Lockout spin of the day: Owners aren’t kidding about 50/50

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Right now, David Stern and the owners are trying to scare the players, to push them into agreeing to a 50/50 split of basketball related income (BRI, the revenue the league takes in).

The players got 57 percent in the old deal and think they have given up enough coming down to 52.5, that the owners have to give something back, too. The players see this as a negotiation between partners and want some give and take.

The owners want the money and the power, and are going after them like Tony Montana in Scarface, David Aldridge reports at NBA.com.

The players aren’t going to get 52, or 51, or 50.5, or 50.000001, and if they hold out for those numbers, they’re not going to have a season. You’d have to be crazy not to see that now, so it’s this for the players: take the deal this week or next, or lose the season. If they are willing to die on principle, they wouldn’t be the first. But they will die, in the metaphorical sense….

The players say it’s unfair that they’ve moved so far, from 57 percent of BRI in the old deal to 54.5 percent, and then 53, and 52.5, that they’ve already agreed to $180 million per year in salary givebacks, $1.8 billion over 10 years if they accept the league’s terms.

But this isn’t about fair. This is about the NBA putting its house back in order — naked, real-world realpolitik. If you understand nothing else about these negotiations, understand this: this isn’t just about money, at least not totally; this is about re-establishing who’s in charge.

Is that spin and scare tactics by the owners? Sure. That doesn’t mean there’s not truth in it.

That brings us back to what we’ve talked about before here at PBT — LeBron James and how things went down in his move to Miami, and how that led us to here. James had the power — teams came to him to kiss his ring and make their pitch. Teams spent years clearing out cap space to make a run at him and Chris Bosh. The players controlled that summer, the owners didn’t like it.

Now the owners have the leverage and they are going to win. Completely and totally. They offered the players a deal: a 50/50 BRI split but the owners win on system issues, or 47 percent of BRI and the players get some system issues back. The players want both. The players are betting that the owners will give up a little more on BRI eventually, maybe 51 or 52, plus some system issues. That’s where we stand right now.

The players have some wins in these talks. The biggest was keeping the salary cap tied to league revenues — as the league makes more, the players make more because the cap will go up. That was a principle worth fighting for. But a couple of percentage points? With every day and every dollar lost by the players — and how this lockout impacts fans and will drive revenues down — it becomes a fair question to ask when the players need to just give in and get back on the court.

Frankly, that time is very soon.