Billy Hunter, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Union, has laid out a bleak future for the NBA in an interview with The New York Times.
“I’d be 99 percent sure as of today that there will be a lockout,” Hunter said. “I’ve said, ‘Save your money because in all probability there’s going to be a lockout.’
“I’m waiting to get some sign, some movement from owners, that they want to reach a reasonable deal. Right now they’re being unreasonable. And I can’t tell you when reason is going set in.”
Neither the NBA and its owners nor the players union have been able to reach any form of agreement on the new collective bargaining agreement. In fact there has been virtually no headway on the issue at all.
The team owners, and David Stern, want to see dramatic changes. A hard salary cap, shorter contracts, smaller annual raises, less guaranteed money and a nearly 40 percent reduction in salaries and benefits, amounting to about $750 million to $800 million out of the current $2.1 billion are all proposals that they have put forth. Hunter and the union have flatly rejected the changes. “It’s sort of like, beat me up and take my lunch,” Hunter said, characterizing the terms simplistically.
However, the NBPA has not offered any details of their proposal beyond face value. That offer is that the union is willing to accept a slight decline of the players’ 57 percent guarantee of basketball revenues. Hunter has stated that he may be willing to accept a 50-50 split between the players and owners after a $1 billion deduction in expenses. He does not want to see the disappearance of what he calls middle-class players in the league as he feels the owner’s proposal will only be able to grant large sums of money to star players and minimum amounts for the rest.
Hunter has also stated that he would like to see the CBA return to more of the perimeters that were established in 1999 when the current framework was formed. “Our contention is that the system that was put in place delivered everything it was supposed to deliver,” Hunter said. “So why now at this stage are we now saying that the system doesn’t work and it’s got to be overhauled?” Apparently, Hunter does not have a concept of change, especially economically, over time.
The union and the league have been at odds for some time now over the estimated income that the league takes in. All union calculations point towards the league’s revenue growing an estimated 3-5 percent while Stern routinely states that the NBA and its teams are set to lose $250 million this season. Somebody is using fuzzy math.
This season the NBA has enjoyed record television ratings, ticket sales, and attendance (except in Miami). Yet, the owners claim that they are still going to lose money. “It’s the economy, stupid,” they seem to be saying.
The two sides are at an impasse. So far the only agreement that they have reached is that there needs to be significant progress made by the time of the All Star break in February. Hopefully, the NBA and the NBPA can hammer something out by then otherwise it is going to be an exceptionally long summer. Some players are already making plays to play overseas as a work stoppage grows closer to becoming inevitable. It would truly be a shame if the NBA followed the path of the NHL.