SALT LAKE CITY — I like Charles Barkley. He’s entertaining, generous and provides the occasional comment that goes viral in the world of the NBA.
He did just that during league’s All-Star Weekend, telling reporters that he thought owners will lock out players before they come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement.
Barkley suggested that owners are tired of star players making trade requests with multiple years and nearly nine figures left on their contracts. He also called players soft, pointing to load management, another hot topic that the league and National Basketball Players Association are addressing during the collective bargaining talks.
“I have no doubt in my mind that these guys are going to get locked out,” Barkley said.
Barkley is wrong.
There will not be a lockout.
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On Saturday afternoon at the players’ All-Star hotel in downtown Salt Lake City, the union had a news conference with NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio, president C.J. McCollum of the New Orleans Pelicans and first vice president Grant Williams of the Boston Celtics.
I asked Tremaglio about her optimism that a lockout can be avoided and she said, “First of all, I don’t think a lockout benefits anyone.”
Tremaglio also said it’s a priority to reach a deal by March 30, the date which both sides can opt out of the current CBA that is scheduled to run through 2023-24.
About two hours later, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said, “It’s an absolute priority for us as well to get a deal done as soon as possible.”
Silver added he is hopeful a deal will get done by then. Perhaps it might be a handshake agreement with the major issues resolved and minor issues resolved later.
But the bottom line is this: There is too much at stake. Just a decade ago, the salary cap for reach was $63 million, and Kobe Bryant was highest-paid player at $30.4 million. This season, the salary cap is $123 million, and Steph Curry is the highest-paid player at $48 million. Curry will top $51 million next season, and Damian Lillard will make $63.2 million during 2026-27.
There’s a reason player salaries keep rising. Owners and players split basketball-related income nearly 50-50. BRI continues to increase, which means team revenue is increasing, too.
The value of NBA teams is skyrocketing. New Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Mat Ishbia and his brother, Justin, just purchased 57% of the teams on a $4 billion valuation. One of the Milwaukee Bucks’ main owners, Marc Lasry, is exploring a sale of his portion of the team on a $2.3 billion evaluation after buying on a $550 million valuation in 2014.
No one – not players, not owners, not the league office – wants to interrupt that. And the league plans to address a new TV deal after collective bargaining, another deal that will generate billions for the league and players.
Now, are there issues to resolve? Yes. Load management is an issue that the league and players are addressing in collective bargaining talks, and there have been ideas raised tying some incentives, such as All-NBA eligibility, to games played in a season. They are looking at potential financial incentives, too.
As for star players making trade requests, that is nothing new. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar requested a trade from the Milwaukee Bucks nearly 50 years ago. The league may not like the public way it plays out, but that is a part of modern pro sports.
Plus, in a league with nearly 500 players, there’s only a few who have the agency to request a league-altering trade.
“You want teams to be in a position with smart management where they can rebuild or make smart moves or, frankly, with both teams and players, work themselves out of bad relationships,” Silver said.
Barkley addressed the right topics. But those also are issues that won’t force a lockout.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Charles Barkley is wrong that NBA lockout is inevitable