Like most teams in the playoff hunt, the New Orleans Hornets made a move yesterday to try and beef up their roster.
But the Hornets are not like most teams, because they are currently owned by the NBA.
Last night, the Hornets gave shooting guard Marcus Thornton (who makes $762,000 this year) to Sacramento for forward Carl Landy (who makes $3 million.) Because leagues rules require trades to be financially even, New Orleans also gave the Kings a cash payment to balance the trade.
In other words, they increased their own payroll, while simultaneously making a large payout to another team. And it’s all paid for by the other owners.
That’s why Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is so upset. That’s his money being given to two competitors in his own conference. (The Hornets are 8 games behind the Mavericks in the standings.) One of those is a team that league’s other 29 owners had to rescue it from bankruptcy. The other may have to relocate soon.
Meanwhile, Cuban is forced pay luxury taxes on his own payroll.
What this really speaks to is a fundamental disagreement between the haves and have-nots of the NBA. The league’s popularity is on the rise, yet half the teams struggle to pay the bills. There is a fight looming, but it isn’t just between players and owners — it’s between the owners themselves.
NFL owners certainly have disagreements about the best way to distribute revenue, but against the players they are united in purpose. The NFL model isn’t broken (everyone is cleaning up), it’s just unbalanced. (Allegedly.)
The NBA, on the other hand, needs to fundamentally rethink the way it does business. Teams in Cuban’s camp don’t want to keep paying for the Sacramentos and Indianas of the world. Teams like Denver and Utah are tired of watching their best players walk away to richer teams.
In the end, there’s no way they can hammer out a new CBA with until they decide among themselves how the league is going operate in the future. And that’s not happening before Opening Day 2011.
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