Randy Hollis: NBA contracts don't make the owners look wise

Published: Saturday, Oct. 22 2011 6:20 p.m. MDT

The Bulls owe ex-Jazzman Carlos Boozer $60.6 million over the next four years, one of many questionable contracts in the NBA.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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Well, here we are, still waiting to see whether the NBA's owners and players are ever going to resolve their ongoing labor dispute.

They finally seemed to be making some progress early last week after staging a marathon negotiating session, a meeting which lasted all day Monday and stretched all the way into Tuesday morning, giving us all hope that something might soon be settled.

But as the talks drag on, the level of acrimony between the two factions seems to be rising as the owners stubbornly stand firm on their demands and the players realize they're about to start missing those fat paychecks they've growing accustomed to getting. And now, little more than a week away from when the 2011-12 season was originally supposed to start, before Commissioner David Stern started canceling games, you can't help but wonder whether they're going to be able to salvage much of a season at all. And, if so, how much of one will we have?

While recently perusing the Internet looking for information about the NBA's labor talks, I came across an interesting report on the Fox Sports website which listed "The Worst Contract on Every NBA Team."

And, in reading this list, it's no wonder that NBA owners claim that they collectively lost $330 million last season, and that only eight teams managed to turn a profit while all the others lost money — apparently truckloads of it.

Who knows whether the owners' side is taking as much of a financial bath as it claims to be? But one thing appears clear: when it comes to players' contracts, and handing out piles of money to unproven, mediocre, broken down or over-the-hill players, the owners just can't seem to help themselves.

Indeed, they are their own worst enemy, and when you see some of the numbers below, you'll say what I did: No wonder those guys are losing money. This might be why they're insisting that the NBA come up with a hard salary cap — to protect these fools from themselves.

I mean, nobody was holding a gun to any owner's head when they handed out deals like these (with much thanks to Fox Sports for compiling its comprehensive list:

In what Fox Sports calls "the mother of all bad contracts," the Washington Wizards gave guard Gilbert Arenas a six-year, $111 million deal three years ago. Arenas' knee went bad on him (and so did his attitude apparently) however, and the Wizards traded him to Orlando, who still owes him $62.4 million over the next three years. Come on now, nearly $21 million a year for a washed up guard seems a little absurd, doesn't it?

Former Jazzman Carlos Boozer left Utah to sign a fat free-agent deal with the Chicago Bulls, who still owe him $60.6 million over the next four years. Not bad for somebody who tanked it in the playoffs — sound familiar, Jazz fans? — and often was benched late in games in favor of $1-million-a-year "bargain" Taj Gibson.

Another power forward the Jazz were once very interested in is Elton Brand, who signed a five-year $80 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2008. But after tearing his Achilles tendon the year before he signed with the Sixers, who still owe him $35.2 million over the next two years, Brand has become the proverbial shadow of his former self.

A year ago, the Atlanta Hawks handed high-scoring guard Joe Johnson a six-year, $119 million deal, and they owe him $107.3 million over the next five years. Enough said.

Then there's Rashard Lewis, who got a six-year, $110 million deal from the Orlando Magic in 2007. Since being traded to Washington for Arenas, he's still in line to make $45.9 million over the next two years. Yeah, I think we could all get by on that.

Want more? How about backup center Brendan Haywood making nearly $9 million a year for the next four years with the Dallas Mavericks, whose owner, Mark Cuban, probably couldn't care less about salary cap restrictions.

Or Brandon Roy and his bum knee making more than $16 million a year for the next three years with the Portland Trail Blazers? Or what's-he-ever-done-to-deserve-this center Emeka Okafor getting over $40 million over the next three years from the New Orleans Hornets?

Or Baron Davis drawing nearly $15 million a year from the Cleveland Cavaliers? Or Richard Jefferson getting $10 million a year from the Spurs?

Or the Detroit Pistons paying past-his-prime Richard Hamilton $25.3 million over the next two years? Or journeyman Drew Gooden (nine teams in nine years) getting more than $6 million a year from the Milwaukee Bucks? Or role player Travis Outlaw pulling down $7 million a year from the New Jersey Nets?

Indeed, the league is filled with mediocre players like Gooden and Outlaw who make between $6-$8 million a year.

And then there are guys like the New York Knicks' Renaldo Balkman, who's making a paltry $3.4 million over the next two years in a deal he signed with the Denver Nuggets before being dealt away in the Carmelo Anthony trade. Not bad for a guy who's scored a whopping total of 30 points over the past two seasons — which would be a decent one night's worth of work for Carmelo.

With wisdom like that, it's no wonder so many owners are going broke, or that they're so determined to get a new and different deal done.

email: rhollis@desnews.com

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