NBA Sunday: NBA’s Nasty Stalemate
Commissioner Stern Admits Lockout Stalemate
By now you’ve likely at least heard about the Bill Simmons podcast with NBA commissioner David Stern, but not everybody had an hour to sit down and listen to the entire thing to see what Stern most recently had to say about the guts of this lockout.
I could sum it all up like this: Stern admits that the players and the league are miles and miles apart, and at this point it’s not even about the stalemate of the discussions. Something’s got to change in the way both sides approach this thing.
“We’re all going to understand that when we lose [the exhibition season], that’s when the NBA’s offer is likely to change because there are going to be economic consequences that we’re tiptoeing through right now,” Stern admitted.
“I would say that I remain optimistic that we’re going to make a deal,” he added, “and I think that the urgency is set in a certain way by the rejection of our underlying premise. That is, this is the time to have a reset. This is the time to try to hold for the players most of what they have, and grow our way out of the situation we find ourselves in,” he said.
“The players very strongly disagree and to this point don’t even want to discuss it.”
It’s understood at this point that both sides are feeling hurt and offended by the other’s inability to bend, and that’s why a recent negotiation session was cancelled. According to Stern, the NBPA wanted to see a new proposal, which the league wasn’t prepared to put out there, so the Players’ Association just didn’t show up.
In the meantime, the league’s stance on numbers still hasn’t changed. “We’d like to take out more expenses and then have a 50-50 split after the expenses,” Stern said. “The big issue is, we have asked the players to take an eight-percent cut. From the $2.2 billion total, our total was $2 million, and hold it from where we try to grow out ourselves. If we do very well, and we grow more than four percent, they’ll do better than $2 million under our projections and theirs, and we’ll start to grow.”
Cap guru and HOOPSWORLD contributor Larry Coon, however, says the numbers aren’t that simple. “Players proposed [$100 million] cut, which translates to 54%. They say they’d ‘be in trouble’ at 50%,” Coon said via Twitter. “League wants 50% after expenses. League says it needs to be in the black overall. With [$300 million] in losses, they’d break even at about 48%.”
What all this means is that a 9% decrease in player salaries means the league could break even, but who do you know in this world that wants to make 9% less this year than they did last year, and know that they wouldn’t see more than that for ten more years?
Even if the players did agree to a set number for salaries, like the suggested $2 billion, that would still equate to an 8% drop from last season. You can see why the players are so fired up.
But with so many teams losing money, you can see why the owners are so fired up, too.
“The NFL, the most profitable of all sports leagues, says it wants to be more profitable. Its players agree to a double-digit concession, and our players say, ‘No, sorry, can’t work.’ There’s something wrong with this picture, and that’s why I think the picture will come into clearer focus as our players come to understand what our owners are actually offering and what they’ve done to open their books and why they want to make the changes they want to make,” Stern said.
At the end of the day, both sides need to feel like the other is ready to start seriously bargaining in good faith. Right now, neither side is budging, and it’s probably going to stay that way until there are games at stake. Of course, if they wait that long to get started negotiating, it may end up too late to save the season.
To avoid that, Stern said he’d like to see both sides keep their mouths shut throughout this part of the process so feelings don’t get any more hurt than they already are.
“In this day and age, given the economic circumstances going on out there, with respect to the stock market, with respect to the European countries that look like they’re falling with respect to economics and with respect to getting owners to buy teams and invest in them, lobbing grenades is not a good thing to do,” Stern said.
“It’s not good for business, it’s not good for sponsors and it’s not good for fans,” he added. “So we’re trying to keep ourselves aligned in the right way, and we think Billy [Hunter] is going to do the same thing.”
Coon summed it up like this: “The players think the league is eventually going to stop bluffing. The league thinks the players are eventually going to come to their senses.”
Right now, there’s really no way to tell which will come first, but one or the other will have to happen for us to have NBA basketball before 2012 begins. Or ends.
Who’s Next for the Hall of Fame?
Now that the most recent enshrinement class of the Basketball Hall of Fame is in the books (how crazy was it to see Dennis Rodman cry?), we can look forward to players who could be up for enshrinement in 2012.
The list starts with the recently retired Yao Ming, who may get to forgo the usual five-year waiting period because of a nomination for his having been one of the most important ambassadors the game has ever seen. There’s a reason that the NBA’s television ratings have risen steadily over the course of the last ten years, and that reason just so happens to be about 7’6” and Chinese.
He’s an eight-time All-Star and one of the most popular players in the history of the game, and the influence he had with fans of China opened up a whole new series of doors for the game in that ever-so-profitable country.
Beyond him, though, Gary Payton seems like the only other sure thing NBA player headed for the Hall. The 2011-2012 season would be the fifth since Payton’s retirement, finally making him eligible for induction in a year or so. One of the most dominant defensive players of all time, The Glove played in four NBA Finals with three different teams and won a ring with the Heat in 2006. He was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1996 and made nine All-NBA teams, nine All-Defensive first teams, and nine All-Star teams. That’s a solid career by perhaps the best Seattle SuperSonic ever, and he should end up in the Hall of Fame if the voters keep their wits.
Other possibilities include Vlade Divac, Kevin Johnson, and Bernard King. Johnson is one of only three players in league history to average 20 points and 12 assists per game in a single season while also shooting over 50%. The other two are Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson. Injuries hurt KJ during his career, and he didn’t really win any major awards, but his career numbers are on par with some other point guards already in the Hall, so an argument could be made for him, especially as the current mayor of Sacramento working so hard to keep the Kings where they are.
King is one of the most potent scorers in league history, and certainly one of the most beloved Knicks ever. He and Alex English, for example, had pretty similar careers, and since English is in the Hall it would make sense if King got in, too.
Divac didn’t have a particularly remarkable NBA career, but as an ambassador and a philanthropist, the argument for Vlade certainly has some level of merit.
And finally, perhaps the most notable snub of induction ceremonies past, we have Don Nelson, the coach with the most wins in NBA history. The fact that he’s got over 1,000 losses to his name hasn’t helped his case, but with over 1,300 wins, more than any other NBA head coach ever, it’s time he made the trip to Springfield, Massachusetts as well.
Whatever happens in 2012, we offer sincere congratulations to the induction class of 2011, which included a lot of deserving guys—legendary coach Tex Winters, Euro stud Arvydas Sabonis, former snubs Chris Mullin and Artis Gilmore, and or course the colorful Dennis Rodman. Hopefully we’ll be offering sincere congratulations to the right guys a year from now, too.