The NBAPA has no choice now - they must blink first.

I believe that David Stern and the League now have the upper hand in the labor negotiations with the NBAPL. All the talk on both sides about Hard Caps, Flex Caps, Graduating Luxury Taxes, Designer hand bags with the MLE inside, and "blood issues" are a smokescreen obscuring the real issue. The split of revenues between the Owners and the Players has always been at the crux of this lockout. How to share the League's $4 Billion in revenues is the heart of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, if there is to be one.

It appears that Stern has convinced the Owners to finally make a move on the BRI issue and have offered a 50/50 split to the players. The League started by asking for a 45% split... While the players offered 54.3%. Way back when, when this lockout first started, Fifty-Fifty seemed like the perfect solution. Each side moving towards the middle, until they get to 50/50 - and we'd have a deal. That is what I have been waiting for. Let's face it, this is what EVERYONE has been waiting for.

A 50/50 split would effectively eliminate 90% of the League's claimed $300 Million losses. There's no agreement yet - but the Union would be crazy not to accept an agreement before Monday; and I'll explain below the jump.

The Owners have already admitted that their non-player expenses have risen at a greater rate than players salaries - which have been capped at 57% of BRI. Part of those "non-player expenses" are for things like coach and front office salaries, advertising and expansion of digital media - but it also includes paying for fired Coaches salaries..... So it seems to be an easy stretch to think that with a 50/50 split of BRI, the Owners could become profitable as the League continues to grow, and if they control some of their non-player expenses. Interestingly, the non-player expenses that had been growing between 4-11% every year, suddenly dropped and actually shrank 1% last year. So at least we know the Owners can control themselves on non-player related expenses. The League projects 4% growth over the next several years; and that growth, along with a big fat new National Television contract will almost assure the League profits for the foreseeable future.

So here we are.... Finally at the end of the long chess game; The Owners offered 50/50 - and the Union said................."No".... uh....what?

Actually they didn't  say "No"...  The Players asked for another meeting to see if an agreement could be reached before doomsday (Monday). The owners agreed to meet on the condition the players agree to a 50-50 split of basketball-related income. The owners demanded an up-front agreement to the 50-50 split before they would agree to meet. The Players would not to attend a negotiating session under those preset conditions. I'm not sure I disagree - I mean isn't that what the negotiating sessions are for? To negotiate this split? After all, the Union has not even had time to get feedback from the rank and file regarding the Owner's latest proposal.

Now we hear that there is disagreement over the details of the proposed 50-50 split that was offered in the last bargaining session. It appears that the owners actually offered the players a 49% split, increasing to 51% if certain incentives are reached related to the projected growth of the league. The players countered with 51%, increasing to 53%. The owners turned that down. Are the two sides really just 2% apart?

I see why the Union wouldn't agree to preconditions to meet. The 50/50 split is a relatively new concept; at least in the formal negotiations. But we're getting closer and closer to actually losing real games - and that means real losses for players. There are some hard line players (KG, Pierce, D-Wade) calling for the Union to stand firm - but I cannot believe that the rank and file players really want to lose games. The big name players can probably afford to lose some games - but the mid level and lower level players will lose salary, and they are the ones that make up the majority. The Union was right in not accepting preconditions to a meeting - but they should be polling their rank and file to find out where they stand on the split. I believe if they poll the players, an overwhelming majority would accept a 50/50 split.

Larry Coon had a terrific article on ESPN.COM about how much money the players will lose if the first two weeks of the season are canceled.

The players are holding out for an additional $120 million in 2011-12, but holding out costs them $82.4 million per week. They would lose everything they stand to gain this season in less than two weeks. On Monday the league is expected to announce the cancellation of the first two weeks of the season, which will cost the players $164.8 million.





However this turns out - it's getting closer and closer to the point where the Union will have no choice but to cave in, and sign whatever deal is on the table.  Let's remember everyone - they're fighting over $120 Million... a relative drop in the $4 Billion NBA revenue bucket. When they are this close, losing games (and losing money) makes very little sense from the Player's perspective.

 

Let's hope the Union agrees before games are actually canceled.

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