UPDATE: The players union has not agreed to the owners deal. On top of that, they’ve “disclaimed interest” in the union that was representing them in these negotiations in order to move forward with an anti-trust suit against the NBA. The goals of a such a suit are multiple, but from my (non-lawyer) understanding the major goal is to get the lockout lifted due to the fact that without a union representing the players, the NBA is no longer eligible for anti-trust exemption and thus, the lockout would be illegal.
I’ll have more information when I get it, but for now, join me in mourning. The battle has shifted from both sides negotiators to lawyers. The likelihood there’s a season just went down. A lot. Sigh.
*Shakes Magic 8 Ball*
“Reply hazy, try again later.”
Today, the player reps for each team gather in New York to hear the NBA’s latest (last best?) offer from their leadership. They’re likely to be joined by several other big-name players (Kobe is there, as is Carmelo) who will let their opinions be known on how to move forward and whether they should accept, decline, or counter the offer that’s currently on table. Up to this point in the negotiation process, this is the biggest day we’ve had as it’s very likely that whatever decision the players will make will either result in a deal being made very quickly or the odds of there not being a season at all going way, way up.
A few scattered thoughts on the proposed deal and what I think the players will do:
- The key points to the deal on the table are actually available for everyone to read. It’s the layman’s terms version that’s been put out by the league (as a memo to the players) and has a bit of spin in it to help try to convince the players to agree to it, but you can read it for yourself to gauge whether or not you think this is a deal the players should agree to.
- My takeaway is that it still includes some restrictions on luxury tax paying teams that the players are going to find difficult to agree to. A lower mid-level exception and the elimination of sign and trades are still present and, as I’ve mentioned before, those are provisions that limit players’ mobility to any given team. The players will forever be against any measure that restricts their ability to set a “market price” for their services and the reduced MLE does just that.
- One issue I have with the document the league released was them citing statistics of how many times a certain type of transaction occurred (for example it’s stated that “Taxpayers used the sign-and-trade to acquire only 4 players during the prior CBA”) as if those stats should be interpreted by the players as reflecting things that aren’t meaningful and shouldn’t hold up a deal. However, I think the same thing could be said to the owners and I wonder why they’re sticking points from their end as well. I mean, if some of these transactions have only occurred a handful of times, why do the owners feel they’re needed in the new CBA?
- This is why I think the players won’t accept the deal on the table as is, but will instead state to the owners (and the public) what changes they’d make and would agree to. This will let everyone know where the players stand, that they’re not the roadblock to a season happening, and that all the owners have to do is drop a few of there lesser demands in order to get a deal done. The players can make the clear point that they’ll accept a 50/50 BRI split and will take the owners deal almost as is, but some of these issues – ones that the owners themselves say weren’t a big part of the last CBA – they’d like to see stay as is. At that point the pressure shifts back to the owners while the players would have openly stated they’re willing to get the season started asap.
- That said, I also would not be surprised if the players did not take that route at all and instead declined the owners’ offer outright. And personally, I would not blame them too much. That’s because the players are in a lose, lose, lose situation. They know they’ve already lost on this current deal – they’ve moved down 7% on their percentage of BRI, will accept shorter contract lengths, lower annual raises, and more punitive tax rates on the highest spenders. They know that the owners possess a strong negotiating position and that they’re not likely to make too many inroads in these current talks beyond, maybe, getting a few minor concessions. And they know that the owners have taken a negotiating stance that could barely be described as “good faith” (if at all) and going back to a work environment under those same owners is something that may be too difficult to live with.
- Beyond those issues though, the players are also in a position where what they’ve given up will likely never be gotten back by this current crop of players and any future negotiations will put them in a position where it’s doubtful they’ll be viewed in a light anywhere near as favorable as they are now. Understand that the current deal reportedly has opt outs for both sides after 6 years. Well, lets say the league does well over the course of the next 6 years – after all, the current crop of stars, the continued saga of the Heat, and other story lines are sure to keep the league popular – but the players find that certain parts of this deal aren’t tenable long term and they think they need to be renegotiated. In this scenario, the players may want to opt out but with increased revenue sharing, a better TV deal, and growing revenues, the owners are perfectly happy keeping the deal as is. So, the only way to get out of the current deal form the players side is to opt out themselves. In other words, they’d need to go on strike in order to reengage in talks. And, ultimately, going on strike would be a PR disaster where any goodwill they’d have built up in these talks would instantly vanish. If there’s one way to be viewed as a selfish, greedy athlete, it’s to go on strike. Some view the players that way right now even though they’ve been the only side moving in these negotiations after the owners locked them out. Imagine what it would be like should the players be the ones saying they want more?
- In the end, though, today is a day where we should know more. And while I want to see basketball again and want a deal to get done, all I can do is wait with the rest of you to see what happens. Hopefully it’s positive; hopefully the players can get a few of the things they want in order to claim even a small victory and we get basketball back soon. We’ll see.