Could Miami's Super Team Be Broken Up After One Year?
Yet Gilbert's inexplicable confidence in making the statement -- and lack of confidence in the Heat's new star-studded core -- may have stemmed from a scenario that has fast become a hot topic among the league's owners: The notion that the Miami Three of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh could be down to the Miami Two after just one season.
It is, in fact, a possibility.
With the league's collective bargaining agreement set to expire after next season, the owners are poised to go the way of the NHL and insist on a hard salary cap in the next deal that could be in the neighborhood of $45 million. If they are successful in that attempt -- likely after a lockout like the one endured by the NHL in 2004-05 -- the Heat and a number of other teams could be forced to release key players if their salaries surpassed the cap.
James, Wade and Bosh are reportedly scheduled to make a combined $43 million on their own next season with 10 percent annual raises thereafter, potentially meaning a nightmare scenario on South Beach. The Heat would hardly be alone in their despair, as the defending champion Lakers have approximately $80 million in committed salaries for the 2011-12 season and are slated to pay a combined $45 million for Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol alone.
The NBA currently has a soft salary cap, which includes numerous exceptions that allow teams to exceed the cap and a luxury tax threshold to deter teams from spending well beyond the cap. It is a system, however, that the owners are convinced no longer works in the current economic climate.
Commissioner David Stern claimed at the All-Star game in February that the owners are projected to lose approximately $400 million this season, with player's association director Billy Hunter later being quoted calling those projections "baloney." Considering the events that have transpired since, it's safe to say Hunter isn't done disputing Stern's position.
The announcement of the 2010-11 salary cap certainly didn't help Stern's argument, as the final figure of $58.044 million (with a $70.307 million luxury tax threshold) was not only higher than the $57.7 million cap figure from last season but approximately $2 million higher than was recently projected and far higher than low-end prediction of $50.3 million given by the league last year. What's more, the flurry of bloated free agent deals being given this month has players and agents alike rolling their eyes at the perceived disconnect between the words and deeds of the owners.
The NHL's negotiating history is worth analyzing, as the owners are clearly using it as a reference point for their position. That revelation is the next step in the process, as sources confirmed to FanHouse that the owners were recently given the Players Association's latest proposal and a miles-apart counter is to come.
In the case of the NHL, teams that lost players because of the new structure were given a week to buy out those contracts at a two-thirds rate. That money did not count against their cap, and those players could not re-sign with their current team. Additionally, all salaries on existing contracts were rolled back 24 percent.
All 30 teams will be represented at an owner's meeting Monday in Las Vegas, where they'll certainly discuss such matters. The meeting has been planned for months, although a counter proposal is not expected to be formalized during the session that is expected to last approximately three hours. It remains unclear which options the owners will consider that could help avoid the doomsday scenario and break-up of the Miami Three, whether it's grandfathering in contracts that were signed before the new CBA or perhaps implementing the hard cap in phases over numerous years to allow teams to make the necessary adjustments.
If not, however, Gilbert's seemingly-senseless prediction could wind up being right after all.
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