This week was supposed to be the NBA’s opening week. When we should be watching the biggest stars in the game on the hard court.
Instead, the players and owners are threatening to take it to the real court.
How did we get here? After such positivity last week with breaks in the ranks of both the owners and players. Both sides are displaying a united front, but behind closed doors, it’s anything but.
Things are probably much worse for the players. Many are frustrated and searching for answers. Questions are coming from within the union, with accusations being hurled at Union chief Billy Hunter and Union president Billy Hunter about not being on the same page. “Someone” claims that Fisher has secretly met with NBA officials, agreeing to a 50/50 split of the most hated abbreviation during these talks: the BRI (basketball-related income), in exchange for either a managerial or league office position once his playing days are over.
On the other side, many players aren’t happy that Hunter walked away when the league offered the 50/50 split, feeling that he should have stayed in the room and continued to hammer out a deal. Things have gotten so bad, that a group of 50 players actually placed a call to antitrust lawyers about decertifying the union and taking their chances in court.
The owners have had their own show of not being on the same page, when Miami Heat owner Micky Arison, long considered one of the owners ready to agree to a new deal, took to Twitter to address some tweets from his followers. “How’s it feel to be apart of ruining the best game in the world? NBA owners/players don’t give a damn about fans & guess what? Fans provide all the money you’re fighting over & you greedy (expletive) pigs. Arison responded: “You are barking at the wrong owner.” There were several other tweets that drew the ire of the NBA, from commenting on competitive balance in the NBA being a joke with a smiley face to a simple “lol” when asked about Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. The tweets all showed that there is definitely some division between the owners, split down the lines of the large-market and small-market teams. The NBA responded by fining Arison $500,000 for the remarks. As noted, NBA owners are refrained from commenting on the labor impasse. “Ball so hard David Stern wanna fine me. Cray.”
Most report that the sides are 95 percent done, with only the hated BRI left to agree on. However, many on the Union side see it differently, arguing that there are still several system issues that must be worked out. The two sides are scheduled to meet this weekend, but who knows if anything will get done. Both Hunter and Fisher have written letters to the players denying the claims and presenting a united front. They claim that the real problems still exist with those across the table from them, the NBA owners.
“I don’t know that we’re going to accomplish much,” Hunter said. “But we’re going to meet.”
Stern says that because of the games that have already been lost, the hard-line owners want to take the 50/50 split off the table. As noted earlier, the owners aren’t looking for a fair deal. They’re looking for a deal that cripples the players, that ensures they’ll never have the financial problems they claim to be facing right now.
However, that’s what the last two CBAs that were done by one Commissioner David J. Stern were supposed to do.
The BRI is an important issue, because it represents the total amount of money available to NBA teams to sign players. The teams that really need help won’t get better, because they won’t be able to keep the players they have or sign new ones to improve their teams. That’s why the two sides could conceivably fight this one out and lose the entire 2011-12 season.
On the players’ side, decertification is a great idea that should have been thought about back in July when the lockout first started. The owners have always had the leverage in these talks. Decertification would certainly help to sway things a bit in the players favor, but using this strategy in November certainly has its risks. If the players were to decertify now, it’s a given that the NBA season will be lost. This could entice the owners to make a better offer this weekend, or the owners could actually get even more bold knowing that the Union is on the verge of breaking, which was their objective from day 1. It’s a dangerous game of chicken that no one, especially the fans, can win.
If a deal can somehow be miraculously reached this weekend, the NBA may still have a 78-game season. While the owners are looking for a knockout, they should just take the decision. Settle at 51/49, let the players feel like they aren’t walking away totally screwed, and let’s have an NBA season. Even if the owners would agree to a real 50/50 split with the players (with no credits taken off the top), this entire ordeal would be over. But they won’t. So we wait. The day is always darkest before sunshine. Good luck this weekend, guys.