On the record, everyone tries to keep a brave face. Basically every last person involved in the new Collective Bargaining Association talks say that a lockout can be avoided. They then say that will happen when the other side caves to their demands. But on the record they hold out hope.
Off the record, nobody is optimistic about avoiding a lockout. In fact, plenty will say its inevitable. There are some hardline owners who want a radical change in the economics, the players say that it is more about the owners sharing revenue and not the contract system, and they will not be easily moved.
So it was a refreshing bit of honesty to read what Carmelo Anthony told Sports Illustrated and its senior NBA writer Ian Thompson:
“I’ve been sitting in meetings with the owners and seeing what is their problem with everything,” he said. “I’ve been in several of the meetings to know what the problem is and what’s going on. It’s going to take some time to get the owners and the players on the same page.”
Is there going to be a lockout?
“Oh, without a doubt,” he said. “Without a doubt.”
So that’s another reason to sign the extension now, I said.
Come July 1 you can bet there is a lockout. That’s not the real drop-dead date though. For most fans, if there is a lockout in July that gets solved in August so that training camps open on time and no games are missed, all will be forgotten and forgiven. If games are missed — especially in this economy — fans will not be forgiving and the impact on ticket sales and the NBA’s popularity will linger for years. Both sides know this, but both are digging in their heals. It could get ugly.
But a lockout is coming. Without a doubt.