This is partially a negotiating tactic. It is part scare tactic.
But it works. It’s scary.
Speaking at a legal seminar on Wednesday, NBA players union executive director Billy Hunter said if he had to bet on it, he’s bet the entire 2011-12 season will be lost due to the lockout, according to the Baltimore Sun. He said currently the two sides are about $800 million per season apart in their proposals.
“The circumstances have changed among (David Stern’s) constituency,” said Hunter, the executive director since 1996. “In the last six or seven years, there is a new group of owners to come in who paid a premium for their franchises, and what they’re doing is kind of holding his feet to the fire.”
Because negotiators are dug in, Hunter said, “something has to happen that both of us can use as leverage to save face.”
Asked by a conference attendee whether there would be a 2011-12 season, he replied: “If I had to bet on it at this moment, I would probably say no.”
Hunter is saying what we have been saying. Not the losing the season part — my bet is a partial season like 1999 — but on why this is dragging out.
First, circumstances have changed for ownership. There was a time when teams were bought and sold at a more reasonable price and owners knew they were making money each year in franchise valuation. To use the Pistons as an example, Bill Davidson bought the team for $6 million and when it was sold earlier this year the price tag (which included the Palace at Auburn Hills and other properties) was close to $400 million. It didn’t matter that much if the Pistons turned a profit each year because the money was in franchise valuations.
But if you paid upward of $300 million for a team and leveraged yourself to do it, you aren’t going to see a lot of money in franchise valuation. And you can’t afford to lose money every year. You need the business model to change now.
Secondly, Hunter is right that something needs to shake the two sides out of their current bunker mentality. That’s why the legal action by the league could actually be a good thing. Something needs to happen so both sides can sell this as a win — so they can save face in a deal — and we can get back to playing basketball.