By EOB Staff
The EOB Roundtable seeks to discuss the relevant issues of the day and entertain you. It's like a fountain of knowledge... with the water turned off.
Matt Moore: Does anyone else keep feeling worn down by the lockout, only to remember we haven't missed anything? Not a game, not a practice, not a training session, not a media day? We've missed Summer League and some informal workouts. That's it. And yet it feels like pro basketball is this gigantic gaping hole in the good starship sports. I'm struggling to reconcile the fact that it feels like we're in such a no man's land only because we've lost free agency and whatever bad trade someone would have come up with by now.
In the same vein, I'm not able to come to any sort of optimistic approach about the meetings this week. Every time we've had a chance for some progress, for some optimism, for some good news, it turns back again and both sides dig their trench deeper. Am I caught in an August malaise or do you guys think this thing's still going nowhere?
Ben Golliver: First things first, let's clear one thing up. Free agency is better than any media day, training session, practice and most games. On the pecking order, it trails Finals, Draft, Playoffs and the All-Star game, but it's definitely in the top-5 best times of the NBA calendar, particularly for those of us who spend most of our lives online. Free agency and the trade deadline are like taking a syringe to the chest Pulp Fiction style for die-hards. I would say missing out on that rush is a totally reasonable explanation for why you're feeling worn down. Sure, we'll get a cut down version of free agency squashed together at some point -- and it could be even more insane depending on how the logistics play out -- but the natural rhythm has definitely been disrupted.
But it's not just the lack of free agency; it's the cloud of uncertainty that hangs over so many rosters. That uncertainty that prevents meaningful pre-preseason-analysis, which is usually the other half of the fun of the NBA summer. The Denver Nuggets are the perfect example. Do you have any idea how many wins they'll have next year? Can you really offer a prediction the win total number with any accuracy (within 10?) without knowing the future of Nene, J.R. Smith and the rest of their free agents? The result is killed hope for up-and-coming teams, a malaise for contenders and increased anxiety for the teams whose rosters need a lot of work.
As for the meetings? i have a sliver of cautious optimism because the two sides finally seem committed to meeting regularly. My frustration since the All-Star break was tied, first and foremost, to a lack of regularly scheduled meetings. That's a slap in the face to fans, a giant waste of time and just generally inefficient. That bugged me. As long as they're meeting, my spirits are buoyed, at least to a degree. I'm definitely still skeptical that things will get resolved in a clean manner but I will take any measure of progress I can get at this point.
Royce Young: Lucky for us though Ben, this year's free agency wasn't anywhere near as fascinating as the 2010's palooza of big names. If free agency were like that every year, it'd probably No. 3 or 4 in your pecking order.
And like you said, it's the fact that we KNOW that we're missing something. That's my only guess as to why we've all had a major case of the sads this summer. Because Matt's right: We haven't really missed anything that should upset us any. But with each day that ticks off the calendar, we get a whole lot closer to actually missing good stuff. Which is terrifying.
I'm an optimist though with not just the upcoming negotiations, but pretty much in everything. I'm that guy when his team is down 0-3 in a series that still thinks there's a good chance. So I don't know how much you should value my optimism. But right now, there's one thing -- and it's the most important thing, mind you -- working in everyone's favor: time. There has to be a sense of urgency now because it's September and training camps are set to start in three weeks. Now we're finally up against the timetable where media days, training camps, preseason games or even actual games could be missed. Which means money could be lost. Which means it's time to get serious.
But as quickly as we're all getting excited at the seemingly increasing momentum, it can be squashed immediately Wednesday if both sides don't make any progress.
MM: Part of it is I don't know what compromise could be had. Anything that could kickstart legitimate progress is a huge concession. Take Sheridan's report, for example. The owners moving off of a ten-year deal, cutting that down to four, is a huge deal. That's a ton of money that they're leaving up to chance if they don't secure the deal they want, even if the six-year deal is heavily in their favor. Furthermore, something that's been overlooked in terms of the length of the deal? This is David Stern's last CBA rodeo, and while we focus on his side of it, consider it from the owners. A softer commissioner, whoever that might be, could revert the deal in 2017. Are they willing to risk it in a shorter deal?
For the players, are they willing to cave on stuff that's going to give them more freedom of movement in order to get more in the BRI discussion, when they're assured to lose billions? It's just hard to see anyone moving here.
What are your percentage odds for starting the season on time? January 1st? February 15th?
BG: I look at the CBA negotiations like anything else in life. There's value in a favorable deal for the owners but there's also value in flexibility if they succeed in creating a new financial structure for the league. It wouldn't surprise me at all to find out that the easiest way to reach an agreement is to make it a medium-length deal because unforeseen byproducts of rule changes and as-yet-undiscovered loopholes are the name of the game any time you re-write the CBA. Locking your franchises into that unknown for a decade, at a time of record revenue and popularity for the league, is an indirect risk the owners simply don't need to take. Getting a great deal for five years and being able to negotiate again when it's up would be better than getting a good deal over 10 years if I was an owner, especially if the players were much more dug in against the longer deal.
I still definitely expect both sides to move from their current public positions. If neither planned to move they wouldn't be meeting. What will be interesting is to find out how much of the discussed movement leaks. Given the steps taken to keep negotiations quiet recently, I would imagine that there will be a growing disconnect between what's actually being discussed and what's being reported.
I would put the odds at a delayed start (before Jan.1) at 60 percent, starting on time at 20 percent and a delayed start after Jan. 1 or a cancelled season at 20 percent.
RY: Your point about the length of the deal might be one of the most underrated aspects of it. Nobody is talking about it, but you can be damn sure Stern has thought of it. And that the owners know it. The point on the players is true too.
Here's the thing though: At some point, someone has to move. It's not like the NBA is going to be locked out forever. It's not like the league is over. So whether the compromise happens next Wednesday, Thursday, January 1 or May of 2012, somebody's got to give in. So the question is -- and I think this is why there's some growing optimism -- why continue to posture and spit the rhetoric when we know that at some point, both sides are going to have to concede a little? At some point, both sides are going to have to take a step away from their ideal CBA and take one that covers the bullet points they feel like they need to check.
The million dollar question is just how hard each side is going to push for those checkmarks and if it's worth missing games and therefore, missing out on money to get it. Both sides will have to get to the brass tacks of it at some point because the NBA isn't going to sit in a state of limbo forever. So it's just a matter of finally getting past all the negotiating tactics and strong-arming and finally start seeing some legitimate offers. Which is supposedly what we're looking at now.
I'd say my odds of starting on time are at 40 percent. That's assuming next week's meeting(s) goes as everyone is projecting. Before January 1? That's a guarantee. I refuse to believe the league's going to miss out on that much money, momentum and everything else. Compromise will be had by then. That might be the eternal optimist in me talking, but I just don't buy all the talk of missing an entire season.