NBA Lockout: NBA, Shane Battier, Billy Hunter off to Nightmarish PR Start
It took just Night One of the NBA lockout. Like, eight hours really.
Barbs soared. Passive aggression raged. Patently un-funny jokes were cracked.
For anyone curious as to what a PR nightmare looks like, see Exhibits A-D.
It was the NBA, pulling all player pictures from its web site. Wonder where the league was going with that, a hint at players' replaceability. Then again, memorabilia sales are the league's lone revenue driver until Tip-Off 2012.
Cutting off your nose to spite your face, anyone?
There are a million answers to an uncozy question. There's "no comment," for one. Changing the subject, as another. There's the right answer, seizing the clutches of the easiest battle his side can win—remember, NBA Commissioner David Stern isn't pledging his wages in a good faith gesture.
And then there's Hunter's quick and wit(less) quip, calling it "grandstanding" and something he never considered. Ever.
Do you think sides' words outside the meeting room affects progress in them?
It was Battier, for asking. If that was meant to be a softball, as Battier might've figured, it was a flaming bowling ball from a catapult. Hunter knew it an option—his NFL counterpart DeMaurice Smith passed on his earnings over $1, the same move NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell poineered—and could've used one of his savviest mind's efforts elsewhere.
Then there were these, the product of Twitter and Battier's missing filter:
"Dear @NBA, the lockout hasn't even started and I already miss your loving touch. Come back, baby.Can we get some cocktails and talk thisout?" said @ShaneBattier.
Minutes later: "Let's make this work, for the kids....they're gonna blame themselves for Our problems. Cmon. Come back. I'll tell you I love you more #NBA."
Six hours after: "Dear @NBA, I hate public breakups. I'm sorry. Call me. Its never too late. Xoxo."
That's not how you negotiate. Or articulate.
That's how you confiscate the richest story lines since the Jordan days and the ripest TV ratings, ticket sales and other vitals in decades.
It's early, and jabs like these defined early NFL talks—but by "early," I mean, with three months of CBA left. They came around in the deal's 11th hour, pointing and counterpointing to balance their cause and the prize: football before September.
The NBA parties bickered their way through the deadline nearing, coming and passing, and didn't blink, let alone progress. Detrimental as it is, it's not the key (or padlock).
It's a small detail most look past: Eight new owners have entered the league since 2005, the year the current CBA was drafted. In other words, the agreement that's bled 22-of-30 franchises dry didn't get their stamp.
And this mix of all small-market teams—the Pistons, Hornets, Bobcats, Nets, Cavaliers, Warriors, Thunder and Wizards—might be the ones duking the fiercest, considering they've drawn the shortest straw year in and out.
Throw in the Hawks and Suns, both purchased in 2004. Too late to make a dent, and a third of the league now demands radical change.
That alone clouds complicates matters. A hard salary cap? Deal breaker. Shorter, non-guaranteed deals. They won't OK it without them. Revenue sharing, maybe the toughest sell, considering the leverage and reluctance of the big-market bank breakers?
This might take awhile.
"We would like to get profitable, have a return on investment," Stern said. "There's a swing of somewhere in the neighborhood of $750 to $800 million that we would like to change. That's our story and we're sticking with it."
That's an Atlantic Ocean turned of stomach acid. That's a dust mite in front of the Grand Canyon.
Despite the doomsayers, I still contend that we won't miss games. Revisionist historians say an encore of the 1998-99 lockout that chopped the season to 50 games is likely. I don't, being that a decade ago, the league wasn't worth the $3.5 billion it was in 2011.
There's too much cash in limbo.
Some suggest that, considering owners' losses under the current deal, small-market clubs would save money by boarding up for the whole season rather than agreeing to a lopsided deal for the sake of having a deal.
If true, you'd have known by now. Like, three years ago, "by now."
Resolution, even on a deadline, isn't infeasible.
My suggestion: Structure a scaling back of the player-favored terms of this deal, working gradually toward middle ground. A few percentage points and a year or two on max contracts here and there. If owners can survive the next free agent class, headlined by Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard (maybe), they're set through 2014.
It's plenty possible, with cooperation and motivation.
And maturation for Night Two and beyond, beyond knuckleheadedness of Night One.
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