If you want to argue over whether or not NBA players are overpaid, look no further than Nene turning down $50 million to remain a Denver Nugget.

"I feel like I just gave birth … to an accountant!"

So said Rodney Dangerfield's Thornton Melon when getting grilled for his final exam by the evil Dr. Philip Barbay in the 1986 classic (and proud member of Andrew's "If it's on TV, you have to watch it" list*) Back to School.

Dangerfield's memorable quote is most apt today having spent my Fourth of July holiday reading article after article about NBA accounting. And despite having taken a number of accounting courses and having done my own bookkeeping for a number of businesses I've been involved in, I can honestly say I have no idea what to believe.

If Thornton Melon were here today, he'd tell you that a good businessman knows how to spin his books one way or the other, depending on who's reviewing them. For example, when applying for a bank loan on a new business start up, you want your perceived profits to look as handsome as possible. Conversely, when fighting with your labor pool on a new employment agreement, it's in your best interest to show as little profit as possible, if not a loss altogether.

So it's not surprising that a collection of 30 elite businessmen – those who can afford the gazillion dollars it costs to own and operate an NBA team – might be guilty of engaging in some fuzzy math.

But whether the owners' accounting is truly substantive or not, by any measure most NBA players are grossly overpaid (you could actually make an argument that the LeBron James's of the NBA, given their contribution to win shares and tickets sold, should make more whereas the Johan Petro's should be making much less … but there are a lot more Petro's than LeBron's in the NBA).

Moreover, the players' exorbitant salaries – combined with the costs incurred by teams to pamper them with private jets, special trainers, dietitians, on-staff masseuses, extra assistant coaches, world class work out facilities, five-star hotels and so on – have made attending an NBA game in person virtually inaccessible to the true basketball fan. At what point can we as fans no longer financially support this out-of-control spending sport? Simply put, as long as players like Nene (accurately described by the Post's Dave Krieger as the third-best player on your average NBA team) are turning down four-year, $50 million contracts, the system needs restructuring. No one is buying a ticket to watch Nene play and Nene isn't the first or even the second reason why any team is winning a championship.

The more I think about Nene turning down the Nuggets‘ offer the more frustrated I get with the state of the NBA. I was admittedly critical of the Nuggets waiting until now to focus their efforts on re-signing their most efficient player (I thought Nene should have been offered an extension a year ago along with Carmelo Anthony), but putting the timing aside, I think Nene and his agent are nuts to be turning down the Nuggets offer. If you consider Nene’s injury history, history of suspect conditioning and marginal (at best) performances in clutch situations, $50 million seems awfully generous to me. If anything, the Nuggets are extending home town pricing/loyalty rather than asking Nene to accept a home town discount.

On the other side of this sure-to-be prolonged lockout, perhaps another team will offer Nene the $14-15 million per year that he's likely asking for. But that's a big "perhaps" considering that the teams that would love to have the big Brazilian now (like Orlando, Miami, Dallas and Atlanta … the usual suspects whenever a big free agent's name is mentioned) can't afford #31 under the current, soft-cap CBA. I wish them luck coming up with $14 million six to nine months from now. And ideally, a new CBA does away with third-best players making north of $13 million a season altogether.

If NBA owners get their way on this new CBA, Nene and his agent might come crawling back to Denver. The question then will be: unless Nene is in impeccable shape, will the Nuggets remain so generous?


*The other movies on the "If it's on TV, you have to watch it" list include (in no particular order)…

Godfather 1 and 2
What About Bob?
Vacation 1 and 3
Spies Like Us
Airplane 1 and 2
Die Hard 
Three Amigos
Shawshank Redemption
Christmas Vacation
The Hudsucker Proxy
Groundhog Day
Dr. Strangelove
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Quick Change
The Big Lebowski
Rocky IV
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad


On to the links…

Calling Foul on N.B.A.'s Claims of Financial Distress – NYTimes.com
Independent estimates of the N.B.A. financial condition reflect a league that has grown at a somewhat tepid rate compared to other sports, and which has an uneven distribution of revenues between teams — but which is fundamentally a healthy and profitable business.

Krieger: Nene not worth the extra cost
Dave Krieger nails the Nene conundrum and outlines why Nene is out of line to be turning down the Nuggets' offer.

Paige: Denver ties best for Nene
Woody Paige predicts that Nene will remain a Denver Nugget for years to come.

NBA labor talks: Is the league really losing money? – ESPN
Are the league's stated losses merely an accounting fiction? Larry Coon investigates.

Exclusive: How An NBA Team Makes Money Disappear [UPDATE WITH CORRECTION]
Deadspin obtained audited financial data for the New Jersey Nets covering the three fiscal years from June 2003 to June 2006. Though the numbers end five years ago, you can still see the roots of the argument that will have NBA owners again locking out their players. You can also see how a team makes money and how it pretends not to be making any money at all.

Nuggets power forward pick Faried creates buzz
Benjamin Hochman gets up close and personal with Nuggets rookie forward Kenneth Faried.

Hard cap could mean hard times for small markets – CBSSports.com
Royce Young writes about why a hard cap may not be the panacea NBA owners are hoping it will be.