Owners steer NBA toward disaster
Philadelphia, PA – It's clear that the NBA's owners don't have a lot of respect for their fans.
The league announced late Monday that it has canceled the first two weeks of the 2011-12 regular season after the latest meeting with its players failed to generate a new collective bargaining agreement. That means the NBA will be dark through at least Nov. 14 with 100 games scrapped from the schedule.
"Despite extensive efforts, we have not been able to reach a new agreement with the players' union that allows all 30 teams to be able to compete for a championship while fairly compensating our players," NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said.
It's the first time the NBA has canceled games since the 1998-99 season, when the schedule was reduced to 50 games because of a work stoppage. Despite that commissioner David Stern had the audacity to use the word "proud."
"I'm proud of my owners," Stern said. "They really demonstrated to me, to the fans, to all the people that work in the buildings that they tried to make a deal. "We tried very hard. We made concession after concession."
Did they really try to make a deal?
From the outset of this, NBPA chief Billy Hunter has been preparing his constituents for the worst, feeling Stern and the owners are intent on shutting down the sport for a year.
"They are trying to do the same thing here that they did in the case of the NHL and they're following the same blueprint," Hunter told Jonathan Abrams of Grantland.com back in July. "I know it, and I preached it time and again to our players from the inception.
"I've said the same thing: They're not negotiating in good faith; they have no desire or intentions of getting a deal because if they think they can threaten us or lock us out for a year or whatever, that the players will cave and they'll get everything they want."
The NHL, of course, shut down its sport for an entire year in 2004-05, intent on breaking its players and remaking a "broken system."
Since the NBA had used similar rhetoric and the NHL's Gary Bettman learned at the feet of Stern, on the surface Hunter's viewpoint made a lot of sense. Optimists, however, spun things a bit differently pointing out that the NHL was fighting over a pittance back then, at least comparatively speaking.
The amount of revenue the NBA generates is staggering compared to the '04-05 NHL with Basketball Related Income (BRI) projected to reach over $4 billion this season.
The milk has already been spilt and the blame game at this point accomplishes little, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't take a long, hard look at the scorecard. The NBA's owners have essentially shut down a multi-billion dollar business during the worst economy since The Great Depression, even though their employees have offered substantial concessions.
While there is plenty of blame to go around, maybe some of these guys deserve to lose money.
Stern and his owners seem content on moving the goal posts when the players acquiesce on one issue. Last week the problem was BRI, now it's the structure of the system.
"What separated us over the last two days were not the economic underpinnings of the deal, but the system issues," Silver said. "Where our paths separate is that they believe to the extent they're willing to make economic concessions that we should be willing to leave the current system largely intact. Our view is the current system is broken in that 30 teams are not in a position to compete for championships. While we understand their position, we understand change is difficult, it makes no sense for us to operate under the current model."
Silver never explained how the 'large market' Spurs won those four championships but I digress.
"To be here at this point is disappointing in some ways," union president Derek Fisher of the Lakers said. "This is what we anticipated would probably happen, and here we are."
Unfortunately the players simply don't have the public relations acumen to point out just how disingenuous the owners have been and the contempt they have shown for the people that really matter -- the game's fans.
A few star players did give it a shot on Twitter, however, after the news broke on Monday.
"I wanna sincerely say sorry to all the fans! It's a sad day for all of us, especially u guys! There's no US w/o You," Heat superstar LeBron James Tweeted.
"Thanks for the overwhelming support today guys. You know we want to play & you understand the propaganda/misinformation from the owners," Suns guard Steve Nash said.
A lot of people say you can't put a price on principal. In this case, it's all too easy. By refusing to do the job for the owners, the players are essentially giving up $200 million every two weeks and the owners have been steadfast, saying any deal offered will only get worse from here.
Since they have shown little respect for their players and fans, it's hard to imagine them moving off that position.
That leaves a stark reality for players with little real leverage -- fold now or fold later with less money.