Around the World (Wide Web): More Lockout Talk

Phillip Barnett —  October 26, 2011

From Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: Assuming the owners are as entrenched as ever at 50, what is there to talk about today? The system — which is really a bundle of issues that determine exactly how hard the NBA’s salary cap will be, and, related, how certain NBA players’ incomes will be. Hunter’s core concerns: “We’re not prepared to let them impose a system on us that eliminates guarantees, reduces contract lengths, diminishes annual contract increases, eliminates the other [salary cap] exceptions, really restricts Bird [rights for teams to exceed the cap to re-sign their own free agents]. That’s the kind of system they want. And we say no way. We have fought too long, and made too many sacrifices, to get where we are. We’re talking about a system that’s going to generate billions of dollars in the next few years and we were prepared to take a step back, to take a cut, to help them. We have presented them with a proposal that would address all of their losses, so that minimally they would have broken even. So that’s where we are.”

From Tom Haberstroth, TrueHoop
: You notice that Stern did not sell the unfairness of payroll disparity by pitting the Orlando Magic against the Chicago Bulls. The Magic spent $110 million last season (the same as the Lakers) and the Bulls shelled out a lowly $55 million, or half as much as its Eastern conference foe. And the result? The poor Bulls won more games than any other team and reached the Eastern Conference Finals. The Magic? The nine-figure payroll bought them an embarrassing first-round exit. If you scan through team payrolls, you begin to see that money doesn’t decide games. If cash was king, then the Bulls wouldn’t have a chance against the Magic. If spending power ruled all, how do we explain the Utah Jazz and their $80 million payroll winning 16 fewer games than the Oklahoma City Thunder, who spent just $58 million? The Toronto Raptors boasted a higher payroll than the Miami Heat, so why did the Raps lose 60 games while the Heat came within two games of a title?

From Brian Windhorst, TrueHoop: Multiple league sources have emphatically told in the past several days that the sticking points with the players’ union do not solely break down market-size lines and that there’s unity among the owners on the need to win significant economic concessions from the players. But there seems to be a difference between unity and harmony. TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott reported Tuesday that the owners were holding a hastily-scheduled meeting in New York to further address revenue sharing issues. It comes on the heels of an owners’ meeting last week where enhanced revenue sharing was discussed — a conversation that has been going on for nearly as long as talks with the players — but no plan was agreed to. Stern has promised a new system that will at least triple the money being shared by teams. But so far that has just been a promise, as no plan is in place.

From Ian O’Connor, ESPNNewYork: Of course, there’s a difference between a 50-50 split of BRI and a 50-50 split of income. NBA owners grab $600 million in expenses off the top, and some sources of revenue don’t fall under the BRI umbrella. So the players’ half is actually less than half. Even at the risk of a lost season at the worst possible time, a time of exciting stars and healthy ratings and developing storylines, the players can’t accept this demand. “It’s more than a compromise; it’s a folding,” Miller said of the prospect of the players’ union, or any union, making such dramatic concessions to management. “That’s the nature of the beast, too. You start to retreat, and the next thing you know you’re on your back.”

From Shaun Powell, In the past, the owners could always count on players to crumble after missing a few paychecks. But that’s so 1990-ish. Today’s player isn’t nearly as reckless or dumb about financial matters. That’s not to say a fair amount of players don’t buy three houses and five cars and 50 pounds of bling. But the NBA actually helped today’s player wise up by implementing programs and workshops, mostly during the league’s mandatory rookie orientation, designed to teach players how to manage their money better. Plus: Thanks to that 57 percent slice of the basketball related income-pie, players over the last decade saw their salaries rise to roughly $5 million on average, almost to the point where the players make too much money to blow all of it. So anyone who thinks players will start shivering just because of a few missed paychecks is being a bit foolish.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: The NBA canceled the first two weeks of the regular season, and could cancel more. The players lose $160 million in salary for every two weeks of missed games, while the league loses $800 million. The concession and team employees continually feel worried for their jobs. The average fan feels no sympathy for either side fighting over $4.3 billion in this sagging economy. And the NBA continues to put its popularity in jeopardy. That’s why both sides need to change their negotiating tactics when they meet Wednesday in New York.  For one, it’s a small but encouraging sign the owners dropped their precondition of demanding acceptance of a 50-50 revenue split, as’s Chris Sheridan reported. But they need to do more. It’s inevitable they’ve won this labor battle because they have the leverage, but there’s no need to kick the players union when it’s already down.

From Howard Beck, NY Times: The owners remain unified for now in seeking big givebacks from the players — even at the cost of canceling games. But their views cannot be easily categorized by market size, revenue, personal wealth or championship aspirations. In a Venn diagram, the owners would show overlap in their core objectives, but different preferences for achieving them and different thresholds for how many games they are willing to lose. “Externally, they have uniformity, but internally, there is a debate and different interests by different teams,” said Marc Ganis, the president of SportsCorp, a sports consulting firm. “There is uniformity on meaningfully changing the system. But what that means can mean different things to different people.”

Phillip Barnett