Posted by: Kingsguru21 | November 26, 2011

What we learned from this lockout

What did we learn? Anything important? Only if you care about the financial side of the games that is.

Some bullet points because I don’t feel like going over this for the eight billionaith time.

* Owners have all the leverage in these types of negotiations. If you were one of those that didn’t know that before (me), you should know it now.

* Players had no ability to use potential jobs overseas to translate much of a real advantage in creating leverage with owners.

* Something happened, I contend it was the insertion of the TV networks and how they factor into the equation, to make the owners willing to come back to the table. Mainly, I think anyway, that the owners didn’t want to delve into the slippery slope of a repayment schedule for this season and figuring out how to rebrand a league when an owner friendly CBA was on the table NOW. Despite what someone may tell you, the owners won this CBA by a longshot. The real question at the beginning of the negotiations was a matter of how much the owners would win these negotiations; not whether the owners would emerge victorious.

* It was said by Frank Isola on Twitter, and I agree: I think this was really the plan all along. Stall the end game until a point where everybody just raises their hands and says “fuck it I give up take what you want.” Sorta like Jason Lee in Heartbreakers who just has that sad faced dog look on his face. Lee simply says,”Give her whatever she wants”. (The funniest part about that was the lawyer saying: I told you not to say that!) So to that end, the NBA won this round.

* The players may have been unified and closer than they were in 1999 for these negotiations, but the circumstances were really different in 1999. Thus, the players needed to be completely on top of things this time around to have any chance of negotiating a slightly favorable owner CBA. The players weren’t, I suspect, for a number of reasons that will range from player to player. I sense there was some real trepidation on the part of the players to speak out against the owners for fear that you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. A lot of players didn’t really believe they could negotiate a good deal and didn’t want to speak out against it. Only the stars rallied against the owners, and, among other things, they are bulletproof in these deals for the most part.

* For those talking about how the owners (and the GM’s) need protection from themselves, I say that’s complete and utter horseshit. That’s impossible. You can’t protect anyone from themselves in the long run. If you can’t see something as problematic on your own terms, you got problems. Is that really that difficult to understand? Kevin Arnovitz of TrueHoop (or ESPN.com) had a nice piece looking at how shorter contracts will change the league. (Which will change the league.)

* Henry Abbott has a winners & losers column. I find it interesting that he has Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher (who have taken an inordinate amount of heat from self deluded parties only protecting their singular interest–which is the norm in these deals) as winners of all this. I happen to agree with that assessment. For everyone who talks about how Hunter didn’t do his job, I don’t think these folks understand what was going on in the negotiations really. And, I don’t think these folks really understand how willing the NBA was to sit out games. Thus, I don’t really see what Hunter and Fisher did that was that bad. Sure, the agents are looking out for their own interests, and, so what? You expect otherwise?

On the other hand, I think it’s especially interesting that people are willing to belittle agents and Hunter/Fisher for the handling of the players. Like it’s against the nature of mankind to want to do the best you can for yourself? Especially when a number of these same people are rooting for the owners to do the same thing that they despise the players for doing. Let me put it this another way: You can’t complain the owners are losing money on a business and claim, simultaneously, that the players are making exorbitant sums of money playing a game. If it’s a business for the owners, it’s also a business for the players. If it’s a game for the players, than it’s also a game for the owners. Or, in reality, it’s both for both groups. But it’s not a game for the players and a business for the owners. If you believe that, you’ve just neutered your own opinion with some of the silliest and pointless rhetoric and hypocrisy mankind has to offer. Clap yourself on the back if you are one of those people.

* We learned that fans, despite what they say, including myself, will come back. The Twitterverse literally exploded at the news. Fans certainly care. Having the Christmas Day Games (the slate won’t change from the original schedule although the modified schedule will be greatly modified for the Kings), isn’t a bad way to start the NBA. The only problem is that it should have started on November 1, not December 25th. The fact is that the NBA and the NBPA (they are still realistically an union regardless of technicality) could have gotten a deal done by July 1. What we really learned is that the owners, and Stern, and the players, never feared that the die hard fans, and the casual fans wouldn’t come back. They simply all abused that privilege. Shame on them all.

******

The 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 players or even how much money the owners were losing. (Whatever it was the owners will be fine moving forward this is for sure.) This lockout was a PR olive branch to future owners who would buy into the league. Why? This raises franchise values. The new CBA will create more short term profit that many billionaires are used to in their other conglomeration of life practices. This type of belief creates the illusion, regardless of the reality, that the ownership still runs and creates the real market for the NBA product. This is all bullshit of course, but most billionaires and prospective owners don’t know this. Which is the real point: Create the illusion that this is true, build the myth with sympathetic media sources, and leave it at that. The owners and Stern, namely Stern, have spun the lockout so that the casual fan saw the players as getting in the way of progress. This isn’t true, again, but it’s out there for a fan who doesn’t know better to genuinely understand and recognize the difference. Stern, the owners, depend on fans ignorance more than anything. Nothing was more evident of that than the ramped up nonsense and rhetoric thrown out by the NBA throughout the more than 2 1/2 years of negotiations.

Given the current constructs and societal realities, the owners and Stern/Silver gambled that most would never see their ploy for what it was. You gotta admit this: It worked hook line and sinker from that angle. Stern convinced many fans that it’s not the owners reasonable demand, but right to profit. Name me a business that has a “right” to profit, and I’ll point out they are heavily subsidized for other reasons. The only difference between the subsidization of corn or defense contractors is that the NBA players will be paying for more of the infrastructure costs than ever before. Plus, now the owners know the game plan of the “players are standing in the way of our league having competitive balance” is a great template for garnering public support. But, again, the owners figured that was the case. The NBA owners were only willing to push this as far as they have, and this is why we see the games starting back up now. (Or, supposedly anyway.) Start factoring in the reality that the NBA owners were aiming at, not to mention desperately wanting to create the narrative, and, you’ll see the rhetoric ramped up from a number of league writers to this end, that the owners were the group who saved the season. None of this will matter when it coincides with the reality that all the owners managed to accomplish was get their house in order to get the season on track. Enough people will buy into it. People love their mythology, and the NBA is no exception to that.

Of course, in 6 years we will be going through this again unless the economy is incredibly horrendous and the players know that a prolonged battle will happen again. The public will brand them as greedy, and unless they are completely prepared to opt out of the CBA to get a new one, this will be a tough go to get gains. The NBA not only won this round, but will likely have won the next round as well unless the players become as cunning and ruthless as NBA owners (unlikely).

The biggest, most surprising thing even, is that the owners are expected to profit more often because of their long term longevity, and yet it’s expected that the players are the sacred protectors that weaves the very fabric of the NBA game. While I don’t find the hypocrisy and logic so intravenously intertwined in a lockout to be surprising, I do find it amazing that well educated and otherwise thoughtful people are so willing to embrace it. That boggles my mind to no end.

Okay I lied (yet again). This is the last thought: Thank god (whichever deity you happen to believe in) the lockout is over.

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