As the NBA lockout reaches a tipping point this week, David Stern and the NBA have been on a public relations push to convince fans it's the players and the agents driving this lockout, not the owners. But one agent doesn't see it that way.
Among various stops with media outlets this weekend, one was with the Associated Press, where Stern lashed out at agents for trying to hijack the negotiating process and promote their own agenda. As he said, "By some combination of mendacity and greed, the agents who are looking out for themselves rather than their clients are trying to scuttle the deal."
Indeed, the long-held NBA conspiracy theory is that the player agents have been fighting a successfully negotiated CBA deal all along, waiting for negotiations to fall apart so that they can go with plan B--decertifying the union and challenging the NBA in court. The latter option has a much higher upside than any CBA the players might negotiate, but would almost certainly cost the entire NBA season, and possibly some of next year. Plus, the players could lose in court.
All of which is to say if what Stern's saying is true, there would be plenty of room for resentment. Of course, there are two sides to any story, and while Stern's very good at articulating the negative perceptions about his opponents in these negotiations, it's his own lack of "good faith" that has dominated these negotiations in the eyes of the agents Stern's attacking.
As NBA agent Mark Bartlestein tells Ken Berger at CBS Sports:
"If the players are going to make the concessions to address over $300 million a year in a shift in revenue from the players to the owners, the one thing the players should get back is flexibility, freedom, freedom of choice and a more vibrant and free-market system, because it's a zero-sum game. Instead, they're ratcheting down the system in the name of competitive balance, and that's completely disingenuous.
"A negotiation is supposed to be about making trades. The biggest part of any negotiation is the dollars. That's the biggest part of this negotiation. The players are giving the owners the dollars. If the owners are concerned about competitive balance, it can absolutely be handled through revenue sharing."
The NBA has said over and over again, as of now, there's still time to save a significant chunk of the 2011-2012 NBA season. But while Stern peddles conspiracy theories instead of concessions, you have to wonder: Are the agents conspiring simply because they can, or because Stern's cabal of hardline owners have left the players with no other choice?