Owners in for long haul
Too many new-blood owners entered during the fat-cat days of the NBA, only to see the economic downturn shrink their franchise values. Stern says 22 of 30 teams are losing money, and 12 teams have told Stern they will lose less money sitting out a whole season than playing a shortened one. The owners are in for the long haul, with a hard salary cap the goal. The NHL sat out a whole season. So can the NBA.
The players say they're in for the long haul, but they haven't started missing paychecks yet. When they do, look for concessions beyond giving up the 57 percent of all basketball-related income they currently enjoy.
The owners are the ones who hand out foolish contracts like candy. Much of this mess is theirs. And that's why we should expect them to win this time, to save them from themselves.
History says owners
Los Angeles Times
The owners will get the better deal — at least close to what they are seeking — because there is little reason to think this labor dispute will turn out any differently than others in recent history.
The NBA owners are prepared to torch the current system and sacrifice an entire season, if that's what it takes. Granted, the players are far more unified and prepared than they were in the 1998-99 lockout. But it is hard to believe they could go beyond losing more than an entire season.
Could the owners? My guess is yes. They're a different breed. A former NHL owner once told me losing a million-plus dollars in a deal made him "slightly uncomfortable." It takes much more to make owners "very uncomfortable."
Owners already won
There is no question the NBA will make gains in the next collective-bargaining agreement. The players already have approved considerable givebacks. That issue is moot.
The question is what margin of victory the league is seeking. The cap will be contained. The number of guaranteed seasons will be diminished. Movement of star players will be reduced, with no repeat of what the Heat did last July.
The issue of who wins and loses already has been determined.
The need for ownership to dominate will determine the length of the lockout. From that standpoint, keep an eye on the Heat's Micky Arison, the Mavericks' Mark Cuban, the Lakers' Jerry Buss and the Knicks' James Dolan. Their teams have the most to lose. Their voice of reason (who would have thought?) will go a long way toward determining the degree of bloodletting.
Any change favors owners
The owners have a laundry list of desired changes. A harder cap, salary rollbacks, a shift in basketball-related income are just some of the areas the owners have shown they want altered. The players, on the other hand, would be happy with keeping the status quo.
The sides will meet somewhere in between, of course.
But by definition, that would be a win for the owners. At the minimum, the players can withstand a lockout at least until November. That's when their paychecks for the 2011-12 season normally would start rolling in.
Let's see then if the owners gain the leverage they're seeking.