The Union’s A Mess, The NBA’s A Mess… Can We End This Already?

Via Reddit.comThe fifth month of the NBA lockout began on what would have been opening night in the NBA. 

That’s a sad thought, but it’s not quite as sad as the state of the lockout. Not only is neither side really talking to one another, each side is a complete mess.  

Let’s start with the NBPA, which is “led” by a lame duck in Billy Hunter.  

After Billy Hunter made the grand stand of marching out of Friday’s bargaining session, refusing to negotiate below 52 percent of the NBA’s revenue split, a strong movement within the Players Association emerged that vowed the union will never let him act so unilaterally again.

From superstars to midlevel players to rookies, there’s an unmistakable push to complete the final elements of the system and take this labor deal to the union’s 400-plus membership. Beyond that, there’s an even larger movement to push Hunter, the Players Association’s executive director, out the door once these labor talks are done. All hell’s broken loose within the union, and no one is exactly sure how they’re going to get a deal to the finish line.

The irony of this is Hunter storming out of the negotiations in a battle over 52% of the BRI was probably aimed at saving him his job, not being the last straw.  I’m sure the echos of Kevin Garnett’s insistence that players don’t cave rang in his head as he triumphantly stormed out.  But that move clearly didn’t go so well.  So Hunter wrote a letter to the players.

“Contrary to what is being said in the media, Derek, myself and the Negotiating Committee are of one accord. Derek is a fearless defender of player rights both at the bargaining table and behind the scenes, and he carries out his duties as President with the same degree of courage, focus and tenacity that he has exhibited on the court as a five-time champion. We are all well served to have Derek in a leadership capacity during these negotiations.”

This is the second letter from the union to players this week.  Derek Fisher sent one denying he was in David Stern’s back pocket.  So at the most critical time of the lockout, the players aren’t getting proposals to vote on.  They’re getting letters from their leadership begging to stay together and to not believe the media reports.  Not exactly inspiring stuff as the union meets tomorrow to figure out its next move.

But its not like the owners are much better. 

Micky Arison is worth $500,000 less than he was a few days ago because owners ganged up on him.

The $500,000 fine, first reported by Yahoo! Sports, is five times the amount other owners have previously been fined for public comments about the ongoing labor situation.

According to multiple league sources, commissioner David Stern was lobbied by some of Arison’s fellow owners to levy the stiff fine. Arison and several of his peers have been at growing odds as the lockout has deepened — a rift which spilled over into cyberspace last week

There’s nothing quite like a bunch of rich people ganging up on one another.  

First, you don’t hit Twitter and air your frustrations unless you’re really pissed off.  Arison, of course, is dying for the season to start.  He’s got a super-squad that has the potential to win a few championships in a row, so this is especially costing him. 

Second, you don’t have a unified group when some in the membership clamor to whack others with mega-fines so they stop tweeting.  Yes, Arison essentially confirmed what we were all thinking, but that was clearly too much for those owners in the driver’s seat.

So owners are fighting owners and players are fighting players.  And somewhere in the middle of this maelstrom is a deal on the verge of being done.  If both sides can just get their acts together for a day or two before they go back to hating each other, we might actually sneak in some semblance of a season.  

One thing is clear, however.  The old days of negotiating are done.  Gone are the days where messages can be controlled because someone, somewhere, will always let something leak.  We might not get the whole story, but we’ll get a bunch of it.  So David Stern can sit up there with his Cheshire Cat grin and spin his way through another post-failed-talks news conference, but somewhere in the room he just left is someone who won’t stay quiet.  And Hunter and Fisher can pen Shakesperean prose if they want, but there will always be a player who will “keep it real.”  

So instead of the spin and the damage control, both sides should just try negotiating.  Trying to make yourselves look good just makes you look bad, and the only thing anyone wants now is a season.  So just give us one already.

Photo: Reddit