To you and me, this lockout makes no sense. To the passing fan that doesn’t read up on the sport, it seems downright idiotic. Okay, it’s idiotic to all of us, but this is the business we have chosen.
The NBA owners and players met along with a federal mediator for 16 rollicking hours on Tuesday and ended their meeting at 2 a.m on Wednesday. They’re set to meet at 10 a.m (Wednesday), which runs right up against the NBA Board of Governors meeting later in the day. That meeting is actually a back-to-back set concluding on Thursday.
All of this sits against the backdrop of a lockout in its 112th day, where David Stern and his owners have put the squeeze on the players in a way never seen before in negotiations like this. I’m not going to discuss who is right and who is wrong here in this format, because frankly, 99 percent of you don’t care.
If you do, follow me on Twitter. We get into it.
Make no mistake; this entire exercise is a game of leverage – no more and no less.
Nobody believes the players have any leverage here, with too many rank and file that just aren’t willing to lose money by missing a season. They’re already cracking, and I’m not just talking about JaVale McGee’s comments. There is a steady stream of information from reliable sources both on and off the record that suggests there are players that just want to cut a deal.
Conversely, there are too many owners that actually want to lose games. As they would say, it makes sense for them to so. But mostly they want to break the union, so missing games helps them to that goal. All the while David Stern is warning the players at every chance he can get, echoing through whatever media outlet will have him, ‘the deal is going to get worse, save yourself while you can.’
At this point, if the players believe Stern (and why not, most believe that he’s willing to cancel at least a year of basketball), they must have specific objectives that they think they are satisfying with every day they don’t take Stern’s last, best offer.
I’m not even sure these objectives are in the category of ‘we won’t budge if we don’t get our way,’ but rather in the ‘we’ve come this far let’s at least try’ variety.
A federal mediator’s involvement was a necessary step, and one whose non-binding authority is mandated by law in a loose sort of way. But really this is about Stern’s threats and whether or not each successive edict strikes the final blow to the players’ resolve. The mediator’s involvement merely formalized the process, giving the talks an optimal chance of success, but really this is about two entities constantly checking with themselves.
Are we still cool? Has anybody freaked out yet? Okay, let’s proceed.
There’s no question where the owners are on that scale. They’re willing to hold the line for a very long time. The players on the other hand, have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Their deal isn’t getting better anytime soon.
My advice to the players – lose on this CBA and live to fight another day. Get the best deal that you can and tell everybody frankly, we were underprepared and we lost. We hired a PR firm with a clip-out coupon for an hour of free consultation on its website to handle our billion dollar negotiation, and got beat by David Stern at every turn. Let them know that next time, you’ll be bringing your A-game.
Like many have said, the owners are up by 40 points at the end of the fourth quarter and the union keeps fouling. There comes a point in time where it’s time to get on the plane and head to your next game.
So in keeping with the theme of having more questions than answers, here are just some of the things that I am thinking about in this cloud of lockout fever.
LeBron or Durant – Am I really going to have to pick between these guys?
It’s a star’s league, and these are arguably the two biggest stars the league will have for the next 5-7 years. Unlike football where we largely divorce ourselves from players’ personalities for numerous reasons, I really wonder how much LeBron’s devil ears and Durant’s halo are going to impact draft day ADP.
On the court, they couldn’t be closer in terms of performance last year. LeBron edged out Durant in non-turnover leagues, while otherwise Durant got the nod. At the end of the day, Doctor A and I both named James to be Rotoworld’s fantasy MVP, and he got the nod because he helped out in more categories and played an extra game. It was that close. I wouldn’t have lost any sleep had we gone the other way.
They are my distinctive top-tier this season, as cartilage issues in Chris Paul’s knee have me scared enough to keep him out of such talks.
As we go forward, I doubt we see consensus on who the No. 1 pick should be. Perhaps the tie-breaker is turnovers, as LeBron (3.6 tpg) handles the ball more than Durant (2.8 tpg), but the spread in value was so small last year that drafters will go with some other metric. One can argue that both will be hungry, that both have a lot to prove, and both will operate in similar systems throughout next year. Durant has shown flashes of improvement in his game all summer, but we’d be dumb to count out similar improvements from LeBron. Dwyane Wade could see more time off as he gets up there in age, whereas Durant could take the ball out of Russell Westbrook’s hands a bit more this year. To me, this is a pick that will be made as much with gut as it is with statistical glory.