Right now, the NBA owners are taking the hard line and are not budging off it.
NBA Commissioner David Stern has done a good job — via the hammer of massive fines — from keeping any owners from speaking out of turn about the lockout. He is the lone voice, the lone source for one side of the story. All we here is what he says — the league is losing money, that they owners need a bigger split of Basketball Related Income and a hard salary cap (among other things). The players have given a little but have not moved much.
But are the owners really that unified? Are they a solid phalanx, or are there cracks in the armor? Depends on who you ask.
Whoever David Aldridge of NBA.com asked, it’s the hard line all the way.
A source who deals with owners on a regular basis said that they remain determined to, if not break the union, break its current salary structure. The source said owners frequently speak of “being tired of making these guys rich” and are even contemplating asking for more, such as including income the players receive from their commercial endorsements and sponsorship money into the BRI pot — the theory being the players wouldn’t become famous and able to make such deals if not for the NBA infrastructure that puts them on television and other media. (Good luck with that one. And, yes, I asked my source if that were the case, why not cut players in for a slice of the action when owners sell their teams? I got something about there being a difference between the risks the players assume on the court and the risks owners take in financing their teams, got a headache in my eye and stopped listening.)
But John Canzano of the Oregonian heard something more like we have heard from some people (nobody will speak on the record, see Stern and his fines).
Multiple NBA sources whispered that there was a contingent of league owners eager to get a collective-bargaining deal signed, and a second, determined to drag the lockout into January or beyond, because they believe the league needs rectify a broken salary system at all costs.
What is clear is right now the hawks, the hardliners, are steering the ship. But the guys who do not want to lose a season — You think the Heat owner wants to lose a full season? You think Jerry Buss wants to watch Kobe get older without playing? You think the Knicks want to let a newly renovated Madison Square Garden sit dark? And there are more — may not sit quietly forever. The question becomes the size and influence of the group that wants to make a deal.
Right now it’s moot, because the owners are anchored into their position. As are the players. Until something makes both sides pick up anchor and move into real negotiations there will be no good news.