It doesn’t matter if the game is checkers, chess, Battleship or collective bargaining negotiations -- there often comes a time when you look down at the board and realize you’re going to lose. The NBA players are at that stage now, with scant days separating them from losing games as a result of the lockout.
One of the sticking points is that the owners want the players to roll back their salaries. Well, if games are missed and salaries are reduced on a pro-rated basis, what does that effectively constitute? A rollback.
Players will be missing out on money one way or another. So now the question becomes the same one Tupac once asked: How do you want it?
If they start the season on time they regain the momentum they established from all the drama of last season. No hard feelings, no questions asked. Fans won’t mind shortened training camps or missed preseason games as long as the real deal begins as scheduled and there is full, immediate value for those season ticket renewals. The compacted free-agent market will actually generate higher-than-normal NBA interest in October, which normally belongs to pro and college football and the baseball playoffs.
As far back 2009, when money was flying around in overpriced contracts for the likes of Hedo Turkoglu and Ben Gordon, I was told the owners knew they’d never have to pay the full value of those contracts because of lost games in 2011-12. They knew they’d be getting a rebate. Now it’s time for them to collect. The question is how greedy are they going to get. Will they settle for a market correction, or will they put the squeeze on for profits assured by labor without the owners having to do the dirty work themselves through a better revenue sharing system?
One NBA person told me a reduction from the current 57 percent players’ share of income to 50 percent would work out to a savings of $10 million per team. Hmm, 30 teams times $10 million = $300 million. That’s the amount the NBA says it lost last season, with no other changes to the system. What once was lost, now is found. The owners are making this more complicated and ruthless than it needs to be. Because they know the players are out of alternatives.