On Wednesday, NBA owners apparently pulled out of a scheduled meeting with the players during the All-Star break, and if that doesn't tell you all you need to know about how things will move forward during this offseason's labor negotiations, well, let me tell you how things are going to move forward during this offseason's labor negotiations.
To start, a meeting between player and owner reps, slotted for All-Star weekend, is an annual event. Sometimes it isn't the chummiest annual event, but it is a needed back-and-forth between two sides that are often warring over billions of dollars.
Last year, the NBA owners were upset because the Players Association decided to show up with all sorts of league leaders in tow, with more or less the starting fives for both the Western and Eastern conferences, as opposed to the usual team representatives (who are rarely stars). The NBA thought this practice a bit showy, which would make sense if anyone outside of the hardcore NBA fandom actually knew that LeBron James(notes) and company showed up to the meeting in Dallas. I'm a hardcore fan, and even I had to pause to remember that the game was in Dallas last year.
As quoted by FanHouse's Sam Amick, who broke the story:
"They don't want to do it because they don't want to have the LeBron James and the KGs (Kevin Garnetts) and the Kobes (Kobe Bryant(notes)) and all these guys in one spot where they can come in and look them in the eye and address them," Evans said. "It's easier to look at Mo Evans and Derek Fisher and Keyon Dooling(notes) and Etan Thomas(notes) and guys like us and Theo Ratliff(notes) (all of whom are members of the NBAPA executive committee).
"It's easy to come in and look at guys who aren't making $20 million (per season) and aren't franchise players, and say, 'Hey we need (salary) rollbacks. We don't have enough money. This model isn't working, blah blah blah blah.' But tell that to LeBron James. You can't lie to those guys, because you know its working."
This is where the NBA gets you.
It'll tell you that it is not working, and it's not wrong in that regard. Teams are losing money. Salaries are higher than they should be for dozens of players. The balance has shifted toward the players. Not in an egregious way, but strongly enough for these franchises to be losing money. And when franchises are losing money, it is well within the owners' rights to ask that the system be changed.
But the system isn't the problem. Sure, there are a few things to tweak, and the percentage of Basketball Related Income should probably tick a few slots over to the owners this time around, but the system is doing its job.
The NBA owners and the general managers they employ, are not doing theirs.
Because between rookie contracts, restricted free agency, careful application of the midlevel exception and plain basketball smarts, teams have myriad ways of limiting salary and using the system to their advantage. Too many owners and GMs, all giddy with the prospect of adding talent and winning more often, choose to ignore the rules set up to allow them to succeed.
And now, for the fourth time since 1995, the NBA owners are asking for your support as they demand more rules be set into place to protect them from themselves.
The outcry over the canceled meeting, at the very least, has done a little damage. Amick is reporting that a new meeting has been scheduled, which is good news for anyone who thinks that clear lines of communication can help resolve conflict. A silly notion, eh?