The NBA lockout has been filled with double-talk, as you'd expect. The league will say negative things, then leak that progress has been made. The union will make statements of promise towards a deal, then leak that a lot of agents and players think they are nowhere. Things go from being "blood issues" to "on the table" in the blink of an eye. And if I hear one more report about how this or that meeting is "key," I'm going to scream. But there's no getting around the unaninimity in reports surrounding Friday's negotiating session.
This is Judgment Day.
Either the union and league are going to find a way out of their issues, have a huge breakthrough, and stun everyone by announcing a handshake deal by the end of the weekend, with a process that starts Friday, or they're going to realize by the end of the day that they're simply too far apart to even be considering a resolution. The consequence of the latter could mean anything from a "go dark" end to negotiations for upwards of a month, canceling up to a month of the regular season at minimum, to the mutual assured destruction of the 2011-2012 NBA season.
The essentials of where we're at, and how we got here, according to various reports:
- Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported Wednesday that the talks have reached a "key moment" due to how far they've come. Essentially, both sides feel there's a deal to be made, and if they can't work something out from the progress they've made in the past week, they're not going to get a deal done for months. It's put up or shut up time for both parties.
- Yahoo! Sports reports that Stern's ready to push the owners to "take the 30-point victory and leave the floor with some grace and dignity," but "the players have to blink first." You can read that in conjunction with ESPN's Thursday-night report that details the changes being offered by the owners which amount to a hard cap in mass without being an actual hard cap. This proposal offers essentially a hard cap for the owners without being a hard cap for the players. The players would keep guaranteed deals, presumably, or at least have a significant portion guaranteed. Any talk of a hard cap being opposed by the players out of flexibility should be considered a red herring. The guaranteed contracts is the key element, and if those are upheld in any significant way, that's enough to constitute a signifcant compromise on the owners part... which should necessitate an equal concession by the players in the way of the "Carmelo Rule," and the additional changes. In short, pieces of the proposal indicate a concession on both sides towards the middle. The players are still going to "lose," but that was evident from the get-go.
- Despite the league's denial that David Stern intends to threaten to cancel the entire season, there's still a lot of people spooked, based off the "we don't know what he's going to do" factor. The lockout has been so hard to understand, with the extremist views on both sides of the aisle playing a huge part. One good reason that threat is unlikely to develop was mentioned by Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, who brought up the legal ramifications:
One reason I don't think Stern will threaten to cancel season today: Union would use that against NBA in a "good faith" complaint to NLRBvia Twitter / @ChrisMannixSI: One reason I don't think S ....
- So what are those who want a season looking for today? The union to cave on the systemic changes, taking the lesser of two evils in exchange for not being burdened with a hard cap. That's probably not the hardest sell, even if the changes make the players grumble and unhappy. No one's going to be happy with this deal. On the owners' side it's all BRI. They're still pitching 46-percent-over-the-life-of-the-dea
l offers according to Berger, and that's not going to get it done. The players dropped to 53 percent in their most extreme offer, the owners realistically want a 50/50 split. They have to at least get to 50 percent for things to even stay out of "cursing and throwing things" mode. If the owners want a deal, if Stern's going to push them into a deal, it's going to have to be with a BRI offer of plus 50 at some point during the life of the deal, with the total average not far from 50. Anything where the owners make more and the players will likely walk. The owners aren't getting a hard cap, they're going to want the BRI win. The players aren't getting the same system as before, they're going to want the BRI win. So as usual, everything comes back to money.
So this is it. It may not be Friday outright, it may be Saturday or even Sunday, but the next three days determine whether November 1st sees the opening tipoff of a league high on its popularity, enjoying a resurgence of relevance, of the Heat vying to redeem themselves, of the Mavericks making one last run, the Lakers trying to return to the top, the Celtics' last stand, the Bulls trying to fulfill destiny, or whether we're banished to months, and possibly a full year without professional basketball in the United States.
Close your eyes. Hold your breath. Just don't expect the best, or the worst. We're well past the point of expectations in the NBA lockout, and the courts haven't even gotten involved yet.