There's something about Adam Silver that makes for particularly compelling television. The deputy commissioner is obviously incredibly intelligent and knows the issues top-to-bottom. When he slaloms through tricky subjects, though, you can almost see the physics of his brain's functioning. Where David Stern is smooth and slips easily into condescension, humor or both, Silver's staccato delivery comes off as an oral PowerPoint presentation, replete with bullet points.
So when Silver gives what is effectively a victory speech before a deal to end the lockout is reached, it takes on a certain value impossible to ignore.
Stern and Silver had skated through Thursday's press conference without flaw, building the NBA's case for a deal and waving the carrot of a 75-game season in front of players. The only hiccup had been Stern unleashing his typical sneer at the New York Times' Howard Beck after a perfectly legitimate question on the likelihood of any season at all should players reject the league's offer. But Stern allowed a question from NBA.com's excellent Steve Aschburner on the conflicting bargaining philosophies of the league and union. The NBA has rejected the idea of trading economic concessions for system wins, at least in its public comments. The union has made it clear it expects something in exchange for agreeing to decrease its share of revenue.
Silver answered the question just fine. But then he didn't stop. He kept talking and talking about competitive balance, the future of the NBA and possibly the greatness of civilization. I'm not sure, I blacked out for a minute. He gave what was effectively a victory speech, even though he repeatedly noted the condition that the union must still accept the offer.
And the victory speech is based on a unicorn.
Silver continues to pound the competitive balance myth, despite talking to a room filled with writers who have shredded the league's argument that payroll parity increases on-court parity, talking to living rooms filled with the sort of hardcore fans who have read Zach Lowe, Henry Abbott, Tom Haberstroh and David Aldridge rip Silver's thesis apart. The defiance in Silver's stance is somewhat understood -- he can't abandon the league's No. 2 talking point (behind profitability) now, not with the victory parade in sight. But the volume on SIlver's faith was cranked up to 11 on Thursday. He wants to believe, and he wants you to trust him.
Consider his closing coda.
I understand from the union's standpoint, it's a difficult pill to swallow right now. But once again, over time, we will be proven right, and this will be a better league for the players, the teams and the fans.
"Over time, we will be proven right." You're damn right that's going to be a difficult pill to swallow. Players have already consented to give up $280 million per season in salary, essentially covering the league's reported losses, which include hefty interest payments for the massive amount of debt new team owners carry thanks to inflated franchise purchase costs. The union has essentially agreed to help the owners reach break-even, so long as the owners don't also force measures that will constrict player movement down their throat.
The owners insist on those constricting measures, and as justification essentially say "just trust me" when all of the evidence indicates we should not trust the NBA on this matter.
Now we'll find out whether this is just a difficult pill to swallow, or an impossible pill to swallow. It doesn't look good.
NONE OF THE RISK, ALL OF THE BENEFIT
Larry Coon has a killer piece on the added value of getting a favorable revenue split. It's not just that teams will be able reduce expenses and, in many cases, become profitable. But their franchises' values will shoot upwards as a result of those lower expense levels.
How much will franchise values increase? It's hard to say. There are a lot of factors that go into determining the value of a business, and a number of ways to do the calculation. A conservative estimate might be a $3 million to $12 million average increase in franchise values for each percentage point in revenues the league wrests from the players. Decreasing the players' split of BRI from 57 percent to 50 percent therefore might be worth $21 million to $84 million per team.
The owners will only see this money when they sell their teams. But when they do sell, none of it is shared with the players.
A couple of owners, most notably Robert Sarver of the Phoenix Suns, are reportedly underwater or close on their team debt. This is a nice lifeline in addition to the decreased expenses. There may come a point when Sarver can flip his bad investment for a profit ... proving that in the NBA, there really is no risk to the owners. When seven teams sell within a couple years during the worst American economy since the Great Depression, and only one is sold at an inflation-adjusted loss (the Bobcats), there really is no risk to the owners. When you add in $21-84 million of added value via reduced expenses via labor lockout, the argument becomes completely ridiculous.
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