The NBA is back! Not really, but to paraphrase NBA PA representative Derek Fisher, we're going out of our way to be disrespectful to the negotiating process and calling as much. The NBA's owners and its players might make a deal this weekend, if not Friday, as they attempt to end the lockout that has needlessly dragged on since the first day of July.
As is usually the case, Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski has the best and most impactful breakdown of where the two sides stand as they prepared to meet on Friday morning. Read it for a second time, and impress your friends.
Amongst Woj's revelations is more of what you would expect from a league charged with protecting its owners against itself -- amplified (if not tripled or quadrupled, as has been argued for) luxury tax penalties, the dis-allowance of teams paying the tax to sign players to mid-level or biannual exceptions, and an overall limiting of the MLE. Players under rookie contracts will also earn significant bonuses on top of their smallish contracts for making the All-NBA Team or winning the Rookie of the Year; something that sounds like a good idea until you remember who votes for those awards.
Also telling was something that was shared in full view of all reporters on Thursday evening: NBA commissioner David Stern admitting that it would be a "failure" if the two sides could not come up with an agreement between now and the end of the weekend. He said with a smile, but not a smarmy one. This is someone on the verge of something workable.
The New York Times' Howard Beck also reported that the NBA moved quickly in reaching out to NBA arena operators to clear potential open dates for late in April, presumably to make up for the first two weeks of regular-season games that have already been canceled by the NBA. We'd quote Howard directly on this matter but, uh, we kind of already used up our free 20 articles from the NYT website this month.
This is good news for those who were hoping for a full, 82-game season. Pundits can prattle on about how the NBA would be better served with a shortened season and the supposed increase in quality play and attention. These people tend to forget the workforce that might plan a week's grocery bill around the lone visit Kobe Bryant makes to Charlotte each year, but when have we ever relied on sports writers with hundreds of TV appearances to their discredit for nuance and insight?
As it stands, this can work. Don't tap your foot excitedly in anticipation of both sides coming out of a New York hotel on Friday evening with a handshake agreement in place, ready to go hoist a few and take in Game 7 of the World Series at some wings hut; but do understand that both sides have inched closer to a middle (and not the trumped-up, 50/50 Basketball Related Income split) that seems agreeable and intelligent even by mid-July standards.
Also understand that trying to determine why this sense of near-closure took this long to come to will only drive you dyspeptic. Trust me, I'm on my third Prilosec of the morning. As we wrote Thursday -- don't make this the NBA's triumph. Make this your own.