NBA Lockout: Where are we?

If you have been following the lockout on Twitter, ESPN, the newspapers, radio, etc., you have noticed a turn to what can only be described as “silly”.

You have, as of late, a Players Association President (Derek Fisher), an Executive Director (Billy Hunter), a League Commissioner (David Stern and a Deputy Commissioner (Adam Silver) engaged in all the spin, finger pointing, and recrimination usually reserved for political campaigns.

One side however (The Owners), seem at least halfway competent in getting their spin accepted as fact.  The other (The Players),  is at a severe public relations disadvantage.  What makes this so silly, is the gossip that is being fed and spread through both parties.

On Friday the 29th, a Foxsports Report by Jason Whitlock alleged that Derek Fisher was selling out the union and cutting a side deal for 50/50 of BRI.  Yesterday, a Yahoo! Sports piece by Adrian Wojnarowski put the blame squarely on Billy Hunter and alleges among other things, incompetence.

What can be made of these reports?

Unless both of these guys are flat out making this up (they are not), they are being fed a spin for public consumption. To be clearer, they are being fed competing spin from within the same organization that can only serve to divide.

The main area of contention for the Union here is the final number of BRI (Basketball Related Income).  The owners, in exchange for what they consider “system concessions” (they are not concessions at all), would accept a 50/50 split of BRI.  The players consider a 52/48 split adequate for the concessions they have made on the system, including a drastic cut to the Mid Level Exemption.

It seems that the NBPA, while accepting the parameters of the system changes, has painted itself into a position where, if they want a deal, must accept the owners 50/50 BRI offer to keep the meager “concessions” they gained on the management system.

The players feel as if they can “live” with the system changes they negotiated, but only if they can preserve a 52/48 split.  The players see the system and BRI as separate items.  The owners don’t, and are tying system changes to percentage points of BRI they are willing to concede.  The Owners have staked out their position and have promised to reduce their “generosity” as games are lost.

The Owners simply look more prepared to miss the entire season than the players do.

There are already rumblings, of some players urging Derek Fisher to bring “something” to the rank and file for a vote.  Just like some in the media where contacted by several owners to protest their “inclusion” into the ranks of the intransigent, there are now some players who are making it known that it is time to deal.

The time is over for slogans and snappy t-shirts.  The “work” of Billy Hunter, and to a lesser extent Derek Fisher, has brought the negotiations to where they are.  Where they are is at a position of making all of the concessions and gaining nothing in return.

So what happens now?

In my opinion, the charge of Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher should be to preserve system aspects that allow tax paying teams to continue to add payroll, when they deem fit.  Any restrictions to the Mid Level Exemption and any draconian tax tables serve as a back door hard cap, which would bury the membership in the long run.

What is likely to happen is a ground swell to finalize something to bring to the 450 some odd members to vote on.

With every passing day, Derek Fisher’s position improves while Billy Hunter’s suffers.  A deal is to be had at 50/50 and they all know it (as Wojnarowski states in his piece).  Dishonest accounting and number fudging aside, the players know the only way to preserve favorable system conditions is to accept the deal of the moment.  It only gets worse from here.

As for the fans, if you are really “pro-player” in this labor dispute, you should be cheering for the players to “leave it” in this take it or leave it scenario.

But we all know that in the end, fans are selfish by nature. And their self-interest of seeing professional basketball will supersede any opinions/convictions they may have of the fairness of these negotiations. They are evidence of the failure in PR on behalf of the players association.

The “Indigent Rich” have won the day.

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