NBA players are worried during shutdown, may have to pay owners back

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – FEBRUARY 16: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver congratulates Kawhi Leonard #2 of Team LeBron after being named the Kobe Bryant MVP during the 69th NBA All-Star Game at the United Center. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Players Association, the players union, are trying to hash out a salary reduction for players while games are halted due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

What this means is that NBA owners will be retrieving some advance payments in the very near future for player compensations. Exactly how much money, however, is still up in the air, several sources told CNBC.

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The basketball union discussed the issue during a call on Tuesday with agents, telling them that the deal would likely include refunds on all NBA contracts.

Kevin Durant Blake Griffin
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – MAY 13: Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder is fouled by Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 13, 2014 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Some star NBA ballers— like the Brooklyn Nets Kevin Durant and the Detroit Pistons Blake Griffin, received hefty advances, including $37 million and $34 million, respectively. Still, many other players are paid on six-month cycles – including nine of agent Rich Paul’s clients at Klutch Sports Group— and these players would be responsible for paying back any money that covered the timeframe when the season was shut down due to the pandemic.

Typically, sports agents prefer their clients are paid in 12-month plans to cover the months after the season ends and to keep them from over-spending. Those players will likely manage better than the players who now face paying back advance payments to owners.

The NBA and NBPA are currently negotiating the amount of the salary reduction and timeframe to pay it back. The NBA reportedly is asking for a 50 percent player pay cut to take place on April 15, while the NBPA is requesting a 25 percent cut to take effect in the middle of May, according to Shams Charania’s Twitter page. 

Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder star player and also president of the NBPA, told CNBC  that the players are watching the situation.

“We’re aware,” Paul said. “As long as we have the conversations about it and try to make sure that guys are prepared as possible, I think we’ll be fine.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus leaves NBA season in jeopardy as league officials debate plans to move forward

Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum is not so sure. McCollum, the NBPA vice president, told ESPN that roughly a third of NBA players live paycheck to paycheck and would feel the brunt of this situation acutely. 

“I think a lot of guys are going to be hurting especially people on minimums or people that didn’t just budget correctly and didn’t expect this to happen,” McCollum said in the ESPN interview. “Maybe they loaned money or paid money to family. Maybe they’re taking care of multiple people and now there’s a work stoppage for us and for a lot of people in America.” 

“I would say out of 450 players…150 probably are living paycheck to paycheck,” he claimed.

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