It's easy to assume that the NBA Players' Association simply called a bluff of sorts by David Stern Tuesday night by categorically rejecting his "ultimatum"
of what is essentially a 50-50 split of basketball-related income (BRI).
Come Wednesday afternoon however, we will see where this leaves us. While there's room for optimism -- that is, if you actually want to watch pro basketball this winter -- in the fact that Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher asked Stern and Co. for another meeting, there's a real fear the hardliners are taking over.
It started with ruminations that a handful of owners from certain smaller markets -- allegedly names like Charlotte's Michael (Break the Players) Jordan, Portland's Paul (Windows 95) Allen and Milwaukee's Herb (U.S. Senator from Wisconsin) Kohl -- were hoping all along players would do exactly what they did Tuesday and reject the 50-50 deal. Why? Because they reportedly believe it cedes too much. For reference, NBA owners have operated under a fairly ridiculous 57-43 split in favour of the players for the past decade.
If this is the case, then you can assume they will be thrilled when Stern does what he says he was going to do Wednesday and retract the more even offer back to something in the neighbourhood of 53-47 for the owners.Hardline tactics
Meanwhile, NBPA executive director Hunter said Tuesday night that he was "cool" with a possible decertification movement
led by Boston Celtics swingman Paul Pierce -- despite saying up until now that it was not a worthwhile endeavour.
Now you can try and dismiss both of these hardline tactics as the sort of partisan posturing common in U.S. political primary seasons, but as CBS Sports' Ken Berger adroitly pointed out, decertification has never worked in the history of professional sports -- including this past summer with the NFL -- and will almost certainly kill the entire NBA season with a blast radius of months. And really, a protracted court battle with billionaires? If I sue a "one per center" for anything, what are my chances of winning?
That's why this storyline of committed determination among a handful of fiscally conservative owners -- and not decertification threats -- is the most disturbing part of this (and by disturbing I mean no basketball this season). And I hate to invoke NHL circa 2004-05
again, but we've been here before.
While some union representatives deny that - former Raptor Anthony Parker, now Cleveland's player rep, told ESPN "there will still be plenty of time to get a deal done," even with a decert. However, it's simple logic that time is running out to allow much of anything, let alone a basketball apocalypse.
But the truth is, there has been progress made behind all this insanity. Word is the players will accept 50-50, and their argument is more about other details than BRI. Whether the owners will be willing to work with them or whether the hardliners will go for the kill is where the story of this quickly-disappearing season will be told.
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