The one thing players and owners can agree on in the NBA’s 39-day-old work stoppage is that they disagree on everything. That includes—much to the chagrin of the sport’s supporters—whether the two sides should even push to salvage the season.
The hard-line bosses want the league’s new collective bargaining agreement to resemble the NHL’s restrictive document. That requires a hard cap and crippling salary givebacks middle-class players cannot stomach. The small-market bulldogs would rather save jet fuel and operating expenses than host any games under current rules. They contend they can pocket more cash by slashing the upcoming campaign.
This dogmatic, ruthless approach at the bargaining table portends fragmentation amongst the owners, if there isn’t any already. Micky Arison, Jerry Buss and Mark Cuban all raked in significant profits, and two of those tycoons’ franchises squared off in the NBA Finals. As the dreaded termination dates draw closer, will they remain dedicated to a plan that, if executed, would destroy several of their competitive advantages?
How much does Cuban want to help, say, Glen Taylor in Minnesota reach the same rung as his Mavericks? More revenue sharing—a must for buyer equity—and a hard cap would decrease payrolls and increase parity. Whether the NBA can and should traverse the NFL’s route is a question fit for another column.
Agents continue to lobby Union Chief Billy Hunter to decertify. Pressing that nuclear button might blow the last vestiges of hope for a season to bits. A union considers decertification when it wants to invoke anti-trust laws against its boss. In this case, the players would seek to lift the lockout via a court ruling. The agents want the work stoppage declared illegal. Hunter, thus far, has invited them to stick that idea where the sun doesn’t shine.
As fans and pundits witnessed with the NFL’s labor situation, the loser in a judge’s decision can appeal and trample the other side’s euphoria in a matter of weeks, if not days. Given the much more contentious nature of the NBA’s tiff, further court dueling and jockeying will not yield a speedy resolution. It would throw the endangered campaign into a pit of quicksand and threaten all roads to progress with nails and molasses.
Enter this column—the umpteenth attempt by a hoops scribe to manage some good-faith negotiating on behalf of the distressed, miles apart sides who should be sacrificing instead of balking. This is not a mock CBA. Writing one would require years of law school and a legal vocabulary loaded with jargon few on any online sports hub would want to read. Instead, this column presents ideas and suggestions.
One popular inclusion requires a trip down kindergarten memory lane. Several are renegade enough to prompt debate. A few of these might not make sense in a governing document. If nothing else, thinking up solutions to this headache-inducing clash of ideals was worth a shot.
One word defines my proposals: sacrifice. Both sides must make concessions to get a deal done. No one walks away from this unscathed or undefeated. An all-too-public business negotiation after a double-dip recession will hurt by default. Pain is both necessary and productive.
My advice to the players expecting mere alterations to the cap: find another line of work and a cure for that naiveté. My advice to the owners moaning about problems they helped create: go cry alone in that house you bought in the Hamptons.
I devised the fairest pitch possible. Beneath the description of each recommendation, I noted that bullet point’s probable beneficiary.