Wow my first FanPost. I might not be sober enough to be doing this right now, so be gentle.
Okay so the Knicks have sucked for a long time. Excuse my French, but it is what it is. We've sucked, and even the usual boons a sucky team would get in the NBA were denied to us due to how boldly and magnificently we went about sucking. I can't even put it all on Isiah Thomas because we've been declining basically ever since I graduated high school 11 years ago and a lot of cooks have contributed to this shit stew over the years.
We slogged through two additional years of hopeful promise just to get to what we hoped would be the launching pad of last year...and get smacked in the face with a lockout just as it looks like we finally have a roster that won't go through 40+ players in a year. Two years of negotiating by the NBAPA and the league's owners in anticipation of this moment have basically amounted to a media slapfight and not much else and the prospect of a cancelled season looms large. Who's fault is this? What happened? Why NOW instead of, oh, anytime in the last 11 years?
I will not be answering any of those questions in this post because it's a smorgasbord of blame and everyone involved has a seat at the lazy susan(yeah even us fans), but jump with me and let's try to figure out who's most to blame.
It's the owners fault.
Sorry to ruin the suspense but there it is. Well really I guess EVERYONE shares some culpability in this, but it's mostly the owners. I don't know how else to put it. The players are one half of the two sides negotiating in this. They have some responsibility to get a deal done in a fair and timely manner. The fans are the ones pumping money into the sport and setting the valuations on everything from tickets to player salaries(Kobe isn't getting that sweet sweet deal if he's Smush Parker. He adds more than twice his salary to the Lakers' worth and he and Buss both know it). And hey. Both sides knew for the past two years a lockout would be the last thing this league needed at such a delicate time due to various factors such as the declining economy, souring public opinion, its relative popularity to the other major sports in the US, etc. Yet here we are. Why? Billions of dollars at stake will do that, but both sides need to be ready to come to the table to deal. Unfortunately from all accounts the players have been the ones doing all the accommodating as the owners continue to push for more and more.
Think about it. What exactly have the owners conceded? The demands for a hard cap? A big cut in the $$$'s that would make a max contract? That they went up from 46% to ~49%? I applaud the negotiation tactic of starting low, but moving your demands slightly northwards of the South Pole and demanding the players move much more to meet your goals isn't really anything terribly praiseworthy. They haven't actually offered to concede anything from the previous CBA that I've seen. The owners have only demanded compromise without offering any real movement on their side. Yet there was Stern a few days ago trumpeting that bootleg 50/50 split and lamenting the players weren't willing to compromise in kind. COMPROMISE IN KIND?? Throughout the process I haven't heard anywhere close to the headscratching demands from the NBAPA that have come out from the owners' side, and the owners relenting on those demands is supposed to be big progress that the players haven't matched? The players went from the 57% they had from the previous CBA to 53% straight from jump. That might not seem like much, and 50/50 looks like the very definition of fair at first blush, but I invite you to compare that to what NFL and even NHL players have in their CBA. Anything lower than 53% and suddenly NHL players are wondering how they got a better deal after being locked out for a year playing America's 4th favorite sport(I can't seem to find MLB's %, but there's no salary cap in baseball so a player's earning potential is the highest of all 4 sports. I guess that evens it out no matter how low it is). In hindsight going that low so early was probably a mistake because while it was a big give on their part from the start and showed they were willing to talk in good faith, it didn't leave them much room to negotiate. It does, however, put the type of dealings that have been going on in sharp relief. In my view the players have been giving up ground they already had and saying "Okay fine if you're really losing that much money we'll mostly cover those costs by giving back our money" while the owners can't even agree amongst themselves how much revenue sharing between teams is fair. They're the ones who are hiring these terrible decision-making GMs and signing off on those terrible decisions and then turn around and have the balls to cry poverty and complain about bad, lengthy contracts? Really? The owners want the players to give back money "for the good of their teams and the good of the league" but are still squabbling about giving money to each other and can't agree on revenue sharing. I mean that part kills me.
Hopefully the players won't be pressured into taking a bad deal because of poor money management or agents shoving their own agendas into the forefront. They have more leverage than some people have been saying. First off the owners all have other business interests and revenue streams but shouldn't ignore the damage they're doing to their NBA product. Especially in the court of public perception. Vilifying the players now might shave a few percentage points off of the ol' BRI, but when its business as usual again those same players are what you're selling. Kind of duplicitous to tell fans that these stars aren't REALLY worth all this much money and then turn around and jack up ticket prices because you have Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire on your team now. They also stand the risk of losing a year's worth of that sweet, sweet TV money(around ~$980 million last I heard) if they cancel the season and lose ground in future negotiations with the networks in a couple years when those deals expire. Let's not forget that the league's credit rating is on watch and may be downgraded depending on how things shake out, which would have reverberations felt throughout the entire structure.
There are other considerations that one hopes would spur on the dealmaking such as the fact that most team's have publicly funded arenas because nobody wants to be Seattle'd, but local municipalities have no say at all in these negotiations. Kevin Johnson isn't in the position to do this with his maybe-it's-actually-happening new arena for the Kings, but I'd love future arena contracts to state that the City of _________ gets a season each year in this arena we built for you or we get some takebacks. Or the well-publicized, and perhaps over-emphasized, impact on the people who never step on the hardwood but still largely depend on an NBA season for their livelihood. In the grand scheme of things, though, it's really on both sides to be able to get this done. I just feel like the owners have decided to become The Party of No and planned to bring negotiations to this point from the beginning because, hey, fuck you I'm rich and you players can't handle your money at all. That just puts a bad taste in my mouth and since I'm pissed that us fans were put in this position in the first place, I'm beginning to look for targets to point at.
What do you think? Do you think the owners need to soften their stances or are the players being too stubborn and they make too much money anyway so think of the Roger Masons of the world and just take the damn deal? I'm interested to see how the people here feel about this whole thing.
ps - This was a lot more structured in my head but it kind of turned into a rant that went all over the place. Oops.