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Blog Entry

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

Posted on: October 10, 2011 11:49 am
 
NEW YORK – We have reached the point of few words and fewer clues as to how and when the NBA lockout will end. One of three things will happen Monday, in no particular order of likelihood:

1) The two sides emerge, say nothing again, and announce that they’re going to continue meeting. A short time later, the first two weeks of the regular season are postponed, rather than canceled, with the possibility that the games could be squeezed in or the season compressed if a deal is reached by Friday.

2) David Stern appears on the sidewalk – in the daylight hours this time – and announces that, unfortunately, the league was unable to reach an agreement with the players and he has no choice but to cancel the first two weeks of the regular season.

3) Stern and union director Billy Hunter emerge together and announce a deal in principle on a new collective bargaining agreement, starting a race against time to get the details ironed out and deal ratified so the season can start on time.

The list of agenda items that stand between here and any of those outcomes is longer than Kevin Durant’s wingspan.

For the second time in recent weeks, the two sides dropped all discussion of the elephant in the room – the BRI split – and focused on system issues only Sunday in a hastily called bargaining session. The last time this happened, the league and union negotiators made little tangible progress on the system issues, and when they returned to the BRI split this past Tuesday, they could not close the gap from the 53 percent the players were offering to the 50 percent where owners had dug in.

Now, while sources say agreement is within reach on adjustments to spending exceptions like the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions, a major sticking point is a punitive, laddered luxury tax that players fear will effectively serve as a hard salary cap. When the two sides reconvene at 2 p.m. ET in Manhattan, the job at hand will be monumental: somehow marrying the system issues that remain hotly contested with the BRI split, which is contested at something akin to inferno levels.

What’s most puzzling about how the negotiators got to this point – with no deal and regular season games scheduled to be scrapped by the end of the day – is that in mid-September, Stern acknowledged that the two sides were “on the road” to an agreement on the economics. At that point, the players were believed to have been offering to receive a 54 percent share of BRI – already a $1 billion concession over six years in an effort to address the owners’ stated annual losses of $300 million – while signaling a willingness to make another economic move conditioned on key system aspects remaining intact.

Days later, the owners on Sept. 22 increased their proposed players’ share of BRI from 44 percent to 46 percent on average over the life of a 10-year proposal. The owners inched upward from there in subsequent negotiations – to 48 percent and finally to 50 percent this past Tuesday – while the players made another move to 53 percent, marking roughly equivalent $1.3 billion concessions for each side.

As we learned after Tuesday’s crucial bargaining session, the two sides weren’t exactly stuck at 53 and 50, respectively, for the players. In a small side conference as the talks entered crunch time Tuesday, the owners offered a 49-51 percent range for the players’ share, while the players countered with 51-53. That’s where it ended, and no further negotiations on the BRI split occurred Sunday night.

The impasse leaves open the maddening question: If the two sides were “on the road” to an agreement on the economics in mid-September when the spread was 46-54, how could they be so far apart after the gap was shaved by $1.6 billion this past Tuesday – with the difference between the midpoint of each side’s BRI band being reduced to a mere 2 percentage points (52-50)?

The answer can likely be found in a couple of crucial areas. For one, small-market owners may have dug in hard on the BRI split, insisting they cannot accept a deal in which the teams receive less than 50 percent of revenues without substantially addressing system issues they believe put them at a competitive disadvantage compared to high-revenue, big-spending teams. Second, to the extent that the division of revenues is inexorably linked to the system that determines how the players’ share is delivered, the players could find themselves in a quid-pro-quo position: If they want the system mostly intact, then 50 percent is the best offer they’re going to see. For room to exist for further negotiation on the split, the owners need system adjustments they believe will enhance competitive balance and give teams the flexibility they need to get out from under bad contracts and keep star players from bolting for bigger markets.

All of these moving parts must somehow be tied together Monday – or realistically, by Friday, as long as enough progress and momentum exist. If not, the NBA faces the slippery, dangerous slope of canceled games – which would lead to economic losses each side would then try to recoup in further negotiations, which would lead to more canceled games and, essentially, the Armageddon both sides recognized would be a possibility when the lockout was imposed July.

As Stern said that day, these things tend to take on a life of their own.

Stern was a man of exasperated expressions and few words Sunday night. Though the real 11th hour could be weeks or even months away – the deadline to cancel the entire 1998-99 season wasn’t until Jan. 7, and a deal was reached with hours to spare – Stern may sense that the public tolerance for this lockout is waning and waning fast.

There was no Twitter, no 60-second news cycle, no All-Star charity games streaming online in ’99. Collective bargaining negotiations in sports are excruciating -- not nearly as conducive to the way fans connect and follow the sport as the sport itself is. People want answers, a resolution, and their tolerance in the 60-second news cycle for the glacial, painful manner in which billions are divided is running out – and will be on empty soon.

People were ready to move on from the NBA in ’99, and the damage from the lockout was incalculable. To the contrary, people now want to embrace the NBA and the product and storylines it offers in the ever-more crowded landscape and crackling news cycle of sports.

But this stuff? This bickering over billions? People are ready to move on from it, go find the next story, the new trending topic, something – anything – more interesting and satisfying. And Stern knows they will find it, thus transforming his sidewalk statements into trees falling in the forest with no one around to hear.

Stern and his players have reached the point of few words, all right. If they don’t find the point of many solutions soon, those words and the whole sport will fall on deaf ears.
Comments

Since: Sep 17, 2007
Posted on: October 10, 2011 3:32 pm
 

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

Miami's payroll was $65 million, ranked 21 out of 30 teams
Stop seizing this as a chance to be a Heat apologist bUM. The bulk of that amount was tied up in 3 players on a 12 man roster. All the veterans who flocked to Miami did so at minimal contracts in order to latch onto a chance to win a title at the end of their careers. Far less people are divided on who is to blame between players and owners because not enough people care and without an NBA season, Miami will have nothing going for them sports-wise unless the Dolphins lose out and get Andrew Luck. On the bright side, the (Miami) Marlins new scoreboard monstrosity looks pretty cool...




Since: Oct 16, 2006
Posted on: October 10, 2011 3:25 pm
 

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

I have said this before.....I really don't care. Not that I don't love basketball, but the longer they hold out the longer the Mavericks are the defending World Champs........Wink



Since: Aug 23, 2010
Posted on: October 10, 2011 3:11 pm
 

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

Quit caring years ago.  The sport just seems like a joke now.



Since: Sep 5, 2006
Posted on: October 10, 2011 3:05 pm
 

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

How can it be aroundthe corner? Unless you are referring to the corner your already completed a drive-by from.

Not going to get resolved, not going to matter to the majority of either the owners or players. Seriously think it may actually be a good thing to blow up league, andrestructure a true global league. Basketball, unlike any other team sport, could support a true modular regional World league.

The diaspora of the core talents in each region has forever changed the game, with a tremendous effort, the US still remains king, but the rest of the world has caught up quickly...

I think its great. 



Since: Jun 22, 2007
Posted on: October 10, 2011 3:04 pm
 

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

well, for this upcoming season the heat are at $65,313,758 and ranked 7th in payroll... and every year it is just going to get bigger because the contracts are back-loaded... a jump from 21 to 7 is a really big jump, thats 14 spots... wonder how far their payroll will jump in the rankings next season?



Since: Apr 25, 2008
Posted on: October 10, 2011 2:50 pm
 

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

50/50 doesn't work because nobody's buying a Jerry Buss or Dan Gilbert jersey, and millions and millions of people didn't tune in for the ECF in record numbers and NBA Finals to watch Mickie Arison.
Without the owners and the risk they took to put up millions to make teams, their is no need for players.  Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  They both need each other, but the players risk none of their own money, just collect it.



Since: Feb 15, 2008
Posted on: October 10, 2011 2:43 pm
 

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

And for the record. Miami's payroll was $65 million, ranked 21 out of 30 teams. The $90 million payrolls are the Lakers, Mavericks, and Magic.....you know.....the supposed "good guys".



Since: Feb 15, 2008
Posted on: October 10, 2011 2:38 pm
 

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

50/50 doesn't work because nobody's buying a Jerry Buss or Dan Gilbert jersey, and millions and millions of people didn't tune in for the ECF in record numbers and NBA Finals to watch Mickie Arison. The players generate way more than 53% of BRI. The players are being very generous coming all of the way down from 57%. That's over a billion dollars for the owners to all sink their teeth into.



Since: Apr 6, 2007
Posted on: October 10, 2011 2:34 pm
 

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

I bet the 5 guys on the bench making $500k get paid more money per minute played than Kobe.



Since: Oct 24, 2007
Posted on: October 10, 2011 2:17 pm
 

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

I still don't understand why 50-50 doesn't work. Are the players that greedy (dumb question I know)? Once the NBA gets back to 50-50, everything will make more sense. Nobody wants to see Kobe making $30 million a year and 5 guys on the bench making $500K. Nobody wants to see Miami having a $90 million payroll when the "salary cap" is less than $60 million.

The NBA is less popular than the NFL yet there are so many NBA players making more than the highest paid NFL player.


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