Union chief says NBA in better shape than Adam Silver asserts

Michele Roberts, the National Basketball Players Association executive director, on Thursday said the union's data indicate the NBA is in a healthy financial state but that the union would like a closer look at the league's bookkeeping.

"We agreed not to debate the finer points of negotiation in public and aren't going to change that approach now, in response to some remarks by [commissioner Adam Silver] on Tuesday," Roberts said. "We are, however, going to take him up on his offer to share the audited financials with the union."

After the NBA's Board of Governors met on Tuesday, Silver said that the league's revenue "was much higher than we had ever modeled" but also said that a significant number of NBA teams are losing money because of rising expenses.

The league is set to receive a revenue windfall in the coming year when a new national broadcast deal kicks in. In turn, the salary cap will escalate rapidly and could near $90 million for the 2016-17 season.

The players union, if it chooses to, can opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement in 2017, though Silver said on Tuesday he didn't believe such an outcome was certain.

"You know, I'm not sure if the players' association is going to opt out," Silver said. "Michele [Roberts] made some early remarks suggesting maybe they were leaning that direction, but she hasn't told me that she plans to opt out. And I know that in discussions that she and I have had and I've had with players' association representatives, it's clear the goal on both sides is to avoid any sort of work stoppage whatsoever and maybe even to avoid the opt-out."

The collective bargaining agreement between owners and the union stipulates that players receive a fixed percentage of the NBA's overall revenue. The precise number was a battleground in the last negotiation between owners and players.

If the aggregate salaries committed to players fall short of that amount -- as they currently do -- the owners make up the difference. Silver said the league, despite being flush with revenue, is bracing for such a result.

"There are projections that for next year we could be writing a check moving close to half a billion dollars to the players' association," Silver said. "That's not of course the ideal outcome from our standpoint. It's not something we predicted when we went into this collective bargaining agreement.

In the past year, Roberts has challenged the underlying principle of a salary cap and mocked the suggestion of NBA owners losing money. On Thursday she took aim at Silver's characterization that the NBA owners "largely are paying our players off the gross" under the current collective bargaining agreement.

"Under the CBA, we do not have a gross compensation system," Roberts said. "The players' 50 percent share is calculated net of a substantial amount of expenses and deductions."

Roberts emphasized the union's belief that calculations of basketball-related income, or BRI, which determines the parameters of the NBA's salary cap, often omit proceeds generated from NBA facilities.

"New and renovated arenas around the league have proven to be revenue drivers, profit centers and franchise-valuation boosters," Roberts said. "That has been the case over the past few years in Orlando, Brooklyn and New York, to name a few. In some instances, owners receive arena revenues that are not included in BRI."