National Basketball Association free agents, including All-Stars LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, are being advised by their union to take paychecks over 18 months instead of the usual six or 12 as a way of preparing for a possible lockout.
Owners and players can opt out of the existing labor contract after the 2016-17 season.
An 18-month payment schedule would allow a player to continue receiving paychecks through the 2017-18 season, even if games aren’t played because of a work stoppage, according to an e-mail sent to players and agents by acting union Executive Director Ron Klempner, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News.
“As we have learned in the past, the owners have made provisions with the TV networks to continue to receive rights fees throughout a work stoppage, and there is no reason the players should not make every effort to take the same precaution,” the e-mail said.
The e-mail suggests players use the 18-month provision in any multiyear contract, though it highlights the 2016-17 season.
Klempner in a telephone interview said the agents are “very receptive” to the idea.
“Every chance the owners have had they’ve opted out of an agreement,” Klempner said. “We can’t control what they’re going to do. All we’re going to do is prepare ourselves.”
Free agents can begin negotiating with teams today, but can’t sign contracts until July 10.
An e-mail sent to Klutch Sports Group, the company of James’s agent, Rich Paul, wasn’t immediately returned.
The union inserted the 18-month payment rule (36 bi-monthly payments) for the first time in the most recent collective bargaining agreement.
In the last round of contract talks, players in 2011 agreed to accept about 50 percent of what’s called basketball-related income, down from 57 percent. The 10-year agreement was reached after a lockout reduced the regular season to 66 games.
Anthony can re-sign with the New York Knicks for the maximum five years and about $129 million. If he signs with another team, the most he can get is four years and about $96 million. James, a four-time Most Valuable Player, has led the Miami Heat to four consecutive NBA Finals, winning two championships. Teammates Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are also free agents.
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