By John Schmeelk
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It was always going to come down to this. The NBA has made what it is calling its last and best offer. I believe it is. The deal is now in the hands of the NBPA along with the season. If the NBA players don’t agree to ratify the deal I think there’s a better chance we have no basketball in 2012 than we do. If the NBA players do indeed decide to reject the owner’s proposal, it will be one of the most irrational decisions I’ve seen in a long time.
The players have already lost and they never really had a chance. Unlike a good number of owners, they were never willing to miss a season. The owners always had the hammer and they were very free in swinging it. The players have already conceded on the economic issues, giving back over a billion dollars over the life of the deal. The system issues remaining are minor in comparison, and will not affect player movement or freedom to an extent that should warrant missing a season. It just isn’t worth it.
A lot of people argue that the players have every right to reject this deal since they have made most of the concessions up until now, while the owners have remained stubborn and moved very little. They’re right in that the players have been far more willing to compromise and are coming up very short when compared to the last CBA. But none of that matters now. The players have absolutely no leverage in this situation and the only responsible thing to do is sign on the dotted line.
If reports are to be believed there are about a dozen teams that think the current offer the NBA players dislike so much is too generous. They want to bring the players down to 47% of BRI and institute a hard cap. If the players reject the offer on the table, the eventual agreement will look a lot more like what the hard line owners want than what is on the table. If a season was ever missed, the player’s resolve will crumble entirely and they will wind up with a far worse deal than they have in front of them now.
That’s why the players would be irrational fools to reject the current proposal. It isn’t going to get any better. Right now they have as much leverage as they are going to have. The threat of decertification sounds like it could create leverage but it really doesn’t. The NBA would take their chances in court and try to win the case in the same way the NFL did. The only thing decertification does is extend this process with a lengthy legal process, one that would most likely blow up the season. (ie: More missed checks) There are very few people out there that think the owners will make a better offer if the players decertify.
The only thing that would motivate the players to reject this deal and trigger their nuclear decertification option is ego. If they use their heads, they would admit to themselves that this is the best they are going to get, fair or not. If their egos don’t let themselves take a loss like this in the negotiating process, they will regret it in 8 months when they sign a far worse deal. Those are their two choices. Neither is good, but one is markedly better than the other. If they agree to the current deal, they only miss about one paycheck, play a 72 game season, and still play in a system with no hard cap that will see their salaries increase over the course of the agreement. On the other hand, if they reject the current deal they will miss multiple paychecks (perhaps all if the season is lost – which is a real possibility), and get a worse long term deal down the road. It seems easy, doesn’t it?
This is where Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter step in. They need to explain to the player reps that this is the best the union is going to get. As unpalatable as it seems, the players are left no good choices other than to accept it. They need to explain the risks of rejecting it and decertifying. They need to tell their players that David Stern is serious and he is not bluffing. Once they make that very honest explanation, the entire NBPA needs to vote. This should not be in the hands of the reps. It is too important for the whole of the union not to vote on it. I believe a majority of the players would vote to play. Will their leadership let them?
And that’s where we stand. The NBA owners have driven a hard bargain, too hard of one in my opinion, but that was their right. The players never had any leverage and now they are in the corner staring at a deal they don’t like. When they turn around and look at their other option, they see a lost season and the possibility of an even worse deal in the future. They need to choose to play for all our sakes, most importantly, their own. As unseemly as it might be, this is me begging and pleading with the players to use their heads and ratify this thing. There’s no other good option to have a season. Play ball.
The NBA season will be saved or destroyed very soon. Follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/Schmeelk for all the latest on the Knicks, Giants, NBA, and even some MLB.