“taking demonstrably less hurts the players’ union as a whole”
What hurt the players as a whole was the union’s rejection of Silver’s “cap smoothing” proposal:
Mar 12, 2015 Brian WindhorstESPN Senior Writer Close ESPN.com NBA writer since 2010 Covered Cleveland Cavs for seven…www.espn.com
The Dubs were only able to sign Durant because of the cap spike: under cap smoothing, they would have had to gut the team in order to fit him under the cap. This would have prevented the development of the “superteam.” Instead, a lot of owners paid mega amounts to mediocre players, limiting their ability to get better and allowing the Dubs to steamroll them. Now thanks to Bird rights, KD takes less, keep his team together for another title run, and then gets a max contract next year.
The real story is about how, in the NBA, the best players now have control over where they want to play instead of being treated as (well compensated) chattel.