The NBA lockout is officially upon us. As of 12:01 Friday morning, the association lacks a collective bargaining agreement for the first time since 1998.
As expected, Thursday's last-ditch negotiations quickly fell apart. The high point of the meeting came when the players -- clearly frustrated by the owners' staunch unwillingness to smear the party line -- attempted a new persuasive tactic that essentially boiled down to ‘lets just start over and not talk about how much money you're going to take away from us'. After which, the two sides split into private discussions.
Peter Holt, owner of the San Antonio Spurs and head of the labor relations committee, tried in vain to lead the conversation. However, the conversation quickly tailed back to the owner's unwavering belief that the players make too much money, versus the players belief that the owners simply do not know how to correctly spend their money -- aka ‘the Eddy Curry defense'.
By the end of it all, both sides were farther apart than when the meeting started.
The players insist they shouldn't be held responsible for debt and interest incurred by owners, as well as by the recent financial anomalies created by the recession.
The truth, driven home by the final three-hour meeting here Thursday, is that neither side feels urgency to make the big gesture in pursuit of a deal. To do so now would be to admit surrender, and neither side could sell it to its constituency at this time.
It seems dangerous for the owners to play with fire at this point. After a season marked by the largest growth the association has seen since the heyday of Michael Jordan, burning down the castle could lead the NBA down a road from which there is no return.
It's often said that nothing happens in basketball until the fourth quarter. Perhaps that will ring true, and both sides will agree upon some last-minute understanding. Given that scenario, the country would happily forgive, forget, and jump back aboard the bandwagon.
But should that sentiment fail to come to fruition, and this lockout turn as vile as some are predicting it to be, the once-in-a-lifetime momentum the NBA gained this year will be impossibly lost. Showing a blatant disregard to the millions of hands that feed you is never a wise strategy.
Fans are fickle like that. Just ask the Gary Bettman. The NHL dealt with this exact scenario seven years ago, and only now is the sport starting to recover. Take heed David Stern, there are no winners in the battle you have chosen.