NBA Lockout Thoughts - Cancellation Edition

Since hearing the news that the first two weeks of the NBA season were cancelled due to the lockout, I've been trying to decide what to write about it. What's the lede on this story? Should I just rant at the stupidity of it all? Should I try to decipher how this all happened? Or what might happen next?

With my thoughts scattered all over the map, I decided to write a post reflecting my current mindset - here are some random thoughts:

System issues? From Howard Beck's article:

The revenue split was not even discussed over the last two days.

Are you freaking kidding me? It's unfathomable - inconceivable really - that we are losing games not over the split of the revenue, but over how the system is to work. This business generates $4B in revenue boneheads! Figuring out how the system works should be the least of your problems. And the fact that you took two months off from negotiations when everyone knew this day was coming is unconscionable. I guess if you can't decide the basic rules around how to handle a $4B business, the simple, straightforward solution is to piss the $4B down the drain. Then there's really no decision to be made.

wrote about this before: "frankly, if this is the issue that causes me to see fewer than 82 regular season Clippers games this year, I'm going to be pretty hacked off at both sides." So yeah, I'm now pretty hacked off at both sides. More importantly, either I'm missing something, or the players and owners picked the wrong issues over which to lose games. In the big picture, why do Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher care about the cap? The revenue split is what matters. If the players were to get, say, 51% of the revenue, why do Hunter and Fisher care WHICH players get it? Bird Exceptions, luxury tax and penalty, guaranteed contracts... does any of that really matter at the macro level? If the New Jersey Nets could cut Travis Outlaw tomorrow because his contract was unguaranteed, they (or another team) would just have to spend that money on another player. It's a zero sum game. By making a stand over these issues, it seems to me that all Hunter and Fisher are doing is protecting the Travis Outlaws of the league at the expense of other players, perhaps more on the fringe. A system with fewer guaranteed contracts but the same amount of total money simply becomes more of a meritocracy - players have to earn their roster spot every season. Why is that bad for the players? Or am I missing something?

Ironically, I also happen to think that the ideas being bandied about - in particular severely curtailed Bird rights and significant new restrictions on exceeding the luxury tax threshold - would ultimately be bad for the league, which of course would be bad for the owners. The players association would be correct to resist those changes for the good of the league - but it's certainly not in their interests to lose paychecks over it. The "system issues" that formed the impasse these meetings had nothing to do with how much the players would make. Pure insanity on both sides.

Cancelled games? David Stern:

I'm sorry to report, particularly for the thousands of people that depend on our industry for their livlihood, that the first two weeks of the season have been canceled.

Why is David Stern insisting that the games from November 1 through November 14 must be cancelled as opposed to postponed or rescheduled? Let's be clear - even if there's a miraculous settlement tomorrow, it is impossible to simply keep the current schedule and play whatever games are left starting on November 15th. Most teams had six games scheduled in the first two weeks, but some had eight, while Denver and Washington only had five. Some were playing a very strong schedule, some a very weak schedule. Some were home heavy, some were mostly on the road. The Thunder for instance would miss eight games, six of them on the road, and three of those against the Lakers, Mavericks and Bulls, three of the four top teams in the league. Can you imagine deciding playoff seeds at the end of a season where some teams played 77 games while others played 74, and worse yet some played 39 road games while others played 35? These are the kinds of scheduling issues that U12 AYSO coaches get indignant over - it's not an option to just start playing November 15th.

Which means that you either have to redo a schedule for a mid-November start, with for instance 76 games, or you keep the original schedule, and squeeze the 100 missed games in where you can. Would it be difficult to reschedule 100 games? Of course. But to be fair, it won't be easy to schedule from scratch the 1160 games of a 76 game schedule either. An extra week at the end of the season, another three games sprinkled across 4 months of games and the NBA could certainly salvage an 82 game season, even with the first two weeks lost. The NBA could do it - if they wanted to.

So the fact that Stern has made it clear that these games are cancelled, lost forever, allows only one conclusion. The NBA wants them cancelled. 

Pre-ordained? Which all makes Billy Hunter's words seem quite plausible:

"I'm convinced this was all just part of the plan."

If you'll recall, I had something of a light bulb moment a couple weeks ago when I realized that the NBA still received the money from their National TV contract even if games were cancelled. The simple fact of the matter is that the players suffer disproportionately in the early stages of a work stoppage. While all of the players' NBA related income (i.e. their salaries) are forfeited as games are lost, the NBA continues to bank a quarter of their overall revenue from their national TV contract alone, while also saving huge amounts on salaries and game expenses. Stern and his minions knew all along that they wouldn't get their best deal until players started missing paychecks - and they also knew that missing games in November and December would hurt the players a lot more than it would hurt the owners.

The players can now hope that the National Labor Relations Board will see through this strategy and find that the league was not negotiating in good faith during this lockout. But even if we all know that to be more or less true, it's not something that is easily proved. He showed up to the meetings, he said he wanted a deal, he even made concessions. Or did he?

Concessions? One of Stern's quotes from last night really stands out as a great laugh line:

We made, in our view, concession after concession.

What concessions did the NBA make, exactly? Stern would have us believe that the league conceded on the hard cap, conceded on the revenue split they wanted, conceded on salary rollbacks, etc, etc. But please note that NONE OF THOSE THINGS WERE IN THE EXPIRING CBA! Stern is discussing concessions of things that never existed - the league conceded that they wouldn't get every single thing on their wish list. By that logic, I suppose they also conceded that the players would not play for free this season - for FSM's sake, look how far the owners have come! All the way from 0% to 47%! 

If indeed it was the league's plan all along to miss games, you can rest assured that we're going to miss a lot more than just the first two weeks of the season. The real point of driving the season off the cliff was to watch the union panic when they started missing paychecks - and that doesn't happen until about November 15. If you figure it'll take at least a week for the panic to take hold, and then about a month to put together a partial season after that, I'd say the best case scenario is a Christmas start. More likely it will be something akin to 1999, a severely shortened season starting in January or February. Either way, don't expect Stern to show up at a meeting until mid November at the earliest. Which means that while we should be already watching pre-season games, and real games beginning three weeks from today, instead we're likely looking at five weeks of nothing. Not even lockout news to speak of. 

How depressing. 

Seriously, the most exciting NBA news in the next five weeks figures to be a ruling from the NLRB. Shoot me now.

Cancelled or Canceled? We're all going to be experts on this at this point. The fact is that either spelling is acceptable, and in fact either one will pass most spell checks. One "L" is an American variant, British English prefers the double "L". But here's the thing - you can likewise spell cancellation either way - but am I the only one that thinks "cancelation" just doesn't look right (and doesn't pass the SBNation spell check, by the way)? Bottom line, be consistent. And for me, that means across the two words as well. If you use the single "L" on canceled, then use it on cancelation as well. (I'm looking at you, Ken Berger!) For what it's worth, the preferred spelling in ClipsNation is the double "L" for both.

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