Big trouble for Big 3

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

MIAMI -- The beginning of a trend many basketball purists have taken offence or the beginning of an end if the NBA's new labour landscape features a hard salary cap with very little wiggle room.

It's a topic that has people divided, a subject that can't really be answered, at least completely, until the league and its players' association hash out a new deal prior to the July 1 deadline.

If the NBA gets its way, players' contracts will be shorter, salaries restricted and exceptions all but eliminated.

If the NBA is able to follow the NHL model of a hard salary cap, it seems almost impossible a team such as the Heat can ever be assembled, assuming one of the goals is to fully capitalize on one's earnings.

Remember, when LeBron James landed in South Beach, the Cavs agreed to a sign and trade. Ditto for Chris Bosh, the ex-Raptor, two deals that allowed Miami to sign players such as Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem, two key rotation players, with exceptions.

Looking ahead to next season, whenever next season begins, six players are under contract for Miami, six players whose combined salary is roughly $60 million.

The biggest, naturally, is the Heat's Big 3 of James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade, who will earn a combined $47 million, each guaranteed a 10.5% increase in the ensuing years of their deals.

Naturally, Wade isn't thinking of the future when there's so much that needs to be done in the present, but it broached as the Heat prepared for Thursday night's Game 2 against Dallas in the NBA finals.

"That's nothing I want to focus on mentally at this time of the year," Wade said. "I'll have more comments on that when the season is over."

In the event of a system featuring a hard cap, limitations on Miami's ability to surround its Big 3 will be put in effect.

There's even the possibility of Miami being forced to trade one of its Big 3 if the new system does not allow any kind of exceptions to complement a roster.

A team such as Dallas, with an owner such as Mark Cuban who has always shown a willingness to exceed the tax threshold, will also be affected.

But it has been fashionable for an entire season to look at the Miami model and scorn at how basketball's latest Big 3 was assembled when absolutely no written rule was broken.

If a hard cap takes effect, some are speculating will be phased in over a three-year period, a team with multiple superstars such as Miami may have to shed a contract.

"That's part of the negotiation,'' NBA commissioner David Stern said. "There are all kinds of negotiations that go on in these things between teams that have different roster make ups, between teams and among teams that gross different amounts generally when it comes to revenue sharing, and on the other side, amongst players who have different economic interests and deals.

"This is very complex. It's going to involve a lot of working together with the union, with the full confidence of both the players and the owners that if there's a will, we'll be able to work all those issues out."

Only in time when a new collectively bargained deal gets done will the landscape be properly viewed.

On Wednesday, a bargaining session in Miami was held, one of the rare occasions when multiple parties on each side of the table gathered in one setting.

By all accounts, the mood was good, but the cloud of doom will linger until a new deal is done.

"I'm hopeful, and we know that the pressure's building, and if anything's going to happen, it's got to happen between now and (June) 30," Billy Hunter, executive director of the players' union, told The Associated Press. "And so we're really going to make every effort to see if we can reach a deal."

The fact both sides are talking and exchanging ideals are good signs as is the fact that each side will gather in Dallas when the series shifts to Texas.

In the past, Hunter said he was "99%" certain an interruption would occur, but he described this week's session as productive.

"I think we now know each other, and the question is what kind of compromise the sides are prepared to make," Stern said. "It may not be enough on either side, but we're going to give it a shot."

The future of Miami's Big 3 may hang in the balance.


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