Well, here we are.
After 23 hours of negotiations between the NBA players and owners over the past two days, we’ve arrived at a juncture with only two possible realistic outcomes:
A) A (jam-packed) 72 game season beginning on December 15th.
B) No season at all.
The obvious follow-up question is – which outcome should we expect?
Late Thursday night, NBA Commissioner David Stern presented what most believe will be the owners’ “final offer” based on their current negotiations before hitting the reset button and offering a deal much, much worse. The players clearly are not thrilled with the offer, but will give it a serious look over the weekend before presenting it to the players face-to-face on Monday or Tuesday of next week. It is widely expected that the NBPA will either accept the offer on the table and begin the season in a little over a month, or file for decertification and lose at least this entire season, if not more.
So what’s next? The simplest answer is that no one really knows for sure. There are so many dissenting opinions from various credible sports writers from media outlets such as ESPN, Yahoo!, CBS Sports, and others, that most believe that the end result of this tug-of-war between the NBA and NBPA is still totally up in the air. If you want an optimistic outlook that simply cannot fathom the players rejecting the current offer, check out Henry Abbott’s write-up on ESPN’s TrueHoop blog. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski presents a solid, fact-based article in regards to the current proposal without leaning one way or the other. On the flip side, CBS Sports’ Ken Berger leans more towards negativity, explaining that none of the players’ remaining options are very good. Over at Sheridan Hoops, Chris Sheridan briefly outlines the 5 steps that will occur over the next few days before a decision is ultimately reached. Also, if you’re really interested in the inner workings of the league’s “last, best offer”, check out Matt Moore’s post over on CBSSports.com; lots of good, detailed info, but it doesn’t appear on the surface to be enough for the players to be satisfied.
To me, the end result depends heavily on how the Players Union President, Derek Fisher, pitches this deal to the players. If he pushes all the bad parts of the deal, the players will undoubtedly be upset and may move for decertification. On the flip side, if he makes them understand that this is the best deal that they will see (which is true), then it will likely get approved and they’ll all be back on the court.
Regardless of how Fisher and Co. decide to spin this deal, there is always the outstanding fear among the players of not receiving paychecks. Granted, the league’s stars aren’t too worried about running out of disposable income, but that class of player makes up a relatively small percentage of the entire league. Many of the NBA’s mid-level to low-level players will be legitimately concerned about their own personal welfare, and given voting anonymity, may pass a deal no matter how unfavorable it may be to the players. It is important to keep in mind that the average NBA player’s career is under 5 years in length, so many of these athletes aren’t overly concerned with “how this CBA sets up negotiations for the next deal.”
To sum things up – yes, I know this is a bad deal for the players, and I’m sure they will know that as well. What I hope that the players will realize, though, is that this is the best offer that they will get, and one that won’t have a substantial negative affect on the majority of the players’ lives. If the NBPA opts for decertification, it would be understandable given the way that the owners have consistently tried to bully them around, but incredibly unfortunate for the fans as well as hundreds of league employees. The players are far from guaranteed to win an anti-trust lawsuit, and for many of them, the risk involved with losing an entire year of earnings in the prime of their career may be too big of a chance to take. As NBA fans, we can only hope that those players who “just want to play basketball” outnumber the guys who won’t stand to be pushed around by the owners.
NBA players – At a time like this, I only ask that you realize how blessed you are to be able to make a wonderful living off of playing a game, and agree to a deal you are not totally happy with for the best of all parties involved.
Sometimes, what’s fair just isn’t what’s best for everyone, including the ones who are getting the short end of the stick. Here’s to hoping the players realize this and decide to play basketball again.