I’m hoping that this is the last day of the lockout. I’m also unsure of whether it will be or not. Regardless, I’m doing this post now because I’ll be out all night cheering on MAC football that shouldn’t feature 100-something points, because Temple’s involved (and that’s hopefully when the labor situation resolves).
While I had been intending to focus on twitter-gaming this week, I, like many others, read Ken Berger’s article today on the “Hard-Line Nine”. It just so happens that the Sixers are among the hard-line teams. The following is an excerpt from Berger’s column, “Despite the risks, NBA’s hard-line owners not backing down”:
The driving force behind this reset offer is a group of hard-line owners who needed a tireless and significant working over by Stern in recent weeks to get them to agree to offer the players a 50 percent share of BRI and a system that technically has no hard team salary cap. According to multiple people familiar with ownership dynamics, the effort Stern had to engage in to rein in the hard-liners and make the proposal that is on the table until 5 p.m. Wednesday should not be underestimated.
“They’re all good with 50-50,” one of the people briefed on the negotiations said of the owners. “David had to push and pull to get them all there, but they’re there. So why not give it to all the players and let them say, ‘Yay or nay?’ ”
In recent days, multiple people with direct knowledge of negotiations have identified the nine teams pushing the hardest for a draconian rollback of salaries and rules governing player contracts and team payrolls. According to those people, the teams holding the hardest line in negotiations have been Atlanta, Charlotte, Indiana, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Portland and Washington. These nine owners or ownership groups have been trying, with increasing success in recent weeks, to recruit more moderate owners to their cause. If the players reject the deal on the table, the NBA will be turned over to the Hard-Line Nine, and it won’t be pretty. “Nuclear winter,” as Kobe Bryant referred to it in an interview with Yahoo Sports, just about sums it up.
As has been the theme of lockout coverage on this blog, everyone, individually, has an agenda.
The owners have been grouped into one collective despite having 30 different agendas. Notably missing from the “Hard-Line Nine” are Robert Sarver and Dan Gilbert. Each has his motivations. Despite having a reputation as cheap (and he still might have earned it, but whatever), Sarver has dished out lots of cash as an NBA owner. So much so that he needs something to prevent himself from overspending. While the revenues are a big deal, something to control his wallet and get the mid-level exception in a designer handbag seemed like his goal to me. Meanwhile, Gilbert has acted like a jilted ex for a year and a half now. While he was characterized as “hard-line”, his main grievance was that the small markets could not compete with larger markets for player procurement, except through the lottery, where he’s had terrific fortune (inheriting a young LeBron and getting Kyrie with the Clippers pick). A reduction in player rights should be his main concern. And this “hard-line nine” makeup proved it – these guys are solely after more and more cash, no matter the cost.
Some of the names are expected. Charlotte, Indiana, Milwaukee, Minnesota, and Memphis, five of the smallest market teams, have failed to make money anytime recently (for Charlotte and Memphis, at all really). Atlanta ownership is fickle, stingy at times and spendthrift at others (hello, Joe Johnson). They also tend to fight amongst themselves and have been in the process of a sale, though that fell through. Portland spends a crapton of money every year, and has maybe the richest owner in American sports, but may be looking to sell with mounting losses. The other two, Washington and, yes, Philadelphia*, make some sense but have more to blame on themselves than the system. Mismanagement for years has put these teams in the red.
*With what Comcast was losing, I firmly believe they would have been hard-liners too.
The Wizards play in the 8/9th largest media market (flip-flopping with Atlanta), have a relatively new owner in Ted Leonsis, a guy who seemingly tries to connect with fans but fails in this type of situation. As an owner of an NHL team, he’s a lockout veteran and, presumably, knows that a year-long lockout will give him exactly what he wants. It’s a difference from his blogger portrayal, but it seems right. Meanwhile, the Sixers have lost money over the years (due to mismanagement, not some market disadvantage) and, with, new ownership, want to ensure profitability with their investment. I don’t agree with them, but the hard-liners have a point – they want to not lose money. The profits will still go the best teams and the ones in the biggest markets.
But here’s a novel idea for the “hard-line nine”: do your jobs, or get someone that can. You are smart, successful people. Make smart decisions. Don’t make David Kahn your GM. Don’t sign mediocre players to long-term contracts and complain that they suck. Don’t screw up trades that ultimately save you no money. Don’t give Drew Gooden a 5-year contract and complain that you have no cap flexibility. Show some reserve. Take some responsibility. And don’t screw it up for us.