Fans better see this Lakers team this year, because it might be their final championship run if labor talks do not produce a new collective bargining agreement. Photo by Jeff Lewis
NBA players and owners need to negotiate and compromise on a deal to avert any work stoppage. Otherwise, the results could be disastrous.
By Michael Brown
Sentinel Sports Writer
With the excitement surrounding the current week-old NBA season almost at a fever pitch, basketball fans and pundits alike have focused solely on the Big Three in Miami, and the Lakers attempt to capture its third consecutive championship amongst other storylines.
The NBA’s summer of free agency ignited a frenzy of anticipation for the 2010-11 campaign unlike any other season in memory.
But, looming in the background, is potential labor strife between the players and owners, who are both digging-in in preparation for a potential labor stoppage next season.
At the center of the dispute is the total revenue allocation of 57 percent of the league’s profits being given to the players and 43 going toward the owners. The owners insist that the current business model is broken, and must be re-negotiated.
The players assert that the owners are not being transparent with their earnings, and question whether teams are operating at a deficit.
NBA Commissioner David Stern, who is paid by the owners, has ratcheted up the rhetoric the previous two weeks by hinting that the league may possibly contract teams.
Stern said that players salaries have to be slashed by a third from $2.1 billion to $700-800 million for “more robust revenue sharing,” among teams.
The current labor deal expires June 30, 2011, but its potential ramifications are already playing out.
Teams like the Houston Rockets have put a “freeze” on signing or re-signing players, and players like Denver’s Carmelo Anthony, who has a three-year $65 million offer on the table, are obviously hedging their bets to see how it all shakes down before they move forward.
Atlanta’s All-Star forward Al Horford signed a deal Monday that will pay him $60 million over five years. In the absence of a potential owners lockout, Horford could have explored the market and commanded a max deal, sort of like his teammate Joe Johnson, who signed a multi-year contract last summer for nearly $120 million.
With tens of millions of dollars being thrown around, it’s tough to sympathize with either side of the dispute.
The owners are pleading poverty and attempting to sway public opinion in their favor by depicting the players as greedy. Yet, Adam Silver, NBA deputy commissioner, said the league had record season ticket sales over the summer.
The NBA has also scheduled regular season games for March in Europe, where the league is healthy, and for several years, Stern has made inroads in China, which boasts more than a billion people.
A league on the brink of insolvency surely wouldn’t be looking at international markets. Stern has even hinted at the possibility of starting NBA franchises in Europe and a league in China in the next 10 years.
With those type of lofty goals, lucrative TV deals and merchandise sales through the roof, it’s hard to believe when Stern says the league projects to lose $350-400 million this season.
If the owners were truly operating in the red and had a broken business model, why did Russian multi-billionaire and energy tycoon, Mikhail Prokhorov, buy the New Jersey Nets of all teams?
Why did the Golden State Warriors sell this summer for $450 million, and why is Magic Johnson, if the speculation is correct, putting together a group to possibly purchase the Detroit Pistons?
The owners’ logic doesn’t add up. Why would other wealthy people buy into a business that guaranteed losing money?
The National Basketball Players Association has made a number of concessions over the years to help overzealous owners and general managers save themselves from making mistakes.
The rookie wage scale protects teams from being stuck with players who don’t realize their potential despite being given lucrative contracts. The players union agreed that players shouldn’t be allowed to skip from high school to the pros, also to the benefit of owners whose general managers were gambling on unproven talent.
Limiting the years on deals prevent owners from making famous mistakes such as the Bucks giving a newly drafted Glenn Robinson a 10-year fully guaranteed contract.
Of course, that’s the problem with the owners. Their loose spending habits gets them in trouble over and over again. Players such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Kevin Durant should make the lion’s share of the money.
The problem is that the owners feel a need to throw $20 million a year at a one-dimensional player like Orlando’s Rashard Lewis, therefore, throwing the wage scale out of whack.
For instance, on Monday night, the insanity continued when the Memphis Grizzlies finalized a deal that will pay starting point guard Michael Conley Jr., $45 million over the next five years.
Conley’s contract is a textbook example of team owners’ inability to practice fiscal responsibility.
Conley, now in his fourth season, has career averages of 11 points and five assists per game and is a 44 percent shooter. He’s a marginal player who is improving, but not nearly worthy of $9 million per season.
However, Memphis Grizzlies billionaire owner Michael Heisley signed off on the deal and vastly overpaid a player who doesn’t fill the stat sheet or the seats.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not beating up on Conley, who still has a chance to become a key contributor to a Memphis team on the rise. Conley didn’t put a gun to Heisley’s head and make him jot down his signature.
In business, we all deserve what we can get. You’re worth what you can successfully negotiate.
The current stalemate between the two sides needs to be resolved ASAP.
With stagnant 10 percent unemployment across the nation, workers being furloughed, record numbers of people receiving government assistance just to survive and rising costs of living, the last thing anyone wants to hear is billionaire owners bickering with millionaire players.
The last labor stoppage resulted in the league playing a condensed 50-game schedule in 1999.
The NBA’s image took a hit, and it took awhile for the fans to return in droves. Any repeat, and all bets are off. People may just decide that their discretionary income would be better used toward another form of entertainment.