Thursday November 25 2010 – 10:50am Eastern – Toronto, ON 

There has been a lot of talk in recent days about the potential lockout that is coming to the NBA this summer. In fact, just a few days ago NBA Players Union head, Billy Hunter, said he was 99% sure there’d be a lockout in July. And he’s telling the truth.Heck, Hunter could have gone so far as to say that he was *100 per cent* certain of a lockout … and I still would have agreed with him!

But that doesn’t mean we won’t have a 2011-12 season to talk about.

My gut tells me that when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires on June 30 2011, the lockout will hit (as of July 1st) and it will drag on into late September/early October; essentially on the eve of the 2011-12 season. Then, and only then, will talks and negotiations truly get serious and a deal will be hammered out.

Why do I think this?

If the owners are trying to cut costs and overall spending in this latest CBA, don’t you think they’d like to avoid a summer of handing out cheques for participation in x-number of ‘Summer Leagues’ around the NBA? Don’t ya think they’d like to avoid paying fringe players x-amount of money to fill out the Summer League rosters or to pay for team staff to sleep and eat at Las Vegas (for example) hotels and restaurants for nearly two weeks?

And don’t ya think the players wouldn’t mind having a summer off?

Sure, the paychecks won’t be rolling in every 2 weeks but ‘player appearances’ will disappear, mandatory team functions or training sessions won’t be allowed, and participation in things like ‘Summer League’ will be prohibited. Plus, the long the lockout drags on, the greater chance there is for the players to eventually see Training Camp – and maybe even the pre-season – drastically reduced or chopped altogether.

As much as the absence – or cancellation – of Camp or the exhibition sked might hurt the eventual on-the-floor product and performance for the fans, I’d imagine the owners would, again, not raise much of a stink over another month of savings from salaries, travel expenses, and so on. And you and I both KNOW that the players certainly wouldn’t sneeze at the chance to NOT have to deal with camp and pre-season action. It’s monotonous to them.

The League apparently forwarded an offer/proposal to the Union back in February but it was quickly declined. Then the Union sent in a counter-offer which the League has yet to respond to (essentially, declining it – by ignoring it). No further talks have been scheduled, though there are rumblings that the two sides could sit down to chat some time in early December. Whether that meeting does or doesn’t take place really doesn’t matter though, ’cause I can all-but guarantee you that an agreement won’t be reached. Not yet.

The two sides are too far apart on money – and salaries/costs – to get things worked out already. This has to drag through the mud a little longer.

The League wants to cut costs. The owners believe the players make too much money and they want to reduce the yearly raises, cut the length of contracts, and institute a hard cap. Meanwhile, the players dispute much/all of that. Check out what Howard Beck wrote in the New York Times:

According to the union, league revenues will grow this season by 3 to 5 percent, or about $100 million to $200 million. Meanwhile, negotiated player salaries will decline for the third year in a row and will fall below the 57 percent threshold for the first time, according to union projections. As a result, the players will receive a full refund on the 8 percent escrow tax taken from their paychecks.

The decline in player salaries is due in part to conservative spending by owners during a poor economy. It also reflects the changes made in the 2005 labor deal, which reduced annual raises and the length of contracts.

“Our contention is that the system that was put in place delivered everything it was supposed to deliver,” Hunter said, referring to the initial framework adopted in 1999. “The players never got a cent more than they were supposed to get. And ironically, if you review the press clippings from that era, you will see that the deals that were struck were lauded by the N.B.A. as having been major successes for the owners. So why now at this stage are we now saying that the system doesn’t work and it’s got to be overhauled?”

So don’t expect to hear of anything earth-shattering going down at this meeting in early December. In fact, I don’t know if you should buy into the theory that anything substantial will get done during the All Star Weekend in Los Angeles in mid-February — when the League and Union have said the most constructive mid-season talks could take place. Don’t bank on anything serious happening until the Fall. Don’t get caught up in the speculation and innuendo that will be out there in the coming weeks and months – especially when things drag on during the summertime. Just stay calm. A deal will come.

But there will be a lockout.

E. Smith

3 Responses to “Lock Talk”
  1. 1.

    Som good points here. Now, let’s take it a step further.

    The players think the owners are greedy (fill in the blank)’s who are out to screw them over. The owners think the players are overpaid (fill in the blank)’s that are ripping them off demanding huge signing bonuses.

    What’s the real problem that nobody ever talks about? The corporate capitalist society that we live in that promotes this stuff.

    Now, when you say that many people instantly strike back with the Evil Word “Socialism”. (Then again, most of them have no clue what that actually means). I have no problem with people working hard and being successful. But I do have a problem with unchecked greed (whether it’s a player or a CEO of a global corporation).

    Michael Jordan was quoted as saying that all of the other players that bitch because he’s so rich are hypocrites. They’d do EXACTLY the same thing I’m doing if they were in my position.

    Yet, does that justify a player having a net worth bigger than the GNP of another country? Slightly off topic: does that justify Tiger Woods literally having the power to destroy any other pro golfer’s career? Just because he’s “the greatest of all time”?

    Stern has talked about shrinking the size of the league by a few teams. If that happened, in this global depression, why is that a bad thing? Yeah, it sucks for those teams’ fans. But, if I have a business and I have to cut back, I do it. These guys don’t JUST BECAUSE they’re richer and more powerful than I am?

    If the players and owners were smart, they’d check their corporate greed and pride and actually negotiate a new CBA that involves less money all around. If they did that it would literally be THE story worldwide. Do you know how many businesses would kill that have that kind of free global publicity? I’m amazed that Stern (who is an attorney) and his crack team of advisors haven’t seen that.

    What’s going to happen? There will be a walkout. However, will digusted fans actually stay away and cut into the NBA’s profit margin? No. It’s the old Howard Cosell Syndrome. You see something and you endlessly bitch about it. But like a sucker you always come back for more.

    Unless you cut back on the massive unchecked profit involved, “the integrity” of the game means nothing.

    - T
  2. 2.

    I ain’t rich but, apparently, I gots me a baaaaad case of the Howard Cosell Syndrome…

    “…endlessly bitch but, like a sucker, keep coming back for more?”

    Yup, that’s me!!!

    - brento.
  3. 3.

    Finally brento…we agree.

    I work in the auto industry and have seen the real effect the recession has had. It has affected me personally. I have lost good friends and hard workers who didn’t deserve to go. But, it is necessary for the overall health of the company.

    Hopefully the players realize that it is better to agree to get paid less now for the opportunity to get paid more later.

    I haven’t gotten a raise in three years, even though the cost of living has increased, but I understand that right now, it is better for me to make due than to cry and whine. It will get me nowhere.

    Hopefully the players can see it the same way.

    Either way, until the lockout happens…


    - T.J.
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