NBA Lockout Creates Odd Heroes, Strange Bedfellows

Henry Abbott has a fantastic project at TrueHoop, laying out the NBA lockout and revenue sharing positions of all 30 NBA team owners (though fittingly the Atlanta Hawks' situation remains unclear). It's exceptional, important work, and I encourage you to read it. (There's some fantastic nuggets of reportage in there, in addition to the raw utility of the project.)

But if you're interested in the nuts and bolts, I've popped the conclusions into a Punnett square. Doves don't want to lose a season and don't need a major reset of the collective bargaining agreement, as determined by Abbott. Hawks need a reset and are willing to lose a season. The desire for robust revenue sharing is straightforward, but note that I put anyone Abbott reported to be indifferent into the "no" column. Square below, further notes after the jump.

Lockout-punnett_medium

Two things stick out, and not just because I put them in bold typeface! The first: there are two distinct camps -- the hawks who very much want robust revenue sharing, and the doves who don't want or are ambivalent to revenue sharing. More than two-thirds of the league falls into one of those camps.

What else sticks out? In the aggregate, we have majorities of hawks (17) and anti-revenue sharing owners (16).

Are those two realities compatible in terms of getting a deal that works for all owners? Yes ... but only because David Stern was steadfast in keeping revenue sharing out of the lockout talks. The NBA has determined revenue sharing to be an issue for owners to deal with themselves; players didn't really push too hard on including the concept in lockout talks.

I have vociferously argued that to truly create a competitive system that can allow all NBA teams to thrive financially, revenue sharing must be considered as a part of the overall economic reform of the league. Imagine if Stern felt the same way. You have a substantial group of owners who want to get a deal done (even if it's less than perfect), but that don't want to make huge revenue sharing concessions. Then you have a substantial group of owners who want to hold out for the best deal possible, even at the expense of a season, but also want robust revenue sharing.

And that's where you compromise: once you have the union's best offer to save the season (something that pops in about 2-3 weeks from now, in theory), you negotiate up the revenue sharing program to get the pro-sharing hawks to bite. Only two lucky owners (that'd be the league-owned Hornets and the Pacers) get "everything" they want, but no one goes away empty-handed. And we get a season.

Instead, we have more hawks than doves on the lockout talks, which puts the season in peril, and more anti-sharing owners than those in favor, which means we're going to in all likelihood get a crummy revenue sharing program. It's a lose-lose, all for the sake of harmony and consolidated power for the commish. When's the next draft? I feel some boos coming on.

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