Up until last night I had hope that this was going to be resolved. I had faith until the 11th hour. Now I've lost faith and I'm more pessimistic than ever. Will we have an abbreviated season? Probably, but that's no guarantee. I'm guessing that this will last months. So buckle up boy and girls, it is going to be a long, bumpy, ...boring ride.
With both sides retreating to neutral corners -- no new negotiating sessions have been scheduled and neither Stern nor Fisher could say when the two sides will talk again -- the question becomes: What's next? Stern hinted that the league will likely cancel the next two weeks of the season two weeks from now. He also suggested that the revenues lost as a result of the lockout bleeding into the regular season, revenues that are expected to number in the hundreds of millions, will be factored into the next proposal.
Can the season be saved? The answer is yes, so long as the NBA owners are willing to negotiate into January, as they did to resolve their previous lockout in 1999. Understand that two weeks of NBA games have been wiped away, and that more cancellations are to come. Nothing important is likely to change over the next two weeks that will enable basketball to be played in late November or early December.
Now the pretending can stop, all the pretense that the season would ever begin on Nov. 1, or the notion that anything else that mattered to the fans would be taken into account. You haven't heard the fans, or the game itself mentioned much lately, have you? That's because they don't factor into this discussion at all. It was always about people saving themselves: owners asking the players to bail them out of bad business moves, players asking to preserve their cushy status with the highest average salaries among American team sports.
And that brings us back to the pesky question: Why does the league care so much those system issues? Perhaps there are some competitive balance true believers, but hardening the cap also creates much-desired cost certainty. A hard-ish cap means owners have to control their spending, and it means that when they don’t — when they splurge on a mid-level guy — less of that money will be guaranteed, making the player easy to cut at no cost. That kind of cost certainty appeals to all owners — small-market guys who want to compete and make a buck, and big-market guys who know they are going to have to give up much more locally generated money as part of the league’s new revenue-sharing plan. You know how else you get cost certainty? By guaranteeing the players a lower percentage of revenue. That’s why amid all the hullabaloo about system issues, it was revealing how fast each side — especially the league — sprinted away from that 50/50 proposal that seemed so tantalizing and so fair a week ago.
While Stern claims the owners are no longer seeking a hard salary cap, Players Association president Derek Fisher(notes) said the proposed penalties for tax-paying teams will essentially act the same as a hard cap on player salaries. "You can’t say you’re moving away from a hard cap, but then do everything else that brings about the same result," Hunter said. "You’ve compressed salaries, and then you’ve fixed it so nobody is going to spend. You’ve got a hard-cap situation. That’s the reality. "If it quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it’s a duck. The tax system they wanted to impose would create a quadrupling of the tax."
Monday night there was anger and the frustration out on the Internet when Stern walked out of a posh New York hotel Monday night and said the first two weeks of the NBA season are lost. The owners — and the league’s players — had better pray that anger sticks around for a while. If the lockout drags out and that starts to turn to apathy, then the league is really in trouble. Anger shows that the fans care. Love and hate are different sides of the same coin. Passion for the game, the players, and their favorite franchises has fans shelling out big money and screaming at their televisions for games in February. They want basketball — few fans really care how the BRI is split or how regressive the luxury tax is. They just want their basketball. But as this lockout drags out that will start to change and the league will pay for it.
Disgusting. All of it.