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NBA: Players just don't get it

By Gordon Monson
Salt Lake Tribune
Doomsday! The Mayans were right! The end is near! Armageddon is here! Run! Run! Run for your lives!
Or …
Just bag the NBA and its ridiculous group of crybaby players who are out of touch with owners, out of touch with fans, out of touch with the realities of business in these tough economic times, and sit back. Chill.
Put a steak on the barbecue, a log on the fire, read a good book by Hemingway or Tolstoy, play with the kids, spend some quality time with the spouse or with friends.
What are we supposed to do, raise a glass to the players’ stupidity and greed?
When those players showed up at a news conference to announce that they not only would decline the owners’ final labor proposal, but that they also would decertify the players union, sending the whole matter to a whole other kind of court, they showed up with scowls on their faces, $10,000 suits draped around them and with diamonds the size of hubcaps in their ears.
The players simply don’t get it. They’re losing the negotiations with the owners and the public-relations battle with everybody else, and they have no clue why.
Here’s why: They’re not as smart as the owners.
The owners, who aren’t exactly angels or free of error in all this, have at least stayed consistent with their message from the beginning. Going back more than two years, they have taken a hard stance to rearrange their bottom line and, a much nobler motive, to create an atmosphere across the league in which all kinds of teams in all kinds of markets can compete and contend for a title.
The Lakers, Celtics and Mavs shouldn’t win every stinking year.
Players don’t care about any of that. They were willing to give up a good number of concessions involving the basketball-related income, but were sticklers on aforementioned system issues in the talks that were installed by owners to balance out the league’s competition.
It would have created a better NBA.
The proposal would have banned or limited extend-and-trade and sign-and-trade deals and big contract options. It would have made it easier for teams to keep their homegrown talent, rather than losing it to cherry-picking franchises in bigger markets. Without boring everyone with details, basically, it came down to this: Rich teams that spend freely, regardless of the luxury tax, suddenly would be harnessed by parts of the owners’ proposal.
That’s a bad thing for certain players and their agents. It’s a good thing for everybody else.
It matters little now.
With the players’ rejection of the last proposal and decertification of the union, alongside the filing of an antitrust suit against the NBA, it’s now a crapshoot. One that doesn’t particularly bode well for the players.
The truth: A labor dispute that should have been solved with the players’ acquiescence has devolved into an all-out war, or, as David Stern called it, a “nuclear winter.”
It’s not like the players were being stripped down to nothing. They would still be extremely wealthy men, almost all of them making multiple millions.
Still, union president Derek Fisher said, “This is the best decision for the players.”
Union vice president Maurice Evans called the players’ move “a risk worth taking.”
In that regard, the NBA, as has been the case throughout, seems a step ahead of the players. The league previously filed a lawsuit aiming not only to show the lockout is legal, but also that if there is no union, then the guaranteed contracts negotiated earlier with the players association in place could be voided.
The players, on the other hand, hope to win billions in a long, drawn-out fight as a reward for their antitrust action.
Most of the legal beagles I’ve talked to believe the NBA has the upper hand here. The players’ lead guys disagree. Jeffrey Kessler, who will represent the players’ new trade association — the same man who last week compared NBA owners to plantation owners — insists the lockout is illegal.
It’s a desperate course that will delay the path to top-level pro basketball actually being played at any point in the near future. A lot of people think the 2011-12 NBA season is a goner. And it probably is.
It’s not so much, then, that the players’ actions will bring them victory in this labor war. It will just postpone a win for management, a win for balanced competition in the NBA, and a win for fans.
Until then, everybody loses.
At least as long as everybody, or anybody, still cares.

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