We’ve known there are rifts inside the NBA labor strife on both sides for a while. Agents are plotting against Billy Hunter while smiling at him over video conferences. Owners are meeting furiously among themselves due to disagreements on how things should be handled. But after Saturday’s up and down news (“There’s progress but not much and we’re meeting but not until Monday and we’re not canceling games but we might really soon”), a report from CBS indicates that there’s a singular pull: small market owners. They’re going to get their cut, one way or another.
Under the owners revenue-sharing proposal, the Lakers would contribute about $50 million and the Knicks $30 million toward an initial pool of $150 million, sources said. There is reluctance, according to one of the people familiar with the talks, on the part of small-market teams to increase the players share of BRI to beyond 50 percent without a stronger commitment from the big-market teams to share more — and to share more quickly in the first year of the deal. Some big-market owners are pushing for a more gradual phase-in of their increased sharing responsibilities and are reluctant to take the hit this coming season, one of the people with knowledge of the talks said.
So there you have it. Either the big markets are going to bail out the little engines that couldn’t, or the big bad wolf is going to blow down the million dollar house until the piggy brings out the bacon. Something like that. In essence, there’s pressure on both sides. The big market owners have been cooperative so far, offering up the revenue sharing, including quadrupedaling the amount currently shared, and sitting by while the small market owners threaten seasons those big market owners have invested in, heavily. The players have bent on BRI, have bent on systemic changes, have said there needs to be help for those franchises. But the small market owners want more. They want to be sure that they can never be faced with losing money again. Because, you know, that’s usually how business works in a capitalist society. Everyone wins, right?
What’s perhaps more stunning is how risky a strategy this is. Let’s be clear. If the large market owners, who were doing just fine under the previous deal, by the way, decided to get with the players and hammer out an agreement that benefited their respective sides, the small-market owners would be excluded. The hard liners may have the majority for now, but how quickly does that change when Jerry Buss, James Dolan and Jerry Reinsdorf jump ship and commissioner Stern starts applying pressure to the mid-level markets? Nonetheless, it’s been the extremist owners running things so far. And for the foreseeable future, it looks like losing games is going to be the cost of this pout session.