Monday, November 7, 2011

Two Bicyclists Headed For A Collision

Last Saturday, NBA owners, fronted by Commissioner Stern, offered players an improved deal that could potentially give players up to 51% of Basketball-Related Income, though the percentage would more likely settle around 50%. Stern threatened to withdraw the deal and replace it with a much worse set of terms if not accepted by Wednesday afternoon, November 9th. A fuller description of Stern's offer is contained in this excellent article by the NYT's Howard Beck, who has consistently been the best reporter on the recent negotiations. Meanwhile, today's reports indicate that several players are ready to take the currently-offered deal.

I cannot predict what will happen in this test of wills. It is notable that players have slowly relaxed all of their previous commitments: 53% of income is no longer a must-have; a punitive luxury tax now seems palatable; and contracts will be shorter than before. A deal could be had with a bit more budging by both parties, but perhaps they both feel they have budged enough and will not slide their respective positions more just to make a deal. They have both attempted to signal their willingness to lose the season — Deron Williams accepted work in Turkey and half the Denver Nuggets took contracts in China, while the owners have already cancelled all of November's games — but actually walking away from play would be insane. From the examples of the 1994 Major League Baseball strike and the 2004-05 NHL lockout, fans would not cheerfully return 12 months later. Unfortunately, neither side seems very inclined to swerve in this game of chicken.

UPDATE, November 8th: The NBPA announced today that they are unwilling to take the league's latest offer. These articles from Sports Illustrated's website provide excellent updates on the terms of negotiation.

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