Wednesday, June 22, 2005

(Not) All Locked Up

NBA's deal hits nothing but net by Gary Peterson for the Contra Costa Times touches on what the the new agreement means for the Warriors.

Not only is it a done deal, it's another laudable deal. Both sides compromised for the greater good. And they did it with a minimum of posturing, caterwauling and wasted days. While the NHL searches in vain for its recipe for ice, while baseball gears up for another bluster-fest (rumor has it Don Fehr TP'd Bud Selig's house last weekend), and while ominous rumblings roll through the NFL, the NBA continued to be the fastest team sport in captivity, labor relations-wise.

And this, dear Warriors fan, is nothing but good for you.

For one, you know more than four months in advance that your team will have the opportunity to encore its promising finish to last season. If that seems a piddling concern, go have a word with dear Sharks fan over yonder.

For two, the new agreement gives the Warriors, as it does every NBA team, an expanded salary cap, an expanded roster (from 12 players to 14), and, as ever, the leeway to go over the cap to re-sign their own free agents. As Manute Bol used to say, "Flexibility is good."

For three, cap-driven trade restrictions have been relaxed (somewhat), meaning it will be easier for the Warriors to swing a trade-deadline deal if they wish to beef up for the stretch drive next season.

For four, with the reduction in maximum contract length from seven years to six, it reduces the odds of the Warriors finding themselves in another Donyell Marshall-esque contractual black hole.

For five, the ongoing rookie salary cap just about makes the ruinous draftee holdout an extinct species.

For the record, the new deal installs a league-wide minimum age limit of 19. Frankly, from here, the wisdom of that move can be argued both ways. Do untested teenagers of untapped potential tend to clutter up an NBA roster more often than not? Yes. Could NBA teams avoid that problem by going Moneyball and drafting more college players? Yes.

At least the new agreement balances the NBA's 19-year-old limit with an 18-year-old limit (down from 20) for its developmental league. It also makes veterans subject to as many as four random tests - for performance-enhancing and recreational drugs - per calendar year. And it includes a number of procedural dotted i's and crossed t's that, dear Warriors fan, will never cause you a moment's concern.

Best of all, it provides further proof that the NBA learned from its 1998 lockout that resulted in a bogus, condensed 50-game 1999 season. Last week's bit o' banter between Stern and Hunter notwithstanding, these negotiations were quick, to the point and offered every indication that both sides understand the futility of bickering like siblings when intelligent give-and-take is an option.

Best of all, it's a six-year agreement, meaning it doesn't come up for renewal until after Jason Richardson's 30th birthday.


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