One would think that after four months, the NBPA and NBA would be able to figure out how to split pie slices. But no. Talks blew up again Friday over the split of Basketball Related Income, BRI, the phrase that has become the scourge of fans’ existence as more games are cancelled. On the surface, it’s as simple as this: the players won’t come down from 52 percent, a five percentage point drop from what they held under the prior arrangement, and the owners won’t come up from 50 percent, which they feel is a “concession” from their ludicrous starting position of a 46 percent (or lower) cut for the players. They might as well have started at 0 percent for players and say they’ve given up 50 points.
It sounds simple, and stubborn, and pointless. And it is, but it’s a little more complex than that.
Let’s start with an overlooked element that has quietly slid by in the past two days. When talking about BRI, Billy Hunter made reference to the “expenses deduction” this week. The owners had been wanting to take a certain amount of money for expenses for ownership off the top of BRI, essentially saying “we only want to split the true profit.” That’s a pretty absurd position in the minds of most analysts. Consider that the players don’t have any sort of impact on the decision-making of ownership when it comes to expenses. The BRI is constructed as the revenue generated by basketball. The owners want it to be “the revenue generated by basketball after we get back what we paid to create that revenue generated by basketball, which we don’t actually play.”
The position was such a hot-button that in previous talks it had been yanked off the table. Simple enough, and that concession was part of why I started to side with the owners at one point, at least before their extremists walked back in the room and lit everything on fire. Again. But after Hunters’ comments this week, and a tweet from Nazr Mohammed last night, it would appear that the league re-instituted this position into talks.
So that’s not really productive.
The expenses reduction essentially means that when you take the players’ cut under the owners’ proposal and divide it by the total money earned by the sources which make up BRI, plus the money they want to pull out first, the players’ actual cut would be 47 percent. It’s essentially the owners manipulating the system to make 47 percent look like 50 percent, according to the union’s math.
That sounds pretty owner-like, given what we’ve seen in this process, right? “Sure, I’ll give you 50 percent (when you want 52), I’ve just got to make it where 47 percent looks like 50 real quick.”
Meanwhile, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com brings up the fact that neither Hunter nor David Stern entered talks yesterday with the necessary bargaining power on BRI to get a deal. Stern, predictably, has his hands tied by the extremists owners who have been sabotaging a season since July 1st. But who’s got Hunter’s hands tied? From Berger:
“Billy said, ‘My phone is ringing off the hook from agents and from players telling me I cannot go under 52 percent,’ ” Silver said. “And he said, ‘Unless youre prepared to go there, we have nothing to talk about.'”
So even at this late date, when they were on the cusp of a deal, each one’s bus has been hijacked — the way union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler said the negotiations were hijacked a week ago. Stern is no longer driving for the league, and Hunter has been booted from the drivers seat by agents who — justifiably or not — believe the players already have given up too much in this negotiation and shouldnt give up another dime.
Yes, the two men who were supposedly empowered to make the deal everyone expected them to make Friday didnt have the juice to get it done. That’s sad, silly, unfortunate, a disgrace — and reality.
So from left-to-right here, we’ve got agents-Hunter-Stern-extremist owners. That’s the lineup for trying to save a season, with two reasonable men (regardless of your feelings on Stern, it’s clear from this week that he’s at least trying to get a deal, possibly against the wishes of the geniuses backing the teams losing the $300 million) trying to get a deal done and the sides behind them making that impossible.
How do you get a deal done when neither side really wants one, when they’d rather just lose the money which is quickly becoming relative pocket change compared to the losses and economic damage from missed games? You don’t. You just watch Rome burn.
Like I said. Stupid.