That is how long it took for the NBA lockout to reach its lowest point. Even with reports of internal party disputes and discussions of player decertification, the two sides are still too stubborn to agree on 2.5 percent of basketball-related income (BRI).
Instead of watching the opening night of the NBA season on Nov. 1, we continued to discuss the lockout. Instead of NBA fans watching two of the league’s elite stars battle, Kobe Bryant watched Manny Pacquiao train and Kevin Durant watched HBO with teammate James Harden as the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder game was simulated by stat-o-matic on espn.com.
NBA Commissioner David Stern has cancelled the first month of the NBA regular season — all games through Nov. 30. The chance of basketball being played on Christmas is about the same as a Dwight Howard three-pointer, and the chance that we might not see any basketball this season is becoming a serious threat.
It was just one week ago that we had predictions of the lockout ending, with just two weeks of basketball cancelled and enough time to hopefully make those games up. The National Basketball Players’ Association (NBPA) and the NBA owners were steamrolling through many of the issues keeping us from basketball: revenue sharing, maximum contracts, the amnesty clause, and the salary cap.
Those discussions happened on Thursday, Oct. 27. The two parties met the next day, with reports saying that a deal should soon be made for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). But the tables flipped faster than fans could blink, and a disagreement over 2.5 percent ended all hope for a full season.
The divide on basketball-related income has been the decisive mountain in these labor talks. The last CBA allotted the players 57 percent of BRI and the owners 43 percent. The players have made significant concessions on this front, but are holding firm at 52.5 percent. The owners, however, are stalwart on splitting BRI 50/50. The players conceded over a billion dollars in BRI; it is time that the owners met them in the middle. It is called a collective bargaining agreement for a reason, and an imperative element of agreement is compromise.
But 2.5 percent is the difference between NBA games and no NBA games. 2.5 percent is estimated to be $100 million, yet the amount of money lost from a month of cancelled games is an estimated $350 million. When will the owners realize that the best thing for everybody — them, the players, the teams’ staffs, the employees of the arenas, the surrounding businesses of arenas, and the fans — is to just play ball? Time to pull your weight, owners. The players’ concessions in CBA discussions currently totals to over a billion dollars. Yet a transfer of prospective wealth of an estimated 1 billion dollars from the NBPA to the owners is still not enough to end the lockout.
Derek Fisher, NBPA president, and Billy Hunter, NBPA executive director, are trying to do right by the hundreds of active NBA players and all the future NBA players over the duration of this new CBA. There is no league without its players, so the owners need to agree on this BRI split and end this lockout.
On Saturday, Nov. 5, the two parties met again, with hostilities high and chances for agreement bleak, in another attempt to reach a deal. Stern said in a press conference that the owners would settle on 51 percent of BRI for players, and that the deal would be on the table until Wednesday. If the players don’t accept that offer, Stern said that the deal would get much worse, and the owners would offer 47 percent of BRI to players.
NBPA’s attorney Jeffrey Kessler then said that the deal does not allot players 51 percent of BRI, but really 50.2 percent, and the idea of the players ever getting 51 percent is a “fraud.” After Saturday’s deliberations, the chance of the season being entirely cancelled is all the more probable, as is NBPA decertification. But players remain vigorous and undaunted by Stern and the owners’ ultimatum, trying to reach an agreement with the interests of all future NBA players in mind.
“[The players] want to play, they want a season, but they are not going to sacrifice the future of all NBA players under these types of threats of intimidation. It’s not happening on Derek Fisher’s watch; it’s not happening on Billy Hunter’s watch; it’s not happening on the watch of this executive committee,” Kessler said.
So here we are at day 130 of the lockout: the two sides still far apart, unable to reach compromise. In a couple days, we could see games through Christmas cancelled. Fans are still waiting, hopeful on salvaging at least a shortened season. But when talks have so quickly dissolved to ultimatums and decertification, hope is in very, very short supply.