Monday, March 2, 2009

Like the economy itself, the NBA is contracting

If only slightly.


So maybe the summer of 2010 doesn't turn out to be one big game of musical chairs after all. Maybe LeBron James stays in Cleveland, Dwyane Wade in Miami, Chris Bosh in Toronto and very few NBA players wind up sending out change-of-address notices.

That's because the summer of 2009 might be the day -- or the offseason -- the music starts to die. Or at least goes into a vegetative state.

While most of the Saturday night fireworks during All-Star Weekend in Phoenix came from the explosive legs of Superman-clearing Nate Robinson, the real buzz came from the Man of Steely Resolve, David Stern. The commissioner, in his midseason address, acknowledged that the salary cap is expected to decrease next season. Estimates have the number dropping from $2- to $3-million or so, from the current $58.6 million, due to the continuing slump in the overall economy.

"Teams know exactly what's happening," Stern said. "They know what their finances are and they also know that the cap is coming down. If you don't have a lot of high-revenue growth over the next couple of years, there may be a slowdown. But teams know the rules and can assess their own situations."

Since the salary cap was born in 1984, there was only one other time -- the summer of 2002 -- when it decreased. Even taking that into account, the cap has increased by an average of roughly $2 million per season. In addition, the luxury tax threshold -- currently at just over $71 million -- will likely fall under $70 million next season.

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