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Why I Believe We'll Have Basketball by the New Year - An HQ Reader's Take

Continuing our theme of reader input and the current NBA lockout, reader Julien Rodger gives us his take on why he believes we'll still see a 2011-12 NBA season...


Like everyone else, I lost it for a few hours Monday with the news of the union dissolving. I came into the day expecting the possibility of the NBAPA vote being a no, but I expected worst case scenario was continued negotiations while the players filed their decertification petition (which would've had a 45 day window to be rescinded). The disclaimer being filed and throwing the season into jeopardy came out of the blue.

My main reason for outrage was how close they were. If reports are to believed, what separated them was essentially new freedom of movement rules the owners wanted - specifically, giving teams over the tax a smaller MLE (2.5 million annually) and the option to use it only once every 2 years, sign and trades being prohibited for teams over the luxury tax, and preventing extend-and-trades (as used in the Carmelo Anthony deal). It seems insane to me that both sides would put a season in jeopardy and massive amounts of revenue they'll never get back over details that small. There's 4 teams slated to be over the tax next season (LA Lakers, Boston, San Antonio and Orlando) and thus we're talking about maybe 4 MLE players going to large market teams instead of small market ones. Does this make a large difference to the majority of owners? And remember, one of the reasons small markets are in trouble is because they had the ability to hand out bad MLE contracts to players like Drew Gooden and Travis Outlaw - and the owners are making a fuss enough to ruin a season about having a greater share of the perennially doomed MLE signings? It also bears mentioning that the comprimise doesn't have to be as large as the difference between a 6 million MLE and 2.5 million MLE for tax teams. If they settled on a 4.25 million split, the difference between what each side wants and what they get is even more miniscule.

After coming this far, after months of negotiations and a gauntlet of 10-15 hour meetings since September, blowing up the season and both sides costing themselves this much revenue, over a few MLEs for a few players and the extend and trade rule, would be insane and unthinkable. Specifically from the players, who can just look at a precedent in the NFL attempting to file antitrust lawsuits only to be laughed out of court.

Unless it's a sham.

On top of this, the details of the players "plan" is looking sketchier and sketchier. Their lawyer David Boies came out after Monday's news and admitted he'd only been involved in this for a few hours and hadn't looked into the details of whether they can win the case whatsoever. Talk about lack of preparation on the player's part. Later, reported this:

"Boies said that it is possible to get summary judgement before the season is canceled, but their goal is to resolve it out of court. Settlement negotiations can occur at any time and "might be a pathway by which an agreement could be reached," said Boies."

Seems a clear a message as any that this is a negotiating ploy.

Then we found out Billy Hunter will not only be the head of the trial team for the players, but he'll maintain his 2.5 million salary in the process. Most have jumped on this as potentially ruining any case the players had for this to not be deemed a negotiating tactic - What kind of union is truly dissolved when its head still negotiates for them afterwards? Heck, Hunter even came out and said "It's never too late for David to call me" Monday afternoon. Who says that when they no longer have any power leading the union? If the players are serious about taking the owners to court, they've shown a complete lack of preparation and have already made a massive mistake by keeping Hunter as the head of a group that's no longer supposed to bargain collectively, playing right into the hands of the owners' case against them in court.

Unless it's a sham.

How about this direct quote from the union to the NBA:

"We can no longer assert any labor law righs on behalf of the players, and we will be withdrawing our unfair labor practice charge before the National Labor Relations Board."

Does that sound finalized to you? Because it doesn't to me. Even if the union is officially dissolved, would it really take long for it to be reinstated? It's the court authorized decertification (requiring the 45 day wait) that they can't come back from in time for a season. Not the disclaimer of interest.

What I believe is this. We are still a concession on either side away from this lockout being over. Since Hunter is still the head of the players, just as the "National Basketball Trade Association" rather than the NBAPA, not much has changed in that respect other than legal negotiating being less possible and the owners taking their 47% BRI offer stance. Ultimatly, this damage is not irreversible. If the union is even officially dissolved, it can be reformed.

The pieces simply do not line up to me - that issues as seemingly small as new freedom of movement rules would lead to this catastrophe. True, ego and pride and stubbornness is in part to blame for this decision, but money and lost revenue speaks louder than pride. If it's a negotiating ploy, the move for the players may have been to wait out the owners and get them to buckle. And if they don't buckle, at the very least they step back on the 47% reset offer that was threatened if this deal wasn't accepted. It gives the players a much needed "We're not messing around" moment.

Until it becomes obvious that the players are serious about this move and the court process has begun, I'm not panicking. I still believe both sides want games to start by Christmas, which gives them until 2 weeks from now to finally hammer out a deal. I expect basketball to be played on January 1st in spite of the madness of the last few days.

Julien Rodger