<
>

Etan Thomas vs. David Stern

Tread carefully, Mr. Tiny Commissioner. You know this cat will back it up.

Etan Thomas doesn't like how the media has covered newballgate... as in, it seems like the players were so whiny that the league eventually let them have the damn cookie. Not so, writes Thomas:

Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which is the statute that governs the relationship between labor and management, management must bargain with the union over three things: wages; hours; working conditions. We (the union) claimed that the NBA was not entitled to make such a fundamental change to our working conditions, unilaterally, without bargaining with the union.

Before the charge could be found to have merit or not, the NBA decided to change back to the leather ball, with the Commissioner conceding that he made a mistake and that the players should have been consulted before instituting such a significant change.

Then Thomas gets his dander so up that he previews the stump speech I imagine he'll use when he makes an inevitable run for the presidency of the union. All kinds of talk about how we need to fight every day for the rights we take for granted, or one day our children won't be able to make all this fat NBA cake.

Newsflash: your kids won't make that kind of NBA cake, because they won't make the NBA. Statistically, just about no one does. Only the rarest of exceptions. (Like my kids. I'm planning to ask David Thorpe to become our family nanny for a decade or so of crucial skill development. So, in fact, my skinny kids probably will make the NBA, while your muscled and gifted children probably won't, and it would be wrong of you to mislead them into thinking otherwise.)

In any case, in the midst of that rambling, Thomas reported something that made me pause:

During this last Collective Bargaining negotiation, David Stern put an offer on the table saying that he would be willing to do completely do away with the salary cap if the players would agree to non-guaranteed contracts. Don’t think for a moment this proposal is not going to come up again.

Wow. Did David Stern really say that? Is that where this is headed?

That's something to chew on.

From a fan's perspective, color me intrigued. Think how many teams would be liberated? Look at the biggest salaries in the NBA. That's fan money, indirectly, that's going to Chris Webber, Allan Houston, and Brian Grant. Wipe out those salaries and the salary cap, and the Knicks, Sixers, and Celtics would be on their way to rebuilding a lot faster. And all those trades merely for cap relief? They'd be a thing of the past. Not to mention all those trades that don't happen because of the salary cap.

The obvious beef with such a plan is parity. I guess the NBA solution would be the luxury tax, which is a more powerful anti-salary inflation tool than the salary cap anyway.

I'll tell you this: the argument that players are owed superstar contracts without superstar production--that I'm not buying. That's an inefficiency of the market that wastes the dollars of fans, sponsors, and those owners who supplement the team's operations from their own pockets.

That big value is all based on player performance, and if you can't perform, I don't see why you couldn't sit on the sidelines with your savings and some kind of pension and benefits that would be

something like ten times what most professionals get.

I don't know. The jury is out for me on this one. There are many angles and approaches. Need to think about it some more, and I'm interested in what all you smart people have to say.