NEW YORK: National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts says don’t blame the union or players for the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers dominating the NBA the past few seasons.
Critics have blamed a competitive imbalance, and the superteams era, on the union’s 2015 decision to reject an NBA proposal to limit player salaries from making a record leap when huge new television contracts began.
But Roberts, in a series of e-mails to the New York Times disclosed Monday, says NBA coaches and general managers have only themselves to blame for failing to win titles and notes the union would be irresponsible to help the league artificially hold down salaries with its “smoothing” proposal of having the salary cap jump slowly lifted over time.
“Frankly, I have been amused by the chatter suggesting that smoothing — or more accurately the failure to smooth — has now become some folks’ boogeyman de jure,” Roberts said in an e-mail to the newspaper.
“While we haven’t yet blamed it for the assassination of MLK (Martin Luther King), some are now suggesting that it is responsible for all that is presumably wrong with today’s NBA. Needless to say, I beg to differ.”
NBA television revenue jumped from $930 million to $2.66 billion under deals agreed upon in 2014 so the salary cap for 2016 jumped from $70 million to $94 million, a one-year spike rather than the NBA idea to spread the rise over several years.
In 2016, it led to rich deals for such players as Britain’s Luol Deng, Russian Timofey Mozgov and Frenchman Joakim Noah who have been reduced to reserve roles.
But it also gave the Warriors, coming off a seventh-game loss to LeBron James and Cleveland in the NBA Finals, enough salary cap room to add star forward Kevin Durant while keeping top reserves Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.
“I get that there are folks who believe that some of the contracts executed post the smoothing rejection were too large,” Roberts wrote.
“I vehemently disagree as I am sure do the players that negotiated those contracts.
“However, if that’s the beef folks have, take it up with the GMs that negotiated them. The argument that we gave teams too much money to play with is preposterous.”
The Warriors have won the past two NBA titles, going 8-1 overall in two dominating finals efforts against Cleveland, and seek their fourth in five years next season after adding All-Star free agent centre DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins has averaged 21.5 points and 11 rebounds a game for his career but is recovering from a torn left Achilles tendon last January and is questionable to be ready for the start of the 2018-19 campaign.
Warriors’ run not a union worry
The Los Angeles Lakers, meanwhile, added James in a move to rebuild and assemble enough talent to challenge Golden State in the near future.
That sparked more talk of the NBA being broken, but Roberts told the Times the idea of the union helping the league artificially hold down salaries “offends our core” and called the idea unfair to players, many of whom planned for the spike, including James when he re-signed with Cleveland.
“Just the same way that they shouldn’t be faulted for seeking to meet teams’ expectations, folks should recognize how important we felt it was to meet the reciprocal expectations felt by the players.”
Roberts said the Lakers, Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder will challenge the Warriors for NBA supremacy next season.
“The fact that one of the 30 teams, at this moment in time, is having its own moment doesn’t trouble us or make us question the merits of our system,” Roberts said.