Final NBA Lockout Battle Has Little To Do With Dollar Signs

There's nothing left to fight about in the NBA lockout except pride. So why are we still here?

At this point, what's the point? The NBA lockout continues over a few minor points that won't actually resolve to much should a handshake end this first-world nightmare. The two sides are so close as to actually smell a deal in the air. There's no real reason for players to hold out or from owners to hold out, is there?

Here's a look at all of the issues that remain at stake.






This is the only item of actual importance that continues to separate the two sides. The players' union is tired of being beaten up by David Stern and the owners. The owners are tried of moving further from their impossible utopia. Some of these new owners were promised an amazing Eden of profits; instead, by the league's own numbers, the NBA will break even in the aggregate for the forseeable future, meaning that profits will go only to the teams with the fortune of favorable cartography or sweet Lady Luck. In the old system, David Stern said eight teams made $150 million in profit and 22 teams lost a combined $450 million. In the new system, assuming Stern wasn't lying about those other numbers, 15 teams will make a combined $250 million and 15 teams will lose a combined $250 million, or something along those lines. There will still be losers.

There wouldn't have been in the utopia Stern dreamed up back around the All-Star break. That's gotta sting for guys like Michael Jordan, Joshua Harris and Tom Gores, who bought in under the impression the concourses would be lined with gold.

The same holds for the other side. I reckon not more than 5 percent of current players -- that'd be 15 or so -- will get adversely affected by the salary cap system issues at play right now. The Carmelo Anthony rule? OK, that's for you, Dwight and CP3. The mini mid-level? Sorry, Samuel Dalembert and J.J. Barea. No more sign-and-trade deals for tax teams? However will we recover from the abolition of a tool that has been used something like five times in the last 12 years?!

The impasse on basketball-related income is now 1 percent. The players have offered 51 percent if they get those final system issues in their bowl. The owners want 50 percent and the issues. That's $40 million per season. Players have given up $240 million per year already; that extra $40 million, per player, is something like $89,000 annually. That extra $40 million is something like $1.3 million in cut expenses per team per season. This is stupid.

These are not intractable issues. These are not even important issues. This is nonsense. The only reason to hold out is to not let the other side win this final battle in a season of battles. As has been accurately noted far and wide: the league has won. It has pegged $240 million per season and a fairly serious shift in pay-for-performance measures on the players. What is this last jab really worth?

The same applies to players at this point, with the big-ticket items already won or lost. You have given back so much money. You have given up some important system concessions like contract length. But you survived the push for a truly hard cap. You survived the destruction of the mid-level exception and sign-and-trade. You still have guaranteed contracts. And you could actually have a season, with paychecks and per-diems and all of that. This can end with just a little more giving to those jackals in suits. This can end, and you can do what you love to do in front of the greatest fans in the world.

(Hey, we NBA fans need to start feeling good about ourselves too, OK?)

No one is happy, and no one will be happy until the ball tips for the first time. There's no way that this lockout ends with a smiling David Stern. There's no way that this lockout ends with a smiling Billy Hunter. We're well past that point. (Maybe that potential result never existed.) And no, nothing is fixed. This disaster will go into re-runs in roughly 6-10 years, and we'll have new flashpoints and mean mugs and enormous consequences to worry about. The teams that will continue to be on the short end of profitability will continue to bitch, their enablers in the media will continue to grouse about the average player salary, and all will be normal. This is the new normal in pro sports. No one is happy. That's how we know it's a deal everyone can live with.


The Hook runs Monday through Friday. See the archives.

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