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NBA continues ridiculous “two steps up, one step back” dance

Oct 28, 2011, 6:27 PM EDT

Empty Amway Arena Getty Images

We’ve given each other some hard lessons lately
But we ain’t learnin’
We’re the same sad story that’s a fact
One step up and two steps back
                                                            — Bruce Springsteen

This whole thing is ridiculous.

The NBA labor talks broke off again in a huff on Friday, with both sides refusing to take the final steps needed to close a deal. What that means is that more NBA games will officially be cancelled, games likely at least through the end of November.

The union wanted the owners to give more on the system issues — specifically exceptions allowed for teams paying the luxury tax — and without getting that would not move enough on basketball related income (BRI) to make the owners happy. The players remain at wanting 52.5 percent of the BRI, the owners call for a 50/50 split (although the owners take a lump off the top in expenses.

These tweets from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo sum it all up:

Privately, owners saying union left impression they would accept 50-50 if system issues were resolved, and that’s why NBA returned to talks.

Union won’t accept 50-50 split with many changes of luxury tax/exception system. Players thought NBA would concede a little, get deal. Nope.

They’re not even on the same page. Ridiculous.

Stern said in his post-talk press conference that future offers from the owners would reflect the losses the owners are feeling from no revenue coming in — meaning the owners will offer less, not more in the future. Great.

This is less and less about the money, and more and more about principle on the two sides. And that is bad for fans. As Tim Donahue of Eight Points, Nine Seconds (one of the better lockout bloggers) has said: People will fight for money but they will die for principle. The players feel the deal is unfair, the owners feel the players don’t understand their plight and the owners need a more resounding victory to be profitable. Plus, the owners have all the leverage.

Here’s what I mean about it being less and less about the money, it’s a tweet from Darren Rovell, CNBC’s sports  business reporter.

For the NBA players who follow me: Missing a month of the seasons costs $400M. Going from 52% to 51% on 7 year deal costs $280M!

Donahue tweeted he thinks those numbers are a little off due to projected revenue growth, suggesting a percentage point of BRI is more like $477 million over 10 years. Rather than argue let’s take that number. That means with $400 million in salary out the door we are saying this fight is down to near $77 million, or $7.7 million a year. (That assumes that if the players went to 51 percent the owners would take 49, that may not be the case.)

Are the players willing to miss a month of games over less money than John Salmons made last year? Yes, because they feel they are being wronged. They feel the deal offered is unfair and people will not sign off on a deal they see as unfair even if it hurts them to do so. The owners, on the other hand, have all the leverage and plan on using it. They have won the negotiations, but not by enough to make them happy. While I think the owners deserve the lion’s share of blame in this lockout, everyone has blood on their hands.

So here we are. It’s ridiculous, but here we are.

Don’t be shocked if the two sides start meeting again this weekend or early next week (union president Derek Fisher is reportedly flying back to Los Angeles, not a good sign for those hoping for an immediate resumption of talks).

The pattern throughout these negotiations have been several intense days of talks with incremental gains, things abruptly break off, then in less than a week they are back at it. No reason to think we will not see the same thing again this time.

But this time there is more urgency. Games are being lost and every day games and these games cannot be just put back in the schedule.

Then looming a few weeks away is a deadline to make sure there are games on Christmas Day. That’s an NBA showcase, the first day of national broadcast network games, it’s a day of marque matchups. Miss Christmas and that’s when you really start to lose the average sports fan. Both sides say they want to avoid that, to get a deal done.

Yet here we are. With no new talks scheduled and a stalemate. Ridiculous.

  1. sonofsambowie - Oct 28, 2011 at 7:51 PM

    Always nice to see a little light shone upon “tunnel of love”, Bruce’s most overlooked record.

    • Kurt Helin - Oct 29, 2011 at 9:11 AM

      Not my favorite Bruce album, but the lyrics popped into my head while writing this.

  2. ilovefoolsball - Oct 30, 2011 at 1:15 AM

    Yes! Miss Christmas day pleeeease!

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