The NBA lockout, despite what both sides will tell you, has been and is as political as it is financial. It’s about contrasting positions of what is best for the league, what is ideologically acceptable to both sides, about who can break who. It’s about infighting and contingents and warring factions within factions. And it’s also about the future, not only for the league, its owners and players, and how the two organize their finances, but who will be the decision makers for the NBA and NBPA for the long-term.
This is David Stern’s last CBA rodeo. He’s said as much. With his retirement closing in, the work has begun to start grooming his heir apparent. From CBSSports.com:
With the cadre of longtime owners loyal to Stern having dissipated — replaced by the hard-charging Dan Gilberts and Robert Sarvers of the world — Stern is a CEO whose past in the NBA is a lot longer than his future. His heir apparent, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, is the one who will be around for the majority of the new owners’ tenure, and perhaps even the bulk of the new collective bargaining agreement.
Just as Stern has from time to time ceded the public spotlight to Silver, who also has taken a prominent role in the labor talks, the players have seen a clear leadership shift away from Hunter, for 15 years the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, to union president Derek Fisher.
For most fans, life without Stern is inconceivable. He’s been the backbone of the league for 27 years, has shepherded its growth through the Magic-Bird era through the Jordan Dynasty, the dark times of the early 2000’s and the league’s newest golden age. But the owners may be faced with a more concerning reality. Losing Stern means uncertainty as to how the future of the league is negotiated. Having Silver lead the charge on this deal could help soothe some concerns from owners about the long-term future of the league and its CBA.
How is this relevant? If the owners have no faith that the next commissioner will be able to negotiate from a position of strength, they may push for a ten-year deal only with the union. As that hurts the union the most, the lockout would be prolonged as the players try and fight off the advances of the league. But if the owners can be persuaded that they are in good hands with Silver, a shorter or more standard six-year deal could be what comes out of this. It gives the owners a new precedent, but also lets the players live to fight another day when economic conditions aren’t as severe.
No pressure, Mr. Silver. It’s just all riding on you.