By Charles Hallman
PHILADELPHIA — Although the 2011-12 NBA regular season schedule was recently released, it looks more like an exercise in futility as the current lockout, imposed by the owners on July 1, remains intact.
Last week, three NBA insiders at the 2011 National Association of Black Journalists convention in Philadelphia shared their thoughts about the current split between the league players and owners.
Turner Sports NBA Reporter David Aldridge said that he isn’t optimistic that things will change any time soon. “You have owners who are determined to change the system in midstream. They are willing to lose the whole season to make that change happen,” he surmised.
“These owners are not playing,” added ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. “The NBA swears that 22 teams of the 30 in the league lost a combined $300 million. There are several hardcore owners — they want to miss the damn season. They’d rather do that than continue to lose money paying these players’ salaries,” Smith pointed out.
When asked if Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is among the hardliners, Smith responded, “I’m not sure, but I know Memphis is. I know Phoenix is. I know Cleveland is, and Boston might be.”
Smith offered as examples the recent purchase of Golden State this year for $450 million. The Charlotte team was sold for $300 million, and the Cleveland Cavs was purchased for $375 million in the past few years. The Detroit Pistons sale was approved this summer for megabucks as well
“That’s where you have the problem,” Smith surmised. “They need a return on their investment because they don’t have equity. As a result, they are willing to draw a line in the sand.”
Detroit Pistons Beat Writer Vinnie Goodwill (Detroit News) noted, “They [the players] know they will have to give something back, but they also have to believe that the owners are negotiating in good faith.”
“Somebody has to be flexible,” said Aldridge, “and the owners and the players have to meet halfway to get this thing worked.”
Unlike the NFL, which recently agreed on a 10-year collective bargaining agreement and will start the 2011 season on schedule, the NBA owners have demonstrated in the past their willingness to muscle in labor negotiations.
“The owners are trying to bully the players,” said Goodwill, “and David Stern [the league’s commissioner] made a lot of promises to owners that they would not lose money.”
As we have recently seen both in St. Paul and Washington, such flexibility and meeting halfway are nothing but pipe dreams. If our elected officials can’t or won’t do this, how can we expect a bunch of rich owners claiming poverty to do so, not to mention a bunch of players unwilling to relinquish what was given to them by these rich owners.
Smith concluded, “The chance of compromise drastically decreases if you allow games to be missed. I think one of two things is going to happen: [Either] they will not miss a game, or they will miss the whole season.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.