Searching for Slava has been serving up only the clearest of lockout analysis for months and there’s no reason to stop now. We’ve reached another of those yawing chasms that crop up weekly - each one accompanied by cyber-stained scribes abandoning their hard-bitten perspectives for a few hopeful moments, predicting that at long last, a deal seems imminent. And then comes reality and the screaming death spiral.
October 4th, the latest in a series of marathon negotiations culminates in an unofficial offer by the league of a 50/50 split on BRI (basketball related income) which is promptly rejected by the players. A week later, another bargaining session, capped by a new take it or leave it 50/50 offer and the canceling of the first two weeks of the regular season. Billy Hunter responds with six-gun language and then, a ray of hope - federal mediator George Cohen enters the fray. CUT TO one week ago - after three days of Cohen's shuttle diplomacy, Paul Allen shows up and lays down the law - 50/50, take it or leave it! Everybody gets pissed off, the mediator heads back to Washington and I write another post about changing seasons, injustice and my dog.
Just when all seems lost, the league announces that it is abandoning all preconditions - everything’s on the table, negotiations are on! There’s a flurry of phone calls and media leaks, 82 games are still happening. Scouts are being called back from who-knows-where, agents are being "quietly" approached about looming free-agency and arena owners are being begged to keep their schedules open. Happy days are here again! Right?
Thursday night, Stern & Silver enter the room. The commissioner is oozing sincerity, he’s making jokes and looking ever-so-relieved, he’s talking about a new sense of hope and even trust. After two days of fruitful discussions of system issues, the league and owners are on the verge of closing things out - Friday’s the day to discuss basketball related income once again and Stern smiles expansively, he’s ready to offer "economic movement". A nation turns its lonely eyes to you, dude.
Twenty-four hours later, another Friday presser. This time however, David Stern has his sad face on. He understands the pain of the people, understands just how much this will cost communities and businesses. Unfortunately, those stubborn little players just went and walked out on him! And then comes the punch-line, as it always does. The league withdrew their 50/50 offer, retreated to 47%, and then came back to 50/50 again! See, that’s economic movement! And the other shoe drops as it always does - no more 82 game schedule, no more jobs, and future offers from the league won’t be nearly so generous.
Last night, there was much to-do about Micky Arison making a few innocuous tweets, hinting that perhaps, owners aren’t all on the same page. Yeah, we all know about the doves and the hawks. The most successful owners in the league are supposedly being hijacked by the runts of the litter, led by Paul Allen, the 14 billion-dollar man whose poor basketball decisions have doomed a once-proud team. And this is what we’ve been led to believe for months now, that the top owners are helpless and will lay down and let their teams be divested of any future competitive edge. Bullshit. They are all playing you.
There’s a reason for the ‘occupy’ movement. Whether you agree with it or not, citizens have gone into the streets, protesting against what they see as economic injustice and inequality. I know, I know, it’s only basketball we’re talking about here. Still, facts is facts - there are banks, mortgage companies, manufacturers and retailers across the land that no longer exist - Fortune 500 companies, stripped out by their own chief executives. Some wind up with golden parachutes and some wind up in jail. My dad used to call people like this, ‘bad actors’.
The NBA isn’t looking for competitive balance on the court. These are owners who exist in the top one-percent of our nation’s wealth and they want more of your money. Because that’s where it really comes from - the consumer. And they will destroy the union, the surrounding businesses and the economic health of their own franchises, all on a gamble, to somehow put an extra dollar in their pockets. This is a group of bad actors, their so-called divisions are window dressing and they mean you harm.
I have no more trust, hope or faith. Like money budgeted for bills, it’s all been spent. And personally, I’m of the belief that players should indulge in a little economic movement of their own. Go back to fifty-seven percent. It’s territory that has already, legitimately, been held. This won’t get them a deal but they’re not going to get one anyway, so fuck it. Send a signal. It won't happen of course - the players will finally agree to 50/50 and you know what the owners will then say? Of course you do.
I'd close with some poignant story about the dog but he just woke up, started barking ferociously at ghosts and went back to sleep again. Seems like a sensible plan to me.