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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Tentative Agreement Reached to End NBA Lockout

After a marathon round of negotiations on Friday, the NBA owners and the NBA players tentatively reached an agreement for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that would enable the league to stage an abbreviated 66 game 2011-2012 NBA season and ensure labor peace for at least the next six years. The deal still must be formally approved by both the NBA's Board of Governors and the NBA Players Association (once the brief NBA nuclear winter is formally ended with the players ending their shell game/legal shenanigans by reconstituting the briefly disbanded Players Association).

Until the agreement is formally ratified we will not know the specific structure of the season, including important details such as how many intraconference and interconference games each team will play and whether or not there will be a 2012 All-Star Game. It also is not yet possible to make definitive statements about the meaning/long-term implications of the new CBA but based on what has happened so far during the lockout and the published details about the proposed settlement it seems reasonable to conclude that the lockout largely followed the course that I predicted it would back in February: it was long (the second longest work stoppage so far in NBA history) and it did not end until the players finally accepted the reality that the NBA's broken business model had to be fundamentally changed. It also appears that the temporary disbanding of the Players Association--which cost the players six more game checks and will result in a compressed season that may not include an All-Star Game--did not lead to any tangible gains for the players: barring the release of new information, it looks like the players essentially just agreed to the deal that the league offered them approximately two weeks ago; former NBA Players Association Executive Director Charles Grantham expressed some not so veiled criticism of Hunter/Players Association President Derek Fisher last week: "Quite frankly, I've always taken a position that I thought the job of the union was to keep the players working, and that the amount of loss that would be represented here would be astronomical for those that play and the people who work in the system. I think at a certain point, it became emotional and it kind of got off the track, while they were close to a deal. They should've made one." The NBA players came dangerously close to losing a full season's worth of paychecks, which would have been catastrophic for them considering that an average career lasts less than five seasons; NHL owners sacrificed a full season to fix their league's economic model and the NBA players finally realized--perhaps at the last possible moment--that they were leading the NBA down that same path. Grantham declared, "Don't confuse resolve with good judgment. Hockey players had good resolve. No one can say how strong the kids were for standing up for what they believed in, but they made the wrong judgment. You've got to make the right judgment here. And once the fight is over, you get back to work and you live another day."

It has become fashionable to suggest that NBA Commissioner David Stern has lost his touch and should resign (a point of view expressed by, among others, Bill Simmons and Mike Lupica) but Commssioner Stern performed a delicate balancing act during the lockout, mediating between/among big market owners, small market owners and the various factions from the players' side (including star players, agents, lawyers, etc.). When Stern became the NBA's Commissioner the NBA Finals were shown on tape delay, far from being the global phenomenon that they currently are; the league had drug problems and image problems but under his leadership its popularity and revenue soared--and, contrary to the ignorant bleatings heard from various quarters during the lockout, the NBA has consistently led the way in terms of providing ownership opportunities, management jobs and coaching positions for minorities. Commissioner Stern's tenure has not been perfect or blemish-free but overall he has served the game well.

Here are some NBA questions/issues to monitor:

1) What is the specific nature of the revenue split (there has been talk of a 49-51 percent "band" based on total revenues) and will this new deal enable most NBA teams to make a profit?

2) How will the new CBA affect player movement both in the upcoming, abbreviated offseason free agency period and in the next few seasons?

3) Will the new CBA stabilize the league's rosters and allow for greater competitive balance while also giving players some opportunity to choose their own destinations--or will Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and possibly other stars flee small market teams in an attempt to emulate what LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams did last year? It will not be very good for the league's overall health if small market teams ultimately have no realistic chance to retain the services of their superstars.

4) How will a compressed season with a shorter training camp and fewer days off between games affect the various teams that realistically have a chance to contend for the championship?

5) Which players will "compete" to become the Shawn Kemp Goodyear Blimp poster child of the 2011 lockout by showing up out of shape and registering on the Richter Scale as they waddle up and down the court lugging extra baggage?

6) The 50 game season that followed the 1998-99 lockout featured some very sluggish, almost unwatchable basketball and culminated with a San Antonio Spurs championship that Phil Jackson later quipped should be marked by an asterisk. It is reasonable to assume that the 2012 NBA season will have a higher injury rate and lower shooting percentages than normal due to the long layoff, short training camp and compressed schedule.

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posted by David Friedman @ 9:08 AM



At Saturday, November 26, 2011 5:35:00 PM, Anonymous Ilhan said...

Issues 1 & 3 will be decided only when the owners come to an agreement about revenue sharing among themselves. Stern has said more than once that the owners could not possibly discuss revenue sharing in a meaningful manner before resolving the BRI issue. I don't know if I buy that, now we will see. One problem I had with the 'business model is broken' argument carrying the day in CBA discussions is that revenue sharing is a very big part of the business model. If they don't solve that issue, all this talk of the broken business model will merely have served as a smoke screen for strong-arming the players.

Question 5. Where is Baron Davis?

Question 4. Check what Paul Pierce says at the very end about a shortened season and how it would effect them:


Just goes to show how much delusion is involved in the lives of professional athletes. He isn't even considering whether or not the schedule will be similar to a normal season or much more compressed. I, like many others, expect the older teams to suffer considerably. This might be the year of the *Big Three* if Wade can stay healthy.

At Sunday, November 27, 2011 1:13:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm not sure what the answers to all of those questions will be, but if Chris Paul and Dwight Howard eventually leave, I won't have a problem with it.

It will suck that two small market teams lose out on superstars again, but the solution to that would have been better management. Dwight Howard went on record saying that he wanted to stay in Orlando long-term before the 2011 season, but his interview a month back indicated that his perspective has changed with the Magic falling further and further out of contention.

Howard has improved as a player since the Magic appeared in the 2009 NBA Finals. The talent surrounding him on the other hand, has gotten worse. Every trade the Magic have made in the past couple years has backfired. Orlando has gone from being an elite contending team to being a middle of the pack Eastern playoff team.

At Monday, November 28, 2011 4:52:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The Hornets' situation is a mess, with the league having to step in to run the team; it is understandable, though unfortunate, that this may result in Chris Paul's departure to a larger market.

Orlando's situation vis a vis Howard is more complex and perhaps somewhat analogous to the LeBron James/Cleveland scenario; James never fully committed to Cleveland and thus the team felt obliged to continually make short term moves to keep him happy and it could be argued that the Magic went in a similar direction to try to appease Howard. I think that it should be a little more difficult for the top players to both leave their original teams and receive a max payday; for the sake of competitive balance/roster stability it would be better if those players had the option to choose max dollars or max freedom but not necessarily both.

At Wednesday, November 30, 2011 8:08:00 PM, Blogger Bhel Atlantic said...

David, you say that the union's gambit of disbanding and then filing a federal antitrust lawsuit "did not lead to any tangible gains for the players", but this is not really true. The final deal agreed to in the early hours of Saturday Nov.26th was more favorable to the players than Stern's supposed final offer from Thursday Nov.10th. Stern made concessions on the mid-level exception, sign-and-trade rules, salary escrow, and several other arcana that you can read about at other websites.

Filing the lawsuit was the union's best card, and I don't understand why they waited until November to play it.

At Wednesday, November 30, 2011 10:30:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Bhel Atlantic:

The exact final terms of the deal have not even been agreed to, let alone signed, so whatever you read on various websites is pure speculation--but we know for a fact that by extending the lockout the players not only lost six game checks but they also ended up with a compressed season in which quality of play will be lower (which could affect a player's future earning power) and risk of injury will be higher. It is interesting that the most prominent "hawk" on the players' side (Kessler) was excluded from the final settlement process.

At Thursday, December 01, 2011 11:12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't place an asterisk on the Spurs '99 title.

Shortened season but the playoffs were the same.

Obviously, a 50 game season isn't ideal (especially 3 games in 3 nights) but I never saw their first title as tainted or anything.

At Thursday, December 01, 2011 2:20:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Coach Jackson's point is that the season was greatly shortened and compressed, which produced bad basketball and reduced the value of the seedings (the eighth seeded Knicks made it to the Finals). There is a big difference between surviving an 82 game marathon and then winning the championship versus playing a 50 game sprint prior to the playoffs.


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