November 14, 2011
The NBA really has presented an awful, awful deal to its players. Last week I called it "lousy." The more information that spools in, the more we learn about its lousefulness. We're now creating words to enumerate just how terrible a deal this is.
Of course, before we tear into it, our position that the NBA players badly need to sign off on this deal stands. In a sick way, NBA boss David Stern is the Players Associations' greatest ally from what we've read, because this is a man who has no control over his various owners at this point. We wouldn't expect unanimity from 29 owners of disparate wealth, perched in different locations and varying hoop-related circumstance, but Stern has failed miserably in herding these ridiculous cats, and their fulminations are only going to get worse.
Stern just about lost his fleeting tag as a sympathetic follower during Sunday night's ridiculous "Twitterview" (the NBA's much chortled-at description), which involved the league's own Twitter handle responding to questions from NBA fans like Sam Amick, Michael Lee, Darren Rovell, Dave McMenamin (writers who have had full access to the league's post-negotiation news conferences), Bill Simmons (writer) and players Dwyane Wade(notes) and Spencer Hawes(notes).
The NBA's timeline provided few revelations that anyone without a passing glance at their own Twitter account wouldn't have cobbled together by now. And the "fan" to "professional paid to cover or play for the NBA" ratio was about 1-to-1.
Around the same time, USA Today found a way to publish the league offer in its entirety, and writers without Chicago Bears games to listen to actually decided to delve into the offer and scare up some pretty awful moves on the league's part. Most telling, to me at least, is this batch of ridiculousness as reported by ESPN's Ric Bucher:
If teams spend more than the allotted [50/50 basketball-related income] percentage, they not only retain the 10 percent of each salary held in escrow, but if that 10 percent doesn't cover the excess then the additional funds can be deducted from a one percent of BRI dedicated to "post-career player annuity and player benefits."
If the excess still hasn't been satisfied, future benefits and escrow funds can be utilized to cover it. In essence, it assures the owners that no matter how much they spend in any one season, they will not have to pay more than the stated percentage.
There is no penalty for the owners to spend like maniacs. Sort of like an in-season version of what we're seeing right now, with the NBA owners demanding swift retribution on the players' part for the terrible choices the owners have made in running their NBA teams. Marvelous.
Remember when LeBron James(notes) led a terrible Cleveland Cavaliers team to the 2007 NBA Finals while making just a few hundred thousand dollars above what Brian Cardinal(notes) (sorry, Brian …) made that season? Remember when Derrick Rose(notes) led the Chicago Bulls to the NBA's best record last season and won the NBA MVP? Remember when Kevin Durant(notes) led the Oklahoma City Thunder to the conference finals last year, or when Tim Duncan(notes) led the San Antonio Spurs to the NBA championship in 1999? Recall Dwyane Wade's Finals brilliance in 2006?
Those were performances compensated with rookie scale contracts. The NBA would like to cut those by 12 percent. Because the untold millions in playoff, All-Star weekend, exposure and ratings revenue of these deals somehow don't offset the million dollars the Orlando Magic had to pay Daniel Orton(notes) last year, the NBA would like to cut down.
Also, did you know that the NBA can contract any team it wants without having to consult the Players Association that represents the players working under guaranteed contracts with that team? Here's Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski:
The owners are offering a 50-50 split of revenue, but the possible elimination of two teams would cause the BRI to be adjusted with a smaller percentage for the players, sources said. The NBA also wants to be able to contract teams without consulting the union.
In a coordinated Twitter push on Sunday, Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver were said to be answering questions for fans. In an answer to a question about team contraction, the league officials responded that it "had been discussed," and that it was not a "complete solution."
Because it's the players' fault the NBA decided to let George Shinn seek out a "solution" in New Orleans back in 2002 (it was a much-criticized idea well before outside influences left the city hard-pressed to support two major-league franchises), and apparently it is the players' fault the NBA rushed to look good in awarding a make-good expansion team to Charlotte, as if that area (and I'm aware of the consistent sellouts pre-Shinn's skeeviness) could compare with Cleveland's long-standing support of its Browns.
So what's left for the players to do, as they meet on Monday to discuss this terrible, terrible offer? Play tough? That's what the agents, mindful of years of lost revenue swarming into their own coffers, are telling them to do. From CBS Sports' Ken Berger:
Yeah, except it's not going to work that way, agents and players.
These owners aren't bullies. They're apathetic. They're uncaring about the thousands of lives they're affecting just in their own region in terms of lost income. They're certainly not concerned with the millions of fans that want NBA basketball back. They're as greedy as anyone, haggling over ridiculous minor items after the Players Association has given in hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars worth of concessions. They can't even throw the players a few bones, so to speak, in eliminating those relatively minor items while the players give in. And they're geniuses in leaving the great unwashed to think, "50/50? Sounds about right."
David Stern could barely get this offer, terrible to the players as it is, on the table. And yet the players and their agents don't think it's going to get any worse? This is a miserable, screamingly unfair offer by the NBA, but it doesn't change the fact that this is as good as it gets. As many as half of the NBA's owners don't care about basketball played before Valentine's Day, if at all in 2011-12, and you think this group will cower at your transparent and showy brand of unity, Players Association?
You've had it.
It's a mistake to sign this offer, Players Association. A terrible mistake.
It's a calamity if you don't. Because you're dealing with the perpetually unmoved.