NBA lockout: Deal hinges on owners
We already know of one threat that never materialized: NBA Commissioner David Stern had said that if the players union didn't accept the owner's latest proposal by 2 p.m. PST, they'd immediately pull the offer.
Well, the two sides are still talking in New York. It's better than the alternative featuring both sides storming out, but this fact doesn't necessarily mean things will end well.
It's clear, however, if both sides fail to reach the deal, the blame falls entirely on the owners. The NBA players union may have staunchly rejected the owners' proposal to accept a range of 49% to 51% in basketball-related income, but they indicated they are open to accepting a 50-50 split in said revenue. Considering how much both sides had clashed on this issue, that alone is progress. It also reveals just how much the players union has already conceded, relenting from 57% to 53% to 52.5% to 52%, all while the owners kept asking for more and more. For those keeping score, a 50-50 split would result in an extra $200 million per year for the owners after they claimed the league has lost $300 million annually.
That doesn't guarantee profitability, but it shouldn't. That's why it's inexcusable if the owners refuse to give the players union some leeway on some of the system issues. That could include an easing on the luxury tax, which would inhibit teams to show a willingness to spend more to secure top-level talent. That includes increasing qualifying offers and trade exceptions, and allowing sign-and-trades, all factors that give players more freedom as free agents. That includes increasing incentives in rookie contracts so that players actually performing at an elite level are compensated more quickly.
Of course, none of this resonates with a general public tired of seeing billionaires fight with millionaires. But from a pure negotiating standpoint, there's no need for the owners to delay any more of the 2011-12 season just so they can run up the score. For better or worse, the ball is in their hands.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Derek Fisher, center, president of the NBA players union, is joined by union Executive Director Billy Hunter, right, and other NBA players during a news conference Sept. 15. Credit: Julie Jacobson / Associated Press