The NBA Lockout Draws Nearer as Owners and Players Wait for Tuesday

Despite the NBA owner making the first gesture, taking the issue of the collective guruanteed contracts off the table, the gulf between the players and the owner is wide and filled with hundreds of millions of dollars. Quite a gap to close, huh? Too big to stop the lockout, the first since 1999, from happening?

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Waiting for Tuesday now it seems. David Stern said that the way Tuesday ends will be crucial. They seem to be saying it about everyday now, as the June 30 deadline approaches faster and faster, but I’m sure he has a point. Until yesterday, everyone from the NBPA and on the other side, including Stern himself, said that the sides are very far apart.

Eariler in the talks Union director Billy Hunter called the guaranteed contracts issue a “blood issue”. Well, the owners have agreed that keeping the whole matter just the way it was, with guarantees on individual contracts are negotiable on case to case basis.

The bigger and major matters are different, anyway. If the owners get their hard cap, they don’t really care about the contract guarantees. And the big issues here are two – The revenue split, which currently is 57% for the players, something all of the owners don’t like, naturally. Initially, way back in the beginning of the season, the owners demanded that the players cut between 700 to 800 million dollars from the 2.1 Billion they were earning in 2010-2011, around a 33% pay cut. The union maintains that the owners stance has not changed on the matter. David Stern has argued that the owners have reduced their demands considerably.

By the way, the league announced the the Las Vegas summer league, which annually begins on early July, will be cancelled. Not a threat to the players, according to the league, just an issue of the calendar. True or false? You be the judge. I’m smelling lockout.

Another big issue with the owners is dropping the exceptions that exist in the NBA’s salary structure. Making it a hard salary cap, with no mid-level or “Larry Bird” or anything. No Luxury tax. They want a 58 million dollar cap to be actually 58 million. Many of the high salaries (too high for some) are caused by these exceptions.

Eventually, it comes down to how the money is split. The owners don’t want to give out 57%, especially when a lot of them are losing money, although the union suggests that the 300 million dollars loss reported by the owners isn’t a true number. When you see half empty arenas in many cities, you start thinking. A – maybe the owners are telling the truth, at least from the small market teams. B – Too many teams in this league? (A different topic… but just as important). The union is suggesting that the small market owners are the ones in the driver seat right now, because those in Chicago, New York and the likes are making piles of cash.

Be that the case, the pie still has to be divided differently if too many people are losing money. A third of their pay is  too much to ask for. As the players have put it – “We feel they’re trying to give us things we already have.” It doesn’t matter. Eventually, it’ll be up to the players to give up on some stuff. How far, and how much, that’s still unknown, and I guess we’ll all be more informed next week, when Tuesday rolls out. If there are no smiles and handshakes by that day, the lockout will feel a hell of a lot closer.