Earlier Wednesday, we noted that representatives of the NBA owners and the National Basketball Players Association are scheduled to meet next week to resume negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
This is welcome news for NBA fans and observers, who have been left to wonder why the two sides haven't talked for nearly a month since a lockout was imposed on July 1.
Talking is an important first step. But compromising, ultimately, is what will prevent an extended work stoppage from disrupting, or potentially cancelling, the 2011-2012 NBA season.
Grantland.com reports that Billy Hunter, Executive Director of the NBPA, thinks that the league is headed for a worst case scenario -- the complete elimination of the upcoming season -- unless the negotiations produce a change in course from developments that date back to 2007.
Four years ago, when Hunter and Gary Hall, working on behalf of the union, met with [NBA commissioner] Stern and Adam Silver, Stern suggested phasing in a new labor deal that would help all of the league's owners turn a profit on their investment. Hunter said he left with the impression that the league would lock the players out if the requests were not fully met.If there is a positive takeaway here, it's that Hunter and Stern apparently know each other well enough that they are able to tell when the other is bluffing. Mutual respect is important, so that's something.
After the 2007 meeting, Hunter said he started prepping players for the inevitability of a lockout. "[Stern has] pretty much followed [his original] road map," Hunter said, as he leaned back in his chair. On a whiteboard behind his head, figures and proposals from both sides had been written up in black marker. "I was convinced when he told me then that he would do it, so I started to prepare the players."
If each side maintains their current stance, Hunter said he believes the league's owners will lock out players for at least an entire season.
It's extremely ominous, though, to hear Hunter explain how long Stern's approach to the negotiations has been in the works. Formulating a strategy and approach to a negotiating session over multiple years, and showing the resolve to stick to it this long, doesn't bode well, especially because the pace of negotiations this summer has been so deliberate.
As we look ahead to next week's negotiation, the critical question becomes: Will the NBA publicly budge on anything? Will we find out that the time away from the negotiating table and the dead month of news -- without a free agency period -- made the league come to its senses about the harm it is doing to its reputation and the future of the game? Or, will the league come back even more entrenched, feeling empowered because international clubs haven't exactly been lining up to cherry-pick NBA stars?
Hunter, and the players, seem ready for the give and take. The league, at this point, just seems happy to take. Let's hope that finally changes, after all these years.