Let’s be clear about two things. First, the NBA owners are going to win the lockout. Big. Just how big remains to be seen, but even if they took the players terms last Friday they would have had a massive win. It’s just not enough for them.
Second, they are fighting to save themselves from themselves.
The owners speak of a couple things in justifying their need to lockout the players and hurt the game. One is “competitive balance,” something that will never really exist in the NBA and has never been part of its success in the past (was the league balanced when Michael Jordan and the Bulls led it to new heights of popularity?).
The other thing the league and owners push is the right for every team to make money. Which really means want the teams to be able to control costs better and get more revenue in the door (through revenue sharing).
When it comes to controlling costs and competitive balance, they speak of the bad contracts that weigh teams down. Hence the “amnesty clause” that would allow them to waive a bad deal and restore some financial sanity to the game.
Except it’s not about that, as Henry Abbott pointed out at TrueHoop.
Meanwhile, the 20 players (ESPN analysts think will be waived with an amnesty clause) are due nearly $500 million combined over the rest of their current deals. Those NBA owners will likely, as a league, pay an extra $500 million just to tweak rosters here and there.
In other words, before all the kings’ horses and all the kings’ men have put the league’s economic model back together again, owners have already asked themselves: Would they like the right to pay players an extra $500 million to be a bit more competitive?
And to that they have said a resounding “Yes, we’d love to!”
Remember, the owners still have to pay whoever they waive with the amnesty clause, those contracts are still valid. Said deals will be dramatically reduced (by 75 percent) on NBA books, but that is a paper savings and is still cash flow out the door for the owners.
Then, once you waive a guy, you have to pay someone to come on the roster and take his place. Owners are not going to try and fill that spot with a rookie or minimum player, they are going to go after a good free agent who ca contribute. Someone who makes $5 million a year or more, most likely.
They are going to spend money to be more competitive. Willingly. Eagerly.
But we sit here on Nov. 1 locked out because the owners are driving a harder bargain to balance the league’s books on the backs of the players. We are without games because the owners don’t think they’ve gotten enough financial concessions from the players yet. Right. Remember players were a fixed cost (57 percent of league revenue), it was the cost of everything else that went up for the owners, in many cases debt service on money borrowed to buy the team in the first place.
What the amnesty clause really shows is the owners will not blink at spending more and doing it fast if they think it helps them win. The owners are hypocrites on this and in the end they are the ones to blame for this lockout and lost games.