Lockout Downer


I am really down on this whole deal.  I click open my ol’ home page and one of the headlines there is “NBA negotiations break, with ‘very huge day’ ahead.”  At risk of sounding like a whiner, I just want my damn basketball.  Every day is a big day, huge even.  Why are they taking so damn long and just now, like the last 3-4 meetings, thus the last 7 or so days operating with any sort of intensity?  3 months of this and what?  10 meetings?  Training camp was supposed to open up today/tomorrow and ugh!  Man!  I just want to stomp my feet and pout because like a little kid, I want what I want and don’t really understand why I can’t get it.

I do and I don’t I guess.  I know the issues, system and split (if you want to simplify it), and I sort of understand the process but I really don’t understand the parties involved or their unwillingness to make a deal.  I guess it’s like when you’re expecting $10,000 on your trade-in and you’re offered $5,000, you just walk because there is no way you’d be happy with $7,500.  That’s the issue, I guess.

My concerns are that no deal gets done, not until maybe January.  If they cancel regular season games, there will be a shutdown of talks and the League will shut them down in chunks.  I think that both parties probably agree that you don’t do the ol’ lazy gym teacher routine and roll out a ball and say “Go for it!”  I think there would be a timetable of, say a week of free agency and gathering of the team, 10 days of practice (an abbreviated training camp of sorts) some kind of scrimmage or some regional pre-season games and then they’d get into a “regular” season.  So once a deal is done, it’s not like the next day they play basketball.  They will cancel games tomorrow for a season that starts in 26 days and then the cascading cancellations would begin.  Like they’d say “If we don’t reach a deal by November 1, we miss games scheduled until November 26th, if we don’t get a deal by Dec 1, we miss games up to January 1,” or something like that.

All we have to go off of for precedence is the lockout of ’98-’99 and maybe the NFL lockout in their most recent off season.  We are guessing, event the informed guys at national sites and ESPN and so on, because both sides have agreed after that ugly first month or two of the lockout when one side would cite an article questioning the accounting practices and the other would say that they aren’t bargaining in good faith and all the lobs in the media back and forth that seemed so childish and obviously, now, fruitless, both sides have agreed to not say much of anything after these sessions.  And that’s good I guess.  I mean you don’t have the Wall Street Journal and Jim Cramer and CNBC camped outside of wherever Progress Energy and Duke Power are meeting and saying “Tell us!  Tell us!  What’d they say?  What’d you say?  When will there be a deal done.”  And then again, they don’t shut the power off when those two are trying to work out a merger deal either.

The whole thing sort of turns my stomach.  I’m somewhat conservative and I’ve never really understood labor unions or players associations.  I can see the point back in the 1930’s when barons ran the whole work force and the people working there were at their mercy.  But now, in today’s economic climate, when even China is capitalist and people are free to move from one job to another and do almost whatever they want for a living, I think of unions as a hindrance.  When you look at General Motors or Ford or any car company that was based in Detroit for years and years and see that they’re paying more to retired workers or for healthcare or whatever it is than they paid for steel, it’s an upside down system.  I think of unions and I think of New Jersey, where you can’t pump your own gas because some labor leader got in the ear (pocket?) of some politicians and they passed a law that only union members are allowed to pump gas.  I think of Tony Soprano and his union reps who went to a job site and sat and got a tan and bashed people’s heads in because they were the union leaders for whatever guilds that were working that day.  I think of Boeing who wanted to move their factory or start a new production line in South Carolina and the Union blocked it and the National Labor Relations Board, the same one the NBPA has been lobbying, held up the ruling and actually told a company that they couldn’t do what they wanted to do.

That’s what I think when I think of labor strife and this NBA and the Players Association isn’t that different.  If the players were all free agents, as in, not in a particular system and not tied to rules made before they left middle school, wouldn’t it be better for a lot of them?  Sure, there would be issues.  If a player gets injured, forcing a team to pay them would be an issue without some collectively agreed upon measure.  But the thing holding a guy like Kobe Bryant or Lebron James from being paid truly ridiculous sums of money is a “maximum” contract.  There are ways around it, of course, such as Bird Rights or mid-level exceptions or a myriad of other things that get players paid at all levels, but there is a cap on how much a player can be paid.  Isn’t a salary cap, other than a way to even the playing field also a way to limit player salaries and cap their earning potential?

All of these guys going overseas, they aren’t operating under any CBA.  There are some FIBA rules in place but FIBA acts more as a right to work organization than an arm of the NBA or anything else.  A team in Italy wants to pay Kobe Bryant $10 million to play in 10 games or something.  They aren’t losing money on that and I’m sure they don’t have a TV deal that would rival anything the Bobcats have, let alone the Lakers and their $200 million/year deal.  How is Virtus Bolongna or whoever it is making it work for Kobe Bryant to play but the NBA can’t?

I hope this shows how screwed up and convoluted the entire NBA system is.  I am sick of thinking about it.  Not just a personal distaste but I am really pissed with the Owners and Players Association.  David Stern, Derek Fisher, Adam Silver and Billy Hunter all keep saying “The calendar is not our friend.”  Well of course the calendar isn’t your friend!  It’s the one constant in all of this.  Today is October 4th, tomorrow will be October 5th.  They announced the schedule back on July 18th, for some reason and set the date of November 1 as the start of the season.  Those are all constants, you throw in Rosh Hashanah and whatever other holidays and those are fixed points that you have to work in.  It’s like saying “Well, I was going to score 25 points but I only had 11 when the game ended, can’t control when the game ends.”  Get the points throughout the time you are allotted!  It’s just nonsense to say “Well, the opening of our season is fast approaching,” NO!  It’s not!  It was slowly approaching back in July and August and it’s still a constant rate of approaching from then.

Rant over, but I’m ranting because I have major concerns.  If there are missed games, all sides will look bad.  Not only look bad but people will have moved on, because they don’t want to deal with or think about this ugly mess.  For a league in that 3rd spot in major stick and ball sports right now, they could fall into fourth or farther behind football and baseball and that’s hard to recover from.  When you look at what happened to baseball, it took steroids and the cursed Red Sox to win a championship before they recovered.  After ’98-’99, not aided by the fact Michael Jordan retired, the NBA had a hard time recovering and you might say it has only just now grown to that same level.

What’s worse, not just for the whole league and pro-basketball, is for the Charlotte Bobcats, a team in rebuilding after not really building all that well to begin with, in a city burned by prior ownership and bastardized by new owners, could they rebound from a prolonged work stoppage?  When national writers routinely joke about amnesticizing the Bobcats and people still call the team the Charlotte Hornets 7 seasons into a new team and 9 years after the Hornets team and name moved to New Orleans, do the Bobcats stand a chance if the lockout drags into the next calendar year?

Andrew Barraclough is Senior Editor for RobertoGato.com, a Charlotte Bobcats Blog on the Fansided Network.  Follow him on Twitter @therobertogato and Like the site on Facebook.