NBA Players Association President and Los Angeles Lakers' Derek Fisher,
centre, speaks during a news conference alongside Carmelo Anthony, front
left, Lebron James, back left, and other major players after a meeting
with owners to discuss a new labor deal and possibly avert a lockout on Friday. (John Minchillo/Associated Press)
Just from a personal standpoint, referring to the loss of pre-season games in any sport as a "casualty" is like referring to the loss of a hangnail as a "casualty."
However, it's safe to say we're in a danger zone
now in terms of the NBA season. According to David Stern on Tuesday, if a deal isn't reached by early next week, games that count will start disappearing.
Trying to decipher labour negotiations in any occupation is often like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. You never know what is posturing and what is a legitimate thought. For instance, Stern said on Monday that a full season could conceivably be played, albeit starting and ending later. Whether or not he factored in major issues like arena availability is not known, but now he's talking brinksmanship. In any event, it appears that the league and the owners are taking a hard line -- in the media.
Meanwhile, depending on who you believe, the players association is either on the verge of implosion thanks to a handful of high-powered agents or is adamant in sticking to their guns -- insisting on a majority of basketball-related income (BRI) and no hard salary cap.
Conventional logic says the league and the players should just agree at a 50-50 split of BRI - something completely logical if you're familiar with the mechanics of negotiations (players up until the expiration of the CBA got a fairly ludicrous 57%-to-43% advantage; then, they offered the owners a 53-47 split, to which the league countered with 54-46 in favour of the owners). On Tuesday, talk was the owners offered 51-49 but with revenue caveats that could make it 49-51.
Confusing? Sort of. Tedious? Worse than watching Jonathan Papelbon pitch
Twists and turns aside, this process is about as exciting as anybody would have anticipated, and it's essentially followed the script you could have written last April. Monday is October 10, a legitimate date to start cancelling games, seeing as time is needed for free agency and training camps. For the past couple of weeks, the assumed drop-dead date was Oct. 15.
Once this happens, it's NHL 2004-05 all over again
. Slates of games cancelled every week until either a deal is reached or the season is cancelled. Seven years ago in hockey, you got the impression Gary Bettman wanted to call the season off from the beginning. The coffers were padded and renegade owners who wanted a quick deal were ignored in order to implement an optimal economic system.
And it's for that reason that the owners are winning this in the NBA right now. The seed of doubt is already planted on the players' side with these agent stories. In the game of billionaires vs. millionaires, the former -- and the one who happens to be a more cohesive unit -- always wins. And who, after all, was Bettman's mentor?
However I'm not ready to call time of death on this season yet.
Obviously, in the game of labour negotiations, anything can happen in a week. But if we do start losing games, let's revisit what happened in 1998-99.
On Oct. 13, 1998, the NBA cancelled 99 regular-season games. Around Christmas, Stern announced if a deal wasn't reached 'tout suite' the season would be cancelled. Faced with a splintering union, a deal was reached on Jan. 6, 1999, and the San Antonio Spurs *asterisk* championship season tipped off Feb. 5.
Sound similar? The fan that solely doesn't want to face a winter without hoops in me is ready to substitute dates and "Miami Heat
" for the "San Antonio Spurs" in the above paragraph.
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