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NBA lockout: There must be a 2011-12 season

David Stern

As deadlines passed to salvage part of the 2011-12 season, both the owners and players union kicked the can down the road, believing a deal of their liking will eventually offset the canceled games and lost revenue.

Each fallout has spurred both sides to speak with inflamed rhetoric, offer doomsday threats and further stall negotiatons. The approach masks a collective arrogance that's beyond reproach. Neither side has believed that holding firm to a position will push it into a point of no return. That point where continued defiance will just result in a worse deal. That point where canceled games and lost money will cause irreparable damage to the league's brand. That point where a significant number of fans will eventually throw their hands up in disgust and walk away from something they once loved.

Surely, casual fans don't pay attention to the NBA playoffs once the Christmas Day games start, or even the postseason. Our nation's history has shown that once sports leagues end their labor strife, fans happily return, albeit in a delayed fashion. But in a sagging economy, the owners and players trade association are playing a serious game of chicken that could result in a huge accident. Owners calculate the players will crack more as they continue to lose paychecks. Players calculate owners will soon reveal their united front is a sham as they continue to lose money at the gate. Both at this point have refused to blink.

Neither side has admitted this continual defiance will eventually backfire when it least expects it. What's it worth for the players union to disband, file antitrust lawsuits, argue over two more percentage points of basketball-related and a myriad of system issues? What's it worth for the owners to run up the score on the players (who have already conceded $280 million per season in basketball-related income), demand further concessions and refuse to restart negotiations? They all will readily answer their defiance is necessary, considering the next collective bargaining agreement could last up to 10 years. But when the league brought in $4 billion in total revenue last season, it's inexcusable that a deal hasn't been reached.

The approach has already hurt the product. Unfortunately for both sides, the players and owners haven't finished damaging themselves.

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Photo: NBA Commissioner David Stern has continued to hold the line for the owners during labor negotiations with the players union. Credit: Patrick McDermott / Getty Images

-- Mark Medina
E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

 
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