David Stern

Winderman: CBA talks time to address contraction, schedule


To some, these are the worst of times for the NBA.

An impending lockout. The drafting of a new collective-bargaining agreement. Big-money teams vs. low-revenue franchises in what might set up as its own civil war.

And yet this also can be the best of times in at least one respect, in the void of a working agreement.

What the NBA needs as much as Tuesday’s Board of Governors meeting or the ensuing negotiating sessions with the players’ union in advance of the July 1 start of the lockout is a good-of-the-game summit.

Once a new CBA is in place, for whatever the term, so will be a blueprint moving forward. That makes now the perfect time, even amid this distressing time, to reshape the workplace, perhaps the final opportunity for the balance of the decade.

First, start with those owners whining because they’re losing money or not making enough money.

This was never a place for a high-profit return. That’s called the NFL. The NBA is a place where Micky Arison and Mark Cuban and Mikhail Prokhorov spend because they want to be viewed as winners. This is their hobby, their passion.

For most of the league’s successful owners, the view is similar.

The hard-line insurgency is being led by the league’s lesser half, owners David Stern never should have allowed to the table in the first place, his Frank McCourts, if you will.

So buy ’em out. Contract ’em. (It sure seems at this point as if no one wants to own the Hawks, anyway.)

The outlay now could be offset by a larger split among a smaller group of owners when it comes to television and marketing revenues. The playoffs drew record ratings because of the select group of teams viewers prefer to watch. A smaller league will allow more opportunities for Heat-Bulls, Mavericks-Lakers, Knicks-Celtics, games that will produce higher ratings than some of what is being offered nationally now.

The added benefit would be less dilution of talent. Perhaps now every team could actually field a legitimate center, quality depth.

Such contraction also would send a message to the players that your ranks will thin, so start working with us. In essence, the NBA could shrink the union.

Beyond that, address the schedule.

Among the reasons a lengthy lockout is forecast is because the NBA doesn’t truly gain traction until its Christmas games. Everything else seemingly is scheduled around Sunday and Monday NFL, and, to a degree, Saturday college football.

There has never been a groundswell for weeknight basketball from those rushing to arenas from work and then needing to get up early the following morning.

This should be a league of Friday, Saturday and Sunday (after NFL season) games, as the NBA has learned with its D-League scheduling.

A 60-game schedule would work just fine. The league still could sprinkle in Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday games to keep the ESPN and TNT schedules viable, only with less competition from local broadcasts, thus potentially higher ratings in that respect, as well.

These are not changes that can come in the middle of a collective-bargaining agreement.

They have to be part of the framework of a new CBA.

So if ownership insists on a lockout, if the players’ union can’t abide by management’s terms, then step back from the table and assess not only what is best from a revenue standpoint, but, dare we say it, what is best for the game, itself.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.