Posted on: July 2, 2011 2:34 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2011 4:55 pm

While you're in a lockout... other things to fix

Posted by EOB Staff

Well, now you've done it, NBA. You've locked out the players with neither side willing to budge. The owners want to set back decades of negotiations to the Stone Age by implementing a hard cap and decreasing the players' share of the profits. The players want everything to remain the same, basically, and not to lose their diamond-studded shirts. This thing's going to take a while. That's pretty clear. 

So we thought instead of us just sitting around moaning about this lockout, which, trust us, we're going to do, we'd actually do something positive. In that spirit, we thought we'd take a look at what we feel the owners and players should work on changing about the NBA, while they're locked out. As long as you're blowing up the NBA universe and starting over, you might as well be comprehensive about it. 

From Matt Moore:

Finally Put Up For The D-League -- The owners like it because it gives them somewhere to stash talent they can keep an eye on. The league likes it because it helps reduce the bust rate. The coaches like it because it gives them somewhere to send head cases when they're bugging them. The players like it because it means more jobs, conceivably. So why on earth won't both sides agree to substantial changes to the NBA D-League to make it a true development system?

Whenever the NBA starts up again, the following teams will own either part or all of their D-League affiliate: the Lakers, the Spurs, the Warriors, the Thunder, the Mavericks, the Nets, and the Knicks. That's seven out of 30 possible teams, leaving only nine D-League teams without an owner, and forcing 23 NBA teams to share those nine teams. Clearly, there's a trend towards buying in. 

When you look at the number of players out of the draft each year who bust, wouldn't it be worth investing in a legitimate development system so that those players can grow into the players teams need them to be before they're cast aside? But the keys to a viable D-League don't just end with actual development. Elton Brand, among others, has expressed a willingness in the past to play for a D-League team while rehabbing from injury. Instead of forcing a player back early, where coaches will be nearly forced to overplay them to try and win games, the D-League could serve the same function as minor league baseball, helping players recover from injury on a timeline, with controlled minutes and longer rest. Worried about a player's conditioning coming back from a year-long absence? Instead of having him sit in a suit game after game, have him go five minutes at a time for a week in the D-League, then 10, then 20, before returning to the main club. 

Most confusing about the lack of progress for the D-League is just how cheap it is. Essentially, for the cost of a single year of Sasha Vujacic, you could not only buy a D-League franchise or set one up from scratch, but actually make substantial improvements in training, staff, travel and organizational structure. Everything is cheap in the league, and cutting corners won't set you back.

Instead of wasting two roster spots for guys who sit on the bench in a league that doesn't really practice all that much, assign two roster-spots to the D-League. Those players are paid under $1 million on non-guaranteed contracts (just like most mid-season call-ups), and if they are brought up, another non-guaranteed player is sent down, if applicable. Teams can also develop coaching staff at that level as well. 

The league has flourished under Dan Reed, and has proven it can work as a development system for talent. Look at Aaron Brooks, Reggie Williams, Jordan Farmar for starters. It's time the NBA and the players' association actually commits to it. 

Close The Trade-Buyout-Re-Sign Loophole -- This one's tricky to deal with, but it needs to be expressed, if only for the sake of not annoying us. You throw an aging, expiring contract in as filler for a trade. That player agrees to a buyout with the salary-shredding team that traded for him and waives him. The player then returns to the team he was traded from and immediately re-signs. It's pointless, it's ridiculous, it needs to go away. Either we need more lax agreements on trade rules to allow these deals to go through without needing those players traded, or a measure to prevent the teams from re-signing that player. I don't believe it's any sort of unfair advantage like some coaches do, any team can pull off the same type of deal. But it still seems skuzzy and takes away from the integrity of the game for very little advantage, in a way that could be avoided. Player movement needs to be maintained under the new CBA (beware the hard-cap), but this is one facet that could use a little more restriction. 

From Ben Golliver:

Season-Ending Injury -- In recent years, both the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers have dealt with serious rashes of injuries that, at times, made it difficult to field a full roster of healthy players. The NBA currently has an emergency system in place to help teams who lose multiple players to extended injuries: the league grants a "hardship exemption", which temporarily creates a roster spot until a player comes back healthy. This system is a bit cumbersome, forcing teams to sign and waive players regularly and really only serves as a stopgap solution when disaster strikes multiple players. A better idea would be to allow a team to slap a "season-ending injury" designation on a player, subject to league approval. Once approved by the league, that player would be removed from the team's 15-man roster for the rest of the season, freeing up a spot for the team to sign a replacement player. The current system penalizes a team twice when a player suffers a season-ending injury: They suffer both the loss of the player and the difficulty of replacing him. This tweak wouldn't fix the first issue (nothing can heal injuries) but would alleviate the second problem. If a team had a rash of injuries at a particular position, they could go out and find the best available replacement player at that position rather than scrambling together unconventional lineups made up of their current healthy players. Ideally, teams would be able to do this up to two times a season.

International Buy-Outs -- Ask almost any top European player and they will say that it is their dream to play in the NBA. Ask almost any NBA executive and they will tell you they are committed to scouring the globe to find the best available talent. The only thing standing between the two sides in this globalized, modern reality? Complicated buyouts inserted into European contracts and an arcane NBA rule which says teams can only contribute $500,000 to help a player out of his contract. The current system is incredibly inefficient and leads to worst-case scenarios like the Ricky Rubio situation, which dominated headlines for multiple years, tying up the Minnesota Timberwolves and causing his stock to plummet on draft night because teams were uncertain about his contract status. With the rising size of buyouts, there's no question the $500,000 limit needs to be raised. To where? $1 million? $2 million? One idea is to simply not cap the contribution amount in any way. There is serious merit to this idea. European players already sacrifice financially when they come to the United States because they are subject to lower-dollar rookie deals when drafted. Often, stars are taking a pay cut to follow their dream. Asking them to contribute their own money to the buyout on top of that to make the transition is excessive. If an NBA team wants a player, it should bear the full financial burden of acquiring him. Will European teams respond by increasing their buyouts even further? Possibly. But competition between European clubs for a young star's services should keep the buyouts at a reasonable level if it's clear that player is using his time in Europe as a stepping stone to the NBA.

Revenue Sharing -- An NBA.com article wrote that there is a "chasm" between the owners and players in their labor negotiations. There's a similar canyon between small-market owners and big-market owners in terms of revenue generating potential, especially when it comes to television deals. The NBA has preached its commitment to creating a new system where all 30 teams have the opportunity to compete for a title -- a noble goal. That can only happen when all 30 teams have a more equal ability to spend on player salaries. On their new TV deal, the Lakers will make $150 million a year, more than enough to cover their $90 million payroll (which is tops in the league). A small market team might be lucky to make $10 to 15 million per year on its TV deal, which equates to roughly one-third of their payroll. Expecting the Lakers and other big-market teams to make up all the difference between the two poles is excessive, but surely there's a compromise that can be reached to make the division more equitable. The only viable alternative is contraction, which is a far worse eventuality for the league, even if its big-dollar teams might not think so.

From Royce Young:

No more inactive lists -- Can anyone really explain the point of this to me? Why are teams allowed 15 roster spots but three of those guys can't dress? What sense does that make? 

Those final three guys aren't going to play much anyway, but take a team that has a project big man on the roster. Every night, he's in a suit. But in certain blowout situations, it would probably be nice to get him two or three minutes of run. Except you can't, because he's wearing dress shoes and a tie.

I suppose it requires a bit of strategy in the end for a coach to select guys to be active, but that's just silly. Maybe it's an owner thing. If coaches could dress 15 guys, more teams would fill up the roster meaning more salaries for an owner to pay. But that's a horrible reason for it.

Get rid of inactive spots and just make it a simple 15-man roster where everyone is eligible. If a guy gets hurt, add a disabled list type of place so that guy doesn't hog a roster spot, but allow everyone to dress. It definitely makes a lot more sense than forcing three guys to wear suits. 

Eliminate the second round of the NBA draft -- On the surface, this idea doesn't seem like it should matter much. All second-round contracts aren't guaranteed and all teams have are the rights to a player. But restructuring the draft to eliminate the second round helps players find a home. 

Instead of a team using the 34th pick on a good college junior because he's a good third point guard to have on the roster, if everyone was simply a free agent in the second round, that player could find a fit that's a lot better for him. 

Most second rounders don't make it anyway, but there are always five or six that are quality pickups for a team. Some get signed, some don't. And the ones that don't end up going to Europe or the D-League, sometimes because they're a small forward and were picked by the Heat. If the contracts aren't guaranteed anyway, what purpose does the second round really have other than it's decent TV?
Posted on: July 1, 2011 1:17 am
Edited on: July 1, 2011 12:35 pm

A CBA/lockout FAQ: Understanding what's going on

Posted by Royce Young

The NBA's owners voted to lock out the players on Thursday, meaning that officially, the league is operating under a lockout.

We're all hearing that term being tossed around a lot. I overheard two guys talking about it at a restaurant yesterday in fact.

"You hear there's a lockout? I can't believe this!"

"Me either. So ridiculous. What exactly does that mean?"

"Something about a Collective Bargaining Agreement. And money."

Pretty much, yeah. But there's more to it than that. What is a lockout? What happens to the players? Why does the league do it? What's decertification?

So I put together a little Lockout FAQ. Hopefully most of your questions are answered here. And in normal language, not lawyer talk that the two guys at the restaraunt would never understand.

1. First, a did you know:
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement isn't actually expiring, as many have been saying. It's actually being terminated by the owners. The old one signed in 1999 had an early termination option for the owners and they are exercising it. Just wanted to get that out there.

2. Why are the owners doing this?
The league claims it lost $300 million last season and that 22 teams lost money. That might not be entirely true. But the owners and league maintain that they are operating within a broken system that prevents all 30 teams a chance at profitability. Supposedly, that's all they want. Owners are trying to to reduce things like how much Basketball Related Income (BRI) the players receive, guaranteed contracts and the length of contracts.

Basically the why is that the owners want to make money. What else could it be?

3. I don't get it. The league is reportedly pulling in bigger revenues than ever before. How are they losing money?
Rising costs. That's what the league says. It costs a lot more to operate a franchise now than it did 10 years ago. Player salaries have steadily moved up, arenas cost more and on and on. And the players don't really disagree. Concessions have been made such as the players saying they'd be willing to drop receiving 57 of the BRI to 54. That's a pretty big give.

But the owners want more. They claim the number needs to be in the 40s. They want a hard cap. Some would say that this is a lot the owners' fault by giving stupid contracts out -- also known as "Travis Outlaw" -- but that's just the nature of the beast. The system the NBA operates in allows for that and so to remain competitive, bad contracts are just part of the game. Owners want to try and cut down on some of that to, you guessed it, make more money.

4. What do the players want?
More of the same, really. The NBA is on a path to explode financially over the next 10 years and the players want to make sure their piece of the pie is still big. As Kevin Durant said recently, " The way the CBA worked before is something we really liked. There’s no need to change it. Things have been going very well for us, as far as the league, revenue and things like that are concerned. We want to stick with that pace, but of course the owners want to go a different way with it."

That's kind of the mindset, although they are willing to flex some. How much is the question. And when it happens I guess is the other.

5. So what exactly happens in a lockout?
Exactly that. Players are physically locked out from the practice gym, weight room, video room, etc. No contact between teams and players. Essentially, the teams have suspended their employees which in this case, are the players. The reasoning is to encourage them to sign a new CBA, one that the owners like.

During a lockout, players lose their salary, all benefits and basically any connection to the team (sponsored travel, use of practice facilities, equipment and the like). There won't be any trades, no signings, no extensions, no meetings, no practices and most importantly, no games. The league entirely freezes. People will be laid off, money will be lost. It's an effort to bleed the players so that eventually they'll cede and bargain with the owners.

Right now, the players are taking a Tommy Lee Jones from The Fugitive approach though. I... don't... bargain.

6. Why does the league use a lockout?
A lockout isn't anything new. The league locked out players for four months in 1995. They did it for a few hours in 1996. And then the big one that lasted six months spanning between 1998 and 1999 that resulted in 30 lost games.

Clearly, like I said, the league is looking to try and capitalize on irresponsible players that didn't handle their checkbooks wisely. By locking them out, players don't draw paychecks anymore. Which means a lot of players are in big trouble. Which means they'll want to give in to a deal quicker. You're saying, "But they're millionaires!" Yes, in terms of salary, they sure are. But you'd be surprised how many NBA players live on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis. All those cars, houses and needy fourth cousins add up quickly.

But don't misunderstand: The league and owners are losing money during a lockout too. The idea though is that they have more in the coffers and the owners through their other businesses, can handle missing out on on gate revenue from games.

7. So is that why some players have said they'd play overseas?
Some have said they'd consider it, but let's be realistic: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and others aren't going to do that because they don't need to. Mid-level and lower income players might, but it's a major risk. If a player were to get injured, his NBA team could void his current contract when a new CBA gets settled.

8. When is free agency then?
Whenever the lockout is lifted. That very well could mean a scattered, scrambled two-week free agency period in September. Or January (gasp). For example, during the 1999 lockout, free agency, training camps and two preseason games were all stuffed into two weeks.

9. What about players like Russell Westbrook that are eligible for an extension right now?
They've got to wait. Everything ceases. And I mean everything.

10. Are players going to get retropay then when the lockout is lifted?
No, players won't get paid back. That's the whole idea of the owners locking them out. They're kind of punishing them for not signing a deal. Whatever paychecks they miss out on during the span of the lockout, they don't get back.

11. How many games can be missed and the league still have the NBA Finals?
I don't think there's actually a set number on that. In 1999, David Stern issued a drop-dead date of Jan. 7 to get a deal done so that the league could build a 50-game season, which was seen as enough of a regular season. I would imagine if a lockout bled into February, that the postseason would be in jeopardy.

12. What happens if Otis Smith decides he wants to check in with Dwight Howard about his summer workouts?
Reportedly, that results in a $1 million fine. And the league could actually punish any way it sees fit. Lost draft picks, money penalties, a phone call from David Stern berating you and your extended family -- who knows. The league means serious business about this stuff though. And you don't want to mess with The David.

13. Could the NBA players do what the NFL players tried to do and decertify?

14. Hang on, come back to that one. What's decertify actually mean?
Basically the players would be separating themselves from the union. The union could announce it is "disclaiming interest" in representing players in their employment within the NBA. Without a union representing them, players pretty much become individual contractors, instead of a collective bargaining group. Because of that, legal restrictions such as max salary, the mid-level exception and the draft would become vulnerable to federal antitrust laws.

It's kind of a way for players to hit back at the owners from locking them out. The NFL players tried it and succeeded, but only momentarily before a judge overturned it in the U.S. Court of Appeals' Eighth Circuit.

15. OK, so again, are the players going to decertify?
They could. They aren't going to though, at least not right now, so says Billy Hunter. The NBA has never decertified, not even in the prolonged lockout in 1998-99.

Clearly the union is interested, at least at the moment, in still trying to negotiate a deal. Hunter said that decertification wouldn't really help the cause and he's probably right. When that path appeared to work for the NFL, I'm sure Hunter and the union took notice. But since it was overturned by a judge and the lockout reinstated, that whole mess is something that the players want to avoid. For now, at least.  

The goal for the players is to get back to work. They want to draw their paychecks and play ball. Decertification just makes it all that much more complicated. What's going to fix this is getting back to the bargaining table and finding a deal both sides can live with. Not a legal battle over antitrust laws. The best way to end this is to keep talking, which is what Hunter and the players intend to do.

16. Does everyone have to grow a lockout beard now?
It's not a rule and David Stern already said he's not going to be donning another. But nobody's stopping you if you really want to.

17. Will there be a 2011-12 season? Should we totally panic?
It's just my opinion, but I have no doubt there will be a 2011-12 season. There's a lot of doom and gloom talk going around, but I just can't picture the league really taking the risk of ruining all this momentum and goodwill by losing a bunch of games. I mean, considering how good a place the league is in right now, if the NBA were to lose a whole season or even just a lot of it, it seriously taints David Stern's career. You think he doesn't realize that?

Don't panic yet. If it's September 1 and nothing has been done, start panicking. All you're missing out on right now are some free agent signings, Summer League and maybe a couple trades. No basketball has been lost yet. We're still a solid four months away before that happens. "Lockout" sounds all big and bad, but there is a lot of time left before things actually get ugly.

18. When's the next bargaining session? Please say tomorrow.
That's yet to be determined as of now. Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said everyone was going to take a break over the holiday but would start prepping to get back to work at it on Tuesday. By all indications, the two sides are going to keep the dialogue going. In July of 1998, after negotiations fell apart and the lockout began, the sides went a month without talking and that was a minor 90-minute session.

Derek Fisher seemed to believe that talks would resume in a couple weeks though.

19. Who is more right -- the owners or players?
I'll be honest: I can't really decide. Both have very valid points. Hence the reason we're at this impasse. Both sides have made fairly major concessions but both sides don't feel like it's enough. Again, therefore a stalemate.

Remember though: This is billionaires arguing with millionaires about money. There's no way around that. And it's the owners that are the ones pushing things to the limit. So if you want to point the finger at someone and get angry, take it out on the owners. Both the players and owners are to blame, but the lockout was imposed by the owners.

Finding a middle ground is going to be a challenge. Finding a solution that keeps players happy and feeling like they will share in the successes of the league over the next 10 years while also making sure owners have a path to profitability won't be easy. But nobody makes money when games aren't being played. Nobody makes money when games aren't on TV. There's a lot of motivation to get something done. Ticking off fans is a pretty good one. Maybe the best one. Don't think for a second that David Stern, the players and everyone else doesn't totally understand that.

But neither side is willing to blink just because of that. The best leverage the players have is the fact the league is in its best position it has been in some 15 years. Eventually someone will. It's just a matter of how long that's going to take.

20. When will players start feeling the affects of this?

Actually, not until Nov. 15. That's when they're due their first check. So that's kind of a scary part. Up until then, the lockout really isn't going to sting anyone's bank account, which means the players might be fine digging in until then.

21. Doesn't this totally suck?
Yes. Yes it does.
Posted on: July 1, 2011 12:13 am
Edited on: July 1, 2011 12:30 am

The lockout starts, NBA.com officially goes dark

Posted by Royce Young

Welcome to the new NBA.com, where the second lead story is, "WNBA MVP race heating up." Yeah, this whole lockout thing totally sucks.

What happened? Where'd StatsCube go? Where's all the player profiles? Where are the stories, columns and pictures?

All gone because of the lockout. At exactly 12:01 a.m., the time the lockout officially began, NBA.com transformed to a cut-down version with no pictures, videos or text about players. Kevin Arnovitz of TrueHoop explains why:
Does it really matter if there's an extension of the CBA in July or a lockout? After all, there aren't any games nor do players get paid during this summer.

But for the guys who are in charge of those team websites and NBA.com, the pending deadline is a huge deal.

That's because the moment the clock strikes midnight on the current CBA, all those images and videos of NBA players have to disappear off NBA-owned digital properties. Depending on how you interpret "fair use," the prohibition could include the mere mention of a player's name on an NBA-owned site, though different teams have different interpretations of this particular stipulation.

Over the past few weeks, NBA website administrators and support staff have endured two-hour conference calls and countless planning sessions to figure out how to eliminate all these photos, highlights, articles and promotional features from the sites.
At last check, a lot of team sites still were normal, but we'll see what happens there in the coming days. But there is literally no NBA-related content on NBA.com that includes anything about a player. All content has been wiped clean for now and the only content is either about the lockout or the WNBA.

If you needed a visual, obvious sign of the lockout, just check NBA.com. It's on, people.

Posted on: June 30, 2011 9:22 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 10:15 pm

League to fine teams $1M for contact with players

Posted by Royce Young

After midnight, the NBA will lock out its players. Not in just a metaphorical sense. No, it will physically shut the doors on every practice facility and cut off all communication with players.

It's natural to assume ,though, that maybe there will be a little leeway in terms of teams talking with its players. No big deal on a phone call asking about a workout or going over a few things from last season. Right?

Wrong. Big deal. Very big deal.

According to ESPN.com, the league has informed teams if there is contact with players, they will be fined $1 million. The league is taking a no nonsense, hardline approach to this lockout. During the NFL's lockout, there has been some questioning of how teams have operated with coaches supposedly being involved in unofficial workouts and such. The NBA is making it clear there will be none of that.

This shouldn't surprise anyone. David Stern doesn't mess around. When he says there's a lockout, he means it. Call up a player to ask how that new diet plan is going and you're getting nailed with a $1 million penalty.

Will teams contact players? I'm sure they will. I don't think the league office is going to be installing phone taps or anything. This isn't going to be The Wire 2: NBA Lockout or anything. I don't think Herc and Carver are going to be on a rooftop across from Carmelo Anthony's condo to make sure Mike D'Antoni doesn't drop by for a cup of coffee.  Actually, I might be able to picture that. Remember, Stern's the guy that reportedly told players during one bargaining session that he "knows where the bodies are buried."

If the league catches wind of illegal contact going on, Stern's going to bring the hammer down hard. And if teams are losing as much money as they say they are, then getting stiffed a cool million should be enough to get their attention about breaking the rules.

Maybe for some players this will be a relief. I bet most Orlando Magic players are nodding right now. A couple months without hearing from Stan Van Gundy might be a little perk to this whole thing.

Posted on: June 30, 2011 8:42 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 10:17 pm

Derek Fisher speaks about oncoming lockout

Posted by Royce Young

Union president Derek Fisher spoke with reporters following the 2 1/2-hour meeting that ended up not producing enough progress to prevent a lockout. Fisher said the players' new proposal wasn't received well and expressed his disappointment in the failed negotiations.

But he also made the point that this isn't the end.

"Both sides left the room still fully committed to trying to get a collective bargaining agreement done," he said. "If [a lockout] is what we're faced with tonight, that doesn't mean NBA basketball is over. We're going to continue to negotiate in July, August, September  and figure out a way to get it done."

Regardless, there's still a giant gap between the sides. Getting back to the negotiating table will be good, but that doesn't mean a deal is going to get done. Both sides are going to have to give a lot to finally find some common ground in the middle. It's just a question of who is finally willing to bend.

Posted on: June 30, 2011 6:47 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 10:20 pm

Union counsel disputes NBA's player salary claim

Posted by Royce Young

The two sides are very far apart.

That's the phrase you've heard already about the labor negotiations, and the phrase you're going to keep hearing until this lockout thing is resolved.

In labor negotiations like this, there's a give and take. One side lays out some numbers and facts, and the other comes back with how those numbers and facts were massaged. Latest example: David Stern and Adam Silver said today in a post-lockout presser that the players submitted a new proposal that actually had the players' average annual salary rising to $7 million per year in six years.

Obviously, Stern and Silver found that ridiculous. Also finding that ridiculous, but in another way, union counsel Jeffrey Kessler. Via SI.com:

Jeffrey Kessler, the union’s lead outside counsel, rejected that $7 million figure and said the union never proposed a specific average salary number. Kessler told SI.com that the union simply tweaked its existing proposal in which the players would be guaranteed some percentage of the league’s total revenue — presumably between 50 percent and the current 57 percent. The league arrived at the $7 million figure by calculating how much players would get if that proposed percentage were applied to a growing revenue pie, Kessler said.

“The NBA is projecting massive revenue growth,” Kessler said. ”If you give the players any percentage of revenue, no matter what it is, if the league’s revenue grows massively, salaries will go up. Their statement about the average salary going up to $7 million must mean they think the NBA is going to be phenomenally successful, which we applaud.”

And that, right there, is exactly why the NBA is locking out the players at midnight. The NBA is foreseeing crazy huge money over the next 10 years and naturally, the main, highest paid employees of the league want a piece of that. The players are willing to concede some of it -- reports have the Basketball Related Income down from 57 percent to the players to 54 -- but aren't willing to watch owners skate away with big profits and miss out on a piece of the pie.

Look at it this way: For every dollar the league makes, the players currently get 57 cents of it. And even if they're willing to take that down to 54 percent, but not down into the 40-cent range which is what the owners are looking for. That's a pretty huge divide. Stern, Silver and the owners see it as a reasonable price to pay to get the league on a path towards profitability. The players see it as far too large of a concession.

As Kessler says, the way the two sides are viewing this BRI is almost entirely opposite. So when people say there's a "gap," a "gulf" or "miles" separating the sides, you can kind of see why.

Posted on: June 30, 2011 12:22 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 1:56 pm

Report: Shane Battier asked Hunter to take paycut

Posted by Matt Moore

You have to lead by example. That's always been pretty clear. You can't expect people to follow what you say unless you walk the walk. So now that the NBA has entered into the deep dark lockout landscape, things are about to get real. No more t-shirts, no more slogans, no more parading. This is the real thing, and the money will stop... well, in November, since that's when most of the players contracts under the last CBA run through. But still! The money chokehold is about to get serious, and some players have some questions for their leadership.

Yahoo! Sports reports that after Kevin Garnett did his usual over-dramatic rabble-rousing last week, Shane Battier asked a question of the union president, Billy Hunter. Would he take a paycut, just as NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith did?  Hunter sidestepped the question, then the rest of the executive board came to his defense, according to the report. But Hunter's evasiveness of the issue calls into question his commitment to the cause, and exactly how much he's "in the trenches" with the rest of the players for what Hunter has set up to be a very long lockout. Yahoo! also reports Hunter was granted over $1 million last year for unpaid vacation. Which is categorically insane independently, considering his job structure and responsibilities, but whatever. 

Perhaps most concerning from the players' perspective is this quote from Yahoo!, from a player regarding how Hunter conducts himself in response to union representatives voicing questions or concerns:
“Billy isn’t afraid to embarrass you in front of other players, if he doesn’t like your line of questioning,” an Eastern Conference player said. “He’s done a good job keeping us informed and fighting [NBA commissioner David] Stern, but I don’t need to be lectured by the guy. I’m allowed to ask a question.”
via Hunter sidesteps question on pay - NBA - Yahoo! Sports.

That's bad leadership right there. As is declining a pay cut. Even if you structure it differently to ensure you get the same money eventually, you need to in order to be side-by-side with the players who pay you to represent them. Otherwise, you have a system wherein someone who isn't taking responsibility allows months and months to go by without negotiations, waiting until the last minute to enter into serious conversations and only then taking a stand against progressively stronger tactics from the owners.

Oh, right, that's exactly what happened.

The players' side has been considerably more willing to compromise during this entire process, and up until the last few weeks have conducted themselves in a much more professional manner. But the fact remains that Hunter has been out-flanked badly in this process, and now he's stepping into snares from his own players, even as the trap-setters say "Don't step there!"

Whether the center can hold will determine if the players can avoid getting routed in this process over the coming months.  

Final note: Is there anything more perfectly exemplary of the discrepancy among the players? Kevin Garnett brings t-shirts with "STAND" on them and does his dramatic yelling trick, and Shane Battier asks a relevant, important question. One is celebrated, the other shut down. Does not inspire confidence for the players' side in this.
Posted on: June 29, 2011 5:55 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2011 6:04 pm

Report: Owners will take hard line in a lockout

Posted by Matt Moore

The owners made what they felt was a concilliatory, compromising offer last week in the NBA labor negotiations. That offer was met with derision from the players' union that felt it was essentially offering to them what they already own while still asking for far too much in the way of compromises.  So now we have one more shot before the lockout we all knew was coming anyway starts Friday. 

But a report from the San Antonio Express News makes the lockout sound even more frightening, because it alleges that if there is a lockout, and there will be (no way this gets done in a day), the owners will take all the small consolations and compromises they've offered off the table, and will opt instead for the NBA negotiating equivalent of a nuclear winter. 

From the Express News
According to NBA executives familiar with the league’s strategies, once the lockout is in place, the owners will push for a hard salary cap of $45 million, the elimination of guaranteed contracts and ask that the players swallow a 33 percent salary cut. The concessions made in recent weeks, including the “flex cap” of $62 million and a guarantee of $2 billion in annual player payroll, will be off the table.

If this seems certain to guarantee the loss of the entire 2011-12 season, it is because there are owners who think it is necessary for the long-term viability of the league. The players likely know this is coming because hints have been leaked for weeks. How they react to the old, hard line once the anticipated stoppage begins will determine the prospects for next season.
via Spurs Nation » Mike Monroe: It only gets harder for owners, players.

Ye Gods.

A move back to the hard line for the owners would force the players into a fight-or-flight response. They'd have no option to digging a trench for the long haul other than complete surrender. And given that they feel this fight is not just about themselves and their money, but about the future earning potential of professional basketball players (it's a brotherhood, if you haven't heard), they would get the shovels and sink in. We could lose the entirety of next season, if this report is accurate.

For everyone's sake, the fans, the owners, the players, the league personnel, and the business owners who profit in the communities, let's hope the owners recognize that there's a reason the Cold War remained cold. No one wins in the other scenario, except rival sports.
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