In the first move from either side since the NBA lockout began, the owners declared late Tuesday afternoon that they would return $160 million from the NBA's escrow fund to the players.
Under the old NBA collective bargaining agreement, players submitted eight percent of their yearly salaries to the fund, with the premise that it would ensure that the total amount of player revenue would not exceed the agreed upon cap -- 57 percent. Following the end of the season, the escrow fund would be allocated out to the athletes accordingly.
However, the owner's initial pre-lockout proposal detailed a plan to return the entire 2010-2011 fund, totaling $160 million, straight to the pockets of the owners, rather than the players. As you can imagine, the player's union scoffed at the idea of giving away money that was already contractually theirs.
Now the NBA had backed off of those plans, issuing a statement that confirmed they will send out the escrow fund money to the players.
That cash could ease or delay the point at which some players begin to feel financial hardship from the lockout. Based on the "average" NBA salary of $5.7 million, the escrow rebate would be worth $456,000. A minimum-salaried player ($473,604) would be due $37,888 while a $16 million superstar could expect $1.28 million coming back.
While any form of agreement is a significant sign of progress, this development will likely do little to soften the bitter relationship between the two sides. In reality, the NBA's concession will be accorded very little merit, as it was somewhat baseless from the beginning. Still, it is almost guaranteed to David Stern will use this elevated platform to call for a demand of his own, one that will further push the players away from the bargaining table.