Tuesday we were supposed to be watching the Lakers take on Kevin Durant, but the NBA lockout remains. A settlement was apparently near last Friday, but it wasn’t to be, and so commissioner David Stern canceled another two weeks of games.
The basics of the dispute are simple. The players currently get 57 percent of most revenues, and the owners claim to be losing money. There’s some doubt about that, of course, and at this point, as Dave Berri points out, we have to rely on our faith and trust in the owners rather than any actual evidence, or even an actual argument as to how and why this is the case after the NBA’s best season in years.
Most NBA watchers agree that the owners are mainly in the wrong. How could they not, when the owners asked the players to cut their percentage from 57 down to 40 percent for the life of the 10-year deal and then claim to have moved in their position when they come up to 50 percent? Or when they go all George Bush on us, and say they won’t negotiate until the players agree—before the negotiations—to this basic demand. Despite this, the basic narrative still blames the players.
The quintessential argument is embodied in this piece in Grantland. The money quote is at the end: “Is the owners’ offer fair? Not really. Should the players take it? Yes. Will the owners give in and up the ante? Very unlikely. Will the players be rational and take what is on the plate? We can only hope so.”
In other words, the players are right, but they should cave because they’ve already given up hundreds of millions so what’s a few more?
Blogger Andrew Sharp tells us the numbers are more like $2.2 billion back to the owners so far, with wags pushing the players to give up another $700 million.
Chances are you’re not all that sympathetic to NBA millionaires, though as Wages of Wins points out, a fair number of these guys aren’t actually that, and those are the guys most likely hurt by a cheap settlement, since Kobe and LeBron will still get their money.
From a fan’s point of view, this lockout hurts nobody. There’s an old British joke about soccer to the effect that it’s a game in which 22 players run around for 90 minutes and in the end Germany wins. Much the same can be said of the NBA’s extravagant 82-game regular season and extended post-season that has, over 60 years, resulted in more than half the championships going to two teams and two-thirds going to four teams.
The costs are borne by workers, and not just the players, as UNITE HERE Local 11 members that serve food at Staples, along with many other service workers, miss out on valuable workdays. But as we begin the process of saying goodbye to one greedy owner here in L.A., let’s make sure to put the blame where it belongs, and remember the players are the ones with the real leverage.