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In the NBA, nobody's perfect

I've spent a great deal of time discussing what the possible implications of the NBA lockout are, attempting to look at the objectivity of it.  While I try to avoid casting judgement on either side, now that the work stoppage finally arrived, I want to explain why I think both sides are wrong, and why that's terrible for the fan.

Let's start with the players first.  They basically want to keep the exact same CBA that just expired, except re-lower the draft age back to eighteen so that high school seniors can bypass the NCAA and enter the draft.  Status quo, and why not?  They have a good lifestyle right now.

The problem is that the entire system is completely skewed so that the players benefit.  At the end of the year, they receive 57% of the revenue pie, compared to the 43% that the owners see, despite fronting all the costs of the team.  Doesn't it make sense that the owners in charge of your profession should get a larger cut of the money since they're responsible for your employment?  That's how it works in every other profession in the world, so professional basketball probably should stick to that status quo instead.

Players fight to keep guaranteed contracts.  Their argument is that owners who shell out millions of dollars must shoulder greater responsibility when it comes to their financial windfalls.  And on the surface, I agree with the players.  But unfortunately for the owners, two words haunt their existence: contract years.  Want to know why the league needs to abolish guaranteed contracts?  Because for every one Jerome James signing, there are five Boris Diaw extensions.  In the NBA particularly, players perform at higher levels in contract years because their future depends on it.  Too many owners are getting duped into signing players to long extensions only to have their star return to camp with about two-hundred additional burgers under his belt.  No more guaranteed contracts ensures a more competitive league where the best players are payed the best money.  And those who decide to spend more time eating than practicing?  Here's a treadmill, we suggest you jump on it.

NBA players want to raise the cap?  Of course they do, because that way they make even more money.  The salary cap dictates where max contracts start and where veteran minimums end.  A higher salary cap means higher salaries for the players.  Add that on top of the revenue sharing, and it shouldn't come as a surprise that the players want the system static.  But teams and owners lose money each year, and maybe the players do not realize this, and if the owners continue to lose money, there won't be a paycheck because there a league won't exist.

Pat yourselves on the back, owners, because this makes you look like the victims.  But frankly, you hold just as much responsibility for this embarrassment as the players, if not more.  Owners possess the ultimate leverage in these CBA negotiations: they sign the players' checks at the end of the day.  And despite this fact, they still managed to negotiate their way into this shackling situation.  If owners wanted to avoid this mess, shouldn't they have held their ground more stringently back in 2005?  I don't know who their general counsel was, but I hope he was promptly fired after the signing of the CBA.

Sure, the open market forces owners to sign players to larger contracts than preferred, but maybe if owners stopped throwing $90+ to Ben Gordon and Charlie Villaneueva, the market might be more fair.  Take a player like Rashard Lewis for example.  Good player, works hard, ceiling is probably the third best player on a championship team.  So explain to me why Otis Smith and Richard DeVos decided they needed to pay him $111 million dollars for his services?  The only teams they outbid are the Orlando Magic and the Orlando Magic.  But this one signing holds significant consequence for players in the same tier as Lewis.

Owners, don't meddle in all transactions, but if you think that a signing is ill-advised, keep your GM from completing it.  It is your business and your money.  I would hope that you were better businessmen with the investments that enabled your purchase of a NBA franchise, but sometimes you make me wonder.

And this is where fans stand now: no basketball because one side wants to maintain the current system and the other scrambling to cover their errors that led to this mess.  The players are not wrong for their wants, they're just crippling the system as owners hemorrhage money into a losing situation.  And the owners aren't wrong for seeking change either, they just broke the system in the first place and suffer for their mistakes.

My one piece of advice: set aside your selfish interests and find a system in the middle.  I may think that a hard cap is best for basketball, but frankly I would settle for a harder-soft cap if it means that basketball returns for a full season.  The fans deserve better than this behavior.


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