NBA Lockout: Crunch time

As the NBA Labor negotiations enter into a very critical phase, it's time to read the tea leaves and make a prediction on when and if the lockout will end soon.

 

On a clear Wednesday afternoon in New York, just before 2 p.m. (EST) ... David Stern put on his "grim face" and sauntered out to the waiting throng of reporters with his deputy commissioner Adam Silver in tow. He then pronounced that there would be "enormous consequences" if a deal isn't struck or if "significant progress" isn't made by Friday (today). The implication of such a threat, according to many a reporter (including J.A. Adande going all California Love on us) was that Stern was threatening the NBA Players Association, with the cancellation of the 2011-12 season; if there's no capitulation to the owners floated "ideas" from the previous three bargaining sessions.

It leads me to say this - ahem - So what?

I firmly believe that, as of three weeks ago, the inevitability of a deal getting done increased when the owners responded favorably the the players willingness to compromise on their BRI (Basketball Related Income) share. This, in turn caused the owners to up their offer from what amounted to a sliding scale, fixed BRI to 46% (which is still far less than where the players are at with their 53% to 54%)

This was a large hurdle to overcome, but both sides have shown a willingness to compromise on key issues. The next biggest hurdle was the hard salary cap. The owners came off of that notion, somewhat, when they proposed a "harder" soft cap that included a more punitive luxury tax that was tiered - i.e.: one level the team over the cap gets charged one dollar per dollar over. The next tier is two dollars for ever dollar over and so forth. The Players have, rightly, deduced that this is another warmed over hard cap. This too will be negotiated.

Also, the possibility of salary rollbacks has been raised by the owners. Let me say here and now that this is most likely floated by the owners to gain compromises in other areas. Specifically the Larry Bird exception (which allows teams the max salary to re-sign their own player) and the mid-level exception (which is the average salary of mid level tiered players) both are cap exceptions (which allow a team to exceed the soft cap). The owners want these either eliminated or reduced. Most likely the players will compromise and limit both exceptions (the players would like to keep the mid-level, as it preserves the NBA "middle class") in exchange for dropping the salary rollbacks.

I must reiterate that once the players showed a willingness to compromise on the BRI, the pace of negotiations quickened and the seriousness of both parties became apparent. Now, we we'll see if we can get down to the nitty gritty. There's a very small margin for error now, and both the players and owners know that they have laid the foundation of an acceptable compromise. It's also clear that Derek Fisher was correct when he said that the owners aren't exactly unified. This is quite far from the hard line stance the owners have taken for two yearsm and I have always felt that the large market owners would start exerting more influence over the process once things started getting toward crunch time.

The players have their own problem to deal with. The agents. If the agents don't get a deal they like their may be a chance they convince their clientele to vote for an involuntary de-certification, which can be approved by 50% of the players plus one. This would essentially throw Billy Hunter out of his leadership position and create - well - chaos. It would throw the entire season into anti-trust litigation. An involuntary de-certification is harder to challenge in court as a sham. The players wouldn't be able to re-certify for an entire calendar year unless given permission by NBA ownership (which would obviously grant that). This really is the "nuclear" option and no one (other than some hardline agents) want to use this as a tactic.

It has been suggested by some that the common enemy of the agents may be spurring the union leadership and owners to get more serious. If so, then maybe that's an unintended yet, beneficial consequence of hardline agents being overzealous. It definitely remains to be seen.

Prediction you ask? Well - as of now I'm hopeful we will see a season. It all depends on things going smoothly this weekend (starting today). This could obviously change at the drop of a hat, but quite frankly I never thought we would see as much compromise as we are seeing now (and despite what Adrian Wojnarowski reports ... it is indeed compromise) I expect the owners to eventually raise their percentage as high as 49%  BRI and I see the players eventually coming down to 51% BRI. That looks like a workable margin to me.

There's compromise to be had. It's right at their fingertips. If not there's going to be crying in streets. Like Tupac rapped ... 

 

Tupac Shakur - When Thugs Cry (via timamar)


Twitter: @jmorton78 https://twitter.com/#!/jmorton78

mortonagency@juno.com

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