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If union wobbles, will owners go for kill and ruin chance at deal?

Nov 3, 2011, 2:34 PM EDT

NBA And Player's Association Meet To Negotiate CBA Getty Images

You’d think that watching the NBA players’ union squabble would make NBA owners smile. Break the union and you get the deal you want, right?

Not exactly. The situation within the players union could make it less likely we see a deal soon, for a couple of reasons.

One is that a fractured union can’t make a deal its body will approve. Neither David Stern or union head Billy Hunter expected to reach a deal their entire constituency would love (that’s not how negotiations work) but they need one that they can sell to a vast majority. For the owners, this can’t be just a 15-14 vote to approve, that leaves too much dissent. Both sides need a vast majority. A fractured union makes it hard for the leadership to strike a deal it can sell.

Second is that the owners themselves may take apparent weakness in the union as a sign it should go for the kill. Henry Abbott explains at TrueHoop.

There have always been owners, several owners, who thought Stern had overreached in making the players an offer as high as 50 percent of BRI. It was bold of Stern to do so without the explicit permission of his owners. Had it worked, had it secured a deal and an 82-game season, it’s likely all would have declared victory and moved on. These are the risks a dealmaker takes.

However, Stern’s bold move failed, leading to these silly word games, where Stern has at times fuzzed up whether or not he has already offered 50 percent. Even if he won’t say it, it was his best and final offer, and making that a month too early was a fumble that exposes Stern to criticism within his own camp.

Put simply: The owners may take money off the table when the two sides sit down again Saturday. It is possible — not likely but not impossible — that the owners will decide to lessen their offer. Stern suggested as much last Friday after talks blew up.

If you think the players are going to take an offer worse than the 50-50 offer they just rejected, I would like to sell you the Grand Canyon. At a very reasonable price.

I’m an optimist, if for no other reason than the alternative is too depressing. But while the sides may be 95 percent of the way to a deal there are countless ways this thing could still go sideways. And the owners reaction to the union’s latest issues could cause the spinout to start.

  1. trbowman - Nov 3, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    “There have always been owners, several owners, who thought Stern had overreached in making the players an offer as high as 50 percent of BRI.”

    Go owners!

    Dig your feet in boys, this is trench warfare.

  2. somekat - Nov 3, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    Definition of union tool??

    Kurt Helin

  3. b7p19 - Nov 3, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    Hmmmmmm. How reasonable a price are we talking here? I may or may not be in the market for a canyon.

  4. Chris Fiorentino - Nov 3, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    There is absolutely no reason the players should not accept 50% of the net BRI that comes into the league. For all the people who continue to harp on “the expenses that come off the top first” remember that the players aren’t paying anything to play basketball. They aren’t paying for their food. They aren’t paying for their travel. They aren’t paying for their hotel rooms. They aren’t paying for their medical or dental benefits. They aren’t paying for jack $hit. They are suiting up and running ball. Period.

    Now, we keep hearing that “they are the product”. Blah blah. That is true, but that means they should get the lion’s share of the money that comes into the league? If their salaries, which do not include money taken out for benefits, are 50% of the money taken into the league after expenses, that is plenty. More than plenty. It’s an incredible deal. Again, these guys don’t even pay for their rooms on the road…they don’t pay for their airfare, their food or anything. They get stipends for everything. They don’t have to do anything. They get hurt, no matter where it is, and NBA doctors fix them for free. No worries about workman’s comp. And they have guaranteed contracts, so when they suck ass, they get paid anyway.

    And for all of that, they deserve the lion’s share of the money coming into the league? Really?

  5. ghelton03 - Nov 3, 2011 at 5:06 PM

    The owners will go for the kill. This is not about the money. This about beating down the players and union and letting them know who is in complete control of the league. They want the players to know they have no say in how the league is going to be run. That is all they care about. They will wait until the players are down and then they will kick them.

  6. yournuts - Nov 3, 2011 at 6:34 PM

    No player is bigger than the league.NO PLAYER.

  7. rreducla1 - Nov 3, 2011 at 6:39 PM

    No player is bigger than the league.NO PLAYER.


    Sure. And neither is any owner or commissioner.

  8. thetooloftools - Nov 3, 2011 at 6:55 PM

    Hey, there is no “kill” here. Everyone is trying to get their biggest piece of a huge multi – billion dollar pie. The problem is that even though last year was huge for the NBA, it was for the wrong reasons. People were tuning in to see Miami crash and burn and Dallas & Dirk, slap the party boyz (celebrate before you win anything) down and they did.
    The air is now out of that balloon and the owners know it.
    The N.B.A. players need to listen to their NHL hockey brethren.
    Get a deal done.
    The NHL really doesn’t mean much on the national stage anymore until the playoffs.
    The sizzle didn’t cook the steak last year.
    The NBA OWNERS are NOT going to move.
    The NBA PLAYERS better wake up.
    This is David Stern’s “legacy” deal and the owners are speaking with one voice and he is swinging the bat.
    The players are, AS I WRITE THIS, still trying to get their VOICE.
    It’s a joke.
    Cancel the season.
    The fans will be back.
    When Milwaukee has just as good a chance of winning a title as L.A. or The Celtics.
    It will help everyone make more money… but the players don’t see it.
    That is their problem.
    The owners will win this and for every month from here on out, I would take 1% out of the B.R.I.
    The players have the most arrested workers in Pro sports (based on % of players) by almost double… and they don’t own a thing.
    The owners will win… this is just a matter of when.

  9. goforthanddie - Nov 3, 2011 at 7:45 PM

    The owners want to start recouping their losses incurred since the last CBA. 50/50 is a huge jump over the last deal. I don’t see them going for a killshot.

  10. rreducla1 - Nov 3, 2011 at 11:02 PM

    The air is now out of that balloon and the owners know it.


    Like most of what you write, this is dead wrong.

    LeBron is the gift of a lifetime for Stern. LeDecision was probably the #1 force driving revenues up again last year, but revenues have been on the rise for a few years now. Check Larry Coon’s website for the numbers if you don’t believe me. Plus, LeBron’s going to Miami provided a hook for Stern’s “competitive balance” narrative which he has used to full effect, along with “50/50” and “the Lakers spend 100M” and “look at the NFL.” And, when the lockout is over, the media will immediately focus on James’ quest to get the gorilla off his back. The Heat going down in the Finals was perfect for the league.

    As far as the owners winning, sure. They have the leverage for many obvious reasons, and they are using it to get more money out of the players. No one except maybe Billy Hunter is going to lose much sleep over it, but it is nothing to celebrate, it is not news to anybody, and Kurt has a far better handle on the issues here than you ever will.

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