It is done. Problem solved. Lockout over. Let's get to work.
A commenter on TrueHoop on Thursday summarized the various offers and proposals made during collective bargaining so far (seen in the chart above, h/t TrueHoop), you can see a lot of the problems in negotiation. The pink line favors the players too much, the yellow line favors the owners too much. The light blue line -- the "flex cap" plan that would keep salaries flat for the 10-year life of the bargaining agreement -- clearly is something the players are not four.
As Henry Abbott notes, it is the dark blue line -- the "Break Even" line -- that might be the middle ground that gets this whole thing solved eventually. This line represents the point where owners would theoretically "break even" and regain at least a balanced spreadsheet. As has been noted several times, sports teams are not all about profit all the time. Suddenly they are and this "break even" line might be as far as the players are willing to go (you assume things will get better economically).
"(F)or the purposes of these talks, and this chart, I think we can safely assume that the NBA owners are not going to agree to a deal that projects league-wide losses," Abbott writes. "They want a deal that projects a league in the money, and this is that line.
"The best the union could do, I suspect, is to negotiate a deal that is precisely on that line -- or a line like it, created with the union's better financial insight -- and even that may be too hopeful. Owners want profits. And that's not weird. It's the way of business. If there aren't profits for owners, in pretty much any business, well, the hard reality is that the owner can and maybe should simply shut the doors and walk away. As employees, you want all the money you can get, but clearly not so much that you topple the entire enterprise."
Whenever this bargaining gets settled, it likely will be near that line.
If only negotiations were as simple as drawing up a chart and finding some middle ground. Alas, with so much time remaining before the season and no pressure or deadlines to meet, the union and the owners will continue this strange dance called collective bargaining. Getting to that dark blue line that represents an agreement is going to be a long process.
The outlook is still bleak.
Top-level negotiators for both sides are meeting next week in New York in just the second meeting since the lockout began. This meeting will consist of only deputy commissioner Adam Silver, commissioner David Stern, Spurs owner and head of the owners labor committee Peter Holt, NBPA executive director Billy Hunter and NBPA president Derek Fisher. This smaller setting might generate some movement, you hope.
But that is not stopping the two sides from preparing for their hearing in front of the National Labor Relations Board or trading barbs in the press.
Stern's zinger about Eddy Curry at a meeting during All-Star Weekend made the rounds and NBPA vice president Maurice Evans had some choice words about the owners' alleged good faith bargaining efforts. He said the players, like the owners, are ready and able to sustain losing the complete season.
If only things were as simple as splitting the difference on a chart.
Graph via TrueHoop. Photo via DayLife.com.