Basketball fans around the country have been on edge wondering from one minute to the next if the 2011-12 NBA season is ever going to start. One minute the media is telling us that the owners and players are close to a deal; in the next they are walking away from the negotiation table yet again.
It’s David Stern playing hardball. It’s Kevin Garnett glaring everyone down. Forget the basketball wives; the players and owners would make a much better reality show.
Talks have “progressed” to a point where Stern is throwing out ultimatums; you know those things that bank robbers give right before they start killing hostages.
Apparently the first ultimatum was not a serious one (that works out well for the bank robbers too). The players are now mulling over another. Word so far is that this one too will likely be rejected.
If you have just been casually following the talks, it would appear that the split of basketball related income (BRI) is the main issue. The owners are insisting on a 50-50 while the players don’t want to go that low (they were getting 57 percent). However, on a little closer examination the issues appear to be a little deeper than that for the players.
Should the agreement be approved in its current form job security for role players and bench players will be next to nothing.
A new clause in the agreement would make it fairly easy for players to be sent down to the developmental league at any time in a player’s first five years. Of course, that player would end up getting paid significantly less in the process ($75,000 for a full season in the D-League).
There are many more details to the deal, but what they essentially entail is the right of the owners to have much, much more control over what players go where.
Stern has presented this latest deal as an ultimatum, much like the last one (which obviously wasn’t) with talks of a 72-game season still being possible. The fact that his is a second ultimatum shows that Stern and the owners are talking the talk, but are leery about walking it. Perhaps that is because they realize that the players actually do have another option.
All summer long there have been news stories about NBA stars playing in local leagues, many participating and hosting charity games, lots of them going overseas, and talks about stars going on tour or playing in weekend tournaments. The money is not there, compared to what it is in the NBA, but the chance to make a good living playing basketball is still there.
Big name players have yet to do much since an injury to them could mean the loss of millions of dollars. However, if the lockout was to appear to extend long into the future, what would stop one of the many networks on cable television from broadcasting international games?
In the short-term, the players could still make a living, but what if the lockout were to continue to look bad? Would the NBA still have a draft if there was no season? Who would want to enter it?
That could be good for the college game if more players were going to actually stay in college and continue to play there. Of course that would do little for the seniors, but if they really wanted to play, they could head overseas as well.
If there wasn’t an NBA season in 2011-12, what are the chances that colleges across the nation would be visited by coaches and owners from around the world? How many would be willing to listen? If they did, would television networks start making deals too?
That is a lot of “ifs” but when you consider that the players are now considering decertifying the union—a step the NFL players too almost immediately and their lockout still lasted a few months—there is no telling what could happen to the game.
Greed has destroyed things before.