November Games Canceled, NBA Still Broken

Let me tell you a story

“Until this afternoon, we’ve had a pretty good several days of give and take,” David Stern said after negotiations broke down yet again on Friday. Then he offered to those in attendance at the press conference that the subject of Basketball Related Income was approached after making headway on certain system issues and that is when the talks. Stern said that the owners were willing to go as far as a 50/50 split on BRI. He then spun a half truth laden yarn about union president Billy Hunter packing up his papers and walking out. Hunter did walk out, the NBPA has lowered their desired share of BRI down to 52.5 percent from their previous stance of 53 percent, but he is not the only one to blame for the collapse of the talks.

Those who have paid attention to these frustrating negotiations know that Stern has played this game before. A pure 50/50 split was offered by the owners on several occasions. It is their olive branch. Only this branch has a snake on it. An even split on BRI seems to rear its head each time gains have been made by each side. For the owners it is their showing of good faith, a fair split of revenue. However, for the players it is just more double speak. To date, a 50/50 has led to a lopsided counter offer that favors the owners several times.

The players are still the ones making concessions on a grand scale in these negotiations. They have managed to keep guaranteed contracts, a $5 million mid-level exception, and kept the owners from implementing at hard cap. Owners have already won in terms of reducing players’ salaries $1.3 billion over the next six years with smaller raises, a more harsh luxury tax, and shorter overall player contracts.  However, at this point in all the folly, everyone is losing. After the talks (if the two sides actually do talk to each other while they are in the room together) fell apart, Stern made it official that all games through November 30 were canceled. He added further that squeezing in an 82 game season in the time allotted will not happen. (I have been opposed to trying to get that many games on the schedule in a very constrained timetable especially with the Olympics on the horizon. So there is my one happy point in all of this.)

With the month of November completely scrapped the NBA and the players stand to lose an estimated $400 million. Apparently, that is not enough Samolians to move a few percentage points in either direction. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com has a good breakdown of what each side had to gain or lose now that November is lost:

…the only way it could possibly make sense to squander a chance to recoup two weeks of canceled games (worth about $400 million to the owners and players) and lose two weeks more (for a total of $800 million) by refusing to even attempt to close a two-point gap in basketball-related income (BRI).

Think of it another way: If Hunter had been willing to move from 52.5 percent to 51 percent Friday, that would’ve been a $60 million concession in Year One of the deal to get back the lost games worth $400 million — a net gain of $340 million. Instead, the players decided it was better to lose the games, and thus $400 million, which made it a $740 million decision to walk out of the room without a deal.

If Stern had been willing to move from 50 percent and meet Hunter at 51, it would’ve been a $40 million concession for the owners to get their approximately $400 million share of the lost November games — a net gain of $360 million. But instead of offering to make the economic move Stern had said Thursday night he was prepared to make, he decided it was better to lose the $400 million — a net swing of $760 million. So collectively, Hunter and Stern cost their business $1.5 billion by walking away without a deal Friday.

Whoa! That is quite a substantial amount of duckets that have been cast aside. Oh, to be a rich man and be care free with heaps of cash. One can only dream, or at the very least occupy a park.

The players have no business making further concessions. They should not meet the owners at 50 percent as they have already given up $1.3 billion in salaries for the next six years. Owners have given up nothing except a few hardline stances that were not on the books in the first place. What else is there to even discuss? Sure there are all the details of the system issues but those seem to have been worked out for the most part. Right now, it is time for the owners to give ground. Notorious B.I.G. should have qualified his famous line “more money, more problems.” It should have read, “more money begets self-imposed problems based on the perceived notion that money is power and with money comes invincibility vis-à-vis greed and the neglect of all others.” But that probably would not make for a good rap lyric.

Now, all that we can do it wait, flustered and tired. Both Hunter and Stern will meet again soon, perhaps this weekend, perhaps next week (no date has been set) and the broken record will continue to skip. If more games are canceled then both sides will lose more money but this is not about basketball anymore. It is about how two grown men, representing the interests of their respective parties, can spit folly, spin, and hold firm until one of them blinks. That is all it is. A show of bravado. They think that this is a title fight, everyone else sees it as a mockery of a league that enjoyed a dramatic upswing in popularity. Bravo! Keep grappling! Next time the meetings start I hope either Stern or Hunter quotes Henry V: “once more into the breach!” Oh, what a noble cause these negotiations are!

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