War of attrition

Both sides broke off negotiations yesterday after the owners gave the players an ultimatum on BRI. Come down to 50/50 or there's nothing else to talk about.

The players wouldn't do so. Negotiations over.

The union is pissed off because the owners told them two years ago they'd cancel the season without agreeing to massive concessions. They say the lockout was preordained and planned all along. There was no serious negotiation.

You could also say that the owners were simply honest with their position. They said there would be a lockout if the players didn't negotiate down to a certain point, and there is. The lockout is only preordained if the players refused to move a large enough amount.

As I pointed out yesterday, revenue sharing is a big part of the puzzle. As large market teams have grown local revenue at a faster rate than small market ones, they've pushed the overall sustainable BRI too high.

Both sides will now spew rhetoric about how the other side wasn't willing to deal. Both sides will point the finger. In reality, both sides were willing to deal some. There were owners that would certainly take what the players were offering. There are players that would certainly take what the owners were offering.

There just weren't enough on either side to get a deal done. Where are we at now?

There is no right and wrong.
There is no more cooperation.
There is no more negotiation.
There is only a war of attrition.

Players, I hate to break it to you, but you just screwed yourselves over. Maybe the owners did offer you an ultimatum. Maybe they could afford to give you more. I don't know. I do know they weren't willing to, and you will break first.

I understand you're a prideful group. I understand you don't want to rollover because if you do the owners will come back at you again in the next CBA just as hard. I understand you want to make a statement.

Just ask yourselves if it's worth losing 3 billion dollars or so to make that statement. That's probably how much you'll lose. Two billion this season and one more billion over the rest of the agreement due to lower revenues and accepting an even worse deal at the end of the year.

The owners? Well they'll lose money too. However, they won't lose nearly as much as you, and they can look in the mirror and answer "yes, it's worth it to lose a couple billion to make a stand now", because they have decades to recoup the losses with a better agreement.

Even if the players got 57% of BRI after a missed season, I would guess that less than 10% of the league would come out ahead for missing the year. However, after the missed season it will be down to 47% or less.

There's likely only one chance left to save the season. That's getting something done in January. The players revenue for a year is proportional to the number of games played. The owners revenue is disproportionately tied to the playoffs. As such, the owners may have more incentive to try and get something done at that point.

Up until January, the basic framework of the present offer might be on the table. They still might have some hope of realizing what a god awful financial mistake they've made and get this deal.

However, if a season is canceled then the owners are going to war. Players love war analogies when it comes to playing basketball. They view themselves as warriors on the court.

Well now they have to be warriors of business, only in this war they're a spear carrying nation going up against a nation firing gps guided missiles from a continent away. They haven't a chance.

If a season is canceled, expect the owners to really go for the kill. You think things are bad now? You think they aren't willing to deal now? Just wait. I know if I'm an owner and I'm losing this season, that I'm not giving in to 50/50. Watch my BRI% offer drop down to 40%. Back on the table? Non guaranteed deals, rollback of existing salaries, complete hard cap, and everything else you hate.

The owners were willing to offer up a truce in this war. A truce the players "couldn't" live with. A truce that wasn't fair. However, when one side is overwhelmingly more powerful than the other, the truce is never fair.

There is no right and wrong. There's only what can be negotiated. Now that the owners can't save the season, they have no incentive to be reasonable, and they probably won't be. They'll note that they're paying these guys 3-5x what they can make anywhere else in the world with better benefits, more guarantees, and better working conditions.

You want Europe? You want your own barnstroming tours? You got it guys. The only way for the players to learn how good they have it is to let them see where they are without an NBA.

The players lone bullet left is to decertify, and if they'd better fire it soon if they're going to use it. Decertify now, sue the league and push for a free market. The problem with decertification is it only works if you stop negotiating as a group and truly decertify.

As such, once the decertification button is pushed, there's no more negotiation until the court suit has been settled. That might take a year. That might cause more than a missed season. The winner in a decertification suit has all the power, because the NBA, and particular the small market owners, will die in a league without a CBA controlling trades, free agency, and the draft.

If the players can win decertification they can turn the entire thing around, but if they lose? They'll not even have the threat of a single bullet in a gun. They'll get crushed so badly in the negotiation that 50/50 will seem like a dream scenario relative to what they end up compromising on.

They'll likely lose a season and a half of basketball to end up with a BRI% in the 30s if they go nuclear and misfire.

There's no moral right or wrong in how this money is split up, but there is maximizing profits and not maximizing profits. The players likely just left three billion on the table for their pride. Pride they'll end up having beaten out of them three to six months rather than swallowing it voluntarily.


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    Have to think that 50/50 is pretty good, even considering past deals. Plus, if public opinion matters in any of this, most people will hear "50/50" and think it's a fair deal, even if it is lower than before. And like you point out, the Europe/barnstorming thrill will wear off fast for the guys who are (or would be) making multi-millions. And let's not even mention the guys who will make a lot less. Europe has no room for them, and they won't sell many barnstorming tickets. It reminds me of "old-timers" night at a sports event: you like to see it once a year, but you wouldn't necessarily pay to see it more often. Maybe you pay to see a barnstorming thing twice in a year. Maybe. And that isn't going to make millions for anyone.
    Maybe a reality show: "NBA: Off-time." But after one season where would go with a show like that?

  • Doug, you sum it up perfectly. The owners suck because they're meanies, but at least they're not stupid.

    Who the hell is advising the players to do this? I hope that soon, very soon, we start hearing leaks about dissension within the player ranks. It would help my sense of sanity and logic to know that at least SOMEONE on the player's side is screaming behind closed doors, "I CANNOT BELIEVE WE'RE ABOUT TO BE THIS STUPID!"

    If no one is saying that, then the players deserve what's coming to them.

  • In reply to bfranke:

    actually, the owners are stupid and thats not even controversial: they themselves admitted it when they spoke of "idiot-proofing" the nba. their stupidity is one of the reason for this mess, which now others have to clean up.

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