Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Hardline owners, led by Michael Jordan, could send lockout negotiations into a tailspin

A near-majority group of 14 NBA owners is set to dig in its collective heels as the league prepares to negotiate with its players on Saturday in an attempt to end the 4-month-lockout. According to the New York Times, a cadre of angry owners wants nothing to do with even the limited concessions the NBA has made so far in its lame attempts at good-faith negotiations over the last two months. And with the group led by Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan, things could get worse before they get any better.

From Howard Beck:

The owners' faction includes between 10 and 14 owners and is being led by Charlotte's Michael Jordan, according to a person who has spoken with the owners. That group wanted the players' share set no higher than 47 percent, and it was upset when league negotiators proposed a 50-50 split last month.

According to the person who spoke with the owners, Jordan's faction intends to vote against the 50-50 deal, if negotiations get that far. Saturday's owners meeting was arranged in part to address that concern.

A majority of the 29 owners are believed to support a 50-50 deal, but they are reluctant to move further.

"There's no one who's interested in going above 50 percent," said the person who has spoken with the owners.

(If you're wondering about the "29 owners" reference, remember there are 30 NBA teams, but the New Orleans Hornets are owned by the NBA until the NBA can find a suitable buyer that will make the NBA look good by keeping the team in New Orleans.)

[Related: Large contingent of players mull decertifying union]

Of course, this reminds of Michael Jordan's infamous catcall at late Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin from the 1998 lockout negotiations, when Jordan yelled, "If you can't make a profit, you should sell your team," at the longtime owner (Jordan has owned the Bobcats for 17 months, Pollin had owned his Wizards for three decades by that point). But that's neither here nor there for a pair of sides that have been duplicitous (though the owners are better at it) and unreliable (the players, 'natch) since "negotiations" began.

Beck went on to report the Jordan-led group of owners initially wanted to give the players just 37 percent of all income the league earns from people who pay money for things that are associated with basketball players playing basketball. It's ridiculous to ask any 48-year-old like Jordan to act like he did 13 years ago, even when discussing the same subject -- and especially now that he's on the exact opposite side of the bargaining table. But a 37 percent share? On what planet does that seem like an accurate representation of why the money goes where it does?

[Related: Amnesty rule could cloud Baron Davis' future]

Of course, the players aren't much better off. They've given up far, far more over the course of these negotiations (in real dollars, and not just backing off hopeless bargaining lines as the owners have). And while the difference between 52 and 50 percent in terms of basketball-related income is quite a bit of money, at this point the players are haggling over a symbolic gesture -- that a league that derives popularity from its players should earn the majority of the related income, even if it's just a few ticks away from an even split. On top of that, the influence of player agents and scared superstars has turned the Players Association into a distrustful, colluding mess.

There's a good chance Saturday ends it all. A sound chance that both sides will come to their senses under proper leadership, ignoring fringe (if familiar) groups and making headway on what really isn't an even split. Apologies for continuing to sound like a shill for the pathetic players union, but it is true the players are getting destroyed here, even if the owners take a few steps toward the middle this weekend.

Or, more likely, there's a good chance Saturday ends it all in a much nastier way. Including the moves that could lead to the cancellation of the 2011-12 season, if we're to get specific, with the players moving to attempt to decertify their union and a group of barely minority (one vote away) owners digging in. Winter is just around the corner, and the two sides in this battle are more stubborn and acting more ridiculous than ever.

Have a great weekend, NBA fans.

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