It's the first week of October, training camps should be in full swing and we should be readying and working through all manner of NBA season previews. Instead, we're right where we thought we'd be months ago. The NBA won't budge on this lockout until the nervous players have missed their first batch of paychecks, and the divide between the NBA owners and NBA players has come down to simple but massive slivers of the pie. The first two weeks of the NBA regular season, otherwise known as the last few days before the players miss their first paycheck, will likely be canceled early next week.
All indications following Tuesday's labor talks is that the only significant remaining obstacle between the players and owners is a massive one.
The players made 57 percent of Basketball Related Income (BRI) in 2010-11, and the owners would like to see that come down to 47 percent (up from their offer of 46 percent from a few days ago. The players would like that mark to dive down to 53 percent (down from 54 percent from a few days ago). The owners swear they offered a 50-50 split. The players swear the owners never came up from 47 (that "50-50" could have been paired with massive caveats). Neither side will budge, which is why talks have broken off, with no talks on the horizon.
That's Billy Hunter, head of the NBA Players Association. For now, at least.
Without being a cynic or a pessimist, this should come as no surprise. Owners never had any intention of starting the 2011-12 season on time, correctly assuming that they wouldn't get what they wanted from NBA players until the first wave of paychecks went uncashed. There's no way of telling how the players will react to the loss of income, as all indications point to them being better prepared and certainly more well-heeled than their 1998 counterparts; but you try missing a check or two, and see how you react. And all the preparation in the world can't account for a significant group of players who have blown through their savings over the last few years.
Without coming down too clearly on the players' side, there is obviously in them a fundamental belief that as the chosen few that keep us drooling over this game 12 months a year, they should get a bigger piece of the pie, even if it's only incrementally bigger. Percentage wise, at least; because the concessions made by the players in dropping their end of the BRI amount to $600 million over the course of this deal. The owners want $240 million more in the first year of their proposed new deal. That figure is twice what the Atlanta Hawks agreed to pay Joe Johnson last summer.
This is on the owners. Lockout negotiations were in full bloom 3 1/2 months ago, and yet all they've ticked off on is to do away with the idea of a hard salary cap (which, frankly, wouldn't work in an NBA full of five-man starting units and nine or 10-man rotations) and move up one percentage point to asking the players to take in 47 percent of BRI.
We know about gas prices, failing economies, growing medical and insurance costs, and all those inflated price tags the newish NBA owners have paid for their teams; but this was a waste of a summer and then offseason. The owners are intractable, and you have them to blame for the next wave of game cancellations while they wait for NBA players to freak out over missed paydays.
And, to echo Woj's thoughts from his column from early on Tuesday, we're once again going to call on David Stern to act as commissioner of the National Basketball Association, and not his owners' lead legal counsel. This is for the good of the game, and the myriad economic ripples that surround it in every NBA city and even the homes featuring men and women whose livelihoods are tangentially reliant on NBA games to put food on the table.
We're yelling at Stern for doing his job. But at some point when shouldn't that get in the way of stopping so many others from doing theirs?