Basketball Hall of Famer Rick Barry is known for his cantankerous attitude and outspoken ways just as much as he's known for underhanded free throws and NBA/ABA* championships. And as you'd expect, he's just as upset about the ongoing NBA lockout as we are. Unlike a lot of us, though, Barry thinks the players are at fault for the lost offseason and canceled first two weeks of the regular season.
In an interview with Fox, Barry places the blame squarely at the feet of the Players Association's top representative, while utilizing his typical brand of cranky candor:
"I'm not a big fan of (union executive director) Billy Hunter. What are they going to get if they lose 30 games and get zero concessions? What are they going to get if owners are going to hold their position? Owners screwed up their finances the last time (with collective bargaining agreements of 1999 and 2005). They want a chance now to break even and that's not unreasonable."
"It's insane. It's so stupid. (The players) need to minimize the negative effect by doing a deal now."
Barry's not wrong, in his sentiments at least. Hunter hasn't done a good job, this time around, and "insane" and "stupid" probably are the best two ways to describe the mess we've had to sift through since last June.
Rick is also trumping up the idea that the players and owners should settle on a clear 50/50 split of basketball-related income, which makes complete and total sense if it were just that simple.
[Related: NBA rank-and-file fine with missing games]
The problem isn't the percentage split, as Monday's long negotiations revealed. It's the idea of what goes into that basketball-related income that makes this such a tough sell for each side. The costs of team ownership and what they mean to actual revenue? These are fluid things that aren't as easily sussed out in a terrible 2011 economy, unlike what were apparently America's halcyon days of 1995, 1999, and (seriously?) 2005.
With strong revenue, a certain percentage split guarantees that NBA players would actually make more than their listed contracts once the escrow payments associated with the income percentages are added to the mix. But if the owners place a litany of qualifiers and caveats on that percentage split, then it's not in the players' best interests to take even a 57 percent cut; as was the case in 1999 and 2005.
So, yes. It's insane, and so stupid. Neither side has come off well, here, and the players are certainly due to take a hit after cleaning up during the 1995, 1999, and 2005 negotiations (even if maybe 5 percent of the current workforce was around for those collective bargaining agreements). But the players aren't exactly off their rockers, here.
Rick Barry isn't off his, though. Far from it.
*Rick was injured for half the season and the 1969 ABA playoffs, but a ring's a ring.