Yesterday sucked. Yesterday sucked because, deep down, we all believed we’d be watching NBA basketball in a month or two. We believed this because, after all the back and forth, the distance between what the players and owners were willing to accept was, and still is, a tiny fraction of where the sides started. We believed this because we thought there was no way the league would undo all of the momentum it gained from last year’s gem of a season. Most of all, we believed this because of how much we love the game.
Now, all of that’s "in jeopardy." Or it’s a "nuclear winter." Or something. However you phrase it, it was the umpteenth we held our collective breath as we were again told that this particular day would decide the fate of the season. In all likelihood, yesterday was finally that day.
Our first reaction was to point fingers. At least that was mine. When something bad happens to us, we want blame someone, especially when we have no control over it. Look at our country’s economic woes. Democrats blame Republicans. Republicans blame Democrats. Other people live in tents.
But this is useless. Not only because it won’t salvage a season (or our economy), but also because blame lies everywhere in this process. I’m going to contradict my point about the blame game’s uselessness and play it anyway. For no other reason than that it makes us feel better, if only for a moment or two.
- The owners: for starting the bargaining process so unreasonably far from where the previous deal stood – with a hard cap and a decrease in player BRI share from 57% to 46% - and for compounding this problem by not conceding nearly as much as the players throughout the negotiations.
- David Stern: for establishing the "us vs. them" rhetoric that dominated the process, for issuing ultimatums, and for his smug, holier-than-thou, cranky grandmother’s brand of sarcasm that only served to antagonize the union and its players. For what it’s worth (nothing), I do believe he presented the best offer the owners were willing to accept to the players this final time around, and that the owners, not Stern, deserve blame for the offer’s perceived unfairness.
- Billy Hunter, Derek Fisher, and the Union: for failing to give all of the players a chance to decide on the latest offer by putting it to a league-wide vote, for failing to state their case coherently to the public, and for failing to swallow their pride to accept the deal on the table (after agreeing to the 50/50 BRI split, the difference between this deal and what they said they would accept would likely amount to smaller losses over ten years than losing this season alone will). This wasn’t about that. It was just ego.
All of these people want a season. All of them are sad it probably won’t happen. In this respect they are just like us. Except for the fact that they are responsible. Trying to pin it on one party over another diminishes the depth of their shared culpability.
The NBA will be back. When it is, David Stern may be the US Ambassador to a geopolitically irrelevant country in Europe, Billy Hunter may have joined Legal Expert Roger Cossack and Salary Cap Expert Sam Penn as a Labor Relations Expert on the roster of superfluous experts ESPN likes to keep around, and Derek Fisher may be running for Mayor of Little Rock.
While the future for those men remains uncertain, we can know this: We will watch our beloved Knickerbockers play basketball again sometime in the not too distant future, and all of this will seem like it was just a weird, unnecessarily prolonged bad dream. Until then, Occupy Ball Street.