The NBA regular season is nearly halfway over, which means we are racing towards the expected 2011 NBA lockout. The air battle over positive media has been fought for more than a year already. Frankly, neither side can really win the P.R. game -- the NBA is seeing record ratings, teams spent incredible sums last summer and players are doing what players do: making and spending cash.
It may be an impossible game to win, the battle over the white hat in collective bargaining. But notably, NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver -- the league's so-called lead negotiator (which makes it sound like a hostage situation, which kind of fits) -- unveiled his pitch to fans in an impromptu chat with reporters before Hornets-Rockets on Friday night. NBA.com's Fran Blinebury captured the message.
"I'd like to say, from a fan's standpoint, I don't necessarily expect them to care how money is divided between players and owners," Silver said. "I do expect them to care about the quality of competition in this league and one of the things that we presented to the Players Association is that we believe we can do a better job distributing the money we do pay to the players to insure that all 30 teams regardless of market size are competing for a championship.
"By that, I don't mean to say it in a coded way. It would mean shorter contracts with less guaranteed money to give teams flexibility to improve their rosters."
That last line is frank and direct, and reassures us as observers what this is all about: teams feel as if they have to offer massive contracts to complimentary or sub-superstar players just to compete, because if they don't compete, they will make no money. Shorter, smaller contracts is one way to fix it; players will argue that forcing the teams raking in tens of millions of dollars in profit to share their largess with the less fortunate franchises is the way to go. Both sides are telling fans the same thing -- more parity, better competition -- but there's little common ground in the method for getting there.