Injuries, Zika and the potential for a big pay day are keeping the best NBA players out of the Summer Olympic Games in Brazil.
It is almost impossible to fathom the amount of money NBA teams will have at their disposal to pay players in the next two years.
Thanks to new broadcast contracts, the NBA salary cap per team will jump from $70 million for the 2015-16 season to around $89 million for 2016-17, and then again to $108 million for the 2017-18 season. Teams can carry 15 players on their roster (though most do not), and 15 players divided into $108 million is $7.2 million per player.
Of course, the best players will receive the bulk of that, and currently the top salary for a palyer joining a new team is around $23 million. Players resigning with their current team can get more.
This summer alone, the Los Angeles Lakers have more than $62 million in salary cap space to spend on players.
And NBA teams have to spend at least 90 percent of the cap according to the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players association.
These facts come to you as the USA Basketball program tries to come up with a roster for the Summer Olympic Games in Brazil at the end of July. The team is mostly made up of professionals (an occasional college player gets in), but some of the best NBA players have dropped out of consideration this time.
Most of those players cite injuries from the past NBA season. Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin, John Wall, LaMarcus Aldridge and Chris Paul are among those players who have begged out of consideration because they are beat up and want to be somewhat healthy when the next NBA season begins.
But Russell Westbrook and James Harden have both asked not to be considered without giving a reason for that decision. LeBron James has yet to make it clear what he plans to do.
Westbrook, Harden and James are both due big pay days as contracts run out in the immediate or near future. They are the best players in the league and are in line to make more money than seems even possible for playing basketball. It is not hard to imagine that players not going to the Olympics have that big pay day in mind.
In fairness, some players, and athletes in all sports, have expressed concern over the potential of contracting the Zika virus while in South America.
All of that makes Kevin Durant’s decision all the more remarkable. Durant, who will be an unrestricted free agent July 1, is going to play in the Olympics. He could do so with a contract from a new team, or a new contract from his current team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. One would hope that contract will be signed before he heads off to Brazil.
Durant is one of the top five players in the NBA. He is relatively young, and could play out this next contract with one more on the way. But he has decided to accept the call of his country and play basketball representing the United States.
There are others besides the United States who will suffer from a reduced talent pool in basketball. The corporate sponsors who provide players with shoe contracts are all anticipating a jump in sales when their players wear their respective garb at the Olympics. NBC, which ponied up billions to broadcast the games this year and for several more going forward, will be hurt if the best USA Basketball team does not play.
The best possible USA basketball team will not play.
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.