Whether David Stern’s latest deadline of 5 pm EST is real or merely another negotiating tactic, the countdown to NBA Apocalypse ticks closer and closer to its end.

While the threat of decertification, dwindling offers, and nuclear winter loom on the horizon, I find myself wanting to recant my previous position and place my support firmly with the players—if you do not believe you are being offered a fair deal and have the means and conviction to holdout this season, then basketball be damned, ride this thing out.

My new thought process goes back to why we watch the NBA in the first place. Presumably it starts with a love for the game, though civic pride is as good a reason as any for those of us fortunate enough to live in an NBA city. But we stand in awe of NBA players—we cheer them on—for their ability to perform feats us mere mortals could only dream about.

Though it may not be as thrilling as leaping seven footers in a single bound, a prolonged standoff with ownership and any concessions won from a group that is seeking nothing less than total victory would be another feat beyond most of our capabilities.

To quote the great Bethlehem Shoals:

“But if millionaires don’t have labor rights, then really, who the (expletive deleted) does?”

Most of us lack the athletic ability to dunk on giants, and for many, our deficiencies extend to lacking the financial means to make such a stand when we feel we are getting a raw deal.

Over the past year, in a volatile job market, I’ve seen someone get hours and pay cut in half while still being expected to produce the same service/product on the same deadline. Another person keeps their head down as coworkers lose employment for things like going above management’s head for luxuries like air conditioner while working through one of San Antonio’s hottest summers.

From my view downtown I see our own city’s version of the Occupy movement. And without getting too much into politics or their methods, I believe at its heart there is a message about the lack of leverage the American workforce has in today’s economy and in government.

There is a train of thought that NBA players could find no finer employment, even under the strictest ownership deal. And that this is the owners’ business, and as employees, they should fall in line. But the players stand unique in that they are the product. As easy as it is to say the players could find another job, the NBA could just as easily find other players. It just wouldn’t be the same.

I’d like to stop short of saying stick it to the man, but instead suggest we not demonize the players for exorcising their rights to negotiate what they think is a fair deal. Or try and pressure them into taking one to serve our own ends. At this point, the players have conceded on the money split and are fighting for how that money is distributed. Regardless of the system, the superstars are going to get paid. That was never an issue. The bottom rung will forever be just happy to be there. It was always the middle class that would feel the brunt of this lockout and the next CBA.

Millionaires are millionaires, and the plight of the player does not measure up to what many out there have gone through. But we do not watch the NBA to relate to players, we watch because they play a game we love, and do things within that game that we wish we could do. The same holds true here.

  • LasEspuelas

    I will be very disappointed if the players dont get a better deal than the just tabled one. They need to coalesce into a strong group of people now and leadership from their camp needs to increase. Even if the season is lost, the players cannot lose these negotiations as badly as they are.

  • Nam

    I would rather have the system issues as a fan and not the BRI.  I dont mind the players getting 52% as long as we have a system wherein they cannot hold the teams (and their fans) hostage. Also, I would love to have a system wherein the salary is based on performance…a solid base pay and bonus based on team wins and individual performance

  • JT

    They are the product… Uhmm I don’t know it seems that every company in the world can say the employees are the product, without them they have no business to run. Yes while the NBA’s main commodities are the players themselves, they should not be telling the league or the owners how to run their business. Players are interested in their well being, the league is trying to be competitive and also trying to grow the business. Remember that these players would not be who they are without the NBA. It takes years and lots of hours on the owners payroll to achieve greatness.

    Owners have all the liability in this business, the paid for the team, they pay the players, it is their business. Should the owners be expected to be OK with a system that has been producing negative profit, would you rather have half the owners hang it up and have 15 basketball teams? Is this what is better for the NBA just to please players that are making millions?Derek wants to save another 1% for players retirement.. Seriously? How about system issues, we know of way too many players that play some amazing ball on their contract year, then they start to dwindle downwards, why should owners have to pay this guaranteed contract for 5 years. I think 3 year contracts are great with an owner clause (Franchise Player) because it is their investment after all. It keeps players on their heels to perform and makes them more competitive. 

    They can keep talking crap about Commissioner Stern all they want, but I would be bowing at a guy who increased NBA players salaried by an average of $3,000,000 in the last 10 years and has brought the NBA back to the Michael Jordan days. 


  • http://twitter.com/blanchard48moh Jesse Blanchard

    Other comanies, JT, can get replacement employees to make their product. The players ARE the product. And in that, they are more partners with ownership than the rest of us. IF the players were on strike, I’d be inclined to side with you. But this is a lockout at the expiration of the last CBA.

    If we believe it is the owners right to negotiate a completely new deal (they’ve thrown the other one completely out the window) than why do the players not share that same right? If they are okay with holding out, and not getting paid, to negotiate a better deal–then why are they in the wrong?

    Yes, the players have come a long way, but then so has the NBA. And they’ve given up the money. At what the players have conceded already, the owners are already gauranteed profits based off what they claimed to have lost. What they are fighting for now is a system that gives them freedom to move and generate competition to keep the middle class salary up.

    I have more on the system, but I’m holding it for a post and hopefully will have it for you guys in the morming.

  • JT

    I agree that players have the right to hold out and negotiate, but they keep making it seem as if the league is being completely irrational. I just don’t think this is the case at all, I think the league has a lot more to worry about than just the players.

    The NBA can always get other players to participate, there are players all over the world that would love a chance at the NBA, people would still watch. Would it be as exciting? maybe not, but a lot of people watch college basketball regardless of talent.
    Look forward to your piece on the system. 

  • mac

    I cannot side with the players, so long as they insist on having guaranteed contracts. We all know that there is a significant percentage of NBA athletes that are bilking the system. I read somewhere comments from a 2011 1st round draftee, who recommended only guaranteeing the first two years of a contract, and Steve Nash has recently suggested tweaking the system based on bonus and incentives. Excellent suggestions! Guys like Ginobili and Duncan are clearly not the problem, and should be able to work right now, but shame on the players for protecting the lazy underachievers at the expense of the the real stars who bring it, like Bryant and Dirk, the hard-working rank-and-file, and the operational staffs across the nation.

    At the same time, shame on the owners for not digging their heals in on this issue, instead of BRI percentage. As franchise owners invested in a profitable association, no team in the league should lose money year after year, and every team should be in position to put a quality product on the floor, without being hamstrung by an unfair system… while the players and big market owners are guaranteed wealth from a 30-team, 82-game schedule.  As is the case in the in the world-at-large, it is the greedy and lazy that wreck the system.

    Your argument that the players have extra rights that due to their own unique value cuts both ways. The owners are the NBA, if the players don’t like it, they can try forming their own league. Unless that is, the players recognize that the NBA has just as much irreplaceable value as the athletes do… hence the standoff.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    Guaranteed contracts aren’t automatic. Most players have guaranteed contracts because they insist on one in negotiations, but the owners/GMs/teams don’t have to give it to them. Gary Neal is on an un-guaranteed, “make good” contract with the Spurs. The players are simply trying to protect the option of guaranteed contracts in the next CBA, while the owners are trying to outlaw them completely.

  • wraw

    Smart owners and teams rarely offer long term guaranteed contracts to players who under-perform, but poorly managed teams and dumb owners do in serial fashion.  The league wants player concessions to protect stupid management?   Is this the way to achieve parity, by protecting mediocrity?   Bogus!  No teams has to offer guaranteed contracts, they do it to keep the players they want.  The gun is held to the face of the fans, who actually pay for everything.  Please remember that!  The fans pay for EVERYTHING!  The owners give not a nickel of their own money, they play only with the money generated by fan interest.   And the fans are locked out by greedy management.  Most of the fans will go back when this is resolved, but I won’t, especially if I feel the players got a raw deal.

  • mac

    Guaranteed contracts should be outlawed… If Spurs hadn’t offered TD such, he would have signed in ORL (who would make such offer out of desperation) alongside soon-to-be injury-riddled Grant Hill… Spurs would likely become irrelevant and barely profitable or unprofitable over subsequent 10 years.

    True or False: without guaranteed contracts players would work harder on average, and fans would have a more competitive league and better overall product? (True!)

    As for injuries: Give a B-Roy, Allen Houston, T-Mac, Eddy Curry, Redd, Yao, etc., 6 mil or so? Okay, fine. Bad luck. That should their own oh so terrible misfortune. But no way an injured guy should collect full pay. Nash, Bowen, Malone, Andre Miller and others commit to training their bodies for the long haul, while Shaq showed up out of shape every year.

    If players gave up G’ed contracts, they’d deserve the bigger BRI slice, but not otherwise.

  • mac

    True or False: without guaranteed contracts players would work harder on average, and fans would have a more competitive league and better overall product?

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    Would you say that NFL players worked harder on average than NBA players? Because they played without guaranteed contracts in their last CBA, and there was plenty of them who showed up out of shape and got injured.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Then every team would have the fair chance at a championship until the stars rise and we’re back to this point again in negotiations. 

  • Tyler

    Mac, I don’t think you have to totally outlaw guaranteed contracts to get what you’re talking about. Similar to the stretch provision that’s being discussed, the league simply needs a mechanism to (partially) mitigate the effect of an Eddy Curry-type player. I say “partially” simply because they owners need to feel some pain, otherwise they could simply hack off indiscriminately every contract they don’t like. In other words, both sides bear responsibility – the players for not upholding their end of the bargain, and the owners for signing off on a bad deal.

  • mac

    As I understand it, the stretch provision is still 100% payment.  “Hacking off every contract” means that the player is free to sign anywhere for what he is worth… if the original owner were in the wrong for releasing the player from said contract, then that player should rather easily recover his losses elsewhere.

    That said, I would support a standard buyout, or severance package, to be included in the CBA… and do not feel it should be taxable for more than one season, if the original team is parting with overpaid talent (and financing the success of his rivals), he shouldn’t be financially penalized for enhancing the roster of a rival team.

    As an added concession, apart from injured players, I could support a provision wherein no more than one liberated large contract per team, per season is permitted, and no more than 2 such cuts covering the same period of time (ex: if Bonner and RJ, with contracts running through the 2013-14 season, where both cut in subsequent seasons, 2011-12 & 2012-13, the Spurs could not  tear up any more contracts until at least the 2014-15 season, or thereafter).

    Injuries should work differently: 21 games lost are paid by owners. Additional games are lost income (and penalty tax free) to the player not to exceed, I dunno, 60%? 40%? of annual contract pay. If a team keeps an injury-prone player the followiwing season the same perimeters apply, unless the player where fired by the team as deliniated above.

    Under these “harsher” amnesty rules, players still stand to make many millions of dollars regardless of production. And franchises, thus protected from unfair losses, are better able to but together complete, and competitive, rosters, and should then cede the larger BRI slice to players.