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NBA lockout on the horizon

This NBA Finals series has a lot more at stake than many fans may believe. The idea of LeBron’s tainted legacy if the Heat lose is the least of the worries lingering in the air as we all wait for a champion to be announced between the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat.

As the 2009-10 NBA season came to an end, talks began regarding a possible NBA lockout the following season. The last work stoppage came before the 1998 off-season, resulting in a 50-game NBA season. This offseason, June 30th to be exact, the current collective bargaining agreement will expire and as of right now, the team owners and the NBA Players’ Association are nowhere close to seeing eye-to-eye on a new one.

“At this point in the negotiations, we still feel like we’re very far apart,” said Los Angeles Lakers guard Derek Fisher, the president of the National Basketball Players Association. “So far we haven’t seen the type of progress we’d need.”

“It’s very clear that if we don’t agree to what we’ve been offered so far, we’re probably facing a lockout. That’s the responsibility we have, to prepare our guys for that possibility. But that doesn’t discourage us from the effort that we’re going to put in to still try to find a fair deal.”

NBA commissioner David Stern, addressed the media following a meeting with the NBPA saying “we remain very far apart.” He continued adding, “We’re not where we started. Both sides have moved. But we’re not any place close to a deal.”

“[June 30] is a time when, if we don’t have a deal, things will begin to deteriorate at a faster pace,” he said. “We very much feel the weight of the deadline. We have enough time to make a deal if the parties want to make a deal.”

According to various sources, the league is currently seeking a 10-year agreement as opposed to a deal of five or six years which is more common.

Fisher said the players still are opposed to the “three major components” that the owners are demanding:

  1. A hard salary cap
  2. A reduction in guaranteed salary
  3. Shorter contracts.

“Things have been fought for, collectively bargained over the last 30 years,” said Fisher. “We don’t see the need to roll that back or dramatically change that.”

According to Fisher the NBPA is “adamantly opposed” to a hard cap as the current CBA is based on a “soft” cap, which allows individual teams much more flexibility. Under the current deal, teams can exceed the salary cap through various exceptions which results in those individual teams having very different payrolls. The players also believe that contract length and guaranteed money should not be included in the new deal but should instead be left open to individual negotiations.

Asked how any compromise is possible between rhetoric such as “adamantly opposed” and “owners’ demands,” Fisher said: “We feel that what they’re asking for … can be addressed without dramatically changing those three components. We continue to offer ideas and solutions we feel can address those areas, without having them mandated and saying ‘that’s the only way it can be.’ ”

“One of the owners indicated at the conclusion of today’s meeting,” Hunter said, “that he was very pessimistic whether we’d be able to reach an accord between now and the end of the month, and I’m forced to share that sentiment. It’s going to be a difficult struggle.”

The owners’ argument is based around significant financial losses by an estimated 22 of the league’s 30 teams, for a combined total of almost $300 million.

These 22 teams make up the smaller markets such as Cleveland and New Orleans that aren’t as appealing to players as New York, Boston, and Miami for example. Also, the “trend” of players joining up to play in these bigger markets is something the owners want to attack.

With the “Big Three” in Boston coming together to win a title in 2008, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James decided to perform a similar team-up in South Beach and if they’re successful in these Finals, the negotiations may grow even further apart between players and owners.

The last thing anyone wants is a year without football AND basketball.


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