NBA Armageddon: Hardline owners may permanently fracture the league

Posted: October 22, 2011 in NBA
Tags: , , , , , ,

You want a good picture of why the NBA may well be on the cusp of losing an entire season?  Are you still harboring thoughts that supposedly greedy players are at fault?  Read this piece by Adam Wojnarowski.  Got it now?  The owners aren’t negotiating at all.  In fact, the clear implication is that a group of hardliners are more than willing to lose the season and gut the league’s economic structure in order to expedite a higher sale price for their franchises.  That is frankly pathetic.

I’ve been very critical of David Stern over the years, justifiably I think, but even I’m not willing to believe he would approve of threatening the league’s future viability to provide a quick profit for a handful of owners who are planning to flee the league.  I don’t believe for an instant that he had the flu on Thursday when he failed to show up for the most important negotiation ever.  Given the way it turned out, I find myself actually being on Stern’s side, for once.  I want to believe that his absence was a tacit disapproval for the direction things were going on the owners’ side.  Wishful thinking?  Maybe, but Stern now has a chance to redeem himself in my eyes, and many others, by fighting these forces allied to damage the league for personal gain.

The reality is that it only takes 16 of the league’s 30 owners to ratify a new CBA.  How big is that group of hardliners exactly, and how many of them are willing to toss an entire season so Paul Allen and his pals can make a slightly bigger buck when they sell their teams as soon as the lockout is over?  If Stern can get 16 guys together and cut a deal with the players they all can support, this lockout could end soon and to hell with the hardliners and their demands.  You want out?  There’s the door.  We’re just not going to allow you to steal the fine china, silverware and anything else not nailed down as it hits you in the ass on your way out.

This latest twist is a microcosm of what’s wrong with our entire economy right now.  Business leaders actively cutting costs to the bone, past the point where it could actually be beneficial, for no other purpose than to increase the value of their own personal holdings.  They don’t give a damn for the people who work for them, or for the long-term fortunes of the company, so long as they can cash out high.  It’s somebody else’s problem to clean up the wreckage left behind.

It’s these kinds of people that have thrown off the entire delicate balance of our economy, and possibly, our society as a whole.  Profit today as high as possible no matter the costs to anyone else.  It’s become standard operating procedure in far too many industries.  That mindset has taken over the financial sector and even the government to a degree, so it’s not surprising that it would rear its ugly, destructive, self serving head in the high dollar professional sports realm.  It also makes it even more impressive that the NFL avoided having its labor negotiations hijacked in a similar fashion given how wide-spread this kind of activity is these days.

I can’t say the players are totally without fault here.  That Kevin Garnett-Dwayne Wade act of a couple of weeks ago may well be the most assaninely counter-productive thing I’ve ever seen.  Well, before the owners crap on Thursday, anyway.  But I do get the impression the players genuinely want to negotiate and reach a deal.  The owners don’t. 

When Allen stands up and says that he thinks the owners have made too many concessions already, remember this: their side hasn’t made any concessions at all.  Not one.  This isn’t about a fair and equitable deal where both sides gain something.  This is a debate on exactly how much the players will walk away from.  Everything decided in this negotiation will be a concession the players make from the previous deal.  Every single thing.  However this turns out, the owners will not make any concessions in any way during this process.  It’s entirely a matter of how much they stand to gain.

And still, the players have already offered giving back between $2-$3 billion over 10 years and that number is so distasteful to the owners that they walked away from the table rather than discuss it further.  The owners–the hardline bunch anyway–aren’t interested in an equitable deal, or competitive balance or any kind of partnership with the players.  They want to do nothing but cut costs as low as possible.  The short term value of their franchises put above the product, the league and everyone employeed directly and peripherally by or because of the NBA.

I hope Stern did what I suspect and called in sick out of protest.  I hope he still has the gumption to fight this kind of insidious rot growing out of control inside the league he’s spent so long nurturing into a $4 billion a year enterprise.  I hope he fights the good fight for the future of the league as a whole and not just the immediate profit of filthy-rich parasites like Allen.

I really do.

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