Players' union executive director: 'NBA's cries of poverty will not work this time'

As a response to NBA commissioner Adam Silver's recent declaration that "roughly a third" of teams are still losing money, Players Association executive director Michele Roberts issued a warning to the league on Thursday: "The NBA's cries of poverty will not work this time."

The NBPA is preparing for an inevitable collective bargaining showdown with the owners in 2017, and Roberts detailed her issues with elements of the commissioner's Board of Governors meeting news conference that centered on an insistence one out of every three franchises is still unprofitable.

"I can say that I was more than surprised," Roberts told Yahoo Sports in an interview. "I am not suggesting that Adam is telling a lie. I am sure that the owners told him that. But it's difficult for me to believe that, especially after looking at the 2011 CBA negotiations and seeing all the money the players don't have now. There's $1.1 billion that the players would've been otherwise entitled.

NBPA executive director Michele Roberts. (AP)
NBPA executive director Michele Roberts. (AP)

"I find it very difficult to appreciate how any owners could suggest they're still losing money. It defies common sense. We know what the franchise values are. I don't have to say '$2 billion' again and again, do I?

"The gate receipts, the media deals. What else do you need to make money? We are not going to reengage in a process where this happens again. The NBA's cries of poverty will not fly this time."

Roberts' reference to $2 billion was the purchase price paid by Steve Ballmer to buy the Los Angeles Clippers.

Another element of Silver's news conference at the recent Board of Governors meeting caused Roberts to pause: Silver's idea of artificially lowering the future salary cap to incrementally raise payroll spending. This is an idea referred upon as "smoothing" the salary-cap rise upon the influx of the NBA's $24 billion media deal.

Silver's idea, he said, is to "make a shortfall-payment directly to the union, and then they would then distribute that money, presumably proportionately to the players."

Roberts cautioned the union was still studying the potential implications for the league and players and hadn't reached a conclusion. Still, she flatly said: "I am suspicious of any proposal where the model is based upon artificial decreases of the compensation that an individual player can negotiate.

"Historically, when salary has gone up for some, it has gone up for all. If you're not a free agent now, you may be one next year when the salary cap remains high. I have significant concerns over this."

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