to be reached in time for the NBA season to resume regular operations.
Should the players and owners continue to butt heads, the upcoming season, or at least part of it, may be lost. If that’s the case then players may look for paycheques elsewhere.
Raptors Brazilian guard Leandro Barbosa has signed a deal to play for Rio de Janeiro-based Flamengo, landing a deal that would allow him to opt-out and return to the NBA should the lockout be lifted.
Teammate and restricted free-agent guard Sonny Weems has also found a deal with a new team, signing with Zalgiris Kaunas of Lithuania. Weems’s deal does not offer the option to return to the NBA in the event that the season goes ahead as scheduled.
Having six international players on its roster, it wouldn’t be surprising if some of the other Toronto players follow suit and look for work someplace closer to their place of birth.
Rumours have been swirling recently that European teams are pursuing Bargnani, though the former first-overall draft pick hasn’t made any commitments as of yet.
“First we have to see if there’s no NBA season, then we’d have to get past some issues that might arise,” Bargnani blogged on HoopsHype.com. “I have four years left on my contract with the Raptors and I don’t want to take risks.”