Don’t expect much out of Monday’s negotiating session

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Finally, one month after the NBA took its ball and went home, the owners and players are going to get back to negotiating next Monday in New York. David Stern, Billy Hunter and all the key players are going to sit down across from each other at a table and have a dialogue about the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Don’t expect much.

While it is good news the two sides are at least back in the same room, that may be about the only good news. Ken Berger at CBSSports had a good column on the topic today and compared this meeting to Seinfeld — Monday will be a show about nothing.

While fans may be frustrated, neither the owners nor players feel real pressure to compromise yet. The owners haven’t lost out on any revenue from games. The players haven’t missed a paycheck — in fact they just got a additional check because the owners had to pay back money kept from players checks as part of the old CBA’s system to get the players exactly 57 percent of the league’s basketball related income. (That’s a complex sentence, just go with “the players got an extra check” and you get the idea.) And there’s more, Berger notes.

But the real issue, which we’ll explore further on Friday, is that no legal threat or leverage has emerged to force either side to move significantly off its position and bargain — no, compromise — for a deal. As of now, the players are waiting for the National Labor Relations Board to decide whether to issue a complaint against the NBA based on their charge of failing to bargain in good faith, among other things. Most legal experts believe the players will be waiting another 30-60 days for that decision, at least. But if it results in a complaint, the NLRB could ask a federal district court for an injunction suspending the lockout — an outcome that wouldn’t be likely if the NBPA decertified and filed an anti-trust lawsuit like the NFLPA did.

The NFL players were able to use the courts to pressure the owners back to the negotiating table. But don’t compare the two lockouts, they are apples and dragon fruit. The NFL is a moneymaking machine that last season generated $9 billion in revenue (more than double the NBA) and it was really just a matter of how to divide up the profits to everyone’s liking. The NBA as a league is losing money — the players may dispute how much and how many teams (the league claims 22 lost money, Forbes estimated 17) but the NBA is not profitable for owners right now. Because of that they are far more determined for an overhaul of the system than their NFL counterparts ever were.

Bottom line, don’t expect real progress on Monday. I’ve got a feeling it will be mid September before we see real movement — or then we’ll realize this is going to go on for a long, long time.