The NBA labor negotiations’ approach to the issue of BRI was pretty simple on Saturday. See no evil, hear no evil, see no conflict, make no progress. Both sides took BRI off the table and focused on systemic issues, trying to “break down the mountain” as Derek Fisher put it. It wasn’t a bad approach. Unfortunately, the best case scenario would have been getting to third base. Everything but. The fact that they’re still “miles apart” in the words of Billy Hunter only makes the situation worse. Because what looms over the systemic horizon is the grand mountain of cash.
It’s been interesting to see the sides develop. Since the beginning, experts have said the debate was going to come down to BRI, to cold hard cash, the money split between the two sides. I’ve been among those peering into some sort of mythical scenario in which money wasn’t everything. The talk from both sides indicated that the hard cap, the exceptions, the system was as big of an issue as BRI. And were you to ask them on the street, both sides would tell you the same. But what we’ve seen the last two weeks indicates a pattern. There’s movement to be had in terms of how spending is limited. There’s movement to be had in the structure. But the lockout’s only going to end when the two sides settle BRI. And that’s not happening any time soon.
From Howard Beck of the New York Times:
On Friday night, Yahoo! Sports reported this from the players’ side:
Wade, James and Paul were at the forefront of a strong players presence at a Park Avenue hotel for Friday’s contentious bargaining session. In a private union meeting prior to the bargaining session with owners, James kept reiterating to the group of elite players that they shouldn’t give back a greater share of the league’s basketball-related income (BRI) than what they’d already conceded in previous negotiations.
“We’re all together on 53 [percent], right?” James said. “All together on 53 right?”
The owners started somewhere south of 44 percent, the players started at the previous CBA’s mark of 57 percent. The players have gone down four percent, the owners have gone up two. For the owners to be pushing for a sub-50 mark for the players is as nuts as the previous sticking point of a $54 million hard cap. They knew they weren’t getting that. They know they’re not getting a plus-50 BRI for themselves. The very best case is a 50-50 split for them, and that would only come after, oh, losing an entire year, killing the sport and ruining the fandom of millions. Can they do it? Absolutely.
But this is the issue. It’s possible the owners are just waiting for the players to come down to 52 or 51. It’s possible the players are just waiting for the owners to come out of the freaking sub-basement. Until there’s movement from either side on what is apparently the abject limits for either side at this point.
It’s about money. It’s always been about money. It will always be about money.
Enjoy that, fans.