NBA Lockout: Owners' Lawsuit Portends Cancelled Season

Robert Kleeman@@RobertKleemanSenior Analyst IAugust 5, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30:  Commissioner of the NBA, David Stern (R) and Adam Silver announce that a lockout will go ahead as NBA labor negotiations break down at Omni Hotel on June 30, 2011 in New York City. The NBA has locked out the players after they were unable to reach a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The current CBA is due to expire tonight at midnight.    (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Before heading back to the bargaining table, the parties in the NBA’s labor war must first rummage through piles of paperwork. Can anyone lend a map or a GPS? This document stack promises to become a towering skyscraper.

Tuesday’s predictable news felt more like a stabbing in a horror film than a staged WWE body slam.

The owners countered the players’ threat of a mass exodus across the pond with a reverse lawsuit earlier this week—as if this ongoing dispute needed additional litigation.

Send in more lawyers. Call off the paramedics. There’s no saving the 2011-2012 season now. It will meet its gruesome death before either side leaves the courtroom.

Forget seeing Derrick Rose on the United Center’s basketball court. His peers and bosses are determined to win this contentious scuffle with jargon and a judge’s gavel.

The core disagreement—that the owners think the players should finance the league’s post-recession recovery with massive givebacks, while the players want the owners to recoup reported losses with more revenue sharing—remains unsettled.


This development will stall any chance at rekindled discussions, perhaps until December or January, when the ticking clock will deafen the hostage negotiators.

It will be too late then to decide how to split basketball-related income, or how to construct a new salary cap.

There’s no time for a new deal when both sides are posturing and flexing their legal muscles. All the owners did Monday was introduce more biceps to a debate that needs level heads and brains.

The bosses accused their employees of scuttling negotiations with unlawful tactics.

“These claims were filed in an effort to eliminate the use of impermissible pressure tactics by the union which are impeding the parties’ ability to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, said Adam Silver, the NBA’s Deputy Commissioner. The owners’ complaint mirrors the one the union levied in May.

The filing also seeks establishment of the lockout’s legality. If the players opted to decertify the union, they would do so to invoke anti-trust laws in another court presentment.


Does anyone else need Advil to cure the headache this rigamarole causes?

If you want to watch any games here before fall 2012, hope that Union Chief Billy Hunter and President Derek Fisher ignore the agents’ pleas to decertify. All that lengthy process does is further delay the elusive CBA talks.

The two sides met Monday, and they exchanged hollow words. Did anyone offer a significant concession or propose a more amendable, agreeable salary threshold?

No one is bargaining in good faith. No one is bargaining at all, and that forebodes the apocalyptic scenario writers and pro hoops supporters have feared.

The specifics of the pages filed with the National Labor Relations Board matter less than the players’ and owners’ intentions.

Hunter’s recent statement that the union supports ballers exploring abroad opportunities was pure posturing. Deron Williams appears serious about suiting up for Turkish club Bestikas. Most of the others—Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony—have tested the water without intending to go for a swim.


This slapdash tactic will fail soon enough.

Stern’s response, whether adroit or condescending, contains some inescapable truths.

“There’s simply no way that the players collectively can generate more than a couple hundred million dollars, and we have a system that has been delivering $2 billion to them…

I’m not a big fan of it not because it’s a threat, but because it subjects our players to unnecessary risk and treats them disparately.”

To make this work in their favor, the players need leverage that does not exist. A dozen or so ballers can secure gigs, but there are not enough dollars or open roster spots to legitimize the bluff of a stampede to another continent.

Soon, the owners will use this supposed, widespread willingness to compete in inferior leagues for a lot less money as a reason the athletic employees should accept a hard cap. It will become even more ammunition for the guys who have had more of it all along.

Players will hate the culminating punishment.


The owners do not seek compromise. They want to find the jugular and the kill switch. There’s no reason for them, at this point, to reach for anything else.

Forget the thrill of traveling to Italy or China, or the promise of future profits. This nauseating tolerance test just took a turn for the worse.

The labor board must now rule on two conflicting motions, and do not expect speedy results from that body. Civil, intellectual conversations and sacrifice from both aisles will solve this equation.

Sending it back to the courts invites damnation and many more videos about Stan Van Gundy’s dribbling and a 48-year-old Michael Jordan clumsily dunking.

Stern needs his league’s site and network to get back to Durant and his Oklahoma City Thunder, to Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan’s final years of contention, to the Boston Celtics, the polarizing Miami Heat, and Dirk Nowitzki’s repeat bid.

Tuesday’s news should beat any sense of optimism about an on-time resolution to a bloody pulp.

Call off the season already. It’s toast.

Better yet, send in the rodeo clowns. NBA fans could use a laugh in these dark times.