Houston, we have a problem.
The NBA players and owners (reps aplenty for each side) have been meeting hot and heavy over the past week. At first, things looked rosy and sunny between the two and tentative news was that their could possibly be a normal season. But, and that's the magical word, reality hit home Tuesday for the two sides and now it doesn't look very good at that we will have anything better than perhaps a half season.
"Well, we did not have a great day, I think it's fair to say that," Commissioner David Stern said. "On the other hand, we did say that it is our collective task to decide what we want on the one hand on each side, and two, what each side needs if we choose to work ourselves in such a way as to have the season start on time. That's still our goal."
These comments coming out of Tuesday's meeting were echoed by the players union as well.
"We're a bit pessimistic and discouraged at one, the ability to start on time, and we're not so sure that there may not be further damages or delay trying to get the season started," union executive director Billy Hunter said. "The owners are not inclined at this stage to move off the position where they've anchored themselves."
Overall, the vibe coming out of these talks is that the owners are currently holding the players over a barrel and have no plans on letting them up. Apparently, the owners are adamant that their be a 'hard cap', something that the players are reacting to as if they are vampires faced with the cross of a very devoted church goer. Beyond their hissing and sputtering, the players are pushing very hard to soften that cap a bi,t and the owners stance, but with no real ground to stand on right now, they aren't having much luck.
"Frankly, we're having trouble understanding why the label of a hard cap is what's breaking apart these negotiations right now, and that's what we discussed for a long time as a committee and then discussed together with the players," said Silver, Sterns right hand man, his voice rising as he spoke.
Things are not likely to change anytime soon because, like I said, the owners are holding all the cards. The loss of games, even a season, won't hurt them as much as it would the players, and they know it. The only remaining option for the players, other than holding out and eventually giving in around mid season, is to go the NFL route and decertify the Players union. This action may give power back to the players and is being heavily pushed for by a group of player agents that represent a good percentage of the leagues players.
"The union has been negotiating with the league for a year and a half and the owners haven't changed their stance, so the conversation the agents had was about how to work with the union to enhance its strategy," a person close to the situation said on condition of anonymity. "The feeling is that decertification is the weapon that has to be pulled out of the arsenal, that it's the most effective way to change the dynamics of the negotiations."
For now, the union is holding strong and trying to do anything it can to get the owners to soften their stance but truth be told, it feels more like a stall tactic before the inevitable happens, the players cave and basketball is forever changed. Whatever the case, it doesn't look like we will be seeing any real games anytime soon and like every time things like this happen, it's the fans that pay.
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