When this lockout started to be discussed in real terms, there were more than enough questions about whether the players could handle it. There continue to be those questions.
NBA players are known to live extravagantly. A large portion of the league fit the same profile: men who come from low-income situations suddenly thrust not only into a situation where they are paid millions of dollars (and a million is still quite a bit of money today), but operate in a luxury atmosphere. The stark plummet off that cliff could crush the union, as could players complaining about it and then getting bombarded by the media for sounding wholly disconnected from the general public (which they are).
How would the players react if those paychecks stopped?
That's the whole argument for why the owners will win. Eventually, the players will cave because they'll need the money.
Except, what if they don't?
There have been enough reports now to indicate that the union is as well prepared for this thing to go the distance as it can be. You've no doubt tired of a new report each day on a different player discussing going abroad. If you haven't, let me clue you in. Here's the formula.
"(Player X) is 'very interested' in playing overseas and plans to pursue opportunities there, though nothing is formal yet. The player is widely reported to be looking at (insert team who likely literally cannot afford to pay him)."
You've read about those other opportunities, like the Manila exhibition being planned this week. There are endorsement and media opportunities, every manner of one-off chance for the players to pad their wallets while the lockout tries to starve them.
But what about a simpler approach? What about good old fashioned money management?
The NBPA has been active in preparing its players for this lockout, much more so than 1999. The union distributed a handbook (which I keep imagining looks like the one in "Beetlejuice") that has information on everything from handling the media with their message, to how to conduct themselves around the owners. Most importantly, it talks about saving money.
Now, that's not exactly penetrating advice. When you were 21 or 22, and your mother kept harping on you to open a savings account, did you do that, or did you go to that bar or buy that video game? If you did listen, congratulations, you're a momma's boy/girl. If you didn't, you're a normal person. But in the NBA, there are enough veterans that were around 12 years ago, and the NBPA has been proactive enough that it's likely made a difference. Players have been stashing cash away for this oh-so-rainy day. They have reserves to rely on if the lockout isn't resolved, some all the way through the season.
But what about going farther than that? What about simply managing your paychecks for last season to last through the current one? It turns out, from a report from USA Today, that's exactly what some players have done.
Players normally receive bi-weekly paychecks from Nov. 15 to May 1, although some opt for a November to November schedule. But Aminu will receive payments from last season until Nov. 1, 2012. Randolph will be paid through May 1, 2012.via Some NBA players planned ahead for lengthy lockout - USATODAY.com.
The owners can't lock the players out of money owed before the last CBA expires. Players that set up their paychecks this way will still be receiving paychecks, albeit smaller ones, throughout the course of the year. In short, they're fine. More than fine.
So let's just review here.
The owners have installed a lockout based on their debated losses stemming from an economic model they agreed to and the poor decisions they elected to enact as well as a flawed revenue system. Their entire plan is to starve the players into submission, but not only did they leave the door open for a possible mass exodus to Europe and other potential revenue sources, but they actually agreed to pay some players throughout the terms of their lockout.
How could this plan possibly go wrong?
So the question has to be asked. Is a two-year lockout what it's going to take for the owners to get their petulant little way? What's next in the never-ending stream of ways that the owners threw this situation together, and at what point is someone with a little reason going to grab the reins? Until people start to understand that the players aren't asking for more, just not that much less, and that they are more than prepared to go the distance here, it's hard to see that day in sight.
This is a Cold War, and both sides are waving their flags strongly. The only question is whose wall will collapse first.