NBA players, owners wasting our time

Outraged? No. I’m not outraged. If billionaires and millionaires can’t figure out how to divide the billions of dollars they make from a league designed around grown men throwing a ball through a hoop … well, it’s disappointing. A little frustrating. But I’m not outraged.

The NBA lockout is barreling through its fifth month. It is hard to believe something inert can move so quickly. It seems like just yesterday that owners and players could not agree, and here we are … they can’t agree.

I think we can agree, though: This is not about respect, and it’s not even really about money. It’s about egos. There are too many people pushing their own agendas, and the result is that almost all of them are losing.

There are several owners who want a season, and would probably be fine with the players’ last offer. You can imagine who most of them are. They own big-market teams or true contenders that can only win an NBA championship if they, you know, PLAY GAMES. I would guess that a third of the owners fit into this category.

Almost all of the players want a season. They may not love the deal on the table. They may HATE the deal on the table. But as a general rule, getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to play basketball is better than not getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars not to play basketball. (Not that I have ever had the choice.)

But the owners who have been losing games and money are determined to get a clean sweep in the new collective bargaining agreement. Players association chief Billy Hunter can’t afford to look like he has given in, any more than he already has. Agents are angry, and being agents, they think they could negotiate everything better themselves. And agents have incredible influence on their players’ brains.

According to various reports, the players recently discussed decertifying the union to gain leverage. This is like you and I discussing whether we should fight the railroad monopolies by inventing a vehicle that flies through the air. It’s an interesting idea whose time has long passed.

Decertification takes between 45 and 60 days. In August that may have made sense. Now? Forget it.

Here is what’s sad: The sides aren’t that far apart. Really, they aren’t. The players have come way down from their share of basketball-related income in the last collective bargaining agreement. The owners have inched up, and softened, at least a little, on their demand for a hard salary cap.

With different leadership and different attitudes, the sides could split the difference right now and get the season started. And the deal they would strike today is probably very close to the deal they could strike in two months.

The NFL settled its lockout without losing any games because after early posturing, both sides made that a priority. Too many people involved in the NBA lockout are worried about the wrong things: saving face, breaking the union, refusing to give in.

They will come around in time to stage a shortened season. Stubbornness will give way to reason. Players will realize that the worst deal is no deal. The owners who really want a season will get angrier as they realize the least competent owners have too much influence in these negotiations.

And the fans will get to pay a lot of money to watch men throw a ball in a hoop.

And I hope the sides at least have the decency to say: “We’re sorry that took so long.”


Posted by Tribune News Services

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