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Schmeelk: NBA Fans, There’s A Light At The End Of The Lockout Tunnel

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Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter (credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter (credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

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By John Schmeelk
» More Columns

Sure, it might be dim. It’s barely gleaming around corners and in between the shadows.

But it’s there. The light at the end of the tunnel.

After a day of negotiating and serious movement by both sides, it’s pretty obvious that there is a deal to be had.

Before I get going, I want to give credit where credit is due. While the following opinions are mine, I wouldn’t be able to form them without the excellent reporting from Ken Berger, Chris Mannix, Brian Mahoney and Adrian Wojnarowski, who are covering this lockout extremely well. Thanks to them for keeping us all well informed.

It appears the two sides are now only about $80 million (in 2011-2102) apart, according to Berger. The owners understood the importance of the weekend, and told the players they are willing to make a 50/50 split of revenue and backed off on most of the changes to the system they wanted to implement (hard cap, elimination of mid-level and Larry Bird exceptions, salary rollbacks, max contract amount/length).

The players answered with a decrease in their BRI demands, but they stopped at 52%, a mere 2% short of the owners’ offer.  Quite frankly, this is piddling money and it is now as much about egos as it is anything else. NBA superstars like Kevin Garnett wanted to draw their line in the sand at 52% or 53%, and going lower is a blow to their characters and manhood.

They are willing to lose games to win that fight. Remember, these guys are athletes and they HATE to lose at ANYTHING, including negotiations.

Giving in on this is something they don’t have inside of them. Considering the money they’ve collected over the course of their careers, they are willing to lose a couple weeks or months of games to try to get what they want.

Likewise, player agents, who care about nothing but the percentage of their clients’ salaries, didn’t even want the union to offer a 52% BRI split. They are reportedly sending letters to their players telling them not to concede on any issues. In other words, they want the NBA season to be canceled.

But in the end, it comes to down to one thing: Cash is King. While NBA superstars have been present at these negotiations and are the face of the league, the truth is that they are a small minority of the NBA players’ association. Once the rank and file who haven’t cashed in on mega-contracts find out they can go back to work with a 50-50 split and no hard cap, Derek Fisher’s phone is going to start ringing.

Those are the guys that can’t afford not to get their first game check on November 15th. Those are the guys that can’t get the contract overseas to play in Europe or China. Those are the rookies that haven’t even seen a dollar yet and are quite anxious to cash in on their NBA careers.

Those are the guys that are going to get this deal done.

In the end, I don’t even think David Stern is going to have to move again, though he might give a small concession out of good faith. I honestly believe that the owners’ best offer, or at least something extremely close to it, is on the table. The NBAPA will get pressure from their membership to move again, and they will.

Fisher talked a big game after Tuesday’s sessions about how they aren’t planning any more meetings. The NBA announced that if there’s no deal by Monday the first two weeks of games will be canceled. If there isn’t any negotiating done on Wednesday or Thursday, either privately or publicly, I’ll be shocked.

I think by Monday there will be enough of a consensus to save the full season. If not, the most the NBA will miss is a month or two, and there will be games at the start of 2012. I’d say there’s a 60% chance shot the NBA plays games in 2011, and about a 30% chance there will be a 1999-style season.

That leaves a 10% chance of Armageddon, and here’s how it could happen: The rank and file players get angry over the owners talking publicly about their unofficial offer, listen to their agents, refuse to negotiate further, AND decide to decertify as a union. This would throw this whole process into the time consuming court system. That could seriously put the season at risk.

I don’t think that’s going to happen.

I admit that there’s a chance that I’m being too optimistic here. I think Billy Hunter proclaims far too confidently that the players are willing to miss games. There isn’t anyone out there that doesn’t want to collect their paychecks. The two sides are too close to make that sort of sacrifice.

Sooner or later it will get done.

Schmeelk’s Snippets

-          The best part of Tuesday for NBA fans was the cancellation of the rest of the preseason. That means for season ticket holders like me, there will be no payments for preseason games that no one wants to go to.

You can follow me on twitter for everyone on the NBA, Giants, NFL and the Yankees: http://twitter.com/#!/Schmeelk.

Do you agree with Schmeelk, or do you foresee NBA Armageddon? Be heard in the comments below…

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