New York (AFP) - The NBA is preparing for a record jump in team salary cap limits ahead of the 2016-17 season after the players union rejected a league plan for gradual increases.
The league announced that the National Basketball Players Association will not agree to artificially lowering the NBA salary cap for several seasons when a nine-year broadcast rights deal worth $24 billion (22.6 billion euros) begins next year.
The NBA's "smoothing" plan would not have changed the 51 percent of revenues going to players under their union deal, but it would have prevented a potential explosion in free agent salaries before the 2016-17 campaign.
A salary cap at about $63 million per team this season will likely rise by approximately $3 million to $5 million a club for next season. But when the clubs receive new rights fee riches, that salary ceiling could soar above $90 million a team -- three times the previous biggest jump in the cap between seasons.
"Smoothing would have avoided a substantial salary cap spike in 2016-17," NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. "Under the league's smoothing approach, the salary shortfall resulting from more gradual cap increases would have been paid directly to the players association for distribution to all players, and thus the total compensation paid to players in any given season would not have been impacted."
Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James, elected a vice president of the players union last month, was anticipating the huge salary jump when he signed only a one-year contract with a player option year with Cleveland last year after returning to the Cavaliers following a four-year stint with Miami that produced two NBA titles.
James could sign a new deal nearing $150 million after next season as the top free agent available in a season where all teams will have new riches to spend on talent.
Kevin Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder star who is a four-time NBA scoring champion and was last season's NBA Most Valuable Player.
NBA teams that position themselves for payrolls well below $90 million in 2016 could be in position to make major free agency moves to boost their fortunes, a group expected to include the now-struggling New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers.
The NBA approach would have taken the extra income and given it to the union to divide equally among all players, spreading more money to rank and file members but acting as a long-term drag on free agent salaries.
Both the union and the league can opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement following the 2016-17 season, setting the stage for another showdown over how to divide record profits. A 2011 dispute trimmed the season from 82 to 66 games and delayed the start of the season from November 1 to December 25.