When you walk into a negotiation you start by asking for the moon. Doesn’t matter if you’re trying to sell a house in Cleveland or dates at a Persian bazaar, negotiations are all the same. And part of that is the first offer put out there is big. The moon. It’s not what you will settle for; it’s not even what you expect. But you start high so you can come down to a price you can live with.
Now, meet David Stern. He came out talking big for the owners Thursday.
After two days of owners meetings where they discussed what they need out of a new collective bargaining agreement, he came out talking about slashing total players salaries by $750 million or more — cutting back salaries by more than a third in total.
There also was a report from CBS that the league is even looking at contraction — that the owners were considering whether the league really needs to be this large and if it is really in the best markets. Cutting out teams thins the losses and also strengthens teams’ depth. The product would be better.
Of course, from the Players Union perspective, Stern came out talking about pay cuts and fewer jobs for union members. Both things they will fight.
Contraction is simply a red herring. Nothing more. The owners aren’t serious about it. They want salary reductions but know they would never get that much (the NHL locked out for an entire season and got 24 percent roll backs, in a league worse off economically).
But this is the first step in the dance, and Stern needed to put some things on the table he knew he could give back.
There is no way Stern and the league — meaning the other owners — are going to pay another owner $300 million or more to go away (which might well be the cost to buy out a team and shut it down). Stern doesn’t want a ton of news stories about all the people who would lose their jobs in Memphis or New Orleans or whatever city would see it’s team fold. The stories about the pub owner near the arena with three kids who is watching his livelihood be ripped form him. Nope, the NBA will not go there.
But Stern can look at union director Billy Hunter and say, “Okay, we’ll take contraction off the table, but what are you going to give us?”
And the dance continues.
What Stern said yesterday is where the team enters negotiations, not what it hopes or even expects to leave with. Don’t take everything he said to heart. But you can see one thing he does hope to get some of — the owners want to find a way to reduce the salaries they have been handing out to players.