On the heels of one of the most entertaining seasons in recent memory, the NBA owners and players could not agree on a new deal over Basketball Related Income and the salary cap, and now face the possibility of entering what NBA Commissioner David Stern has called the “nuclear winter” of the 2011-2012 NBA season.
When it comes down to pointing fingers, everyone is to blame for letting it reach this point. There is no accountability, no responsibility and no real urgency to bring back basketball.
Owners: NBA owners in the small markets (Charlotte, Portland, Memphis, etc.) were complaining that they were losing money ever since the 2005 CBA went into effect and that the current economic model only benefitted large market teams (New York, Los Angeles, Miami, etc.) Unless a small market team had a superstar like Cleveland did or Oklahoma City does, or a great system in place like San Antonio, a small market will fail to compete in the NBA. There is some truth to that; when was the last time the Milwaukee Bucks or the Sacramento Kings went to the NBA Finals, or had a legitimate superstar?
The owners, especially those in small markets, want a more favorable deal so they can make more profit and stay competitive. NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver puts it plainly: “We need a sustainable business model that allows all 30 teams to be able to compete for a championship, fairly compensates our players, and provides teams, if well-managed, with an opportunity to be profitable.”
However, the owners are trying to bully the players in accepting a horrible deal. The BRI percentage under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was 57-43 in favor of the players. The players have agreed to lower their share to 54%, which would mean cutting $500 million over the next five years. The owners want more; they want a 50-50 deal, cutting $2 billion in salary reduction.
The owners are hoping they can break the players, and they just might. The owners are the ones signing the checks; they are the billionaires. They can survive without an NBA season, but can the players? No way. The owners have the upperhand, and they will not relent until they get want they want.
Players: The players should be commended for willing to drop 5% of their BRI percentage to get a deal done. However, if they were really serious about taking the owners to task for bullying them into an unfair CBA, there’s one thing they should have done a long time ago: decertification. The NFLPA, the NFL players’ union, decertified in the summer and filed an antitrust lawsuit against the league. By doing so, the five month process that it took to settle the NFL lockout in the courts made it possible to have a 2011-2012 NFL season.
The NBPA is attempting the same, but only after several empty threats by Bill Hunter to do so and weeks of scheduled games already cancelled.
If the NBPA had decertified in the beginning like the NFLPA did, there would be a NBA season. The NFLPA decertified and began its antitrust lawsuit on the day the lockout began, March 11. A new CBA was proposed and approved by July 25, just in time for the preseason. The NBA went into a lockout on June 1, and the players are filing an antitrust lawsuit…6 months later after games have already been cancelled.
Billy Hunter and the NBPA tried to negotiate, and it got them nowhere for months. It doesn’t help that union president Derek Fisher has been accused of pulling a Benedict Arnold and supposedly promised David Stern and the owners he’d get the players to agree to a 50-50 deal. Wonder how that’s working out for Fisher?
Like Bill Simmons said, this is stubbornness at its finest. Optimistically, a deal will be worked out in the upcoming weeks. Dreadfully, a season where we should get to see LeBron and the Heat try to find themselves, Dirk defend his title, Kobe’s quest for another title, Durant’s evolution, the Celtics and Spurs’ last stand, Amar’e and Carmelo coexist, Blake jump out the building and so much more won’t happen.
The NBA won’t heal immediately after this lockout situation. It isn’t as popular as the NFL or as engrained into American culture like baseball. College basketball should see a boom in ratings and popularity. We won’t forget about the NBA, but it won’t be easy to forget the nonsense the fans have had to endure for the last 6 months.