Posted by: Kingsguru21 | September 15, 2011

Lockout thoughts

I hate having to write this, but after reading Ken Berger’s piece today, I think it’s necessary. For good measure, also read Berger’s pieces on the 13th and 14th too.

First, let me make this clear: I don’t care about the owners or players here. I don’t care about who wins. Either way, the owners will be making quite a bit of money off a “toy” (wish I could say I was that lucky–then again I didn’t spend hundreds of millions to start writing this site either…) and the players will be living pretty extravagent lifestyles.

It’s always been clear that this lockout has been about several things from the owners end of things. 1) To break the union 2) to destroy the NBA’s middle class of players to lump them in with the lower earners for the most part (achieving a much lower average salary), 3) to create a tier class of system where they pay the “great” players at their designation, and 4) to take away a lot of power from basketball executives and coaches.

If you’re reading #4 whomper-jawed, don’t be. These owners aren’t exceptionally interested in doing things well, but they are interested in being draconian. Dan Gilbert would love a hard cap for one reason: Because he thinks it will keep LeBron James (who left for his own reasons and money received from the NBA team wasn’t necessarily one of them) or a player of that type doing that to his Cavs again. I don’t doubt that’s a part of it, but I think a big thing that bothers Gilbert is he paid the players around James before he was able to pay James himself. This is all a power play in otherwords.

Owners want to be seen as the biggest swinging dick in the room; the impetus for all things NBA revolves around. Guess what? It ain’t happening. The only 2 roles in basketball operations an owner should have is to A) stay out of basketball operations and B) cut checks when reasonably appropriate. Most owners want more, and they wish to dictate the direction of the league as they see fit. The problem with that is that most owners don’t understand basketball well enough to do that. As business and marketing figures go, ownership is exceptionally important. That part matters in the big machine picture, but, the owners (especially the hard liners) have overestimated the power breaking the union will have.

Actually, I think most of that paragraph is hyperbole. I suspect most of them want a hard cap because of the illustration it gives is the illusion that you can have parity in the NBA. It won’t happen because unless you’re sharing LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and those types of players DNA with similar traits, you’re not getting parity. I missed the news that sharing unique individual traits is now possible. I suspect the owners already know this and simply want to create the idea that a hard cap gives owners more power in the NBA sphere.

Why? To be able to sell their teams on dopes like the current owners who bought their teams for excessive amounts. The only way to get around a silly investment is to get someone even sillier and dopier than you are to buy into the same dream that they can change the way the actual system works.

As far as the players, it’s not surprising why they want a softer cap similar (or identical preferably) to the cap that expired on June 30th. Larry Bird rights, early Bird rights, and the Mid Level exceptions tend to be how players get paid in this league. That’s what the owners want to eliminate really; the ability to pay Vince Carter a lot less than the ability to pay Kobe Bryant.

Which brings me back to Berger’s piece:

The players’ strategy to thwart the lockout was to challenge the league’s bargaining tactics under federal labor law with the National Labor Relations Board. Had they decertified and filed an antitrust lawsuit, they would’ve followed the same fruitless path through the federal court system that the NFL players tried. All the NFL players got was a narrow ruling from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that a district judge didn’t have the authority to enjoin the lockout. The appeals panel didn’t touch the validity of the NFLPA’s decertification.

What ultimately led to a deal was the same thing that will lead to one in the NBA: the calendar. With NFL training camps about to open, both sides decided that the time for posturing and suing each other was over and the time to actually negotiate a labor agreement was upon them.

Courts were never going to end the NFL lockout, and they’re not going to end the NBA’s, either. But one thing is for sure on the legal front: The NBPA’s best — and perhaps only — chance at winning a federal injunction lifting the lockout will come under labor law through the NLRB. And guess what happens to the players’ NLRB complaint if they decertify or if the union disclaims interest in representing them anymore?

I’ll add one other thing besides the calender that will end the lockout: Pressure from sponsors and TV partners. The NBA is trying to squeeze the players hard here, and it’s a gamble. Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher don’t have much going for them with owners who are trying to squeeze them, but, like anyone, including these owners, there is pressure for them to get a deal done. The question as many have said: Is it easier for 400+ players or 30 ownership groups to stay together? Most people will bet the 30 owners simply because of the smaller numbers. But, the only chance for players to come out of this relatively intact was to force the owners to lose something too. The longer the players stall for a deal (which is what the owners are doing), the more pressure it puts on the owners to come to the table in good faith.

Right now the knuckleheads are killing deals, and that’s what you’d expect. Not enough is on the line for the hard line owners (although they don’t have a problem selling tickets strangely enough) to scare them on trying to get a deal done.

You know all this though. A lot of the point is that decertification, for the 10 or 15 people who end up reading this, is not a real answer for the players. The only answer is to get the owners to the table and negotiate a deal to get the season in.

This is my favorite part from the Berger piece:

“Billy has been put in a really tough position,” said Bartelstein, one of the agents pushing to decertify. “You can’t negotiate by yourself. He’s tried to show that he wants to make a deal, and the league has responded by saying, ‘No, we’re not going to do anything until there’s more pain, until you start missing paychecks.’ My only goal in this thing is try to find solutions, to try to find a fair and equitable deal and not lose the season.”

So, let me get this straight. You really think decertification will end up pushing the owners to the table? The owners will just wait this out like they’ve been doing. The owners are not bargaining in good faith, and that’s the real problem. They are the zealots, just like the asshole Tea Party influence was in trying to create an amicable solution to a real budget crisis, in this deal, and, contrary to what some in the Tea Party may believe, you can’t negotiate with zealots. They are simply too stuck on what drives them to care about anything else going on.

Bartelstein’s comment not only struck me as funny, but a lot like missing the point. A solidified union would be a great way to scare the owners, and right now they are betting (with a lot of justification) the players settle on a deal much to the owners liking. With all the real fractures in the NBA union (mainly because they are ignoring a deal that very much could help or hurt all their futures) going on, this is a serious problem. As Berger notes, how can you show solidarity and togetherness as an union with 10% of it in attendance for a meeting? Especially when attendance to such a meeting was so crucial to helping settle the very lockout many players want over.

The problem here is that the players are stuck in a catch 22 and the owners know it. The players know if they go on a war path, it will create divisions within their own team management and ownership. It creates problems. The players don’t want to go down that path because, honestly, it’s too hard.

The fact that star players aren’t involved much says a lot, and always was going to say a lot. Ben Golliver had a good point about the owners:

Maybe next time Sarver and Gilbert don’t get their way. Maybe next time, the other heavy hitters come together. Billy Hunter spoke of a divide between owners and while David Stern tried to brush it off, he acknowledged it. The owners are looking at losing a substantial amount of money in a lockout and playing the hardline, stubborn card might not be wise right now. For owners like Buss and Dolan who are making money, I’m sure it would be easy to grow annoyed with that kind of edged approach.

But keep hope. Like I said, while it’s bad news, it’s also kind of good news. There’s movement towards… something. Eventually someone will get overruled and a deal will be struck. It’s just a matter of how long all this hardline posturing is allowed to go on.

Now, and this is of course the real point here: Do the players get involved to make them seem more unified? Possibly not, but, who knows? Maybe they see it as wise to stand with their union brothers to make sure something gets done. If the big name stars are wise, they stand behind their smaller brothers. But, these guys are not usually wise.


Which brings me to the most important point: Why I care. Like I said, I don’t care about hard vs soft caps at all. In any way. Players will make a lot of money with one cap or another. What I do care about is the Sacramento Kings, you know my favorite basketball team, having the best opportunity available to compete in a league where having that one of a kind star makes it very very difficult to win a championship in a league like the NBA. This isn’t about the ability to make the 8th seed more often; what fans want is to see their team compete for banners or win a banner once in awhile. But there are 30 teams and not all of them can win a championship. Plus, 2 expansion teams in the last 30 years have ended up winning a championship (Miami & Dallas–ironically with both franchises involved as the opponent). Detroit has won titles. There was a slew of parity in the 70’s and I’m not sure fans really cared much about the NBA that decade. In reading opinions about the era, it’s not an incredibly fun time to talk about for many. Which is interesting for one reason: It was the only time in NBA history where you had championship parity. The Knicks (twice), Bucks, the Lakers (who won their first title to that point), Celtics (twice), Warriors, Blazers, Bullets (Wizards) and SuperSonics won titles that decade. Unless you became a fan of those teams in that specific era, as a fan does that make you feel all warm & fuzzy inside? Probably not.

What fans ultimately want, I think, is the dynasty or the instant ability to compete. Here’s the reality: This won’t happen anyway. A hard cap won’t eliminate the best teams because the best teams still revolve around the best players anyway. What a hard cap would most likely do is ugly the play of these same top teams and the ability to play a more appealing brand of basketball. If you can’t pay your talent across the board, you’ll lose someone to a payday from someone else. That’s really how a hard cap works. In the NFL, it’s enough that you’ll lose an important player here or there. In the NBA, and unless you think losing role players matters, it’s probably not nearly as important.

The real impact is that I think it will eliminate the lesser/smaller/not big markets, like Sacramento, Utah or even Oklahoma City potentially, to pay players a value they would prefer. If this happens, what’s to keep a Serge Ibaka or someone like that from walking from a bigger payday elsewhere? Right now the owners are facing the lockout with the league is a star league and that’s what’s really important. In terms of total sales, basketball viability and what not, this is true. But stars also need role players who won’t take shots from them, who won’t fight for control in subtle and oblique ways that have a real effect on chemistry, and players who can keep the peace between fighting factions of players and even the coaching staff.

These things are important. They help teams win. They might not be as important as keeping from LeBron James from being the biggest douchebag in the world, but I’m not sure there is a salary cap available to find a solution to that problem. What I’m sure is that a hard cap in the NBA is being compared to a league like the NFL when the real issue is how the 2 leagues function. The NFL has 11 players for 1 team on the field at any given moment; the NBA has 10 players between 2 teams at any given moment. This is why the NBA is a star league; stars make such a huge impact when they represent 10% of player output and potentially 50% of total output for a team at any given moment. We don’t talk about the Roses, Durants, James, Wades, Howards, Bryants for fun; We do it because these are players who give your teams a great chance of winning.

The reality is that every NFL player represents in human terms, 4.5% chance of making a difference. In reality, a NFL star probably has somewhere in the 15-20% impact range (and perhaps a bit higher for a few select players). In the NBA, each player in human terms has a 10% impact, and the stars have at least a 50% impact and some possibly have as high as a 70-80% impact.

That’s a big difference. There is no salary cap, no kind of parity for the NBA unless it comes with DNA sharing which, last I checked, is not part of the current CBA negotiations.

You want to believe in a placebo? That’s your business. Just don’t expect me to pass along that shortsighted horseshit when I write about the topic. Which is why, among other things, I haven’t talked about it much this summer. Personally, I hope the players get hosed in these talks so we can talk about how “different” things are in 5 years. (That’s sarcasm in case you didn’t notice.)

So in short, I just want the Kings to be able to compete and have a reasonable chance to do so. A salary cap is not about guarantee of success; how savvy you are in building your team is what allows you success on the court. A salary cap is simply a financial tool that manages salaries for players in the aggregate. It’s perhaps important to remember this point as opposed to running with the idea that a new “hard cap” will change the way the NBA has operated for 60 years.

At the end of the day, I just want a deal and basketball back. Because, that’s what I care about. Not about some superficial argument about how parity will happen because you eliminate exceptions. Apparently the owners and players have missed that memo. Which, as usual, leaves the fans screwed. We get screwed on prices for games, merchandise and other things. On top of that, we get reamed when the owners and players decide to stumble onto their high horse drunk on power and know it all bravado.

Just get a deal done already goddammit. No seriously, just get a deal done already because this posturing shit has got to go. And in this vein I get what I want how I want it because I am the customer. You might want to remember that you thieving scumbag mongrel bitches.


  1. […] last (set of) point(s) doesn’t deserve a bullet, but paragraphs. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again: I think this lockout was never about the relationship with the […]

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