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NBA lockout: Negotiations defy logic

October 20, 2011 |  6:56 pm

Derek Fisher

The NBA owners and players union met for just over 30 hours in three consecutive days, yet still couldn't make enough progress to further talks.

The disagreements over basketball-related income and system issues appear so divided that even federal mediator George Cohen said in a statement that "no useful purpose would be served by requesting the parties to continue the mediation process at this time."

The distrust between both sides seems so rampant that NBA and the union continue to dispute what actually even happened at the negotiating table. Deputy commissioner Adam Silver and Spurs owner Peter Holt claim the players broke off talks because they wouldn't budge from their concession at 52.5% and rejected a 50/50 split. Union executive director David Hunter and president Derek Fisher charged the owners with lying, with Hunter saying they accepted a sliding scale of 50 to 53%, but the owners wouldn't budge from their 50/50 proposal. 

Forget about who's right or who's wrong. Forget about the small progress they made, with Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reporting both sides are nearing a compromise on the annual midlevel exception starting at $5 million with annual raises over three years. Forget about the fiery rhetoric still running rampant. Simply think about the logic.

Why would both sides risk the game's popularity just to maxmize their bottom line? Why would the players be willing to lose $160 million in salary for every two weeks of lost games when they have little leverage? Why would the owners refuse to budge on the BRI (52.5% to 50% is a $100-million loss as calculated by CBS Sports' Ken Berger) when every two weeks of canceled games bring a loss of $800 million?

Oh, the owners say they want competitive balance and the players say they've conceded enough. The players maintain they drive the league and have made the financial sacrifices to absorb a lost season if necessary. And Silver pointed out that they're negotiating a 10-year deal. But by doing all this hypothetical numbers crunching, it becomes clearer and clearer that even a changed system may not necessarily absorb all the lost momentum in popularity the league's bound to suffer.

--Mark Medina

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Photo credit: Henry Ray Abrams / Associated Press