Welcome To The Slaughterhouse

Darius Soriano —  October 5, 2011

As you’ve likely heard by now, yesterday’s meetings between players and owners did not yield even a tentative agreement. Both sides described the talks as productive but not impactful enough to provide the needed breakthrough. “Today was not the day to get this done. We were not able to get close enough to close the gap”, our own Derek Fisher relayed to the masses.

The pre-season is gone and if a deal between the owners and players isn’t reached by Monday the first two weeks of the regular season will fall with them. This is where we are.

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Well into the evening (much to the chagrin of my wife) I sat on my couch and watched – on continuous loop – the press conference that Commissioner David Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver had after the meetings were over. I watched my television like conspiracy theorists watch the Zapruder film, looking for tells as if I were a professional gambler waiting to catch these guys in a lie. And, to be fair, I found little to get upset about.

They relayed their positions like the media masters they are, talking about BRI, percentage points, hard caps, salary roll backs, and all the concessions the owners have made over the last several days in the hopes of finding the common ground that would lead to a deal. They spoke of disappointment that the meetings were “cut short” and how they really felt they were onto something before it was clear they weren’t. I found myself nodding in agreement at certain points and shaking my head at the spin being spoken at other times but mostly I just sat there dissecting every word.

And as I listened over and over again, I realized that I’m a bit too invested in this. The saying goes that no one likes to see the sausage made but I – like many others – are getting to the slaughterhouse early, pulling up chairs in the front row, and doing just that. I don’t do it for all of you – I run this site because I love the Lakers; I write about the game because basketball holds a stature in my life that most reserve for things that they can actually control or have input on. I do it because it interests me and I care about the outcome.

I want basketball back and I want it back as soon as possible. For me, for you, for all of us. Us that follow games via boxscores when we’re not near a TV. or a radio. Us that hop on twitter to share in the joy of a close game between the Wizards and the Blazers in March while typing #leaguepassalert to notify everyone.

Bethlehem Shoals tweeted that “The lockout is a business story and a labor story. Not a sports one. Deal.” and he’s right. But I’m hoping for the day that we actually do have basketball to cover comes back soon. I’m tired of sitting in the front row watching the sausage get made.

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There is still optimism, though. Ken Berger – who has covered the lockout and the CBA negotiations like Deion Sanders with a notepad – writes that the sides are actually closer than they’re letting on.

Despite the intransigence of the owners in their goal of achieving profitability and a level playing field … despite the players’ almost religious zeal for guaranteed contracts and other perks achieved over the years … and despite formidable external forces that threatened to implode the negotiations … the NBA and the players association are only about $80 million a year apart on the economics of a new collective bargaining agreement, multiple people with knowledge of the deal told CBSSports.com. So even though all parties left a Times Square hotel looking grim-faced and feeling disappointed, the two sides in theory have moved so close to a deal that it is almost incomprehensible they would choose hundreds of millions in losses — or billions from a completely lost season — instead.

Granted, the floated proposals may be the last best offer and if those aren’t accepted now (or in the coming days) both sides may retreat to their corners intent on taking back the ground they’ve given in this battle for billions. But since I’m an optimist and someone that’s held firm on the idea that the season will start on time, I’ll call the glass half full for a few more days.

After all, my seat in the front row is still warm and if I’m going to watch the sausage get made I might as well stay until the end.

Darius Soriano

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13 responses to Welcome To The Slaughterhouse

  1. Warren!

    oh… damn it…

  2. It _is_ frustrating to read business stories masquarading as basketball stories. But that’s all we’ve got.

    I’ve never been much of a college hoops fan, preferring always the NBA game, athleticism, and flair. But . . . (sigh) . . .

    Go Bruins? I’ve just surfed and printed a 2011 Bruin preview…I shall study, as it may be the best bball we’ve got…

  3. LOL, I like college basketball, UCLA in particular, but if another team grabs my attention I am not opposed to following another team.

    I have resigned myself to a truncated NBA basketball season, sigh….

  4. Am I the only one here who is not so upset about the prospect of a 60-70 game season? As an older team, I think a shorter season may be good for the Lakers and, as a season ticket holder, I must confess I am none too bothered about not having to shell out full price for a pair of awful preseason games. Furthermore, it should be clear by now that the Lakers don’t seem to care about the regular season anyway (although I have been known to blow out my vocal chords in November). I know there’s something anathema about this idea, but still….

    The shorter the season, the more each game matters (like the NFL)– I think it could make for a more exciting – and successful – season for the Purp and Yellow. Asterisks, be damned!

  5. Huh,$ 80M gap and the greedy bunch could not find a way to agree. I guess this is the 1% that protesters at WS referred to as job killers while the 99% are us, the fans willing and able spenders bellyaching for the games to begin because life will be miserable without NBA.

    Why don’t the bloody combatants (players and owners) face the mirror and sincerely ask their mirror image: “dear Lord, are you being paid fairly in this day and age?”

  6. @lil’ pau, that is an interesting way to look at the situation. I was pretty bummed out when I heard all of the preseason games were cancelled, and we have until Monday to not lose any regular season ones. But, maybe this is not all doom and gloom after all.

  7. Darius,

    I’d hoped you would be more realistic by now, but you need to be reminded of a few facts:

    1. Basketball, originally a unique American amateur game, has evolved into a truly global professional sport.

    2. NBA basketball is an American business with a mixed record in supporting the professional basketball “game,” mostly oblivious to the globalization going on. The NBA only really modernized professional basketball once–after a competing ABA was formed.

    3. NBA owners collectively, wealthy as they are, are not very good businessmen when it comes to developing and preserving the business of professional basketball in the United States of America.

    Rather than evolving the number of games in a season to fit the human limitations of the players and interests of the fans, they have piled on as many games as they possibly can to the NBA season and playoffs. Don’t bet that they have maximized profitability with such a strategy.

    Rather than siting teams by the demographics of the population, the NBA has allowed the owners to move to locations most willing to subsidize the building of stadiums. These locations sharply limit the revenue potential of Media Networks.

    The NBA is already losing quality professional basketball players to international teams–and the trend is growing. The NBA should be making up for their own business failures to properly distribute team locations and overall revenue nationally while looking for strategic partnering abroad.

    Instead, they propose to risk the one advantage they have over international competition, player compensation, with reduced stagnant compensation over a 10 year period. They have managed to unify and enrage the players.

    The best way for the NBA to survive as we know it would be to cut at least a short term deal with the players and rethink their options.

    Otherwise, even if they negotiate a long term agreement on their terms, they will soon learn a great deal about competition in the marketplace.

    Instead of watching sausage being made, you may be watching your NBA commiting suicide.

  8. 7,
    I agree to a point. The NBA owners might just be trying to make their money while they can though. They know within the next twenty years they will have even more competition from other leagues around the world and will no longer be able to artificially lower players worth as they will have to compete for players with other countries. So I just don’t think no matter what they do here will necessarily speed up development of various leagues around the globe.

    Actually… I changed my mind. I am wrong. With guys like Kobe and company heading over seas that might expedite the growth process of international basketball. I mean it is already the second biggest team sport in the world.

  9. #7. Thanks for the “reminder”. Ha.

    I think you need to be reminded of something too…

    The NBA is the premier league in the world and it’s really not close. The NBA isn’t really losing quality players to foreign leagues, those leagues are losing their best players to the NBA. Also, if you don’t think the NBA has had a major hand in evolving basketball into a global game, I don’t know what to tell you.

    I don’t argue points about the business acumen of most owners when translated from the boardrood to the hardcourt. I’ve long believed they’re being greedy here but I also believe they understand it’s in their best interests to have a full slate of games this year and avoid a lockout that spreads into the regular season.

    This much is obvious from how much they’ve moved off their hardline positions to the point that they are now.

  10. I like your “slaughter house”reference because it’s funny and true at the same time.

  11. Ha… I just want to start talking basketball… If I wanted to talk economics I would have been born smarter. We still don’t have a starting PG and unless our starting SG really did as rumored have HGH injected into his ailing knee I don’t think he is still good enough to win a championship with a major hole at the 1.