Where Rooting Interests Meet Reality

Darius Soriano —  October 31, 2011

A deal to end the lockout is close. Really, it is. Both sides have negotiated on, and agreed to most of the key elements of the deal that will serve as the structure of a new collective bargaining agreement.

However, as Howard Beck detailed in the above link, the last hurdle is a big one. And as David Aldridge wrote this morning, don’t expect the owners to move any more than they already have to clear that hurdle. The movement will need to come from the player side. And it will either come or the season will be lost. A sample of the sobering script:

In the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, the league is going to get, at minimum, a 50-50 split of Basketball-Related Income with the players, and a system with severe restrictions on teams that exceed the luxury tax threshold, from not being able to use many (if any) cap exceptions to being limited in their ability to make trades. Or the new CBA will allow teams over the threshold those exceptions, but take 53 percent of BRI to the players’ 47. Those are the choices now, and they will only get worse, because now that a month of the season is officially gone, and $800 million is down the tubes, there’s no reason for the league to stay at 50-50, and it won’t.

The players aren’t going to get 52, or 51, or 50.5, or 50.000001, and if they hold out for those numbers, they’re not going to have a season. You’d have to be crazy not to see that now, so it’s this for the players: take the deal this week or next, or lose the season. If they are willing to die on principle, they wouldn’t be the first. But they will die, in the metaphorical sense.

More from Aldridge:

One very senior team official had said Thursday night that even though the outside world was hopeful, he expected owners to hold at 50-50 and go no further, even though the conventional wisdom would seem to indicate the deal would be a compromise somewhere around 51.25 percent for the players — between the owners’ 50-50 offer and the players’ current 52.5 percent stance.

“That’s not the one that has the votes,” the official said. “I think they’re going to get 50-50. That’s as far as they’ll stretch.”

And that was, indeed, as far as they stretched — and even that came with conditions that the players could not swallow. But they will have to if they want to play this season. The players say it’s unfair that they’ve moved so far, from 57 percent of BRI in the old deal to 54.5 percent, and then 53, and 52.5, that they’ve already agreed to $180 million per year in salary givebacks, $1.8 billion over 10 years if they accept the league’s terms.

But this isn’t about fair. This is about the NBA putting its house back in order — naked, real-world realpolitik. If you understand nothing else about these negotitations, understand this: this isn’t just about money, at least not totally; this is about re-establishing who’s in charge.

Truth be told, I don’t know how to feel about this.

I’ve long been on the side of the players in this ordeal. The owners’ position in these negotiations started with them locking the players out and then seeking out the types of givebacks from players that would be unprecendented in any labor dispute between owners and players. They’ve slowly crept up from those positions in the name of “concessions” but as many have stated more eloquelently than I, the types of moves the owners have made are the equivalent of moving up from initial offers of $5,000 to $10,000 when trying to buy a brand new Bentley and then claiming they’ve doubled their offer as proof of how much they’ve moved off their original stance. I simply can’t ignore that the starting point in the owners’ position was too ludicrous to even take seriously; their tactics in these negotiations reak of bad faith bargaining. All this has led me to wanting the players to get a fair deal in the face of the strong arm nature of the owners demands.

On the other hand, I want basketball back desperately. I’m die-hard fan that watches multiple games a night when I can. I feverishly scan my twitter feed looking for the next #leaguepassalert to find that night’s close game while simultaneously refreshing the comments section of this site to join the coversation. Plus, as I type away right now it’s clear to you, the reader, I run a basketball site! I love to cover the games, write about strategy, discuss what did/can/will happen on any given night, breakdown the results, and do it all again the next night. And the night after. I am a junkie.

Not to mention, I have an allegiance to the Lakers. Last year’s gut wrenching end to the season is fresh on my mind even as we near 6 months since the final whistle blew versus the Mavericks. I want a season to see if they can recover and regain their stature as the team to beat. I want to see Kobe Bryant, entering his 16th professional campaign, play at a high level while he still can. I want to see if Gasol can bounce back, if Bynum can claim a larger role, if Mike Brown can re-energize an aging group….I could go on and on, but you get the point. The storylines are infinite for this team and they matter to me. Not having an NBA season would create a hole in my life that I’m not ready to have.

Said another way, I’m selfish. And this is where I’m having trouble coming to grips with what I really want, where my rooting interests meet reality. Do I want a fair deal for the players more than I want a season? Based off Aldridge’s report, that’s a question fans and players must now be asking themselves because that’s what it’s seemingly come to. I wish it were different. I wish the owners would be happy simply winning by 12 points after the players get some garbage time points to close the gap rather than running out the full court press right until the final buzzer. That’s not the case, though.

Darius Soriano

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