The reason we have no basketball right now? It's the owners fault. However, the players messed up by not taking the deal.
The fault in why we're here lies with the owners for these reasons:
They wanted to shift the agreement by too much in order to save a season. This is their prerogative. I do not blame them for doing what they need to do in order to run their business[es]. However, what they "needed" to do was going to cost us a season.
The union agreed to the following:
1: 3 billion in givebacks financially.
2: 1 year knocked off contract length
3: A more punitive luxury tax system
4: Smaller raises
5: A lower value MLE
The owners won a fairly significant concession in every area of the agreement, but they kept wanting more and more and more. Eventually the players drew a line in the sand. They drew it over something ridiculous.
We don't have a season because the owners and players couldn't agree on whether luxury tax teams could use S&Ts or the full MLE. The owners could have relented on this easily. They'd won so much already, but they refused. They refused to give the union even a tiny slice of pride.
They even acknowledged repeatedly that these contracts were barely ever signed and had negligible impact, but they refused to relent. They couldn't give the union a single win.
Instead, they had to give them an ultimatum. Then after giving them an ultimatum they spent an entire weekend trying to paint them as greedy in the press. They bombarded twitter, youtube, chats, and the press with information about how rich their deal would make the players.
Things which were all more or less pointless because the players had agreed on money anyway. They weren't arguing over money. They were arguing over a couple minor system issues. The league will say they needed competitive balance, but does anyone really think those two minor rules would have swung a single championship in the next six years?
We don't have basketball because of that. At some point the owners should have realized enough is enough. We got tremendous givebacks with this agreement. We're going to negotiate a new long term TV deal soon, and when we do we're going to make a truckload of money. There's no reason the owners shouldn't have budged on the last few issues except that they wanted to exercise all of their leverage and stick it to the players.
That all said, while it's the owners fault for the negative publicity, the ultimatum, and the refusal to budge, it's the players who will suffer more and ultimately end up the worse off party of the two.
The owners will lower their offer, and if history is any guide, the players will eventually break and take it. When that happens, they'll have lost 2 billion dollars and take a considerably worse offer than the one presently on the table.
They took the NBA's bait. They rallied together in an "us against the world" mentality after the NBA's negative media blitz. Instead of swallowing their pride and taking a deal which is the best they'll see, they decided to fight back. A fight which they'll almost certainly lose.
We'll end up in court now. There will be law suits back and forth.
The players have filed a disinterest in the union to break it up and declared the lockout illegal. They now say that teams should hire them independent of any CBA and get the season rolling.
The league has threatened to cancel all contracts, the players say "go ahead". This is going to be a huge mess.
We'll have to wait and see what happens with each side now. Will the players go the NFL route and try to negotiate as a union while trying to say they're not a union? If so, they'll almost certainly lose.
Their play will likely be to continue to act as a trade association and demand the NBA opens the season without CBA rules to see what happens. The NBA could do so and then institute whatever rules it wants unilaterally, however if they instituted any rule that violates anti-trust law they'd get their asses kicked in court three years down the road [ie, salary cap, draft, max salary, etc.. ].
As such, the NBA will likely refuse to open up the season because they can't really do so without a CBA and have anything remotely fair while implementing any rules would destroy them in an anti-trust suit. Instead they'll call the union's decision to file disinterest a sham. It will be interesting to see if it is a sham or not. I think the players actually would prefer to play without a union, or at least they think they would.
I know the agents would prefer this as it'd make them getting money vastly easier, so they are likely steered in that direction. High priced lawyers charging insane rates probably aren't opposed to four years of law suits either.
We're entering murky waters here either way. The best solution for both sides is for one side to immediately relent on the minor issues that brought them here in the first place. A position which seems highly unlikely but would still be best for both parties.
Either way, yesterday was a highly predictable but sad day for the NBA. Hopefully these guys get it together soon.