By now everyone knows that the first two weeks of the NBA season have been written off, and we’re almost certainly going to lose more. Not that I’m personally surprised. I’ve been telling everyone who’ll listen that we’ll be incredibly lucky to get a season at all.
The reasons why we’re in this position are pretty simple. The owners are determined to break the players and get a system favourable to them and their bottom line. That means at least a 50-50 revenue split, a hard cap with no exemptions, shorter and non-guaranteed contracts to name a few examples. The players, on the hand, are happy with the current system (one of the most player-friendly in all sports) and have learnt the lessons from 1999, where the union’s position was eventually undermined by players running out of money. Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher have been warning players about the impending lockout for nearly two years now and been making sure that they are prepared. Those who need the cash most will probably start going overseas if they haven’t already – already European teams are freeing up import slots.
In short, we are looking at a very long and very ugly battle here. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it even stretches into the next season. It’s looking that bleak to me right now.
I urge everyone who hasn’t already to check out Deadspin’s excellent article on the ways NBA (and other American pro sports) teams report paper losses while still drawing in revenues. Basically, teams pleading poverty is a load of bullshit.
Besides. If you are a rich guy who wants to own an NBA team to make money from it – you’re going into the biz for all the wrong reasons. If all the owners cared about was profit we’d have 30 Donald Sterlings (hopefully without the whole racist slumlord thing though). Rich guys buy into the NBA (or, again, other professional sports teams) because they’re an expensive toy that give you, Mr Billionaire, extra cachet while sipping martinis with Donald Trump at Mar-A-Lago. The fact that you can get some good PR if you manage them right is even more beneficial, although the brickbats when you screw up are arguably worse.
So we’re subjected to more reports of meetings where nothing is achieved, more people dependent on the NBA economy struggle or lose their jobs as more games are cancelled, and the NBA heads towards the same position Major League Baseball was in after their 1994 players’ strike or the 04-05 NHL lockout, a position which ice hockey has never managed to recover fully from (albeit have a perfect opportunity to do so right now, given the NBA’s issues). Eventually the fans will just stop caring. Me, I’m becoming a hockey fan.
In my opinion, the strangest thing is how hard-line and short-sighted David Stern is being in the whole matter. I honestly thought he would be working as a conciliatory figure in this whole mess – that he would get together with the more moderate owners (the Jerry Busses and Mark Cubans of the league) and focus on getting a deal first and foremost without caving to the Ivan Drago owners. Instead it seems he’s more concerned with ensuring an owner-friendly CBA is his legacy. If another lengthy labour struggle like ’99 and lockout affects him I don’t see it.
Either way. Haters gonna hate, fighters gonna fight and the fans and little guy are stuck in the middle.
I hope both sides are happy with the final deal, cause no one else will be.