by Jason Comack
Howard Beck of the New York Times, who has been covering the lockout wire to wire, tweeted a picture of a sign for a fall out shelter, “no caption necessary” he said.
The NBA's doomsday scenario is just around the corner and a Wednesday deadline for the players to accept the owners offer will likely determine if there will be an NBA season this year.
How did we get to such a dire point? Does it make any financial sense for either side to miss an entire season worth of revenue?
Unfortunately there are more questions then answers at this point. There are some certainties however.
1) If the players considered the decertification option at the beginning of the lockout why did they not decertify?
Compare the NFLPA to the NBAPA. The NFLPA got the votes to decertify as a union from every team before the season even started. They went into lockout negotiations knowing that if they went poorly they could use decertification as leverage. The NFLPA ended up decertifying re-branded as a trade association. They won some landmark cases (importantly that decertification was not a sham) and they lost some. Decertification gave the players a trump card that said “I’m willing to fight this out in court and challenge your [the NFL] anti-trust exemption.” The fight in court never reached a conclusion because the sides reached an agreement and the case was dismissed.
Now look how the NBAPA handled things. According to players, as Deron Williams tweeted, they've been ready to decertify since July! Had they decertified in July they could have been battling this out in court while negotiations were ongoing. They could have used the anti-trust exemption threat just like the NFLPA did. Instead by waiting to decertify now it means fighting it out in courts, essentially guaranteeing the loss of the season. If the season is going to be lost the owners have little reason to return to the negotiating table.
2) Are the owners divided?
While reporters have kept harping on an internal divide amongst union members the real divide is amongst it's owners. James Dolan, Mark Cuban, Micky Arison and Jerry Buss all want to play basketball. They all have championship caliber teams, all of their franchises are profitable and under the current model they feast on small and mid-market teams. After all Micky Arison was fined $500,000 dollars for a tweet that insinuated he's not the owner you should be blaming for the lockout. There's also been reports that Mark Cuban has suggested eliminating the salary cap altogether (something other big market owners would sign off on) and creating a system similar to baseball.
Meanwhile owners like Paul Allen, who despite being the 23rd richest man in America, are desperate to hit the reset button on a system they think is broken. These owners like Allen, Michael Jordan, the Maloff brothers and the Atlanta Hawks ownership group have their own personal motivation. They bought their teams at an inflated price and are rapidly losing money. In the case of Allen he is reportedly looking to sell his team as fast as possible. A CBA that's one sided towards the owners would help him do just that. Michael Jordan, who is the majority owner, of the Bobcats is losing money like crazy. In fact his minority partners are looking to sell there stake of the team. The Maloof brothers are Stern lackeys. They are broke and Stern is the only thing keeping them afloat right now.
The NBA needs 16 owner votes to ratify a deal. Ironically one of those 16 votes will be made by the NBA since they currently own the New Orleans Hornets. The key to this lockout are the swing vote owners. They owners you haven't heard talking much and don't know where they stand. This includes teams like the Magic, Wizards, Celtics, Bulls and so on.
3) Are the players divided?
Much like the owners the players have different agendas. Stars like Bryant and Garnett are financially motivated by different things then guys like Landry Fields and Andy Rautins. In Bryant's case his current contract runs through 2014. It's unlikely he'd even ever sign another big money contract under the new CBA. Meanwhile without the mid-level exception guys like Landry Fields are destined to be under paid (especially if the new CBA contains a harder cap.) Then you have players like Williams, Paul, Howard who are the big free agent class of next year. Whatever the restrictions of the CBA may be (shorter contracts, elimination of the sign and trade, lowering the max deal) might directly affect them more than other member of the players union.
This is how we get to a doomsday scenario. Whether it be due to; stubbornness, poor information, poor leadership or agents meddling the NBA players association has botched negotiations.
The players have yet to realize that they have very little leverage during this negotiation. They haven't decertified, they haven't taken advantage of dividing the owners against themselves. They have yet to present a creative offer to the owners.
What if the players presented this offer. A 50/50 BRI split (which is where we are heading anyway) but winning system issues for the players. What if they tired to win system issues that would not only benefit the players but also the wealthy owners.
Allowing sign and trades, allowing the mid-level exception, proposing a higher luxury tax and so on. The union acts like a higher luxury tax is a deathblow to the players but the truth is we've seen owners willing to pay the tax if they have a chance to compete for a title.
That's an offer Stern could take to his owners and have a shot of passing. The charge would be lead by Cuban, Airson, Dolan to get the necessary other 12 votes (assuming the Hornets would vote yes.)
That's an offer Hunter and Fisher could take to his players and have a chance of passing.
What doesn't make sense for Hunter and Fisher is to lose any more games. That lost revenue is never coming back and when Stern says the owners next offer will be 47% of the BRI he means it. Look at what happened in the NHL lockout. The players held there ground, lost a season and ended up still getting killed in the next CBA.
Hunter has said he's known the lockout has been coming for two years. The reason the season is about to blow up is because Hunter didn't realize he needed to build a fallout shelter.