The NBA owners and players will not be getting together on Monday to look for an end to the lockout. There are a few key things that separate the NFL from NBA lockouts — primarily that the NFL is a money making machine and the NBA’s profitability is questionable at best — but one key difference is that the NFL owners and players sat down for 16 straight days to make a deal happen. They wanted to make a deal, both sides.
The NBA has yet to get past three straight days of talks. And that took a federal mediator.
So where do things stand in this ugly, pointless stalemate? Here’s what we know.
• The big issue remains the money — the split of basketball related income (BRI). That’s basically all the money that comes into the league (ticket sales, national television deals, a piece of team sponsorship and on and on). In the last labor deal, the players got a whopping 57 percent. They have offered to come down to 52.5 percent, but the owners say they are not going any higher than 50/50 (and the owners want to take more off the top before that split). The two sides are only about $100 million a season apart, which is not that far all things considered (they started out more than $800 million a season apart).
But you only close that gap by talking. Right now, both sides are dug in on this like a World War I battlefield. Until this is solved nothing gets solved.
• Even if the owners got a 50/50 split, that would not be enough, they want to win a battle for a major restructuring the system. David Aldridge of NBA.com brings us this quote from NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver.
“We did get a sense from the players in attendance that they felt, in essence, there should be a trade on those issues,” deputy commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday. “That if we were to reach a negotiated compromise on the split of BRI … that they, therefore, should get what they’re looking for on the system issues … as I’ve been saying now for a few years, it seems, there are two independent goals, both of which are critically important for our teams. One is to be economically sustainable. And number two is to have the ability to compete. And what we told the players today is we could not trade one for the other.”
That’s from the Attila the Hun negotiations playbook. It’s domination. The owners want a complete and total win or nothing, and they will shoot the sport in the leg to get it. The players give backs (in their offer) would amount to $180 million next season and well over a billion over the life of the agreement. The players are the ones making a sacrifice here. But the owners want more — they want to hurt the players, rout them. Just winning seems not to be enough. And it’s pathetic.
The owners keep preaching “competitive balance” but that is a flat-out myth. Actually, myth may be too kind, more like intentional deception. The NBA will never have the balance of the NFL because one player (Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Derrick Rose type players) dominates most contests. It will not work in the NBA. Besides, the NBA was at its most popular when Jordan dominated the league like no other, when competitive balance was laughable. But competitive balance is the flag the owners are flying.
• There are other things the two sides do not agree on. Chris Sheridan has a great breakdown over at his Web site of all the issues. Go read the whole post, but are a couple highlights.
Trade rules: Under the old system, the salaries of players being traded had to be within 125 percent of each other (if both trading teams were over the salary cap). This rule will be loosened considerably, although a final formula has not been agreed to. The players want the percentage to rise to 225 percent (whereby, for instance, a player making $1 million could be traded for a player making $2.25 million), while the owners have indicated a willingness to allow the percentage to rise to 140 or 150 percent — although teams paying the luxury tax would have a tighter restraint.
The “stretch exception”: Under this proposal, a team could waive any player and stretch out the remainder of the money he is owed, reducing the salary cap number for that waived player. For instance, if an underperforming player had three years left on his contract and was waived under the stretch exception, his remaining unpaid salary would be stretched out over a period as long as seven years. (Example: A player owed $21 million for three years who is waived under the stretch exception would still be paid his $21 million, but the cap cost would be spread over seven years, meaning he would count $3 million annually against the cap instead of $7 million.) In theory, this would free up more money to be paid to players who were worthy of the increased salary….
Maximum annual raises: There has been little movement here, with the owners asking that maximum raises be 4 1/2 percent for Bird players and 3 percent for others. The union wants to keep the current system of 10.5 percent raises for Bird players, with the caveat that the maximum raises would drop to 9 percent for a player signing a four- or five-year contract. For non-Bird players the union is asking for maximum raises of 8 percent in two- and three-year contracts, and 7 percent for players receiving four- or five-year deals.
A lot of these changes I like — things that bring more player movement can have advantages to fans. Undersand what the owners want is for more flexibility with role players but want to keep their stars from moving, but in general some additional player movement would be be good for fans.
For all their talk for two years — and 30 hours of meetings last week — there is still a big gap between the sides. There’s a lot of work to be done.
And they are not doing it. Both sides are dug in, nobody is moving. And the owners don’t want to give in, they want a rout, a bloodbath. The game itself is forgotten in all of this.
So where we stand with the NBA labor talks is that if they were really working on it they could get to a deal — they are not close, but they have made progress and a deal is there to be had. Except nobody wants it, both sides are stubborn and dug in.
So the lockout drags on. And on. And on.