4. A Labor Stoppage In 2011? Not Faaaaantastic

Yesterday at ESPN’s True Hoop, Chris Sheridan provided some harrowing insight into what lies ahead for the NBA and the players union. From Sheridan:

“The owners are really going to chop the money down,’’ the owner said. “I think Stoudemire would get $5 or $6 million [annually] in the next deal. The bottom line is that things are going to change dramatically.’’

Five to six million dollars for a five-time All-Star in his prime? That sounds cruel compared with the players’ current salaries, so cruel that I just don’t believe it. A general manager I spoke with later agreed that that was an extreme.

”That [$5 million for Stoudemire] sounds a little bizarre, but player salaries are definitely going to take a hit,’’ the GM said. "Players that come up for contracts under the new CBA are going to find themselves getting a lot less money.’’

It’s not as if any of the above info comes as any surprise. But when you say it out loud—or read actual GMs saying it out loud—it’s suddenly so much more real. An NBA Labor Stoppage might actually happen again? An NBA Labor Stoppage might actually happen again. Billy Hunter and the NBA Players’ Association should be terrified here.

Because there’s nothing more terrifying than negotiating against someone who’s got nothing to lose, and right now, most NBA owners are losing money under the current operating costs. In other words, for a lot of owners, it’s more financially viable for them to have a labor stoppage while they get this sorted out, rather than continue operating at a loss. This will give the owners enormous leverage, and well… Damnit.

The players have shown in the past they won’t blink, and it looks like now they’ll be compelled to make more concessions than ever. An impasse of some sort certainly seems inevitable. Let me take a crack at David Stern’s statement two years from now, announcing that the players have agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and will soon begin a 64 game season:

Thank you all for gathering here today. New York is marvelous in December, isn’t it? I think so. And today our spirits are particularly jovial, as I am proud to announce that the NBA Players’ Association has agreed to the terms of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that will be tremendously beneficial to both sides.

This past week, Players’ Association President Billy Hunter, finally expressed a willingness to talk, like adults. To dispel some most nefarious rumors, there were no any water boarding sessions involving Billy and my associates. (Hunter, to the left, begins visibly shaking) Since then, as many of you know, negotiations have been fruitful between both sides, and the NBA players have finally realized that their personal wealth simply cannot come at the expense of the NBA’s longterm health. (long pause, sneers in direction of player reps) It was a rudimentary discussion, really. 

The exact details of our agreement are not pertinent at this time, but I can safely speak for everyone when I say that, while tenuous at times, the negotiations were fair, and the resolution has everyone’s best interests at heart. Yes, I think we can say that much. (chuckles) And before the ravenous questions begin, there will indeed be an age limit of 25 years old. Both sides came to the conclusion that if you aren’t old enough to rent a motor vehicle, it probably isn’t appropriate to be playing on the highest levels of professional basketball. I think that’s a fair appraisal, don’t you? Right.

Beyond that, I’ll leave it to you muckrakers to disseminate the new agreement.

In closing, though, I’ll just stress that our players are not perfect, and in this instance, I suspect some of them became a bit divorced from the realities of our economic times. Nevertheless, as the holiday season approaches, it is particularly gratifying to me personally, knowing that the greatest game on Earth will return to the forefront of our sporting consciousness.Our fans have been patient, and for that they will be rewarded with what should be a spectacular 64-game season.

Now, without further ado, let’s play basketball!

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