NBA AM: The Lockout Just Got Real
Grab the hardhats. Strap on the combat boots. Settle into your respective bunkers.
The ongoing NBA labor dispute appears to only be beginning as opposed to reaching its climax.
Staying true to his imposed deadline NBA commissioner David Stern cancelled the first two weeks of the 2011-12 season last night after the latest round of talks failed to close the gap in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.
“We certainly hoped it would never come to this,” Stern told the assembled media after Monday’s failed negotiations. “I think that both sides worked hard to get to a better solution. We think that we made very fair proposals. I’m sure the players think the same thing. But the gap is so significant that we just can’t bridge it at this time.”
From the beginning most expected this announcement would be made.
Many fully expect the players’ resolve in strongly fighting for a new BRI split and operating model will eventually cave now that the prospect of losing cold hard cash is not just a possibility but indeed a grim reality.
The notion of a few game checks leading to the exposure of weak links in the players union was quickly dismissed by Players Association executive director Billy Hunter.
“They figure that once a player misses a check or two, it’s all over,” Hunter stated. “I’m saying … that would be a horrible mistake if they think that’s going to happen, because it’s not going to happen. The players are all going to hang in.”
To Hunter, Stern’s cancellation announcement had been pre-planned by the league for a long period of time if the owners couldn’t get the desired CBA they were seeking during the initial wave of discussions.
“I think it goes back to a comment that David made to me several years ago when he said, ‘Look, this is what my owners have to have.’ And I said, ‘The only way you’re going to get that is if you’re prepared to lock us out for a year or two, and (this) indicated to me that they’re willing to do it,” Hunter said. “So my belief, my contention is that everything he’s done has kind of demonstrated that he’s following that script.”
The cancellation mandate covers all games from opening night November 1 to all contests scheduled to be played through November 14. The arenas have been given authorization to release those dates.
That translates to one hundred regular season contests – gone, never to return.
There won’t be the much anticipated Bulls versus Mavericks or Thunder versus Lakers opening night showdowns.
Early season matchups such as the HEAT versus Knicks (Nov. 2), Magic versus HEAT (Nov. 3), Mavericks versus Spurs (Nov. 4), Thunder versus Mavericks (Nov. 5), Spurs versus Lakers (Nov. 9) and Thunder versus Bulls (Nov. 10) among others within this time range have been scrapped to the proverbial scrapheap – seemingly without a care.
So now the lockout truly gets real.
Not only will players start to miss large chunks of cash which they will never recoup during their finite careers, but so too will the league owners who’ll see revenues dissipate.
For each month the lockout trudges on from this point the players are expected to lose close to $400 million in salaries.
As the stench from the lockout lingers in the air the owners are projected to lose nearly $90 million in ticket revenues alone from the cancellation of the first 100. This doesn’t include the profits from team merchandise sold game day, food and drinks, expensive parking at arenas and lucrative advertising deals.
It is also important to note both sides stand to lose a sizable portion of a fan base which drove the league to record revenues and arguably to its highest position in global popularity – ever.
“I think it would be foolish for them to kill the season, and we’re coming off the best season in the history of the NBA and I’m not so sure in this kind of economy that if there is a protracted lockout whether the league will recover,” Hunter said. “It took us a while to recover from the ’98 lockout, and I think it will take us even longer to recover this time around.”
Most held out hope for a last minute labor deal to be reached by both sides as Stern’s deadline loomed, but unlike the typical NBA fourth quarter comeback which always closes the gap, the issues at the bargaining table ultimately had too wide of a divide to overcome in such a short time period.
Both parties elected not to discuss the BRI split during Monday’s seven hour negotiating session, opting to focus on improving system issues which could minimize the impact of giving up a percentage point or two in BRI as HOOPSWORLD’s Steve Kyler pointed out in this space yesterday.
Sources close to the situation say the mid-level exception is one of the hot topics up for revamping.
According to reports, players have proposed to reduce the MLE to $5 million over four years.
Sources also say that the owners want the number of guaranteed years in free agency reduced to four years for players re-signing with their old teams and three years for players who decide to change addresses.
The players have reportedly countered with offering five year deals for players re-signing with their old squads and four years for those changing employers, which is down from the six and five guidelines in the old CBA.
Since the lockout began over 100 days ago most experts have pointed to mid-November as the time when anyone with a vested interest in negotiations true stance and resolve would be revealed.
They say nothing really starts in negotiations until the money actually stops, well ladies and gentleman based on Stern’s announcement last night, the lockout has truly gotten real.
Fan Question: Will you be there when the games resume? Leave your comments below …
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