NBA Lockout Roundtable (cont.)
3. Who looks the best and worst in this bitter labor fight?
Thomsen: No one looks good. To say that one side benefits at the expense of the other is to ignore the bigger picture, which is that both sides are damaging the game they claim to love.
Amick: There's egg on everybody's face, but the owners wind up looking the worst. Any NBA fan who is paying attention knows that the owners have pushed for extreme changes. And while it's fair to argue that the players are better off just cutting a deal now, it should surprise no one that they are resisting as they have.
Specifically, David Stern takes the hit. After decades spent growing the game and making it so relevant on the global level, his inability to help get this deal done will be an unwanted addition to his overall positive legacy.
Mannix: The NBA has done a fantastic job of spinning its message. So many of Stern and Co.'s statements -- statements the union has taken issue with -- are being written and spoken as verifiable facts. Twenty-two out of 30 teams are losing money? The union contests that, but not many others do. The NBA owners have made significant concessions during these negotiations? Only if concessions are considered things like coming up from a 38-percent split of BRI for players and agreeing not to eliminate guaranteed contracts or roll back current salaries. The NBA is like the guy who goes into a BMW dealership and offers $5,000 for a 2012 convertible, then claims he has moved a lot when he comes up to $20,000. But the public buys it because the league is so good at spinning it.
At the union, meanwhile, it's amateur hour. T-shirts, hashtags, catch phrases? Free Dwight Howard? Come on. The union has been completely overmatched and the public opinion of this mess reflects that.
Lowe: To be honest, I don't know. My gut, my e-mail in-box and my Twitter account tell me a slight majority of diehard fans probably blame the owners a bit more. The perception among those folks is that the owners started off with a ridiculous proposal, negotiated down from there and thus created the false impression that they were making "concessions" when, really, they were just negotiating their way from an unreasonable position to a reasonable one. The players, in this view, have made real concessions, at least when you consider what they got under the last collective bargaining deal.
But again, this is a slight majority of diehard fans who understand BRI and tax structures and the mid-level exception. The majority just hate both sides right now, and that probably leads to a bit more of the blame from that crowd being placed upon the players, simply because the fans know who the players are but don't know much about who the owners are. Nobody ever looks good in these things.
Jenkins: Players always look worse than owners in labor disputes and I never know why that is. Maybe it's because player salaries are so public. Maybe people just resent 20-year-olds making millions for being good at a game. Players will take the biggest p.r. hit, but owners are the ones who deserve it.
4. How will this end?
Thomsen: They'll figure it out when they realize they have no other choice, in late December or early January.
Amick: Hopefully with George Cohen paving the way to a season with 70 or so games. The recent decision by both sides to use the federal mediator was a wise one, and folks who know his work well tell me he's more than capable of helping get a deal done with the NBA like he couldn't with the NFL. It's a far better alternative than taking it to the courts by way of decertification of the union and with the players filing antitrust lawsuits. That route, which we could still see if things go even further south, would likely wipe out the entire season.
Mannix: The NBA will bend a little, the union will bend more. The league is simply better equipped for a long lockout and eventually that will work to its advantage.
Lowe: With a slightly reduced season and a new CBA that is much worse for players than the old one. The middle ground in terms of revenue is where it has always been: somewhere between 50 percent and 53 percent to the players. Both sides can sell that to their respective memberships, provided each is happy enough with where the system issues end up. On that, I'd bet good money the players concede on contract lengths and the mid-level exception in exchange for a luxury-tax system that isn't quite as restrictive as the one the owners have proposed -- a system that allows big-money teams to spend a lot, even if they don't quite spend as much, in relative terms, as they did under the old deal.
Jenkins: Everyone is going to lose. The NBA will lose any momentum it built last season. Players will lose paychecks. Owners will lose gate receipts. Worse, arena workers will lose jobs. I still expect some of the big-market owners, like the Lakers' Jerry Buss and the Knicks' Jim Dolan, to grow weary of a fight that really doesn't benefit them or their clubs. The players could fracture, but so could the owners, paving the way for a compromise that should have been reached months ago.
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