It’s time for the owners to give, get a deal done… but they won’t

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It’s the paradox of perception during the NBA lockout — the NBA players have offered to give the NBA owners $1 billion back in salary over the life of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Yet ask a casual fan and they will tell you the players are the greedy ones (or, more often, that both sides are greedy).

In the real world, if a deal is going to get done soon, both sides are going to have to give a little more. That’s not going to sit well with some players, but if they come down to 51 percent of basketball related income (BRI) that’s where the deal is. It’s where pretty much everyone following the lockout has said the deal would be at since July. And if you put that to a vote of the union — approve 51/49 split and we start playing tomorrow — you’d get it approved.

But the owners might not approve that deal. The hardline owners, they are the ones standing in the way. They are the ones not giving.

J.A. Adande illustrates this well with some stories in his ESPN column.

“I think we’ve reached a really ugly stage,” an NBA team executive said. “I was the biggest optimist going, but I sense a gravitational pull toward, ‘Let’s keep taking money away from them.'”

“David’s going to have a hard time selling 50,” another team executive said. “I don’t think it’s a slam dunk, but it’s doable.”

Make no mistake, the NBA hardliners are driving the bus on that side. And it only takes 16 of them to form a majority and drag this lockout out. How long?

Now this story was related to me second-hand, not by an eyewitness. But according to the source, when some owners discussed earlier this year the possibility of missing the entire season, one owner said he was willing to miss two seasons. An incredulous David Stern asked him, in effect, “What will you come back to?”

Things look bleak. I want to hold out hope that when the two sides get together Saturday sanity will prevail, a sense of wanting to get the season started and stop hurting the league will prevail. I want to hold out hope that both sides will give a little and get the deal done at 51/49.

But I see little evidence that makes me hopeful.