Lockout on the Outs as Stars Go on World Tour

Lockout on the Outs as Stars Go on World Tour

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After last week’s spectacular blow-up of the mediation talks, a catastrophic mess led by Portland Trailblazers owner Paul Allen, top leaders from both the NBA and NBPA are still working through a deal that will save the NBA basketball season.  Many experts expected Commissioner David Stern to cancel another two weeks (until November 28) on Wednesday, but there was no announcement from the league since Stern went home with flu-like symptoms almost six days ago.  “I leave these guys alone for a little bit of time,” Stern said, “and all hell breaks loose.”

Leaders from both sides spoke Tuesday afternoon and then met on Wednesday for over 15 hours, with the meeting ending at 3:30 a.m.  The same issues remain: an adequate split of the basketball-related income (BRI), revenue sharing, and a punitive luxury tax meant to even the competitive nature of the sport.  NBA owners met Tuesday in New York to discuss spreading revenues between the 8 profitable teams in the league and the 22 that reportedly lost money last season.  The eight turned a profit of $150 million while the other 22 lost over $450 million, bringing us to the $300 million figure the league has been touting since day 1 of the lockout.  The league currently has a revenue sharing program of around $50-60 million, while less profitable leagues such as the National Hockey League (NHL) spread around $137 million between its large and small-market teams.

Some major progress was made Wednesday, with the sides again focusing on system issues and not the BRI.  Many believe that once these system issues are agreed upon, the BRI will fall into place.  The sides are scheduled to meet again at 2:00 p.m., with one source saying that they need Thursday to “punch it over end-line.”  Sources also say it may be possible to salvage an entire 82-game season.

As noted previously, there seems to be some dissension amongst the small and large-market owners in their willingness to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement.  ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that as far as back as 2006, eight owners signed a petition and sent it to Stern addressing the big-market/small-market problem.  The letter read: “We are asking you to embrace this issue because the hard truth is that our current economic system works only for larger-market teams and a few teams that have extraordinary success on the court and for the latter group of teams, only when they experience extraordinary success. The rest of us are looking at significant and unacceptable annual financial losses.” There has been much turnover amongst the owner ranks over the past few years, with many believing Stern has assured these new owners that he will make the necessary changes to make owning an NBA team a profitable investment.

In a podcast Monday with ESPN, union chief Billy Hunter ruffled some feathers on the NBA side when he leaked information of Mark Cuban proposing total elimination of the salary cap.  Baseball does not have a salary cap, essentially letting the market dictate the salaries of the players and the payrolls of franchises.  The league quickly fired back, stating that it was more of the union’s idea, and that Cuban proposed adding a new salary cap exception with a super-high luxury tax to penalize teams that go over a set number.  Due to NBA rules, Cuban cannot comment or he will face a fairly hefty fine, which he is used to receiving from the Commissioner.

I fail to see how no salary cap would solve the problems the league is facing now, as large-market teams would have more money and the vanity factor of playing in a bigger city – which would more than likely lure most of the stars to play in Los Angeles, New York, or Chicago.

Speaking of stars … after several stops and starts, nearly two dozen of the league’s most recognizable faces were slated to embark on a 4-city, 6-game world tour starting October 30 in Puerto Rico and ending in Rod Laver Arena on November 9.  Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, and Dwyane Wade all agreed to compete with other NBA stars in London, Melbourne, Australia, and Macau.  Because of the optimism from the CBA talks Wednesday, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul all pulled out of the tournament at the last minute, putting the stops other than Puerto Rico in jeopardy of being played.  Each star will receive a salary, ranging from 6 figures to $1 million.  The league has canceled the first couple of weeks of the regular season, so the players have a great opportunity to expand the NBA and their own personal brands worldwide.  The barnstorming games of the players have been met with great enthusiasm by fans. I see it being no different across the pond.

If and when a new CBA is reached, the league will have to redo the entire schedule, as those dates have been lost and the venues have gone about filling in those slots.  Rappers Kanye West and Jay-Z have already taken advantage of the open dates, adding extra dates to their “Watch the Throne” tour in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto.  That’s more of that non-BRI that the owners will enjoy thanks to the lockout.

Hopefully, the NBA and NBPA will come to an agreement soon that will result in no more games being canceled.  Tuesday night on Jay Leno, President Barack Obama summed it up the best way possible:  “They need to remind themselves that the reason they are so successful is because a whole bunch of folks out there love basketball.”  Well said, Mr. President.  Let’s get a deal done, fellas.

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