The two sides in the NFL labor dispute have finally come together, so there will be football.
Perhaps that’s why they came together, because there only were two sides.
What has become increasingly clear amid this first month of the NBA lockout is that this is a lockout squared. There essentially are four sides.
On the ownership side, there are those with an immense amount to lose: the Heat losing one of the four locked-in years on the contracts of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh; the Celtics losing perhaps the last go-round with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen; the Lakers losing the Buss family’s primary source of income; the Knicks losing impetus gained amid the costly retrofitting of Madison Square Garden; the Bulls losing their first taste of momentum in the post-Jordan era.
But on the ownership side, there also are those who gain more without playing: the Kings, who can gain additional time to sort out their arena situation without another season in their current outdated building; the Cavaliers, who could find themselves with another guaranteed high lottery pick and a quicker path toward rebuilding; the Bobcats, who clearly need some sort of revenue sharing to make it work; ditto for the league-owned Hornets.
But it’s not only a schism among owners.
On the players’ side, we’re hearing plenty about Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose cashing in for $400,000 apiece with this past weekend’s appearances in the Philippines; about Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony and their current tour of China; of Amare Stoudemire, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard and their lucrative overseas possibilities.
But the league’s lesser players, the ones who could lose a year of their fleeting careers? They’re not getting the big bucks to tour or sign overseas. They’re just seeing transitory paychecks soon to be lost.
Yes, the NBA needs a consensus to get out of this mess.
But first there must be a consensus between the owners. And between the players.
Why exactly would the Lakers, with their profitable new local television deal, want to revenue share with the Kings, who are threatening to move into their very market?
Why shouldn’t the lesser half of the players’ union simply say: “Raise the annual minimum to $2 million per, guaranteed, and we’re in, and feel free to cut the maximum while you’re at it.”?
On the owners’ side, is revenue sharing best for all? Or contraction?
For the players, wouldn’t decertification and a free-for-all for benefits create a further gap between the haves and have-nots?
It still is only July, less than a month into the lockout, at the very point when it also was highly contentious in the NFL lockout.
But unanimity is easier brokered when there are only two sides to the story.
What the NBA needs at this point, before anything else, are truly unified fronts.
Not high-end players cavorting overseas as the rank and file seeing valuable career time slipping away.
Not owners who aren’t even sure what they’ll do with the pie when they finally get their slice.
If the lockout continues to be played as a game of two-on-two, it will remain a game with no possible winner.