The NBA's new television deal has a built-in financial safety net for team owners if they decide to re-open the collective bargaining agreement and impose a lockout next summer.
Prior to next season, even if a lockout or a strike is ongoing, the owners will receive the first installment of the $2.64 billion, four-year television deal with NBC and Turner Sports.If all or part of the 1998-99 season is lost to a work stoppage, the owners won't have to refund the money. Instead, they'd receive reduced payments from NBC and TNT or provide the networks with replacement games in the final three years of the deal.
"That's something we asked for, because of the concern we have over where we're headed. But I don't know how much more you can read into it than that," deputy commissioner Russ Granik said Wednesday.
Union director Billy Hunter said the owners could be building a war chest to prepare for a work stoppage.
"If there is a lockout, they have enough money to see them through next year," Hunter said.
The NBA has the right to re-open the collective bargaining agreement by June 30 if an accounting firm certifies that more than 51.8 percent of basketball-related income is being spent on player salaries.