NBA commissioner and seemingly all-powerful deity David Stern said Tuesday after the owners meeting that there was still time to avoid an NBA lockout starting Friday.
NBA players union executive director Billy Hunter said that if real progress was made during a last-ditch meeting between the owners and players Thursday, the owners might well postpone the start of a lockout.
So there is hope, right? There is a chance that the league’s leaders will back away from the precipice and a lockout can be avoided, isn’t there?
Not really. Technically it could happen, sure. Technically Minka Kelly could be such a huge fan of ProBasketballTalk that she calls me up and asks for a date. The odds are about the same.
If you think that after two full years of negotiations, one side is going to walk into the room Thursday afternoon and totally cave to the other side’s demands, then sure. In that case, a lockout can be avoided.
The two sides are hundreds of millions of dollars apart on reaching a deal. The players come in liking the system as it is right now, basically, and offering some givebacks in terms of salary. The owners — driven by hardliners that are newer and smaller market owners, many leveraged in their purchases — want a radical change in the NBA financial system. They are pushing for a hard salary cap (they proposed a “flex cap” at $62 million, but it is a kind way of phrasing a hard cap compared to the current system). Those owners also want shorter contracts and a way to get out of bad longer deals via buyouts. (Sure, they could not offer the bad contracts in the first place, but remember the CBA is always in part the owners trying to protect themselves from themselves).
The big issue will be the split of “basketball-related income” — which is money from tickets, television deals, arena concessions, luxury boxes, basically everything hoops related. Currently, the players get 57 percent of the gross. They have offered to drop that to 54.3 percent (with different percentages as the league grows its business). The owners want to calculate it differently — they want their expenses taken out. Their argument is if revenue and expenses both increase, the players get more money without having the risk of the expenditures. They want a more equal split of the net revenue (which would drop the players below 50 percent of the gross).
Right now there is no real reason for either side to compromise. The players have not lost any paychecks, the owners have not lost any revenue from games missed. Until that is threatened, we probably will not see any real movement toward a deal. (That is what has happened with the NFL — until camps and games were threatened, there didn’t seem to be much movement. Now with those pressures, there is progress and it appears a resolution is approaching.)
NBA fans, the lockout is coming and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Sorry. The optimistic among us just hope it will not cost the league games.