Archive for June 23rd, 2011


Why the Miami Heat are a Classic case of Collusion

(the following story is lifted from an article that I wrote for the This story generated so much traffic and hate that the Examiner took it down without my permission. There was one minor factual error from the original deleted in this version. But otherwise this version is exactly intact. Bear in mind I wrote this over a month ago, before the NBA Finals even started. Enjoy

 If it doesn’t matter locally, it doesn’t matter, as far as I’m concerned. But sometimes a story transcends local, and or national headlines and deserves more extensive coverage. The up-coming NBA Finals between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat are just such a story. To be fair Dallas and Miami, the two teams that met in the NBA Finals five years ago have no guarantee of getting back there this year. It is entirely possible that OKC, or the Grizzlies beat Dallas in the West, and that Chicago, the top seed in the playoffs beats Miami. But the overwhelming odds and the eyeball test point to these two teams meeting in the Finals. If the Miami Heat get to the Finals, they will bring with them a unique set of superstars headed by the indestructible Dwayne Wade, the best overall player in basketball, Lebron James, and the highly unique forward Chris Bosh, once a perrenial All-Star in Toronto.

But three years ago Miami was not just an average team, they were one of the worst teams in basketball, in fact, statisically the worst team in the NBA, earning the second pick in the 2009 NBA draft. So how did the Heat get so good so quickly? In my opinion the Heat’s turnaround was a classic case of collusion, a point I intend to emphasize in this article. To begin with, what is collusion? In the dictionary Collusion is defined as “a secret agreement or cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose.” But to be more exact collusion usually involves the manipulations of markets through two or more companies secret agreements. For example a few years ago Mrs. Bairds Bread and Wonder-Bread got together to set price controls on loaves of bread, artificially driving up prices. When consumers are deprived of a fair and even balance in available goods, this is collusion in a classic sense. Make no mistake, collusion is not just unethical, it is highly illegal and regulated fiercely by the FTC, amongst other trade unions. What the Heat did last year, in acquiring LeBron James and Chris Bosh is definatively collusion.

In the NBA teams have what is called a “soft cap” on players salaries. The “cap” is aproximately 80 million dollars (give or take) and means that no team can sign a player beyond what is available in their cap. In theory this means if a team wants to sign a player that costs 15 million a year that team needs to have 15 million available on their roster (give or take), so if the cap was 80 million, the teams salary would have to be 65 million. You see how that works? But hold on a minute. The NBA has what is called a “soft cap” which means that teams can go over the cap limit so long as they follow certain rules. One of them is that all trades have to be within 20% of players salaries, meaning if you trade Dirk ( assuming your the Mavs and you want to) and he makes 15 million a season, a player you trade him for should make aproximately 12 to 17 million. If that player is on the high side, you could go over the cap. More commonly though teams go over the cap when signing their own players. After five years with one team, players have what is called “Larry Bird rights” in honor of the former Celtic Larry Bird, which means those players can sign with their own team no matter what, and for any cost. The rule is designed to keep players in the same city they started out in. So even if you are right at 80 million, the Cavaliers could still pay LeBron 20, 25, even 30 million a year with no penalty to their cap. This is why players typically stay where they are in the NBA. So, getting back to collusion. In order for a team to sign a big-time player to a non-exclusive contract (one where he didn’t start with the team) a team would have to purposefully have significant cap space available. For example if you knew LeBron would cost you 15 million a year and you are not the Cavs, you would have to purposefully pay 15 million under your cap space hoping that LeBron would sign with you, and not somebody else. But, lets be honest, how many teams are willing to do that? Most teams not only operate at the salary cap level, they are way above it. In fact many teams are looking to dump long-term contracts every year, so the odds of any NBA team having more than ten million in cap space available are very slim. And yet, somehow, the Miami Heat not only had the cap space to sign LeBron, but also Chris Bosh, two salaries that total close to 25 million a year. If you are wondering how many other teams had that much cap space available last year, the answer is just three. 

The truth is that about three years ago, the Miami Heat (at then, the worst team in the NBA) began dumping cap space in record volume. They dropped Shawn Marion, Shaquille O’Neal, and restructured Dwayne Wade’s long-term contract amongst other deals, all of which got them 25 million under the salary cap. As it worked out, this was perfect for them, because two of the best players available in free agency (Lebron and Chris Bosh) were able to team up with them during the 2010/11 season and set them on a course prepared for a championship. A great story to be sure, so what’s the problem? The problem is that in my opinion the Heat didn’t luck into theit good fortune, rather it was planned out right from the start. Some may not remember this, but LeBron, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh all played on the same Olympic team that won the Gold medal for the U.S. in 2008, and by all intentions the three men have been friends in the off-season for many years. It is illlegal in the NBA for a coach or a G.M. to contact a player until the trade deadline is near, but players are exempt from this rule. Would it be improbable that Heat guard Dwayne Wade had a conversation with Heat G.M. Pat Riley about the aquisition of certain stars over the years? Not hardly, by all acounts Riley and Wade are good friends, and if Riley made it known to Wade that the organization was interested in Lebron and Chris Bosh, it would be very easy for Wade to have passed this onto his future team-mates. The truth is we do not know what happened, but we are left with one of two possibilties. One: D-Wade conspired with Pat Riley (and/or Heat management) to acquire James and Bosh, or two the Heat just happened to have the right amount of cap space available to sign two of the three biggest free agents at that time ( Joe Johnson, also rumored to go to Miami, stuck with Atlanta). I hate to be a realist, but let’s get real here! All signs point to a secret agreement between James, Bosh, and Wade for the three to opt out of their contracts and re-sign in Miami. Remember that players are after the most money so they would not have left their home teams if they weren’t sure a good deal was in place somewhere else. If in deed this did happed, as I think it did, this is collusion for several reasons. Number one, it circumvented other owners from making proposals that would have acquired these free agents. Number two: It deprived LeBron and Bosh of seeing the full market value for themselves ( there are rumors LeBron would have scored big in New York, and Bosh was heavily coveted in Dallas) but most importantly it deprived fans of seeing an equitable balance in the NBA. The NBA is not like the NFL or any other sport. In the NBA one player can make a huge difference. Just as it would have been unfair to put Michael Jordan and Hakeem Alijuwon together, or Magic Johnson and Larry Bird together, it is unfair to put D-Wade and LeBron together. Fans will never see them for their uniqueness, and teams that would have had one of them are deprived at either. The NBA has set up rules designed to make the league fair in its distribution of superstars. One team controlling two or more superstars is unfair to the rest of the league. I think it is telling that LeBron and Wade said their move was designed to beat Boston, after they aquired their own big-3 (Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett). This means LeBron and Wade were thinking about this back in 08, the year the Celtics came together. The NBA doesn’t want players creating their own super teams, but guess what, it has happened? Is anyone going to do anything about it? I highly doubt it. But don’t think for a moment this isn’t collusion, or that it itsn’t illegal. The sooner everyone realizes this, the sooner a wrong can be wrighted. Sincerely, Jack B. (P.S., the Mavs will play the winner of OKC, and Memphis on Tueaday, and the Bulls will play the Heat on Sunday or Monday. The Mavs and Heat should play in the Finals sometime in late May. ……. Continue reading on Why the Miami Heat are a classic case of Collusion (from a Dallas P.OV.) – Houston Nonpartisan |