Everything David Stern says right now to the media is spin. Everything is designed to put pressure on the NBA players and get a deal the owners like. (It’s the same for Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher, save they are trying to pressure the owners.)
But he stepped up the rhetoric after Wednesday’s negotiating session. Following two days of talks that have seen enough progress to warrant larger talks on Friday featuring owners and players negotiating committees, Stern decided to throw down the gauntlet (a quote reported several places including TrueHoop).
“Let’s get the two committees in and see if they can either have a season or not have a season. That’s what’s at risk this weekend.”
Be clear, this is not a total bluff — if there is not a handshake deal by the end of the weekend the first regular season games are in danger.
But David Stern is threatening the entire season now because he wants a deal now. On his terms. We don’t know exactly what those terms are, we don’t know exactly what the latest suggestions by the owners have been, but they appear to include a dramatic change in the division of basketball related income (the players offered 54 percent as their take, the owners suggested 48 percent), a reduction in the exceptions that allow teams to exceed the salary cap, and a much more stiff tax on the teams that do exceed it.
The players are not likely to be bullied by Stern’s tactics. The question is can they live with some variation of that deal?
Stern and the owners also wanted salary rollbacks, which likely would be a line the players will not cross without a lot of games missed. The players also will not allow league revenue to be decoupled from the salary cap — as league revenues go up with new television deals they want a piece of that money.
But is there really a deal in all that to be made? Maybe. If both sides are willing to give a little more.
If not games will certainly be lost. But to threaten the entire season is a bit much.