The NBA is in a lockout. Get comfortable.
Several months back, I fully expected the NFL owners to implement a lockout in hopes of gaining financial concessions from players and maybe even twisting the union’s arm into an 18-game season. What I didn’t know was how long the NFL lockout would last. But logic said that it with so much television network money on the table, regular season games wouldn’t be canceled.
This is is different. NFL owners really didn’t want to change the entire financial structure with the players — they just wanted a bigger piece of the pie. But the NBA owners want to throw away the pie and blow up the whole bakery.
This simply is not a league that can support guaranteed, astronomical six- and seven-year contracts for players. It can’t afford to have such a soft salary cap because owners clearly can’t control themselves. And as Shaquille O’Neal accurately points out, Joe Johnson is not a $20 million player, especially for a team like the Hawks that can’t fill Philips Arena.
I expect this to be a long lockout. I’d be surprised if teams play more than a 50-game schedule. I would not be surprised if the entire season is canceled. That will depend largely on how quickly the NBA Players Association folds, because I don’t see the owners folding.
NBA owners don’t have nearly as great an incentive to settle quickly as the players because so many of them are losing money. Also worth noting is that some of these same NBA owners also have NHL teams. When NHL lockout ended following the cancellation of an entire season, the owners emerged with the best and most restrictive, owner-friendly CBA in professional sports.
Players have a small window to make their money. So do their wives and girlfriends. The pressure in these negotiations is heavily on the players.
Don’t take this to mean that this is the players’ fault. The owners gave them the last CBA and lavished them with huge contracts. It’s not their responsibility to say no.
The owners created this mess. But cleaning it up won’t be easy, and it’s not likely to get done quickly.
By Jeff Schultz