Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Hoop & The Harm: NBA Lockout Looms

It looks like it’s going to be a long summer for NBA fans!

The collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players expires today, which will more than likely signify the beginning of the second big pro sports lockout in North America this year. The two sides are meeting for one last bargaining session today, but the word on the street is that they are still very far apart on a number of issues, and a work stoppage is almost inevitable at this point.

What are the issues? Just like in the NFL labor situation and the NHL one before it, the owners say the players are making too much money and are earning too big a share of overall league revenues. Other issues plaguing the NBA process are the owners desire for a “hard” salary cap to control spending and non-guaranteed contracts, which players are staunchly opposed to. So, despite any progress that was made in the past month or so, there is seemingly still a long way to go.

According to the AP, the players have offered to reduce their salaries by $500-million over five years and the owners have dropped their calls to scrap fully guaranteed contracts, but neither move has really brought the sides closer together. The owners floated the idea of a “flex” cap, to replace the current system, but the players say it is just a “hard” cap in disguise and so they refuse to budge.

What’s the answer?

Well, when the NHL locked out its players for a full season back in 2004-05, it took a 24 percent salary reduction and the installation of a hard salary cap to get things rolling again. At the time it was quite a blow to the players, but the average salary surpassed pre-lockout levels just three seasons later, and after three more seasons, we’ve got a goalie signing a deal that will pay him $10-million next year!

The point is, the players have to realize that this whole thing is just part of what has become a vicious cycle: owners go overboard with their spending, they blame the players, some sort of cost reduction measure is brought in and then the situation repeats itself.

I think if a lockout starts to threaten the upcoming season, the pressure will be on the players to give a little more in terms of salary reduction. Here’s the thing though – as long as they avoid a hard salary cap, there’s a good chance the owners will be back to their old ways within a year or two!

If there is a lengthy lockout, it’ll be interesting to see who goes where to get some playing time in. The first big rumor was that LA Lakers forward Ron Artest would be making the jump to, of all places, Finland in the event of a lockout.

His agent tells the LA Times though that there is no truth to that story, while the newspaper also points out that FIBA rules require teams to honor the contracts of other leagues. That means any player who is under contract in the NBA wouldn’t really be allowed to go off and play somewhere else.

Soon-to-be free agent guard JJ Barea, who took a stiff arm from Artest in the playoffs, is one guy who could end up playing overseas if there is a lockout, but he says Spain is his “plan B.”

Maybe the Edmonton Energy can pick up a few ringers for the IBL playoffs!

What do you think: Will the NBA be able to avoid a lockout?

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