November 11, 2011
It's a simple, almost insulting way of describing the ongoing NBA lockout, but we're sticking with the premise. The lockout is the owners' fault. They failed to use the last two collective bargaining agreements to their advantage, they spent unwisely, then battled against the players to save the owners from themselves.
But if the 2011-12 NBA season is lost? Then it will be the players' fault. This has been the case since the two sides starting meeting in earnest two months ago.
How is that fair, when the owners were the ones who wanted to miss games initially? When the owners have barely budged in negotiating? When it was the owners that refused to talk until the kids were back in school? It isn't fair. Nothing's fair, here, but the players have a deal in front of them and they'll vote early next week to decide whether or not to take it. If they take it, the season starts on Dec. 15, 72 games will be played, and the players will get a lousy deal. The owners will be saved from themselves, in theory at least.
If they decline? Certain decertification of the NBA players union, and a lost season.
And, to hear the players tell it, they don't seem to know that they've been beaten. They were beaten in June, in July, in September when things started up again and they'll be beaten next week. No matter their choice. Here's what one of them said to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski on Thursday:
"Why do they keep scrambling us to New York for these meetings when they never listen to us?" one player representative told Yahoo! Sports. "We told them not to go past 53 percent. They did. We told them we're not taking this deal. Why waste our time?"
Oh, you told them not to go past 53 percent? Well geez, why didn't that work? Did you tell November not to be colder than October? Did you tell that bottle of beer not to explode when you left it in the freezer overnight? Everybody, back to New York!
You don't have to take the deal, NBA players, but it's over. It was over months ago. It's not getting any better, it's only going to get worse, and it's only the desperate cries of worried agents and outright hubris that is leaving you with any optimism. You shouldn't have any optimism. You're not even an eighth seed up against the best in the conference. And to anyone complaining about the players acting selfishly, get over yourself. You would be driven to the point of quitting your job, whatever it is, if you had to accept the rollbacks they're up against.
The players stared, and the owners didn't blink. Bonded in their defiance, their decade-long refusal to use rational basketball thought as a bulwark against disparate markets and colluding superstars. Last season's NBA champion may have been helmed by a billionaire who spends more on terrycloth per year than you do automobiles, but he also spent smartly, wisely and with a purpose. OK, there was Brendan Haywood(notes). BUT THAT IS NOT THE POINT.
The point is that the players are facing a group of owners who are either representing or paying for the sins of teams that were purchased for way too much, and subsequently spent way, way too much on the Josh Childress'(notes) of the world. As a result, those owners don't care if there's a season in 2011-12. They don't care about their employees, and they don't care about the workers that make a living tangentially through NBA basketball. And you can't reason with that sort of lunacy.
All you can do is cede to it, if you want some of what you once had. Because negotiating only brought you this far.
If the players want to play, this really is the end of the line. It's not the beginning of the end, the first step in some sort of magical, decertified journey that is going to lead back to a majority of the basketball related income in their pockets and sign-and-trades for all. No, this is it.
And we're expecting NBA players, whose sense of perspective is skewed as badly as anyone's, to recognize this. God help us all.