CBA Negotiations Could Get Ugly

In conversations with front-office executives Tuesday night, I was told some strong stuff regarding the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement. As you probably know, the current CBA will end after the 2010-2011 season.

The gist of what I was told is that the owners will go for the jugular and drop the players’ salaries immensely.

I spoke with one executive about Amare Stoudemire and was told that, the way owners are talking now, Stoudemire wouldn’t even get a five-year contract worth $60 million under the next CBA. That sounded crazy to me, but when I spoke with a team owner an hour later, he made the executive sound tame.

“The owners are really going to chop the money down,’’ the owner said. “I think Stoudemire would get $5 or $6 million [annually] in the next deal. The bottom line is that things are going to change dramatically.’’

Five to six million dollars for a five-time All-Star in his prime? That sounds cruel compared with the players’ current salaries, so cruel that I just don’t believe it. A general manager I spoke with later agreed that that was an extreme.

“That [$5 million for Stoudemire] sounds a little bizarre, but player salaries are definitely going to take a hit,’’ the GM said. “Players that come up for contracts under the new CBA are going to find themselves getting a lot less money.’’

It’s well-known that owners will try to shorten contracts. Currently, players can sign contracts as long as six years. One GM told me the owners are looking to shorten the maximum length of a contract to four or five years. He added that they have actually discussed trying to guarantee only the first two years of a four-year deal, and that the third and fourth years would be guaranteed only if a player reached certain performance-based incentives the previous season.

In other words, it would be closer to the NFL than to today’s NBA.

“Those concepts are being discussed,’’ another GM told me. “Is there a sentiment among some [owners] that they’d like to have it like football? Yeah. But I think that’s out of bounds.’’

Severe drops in salary. Non-guaranteed contracts. Billy Hunter, the Executive Director of the Players Association, will not settle for that without a fight, and the owners know it.

“There’s going to be a lockout,’’ the owner said. “There’s not even a doubt in my mind about that. Billy’s not going to make a deal like that. Teams are already saving up money for a strike.’’

Maybe the players should start saving too.