NBA Labor Talks: Mutiny On The S.S. NBAPA

Who stands to lose the most? That’s the compelling subplot. Where do the players give and where do they stand ground? The players most responsible for selling tickets, television ratings and merchandise – the Kobe Bryants, LeBron Jameses and Dwyane Wades – could be the ones taking the biggest hit. The nine-man executive committee of players has just one star: Chris Paulnotes. The days of the insufferable David Falk trying to control the union are long gone, his bellows of “Michael Jordan is the league,” a distant echo in union meetings.

The idea of raising superstar salaries and paying the middle- and lower-class players less won’t wash in a one-man, one-vote union. “If they cut the highest 25 or 30 salaries by, say, 35 percent, you’re not going to have to change that much more for [the owners] to get what they want financially,” another player agent said. “LeBron can scream and shout all he wants, but this is a one-man, one-vote union. Once guys figure out that 400 or so players will benefit by the top few taking a major cut, what do you think they’re going to do?”

via NBA aims to crush union in labor battle – NBA – Yahoo! Sports.

So, we’re going to have a lockout. Which sucks.

I came to this conclusion today, after the infamous opening to Woj’s article:

Here’s how an NBA front-office executive described the document the commissioner’s office delivered to the union to start labor negotiations: “It’s just a photocopy of Stern’s middle finger.”

via NBA aims to crush union in labor battle – NBA – Yahoo! Sports.

Well, then. Naturally, Adonal Foyal came out and laid the groundwork for the union’s first “Aw, hells naw” response. And we’re off. The message Stern is starting out with is apparently from all accounts a pretty unpleasant one. The owners are using the economy as the impetus to usher in a sweeping era of reforms to try and bust the union into NFLPA-like submission. We’re talking shorter, non-guaranteed contracts, and a hard cap. A HARD CAP.

While my little heart is aflutter at the thought of Dolan, Buss, or Cuban not being able to spend four times as much as a small market club, even I’m pulling at the reins on this one. The luxury tax needs to be made more aggressive, not abolished. We’re at a point where we’re finally looking at being able to have room for all the great players with potential that just need time. A hard cap is going to make development picks (and potentially the D-League) an untenable element. It goes hand in hand with the other thing being bandied about, contraction. Look, you can talk about Seattle and 40 years and how much it sucks, but at the end of the day, at least we got what is turning out to be a pretty great fanbase in Oklahoma City. Tearing apart a team and simply having it evaporate hurts the fans, the league, the game. It’s dripping acid on the fabric of the league, and I’d hate to see that happen. That’s at the heart of all my talk about small market teams. Kids that don’t live on a coast should be able to love the NBA, too. It’s a dangerous path we’re on.

That said, the quote that started this conversation was what I thought was most fascinating. A realignment from superstar elitism to control via the masses. Joe Smith and Chuck Hayes having as much if not more power in the financial future of the PA than the King. How bizarre is that concept? This story will be fascinating to watch, but I fear the only way this ends is with the start of 2011-2012 being in January.

But then, I hated business classes in college. I was usually drunk at the time. College night for the win.

Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.