Until that happens, owners will need protection from themselves that can’t be collectively bargained.
The NBA handed out bad contracts as if it were the federal government. And the hard-line owners in the recent labor negotiations were among the worst offenders.
Robert Sarver of the Phoenix Suns and Paul Allen of the Portland Trail Blazers were reportedly in the group willing to detonate the entire 2011-12 season in a failed effort to persuade the NBA players’ union to capitulate across the board. Then they made two head-scratching proposals at the outset of free agency.
Sarver is attempting to lure New Orleans Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon with a maximum-salary, four-year contract worth $58 million. Allen offered Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert the same top-of-the-line deal.
Gordon and Hibbert are restricted free agents, so New Orleans and Indiana could retain the players by matching the offers (free agents cannot sign offer sheets until Wednesday). The fact, however, that either is in such a favorable position is ridiculous.
I’m opposed to the concept of “maximum contracts.” Placing an arbitrary cap on an individual’s earning potential is contrary to the free-market principles owners exploited in becoming billionaires.
But since max salaries are part of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, owners should show better judgment in determining who actually deserves them. Gordon and Hibbert shouldn’t be on that list.
Gordon possess a nice long-range shooting touch and is a productive scorer, but he has never played on a playoff team or been selected as an all-star. He’s coming off knee surgery, which limited him to nine games last season.
The hard-working Hibbert developed into a first-time all-star this past season. Since his college days at Georgetown — “To put it bluntly,” former Hoyas assistant Ron Thompson once said, “Roy was awful” — Hibbert’s game has improved as much as LeBron James’s image has over the past few weeks.
Still, Hibbert has career averages of only 11.1 points and 6.4 rebounds. Last season, he established personal-best marks with 12.8 points and 8.8 rebounds and ranked fifth in the league in blocked shots.
Regardless of how Hibbert’s numbers are totaled, though, they don’t add up to $58 million.
Gordon, 23, and Hibbert, 25, are promising young players who could have many strong seasons ahead of them. Teams evaluate free agents on their body of work and make projections about future performance.