NBA Sunday: Players Play On
LeBron, D-Wade, and the Gang Show that Basketball Will Go On
Despite everything going on with the lockout, nine NBA All-Stars (and several other notable NBA players) gathered together in South Florida Saturday night to put on an exhibition for fans looking to escape the grim truth of this ongoing lockout, and the product they put on was predictably fantastic.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh of the Miami HEAT were responsible for organizing the event in their home state, and they convinced Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, and Rudy Gay to join them. Wade hit a three at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime, where his team ended up winning 140-141.
James even sunk a half-court three as time expired, putting an exclamation point on what essentially amounted to an autumn All-Star game that could replace the one that was supposed to occur in Orlando this coming February.
Any exhibition where the best players in the world go at it is welcomed at this point, because the reality here is painful. Short of something miraculous happening over the course of the next 24 hours, the first two weeks of the regular season will get canceled, and once that happens, it gets easier for negotiations to not only break off, but regress. In short, it could really be a long time before we get to watch any NBA basketball again.
But exhibitions like this one prove that the players aren’t going to sit around and get fat and lazy. They aren’t going to hoard their talents from us while this thing drags on. The players mentioned above are all really good friends, and going through something arduous together (like this lockout) tends to make close friends even closer. All it would ever take is one of them saying, “Let’s put together an exhibition somewhere,” and 10 or more All-Stars would likely would show up with a bunch of their pals.
“We’ll play any day, any time,” James told ESPN.com. “That’s why we’re here tonight, giving back to our fans and what they deserve and letting them know that no matter what’s going on with our situation, we’re going to play the game and play at a high level.”
From a PR standpoint, this sort of thing is a wonderful idea. It’s going to be very easy for casual fans to forget about the NBA this winter if the league truly fails to get back into working order. Games like this one, if scheduled and played out often enough, could be the sort of thing can keep fans interested while they wait. It’s not like they have a whole lot of other choices.
Readers of Grantland may have enjoyed Bill Simmons’s piece on the “Renegade Oracle” league, an impossible dream that pits star players as players/owners of organizations in an 8-team league, but that’s never going to happen (even if it is a really fun idea). Something like we saw Saturday night at FIU is infinitely more likely. The sad thing is that at this point, what we saw Saturday night is also infinitely more likely than NBA basketball, too.
So What Happens Monday?
Without an agreement by the end of the day Sunday, the first two weeks of the regular NBA season will get canceled, and there are no plans for the Players Union and the owners to meet on Sunday.
You do the math.
But once those two weeks are ceded, what happens? Well, a lot of things, potentially.
In Larry Coon’s most recent lockout write-up for ESPN.com, he mentions David Holmes, a corporate attorney whose job it is to help two sides come to a fair legal conclusion. According to Holmes, when working with settlements in civil cases, “The risk is not the lawsuit itself. Instead, it is the point at which the client is faced with a settlement option that, if turned down, might be genuinely regretted later.”
Holmes explains that early in the process of deciding a $1 million settlement, the first offer from his client might be for $950,000, while the first offer from the defense might be $25,000. Both sides understand how huge a gap that is, but nobody is going to do much budging until the court date looms. While there’s not necessarily any literal “court date” planned for the NBA lockout, we can look at the canceling of games the same way. In both instances, something is at stake, so now is the time for both sides to budge.
The problem, as Holmes explains, is that even with the time crunch and huge compromises, the two sides still won’t always agree on a compromise. A $25,000 settlement offer may come up to $250,000, but for someone who originally wanted a cool million, that still doesn’t seem acceptable.
“The point at which this happens is going to depend on the relative strength of the case,” Holmes said. “If I’ve got a 50/50 case, and the other side offers $250,000, I have to start seriously discussing the pros and cons of the offer with the client.”
In other words, even though the offer isn’t ideal—even if it’s beyond the lowest number the client ever thought they’d except, even in compromise—there comes a time where accepting that number may be the best the client can ever hope to see. Pass on that now, and the offer could start getting worse.
That’s sort of where Coon and other smart NBA business people have been guessing negotiations would go if a deal weren’t agreed upon before games were lost.
There was an opportunity for the two sides to meet today and try to flesh out a last-minute deal, but sources said the league didn’t think it would be worth it unless both parties agreed on a 50/50 revenue split in advance of the meeting. The players believe they’ve already conceded enough of that BRI and don’t want to go beyond 53%. So a meeting isn’t happening.
However, what Coon’s lawyer friend is trying to say is that 50/50 might be the best the players can hope to see, and the grapevine has sent messages that some players might even be okay with that number.
So the next step is for Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher to figure out if a 50/50 revenue split really is something the players would agree to, and if so, the union can make a counterproposal that fleshes out all the details, and deal could potentially not be too far away.
HOOPSWORLD’s Steve Kyler has said several times that the framework of a deal, minus the final BRI numbers and the decisions about the hard cap and cap exceptions, is more or less done. An agreement could be made relatively quickly if the revenue split—truly the thing holding up this lockout—were to get decided upon.
The other options are that the union doesn’t mind coming down from 53%, but won’t go all the way to 50%, or that 53% truly is as low as the union will go, in which case we’re in for a long and boring lockout.
It’s on the players at this point. The league has thrown out their “final offer,” so the union has to decide if their offer is final, as well. We know good business sense says ending the lockout now is way more financially responsible than missing an entire season to salvage 1 or 2 percent (even when every percentage point is worth tens of millions of dollars), but both sides seem to be standing more on principle than good business sense.
We’ll see what happens, but the next few days will be very telling as to whether or not we’ll get a season with around 70-75 games, or no season at all. I think we’re all very seriously hoping for option A.