It's odd to consider that training camp isn't scheduled to begin until October. We've missed out on free agency and the Summer League, but what we're missing more than anything right now is definition on exactly where the players and the owners stand. The NBA is big business, but this whole mess is starting to sound like politics...and I hate politics.
A recent edition of The Hook discussed the spin David Stern is using to characterize both sides of the negotiation. Ziller asserts that at least the fans deserve honesty, and that's the most curious thing when you consider the growth the league needs to make itself profitable depends on the stars Stern is painting as ludicrously greedy. It's obviously counterproductive, and that's why a public cease-fire is more encouraging than it appears on the surface.
Take another look at the politics metaphor. Your average, relatively apathetic voter makes up their mind on the issues based on how far they're willing to research them, and what the parties are telling them. But this is professional sports in America during the Information Age. American sports fans are highly motivated and take a deep interest in the problems afflicting their sport. When the talk turns esoteric, the blogging intelligentsia are there to take up the slack, and we actively listen, taking the time to grasp the angles involved.
When public comprehension is so high and demand is unified (we just want to see ball played), nothing but the truth can hold its shape. And like the Wizard of Oz, when the machinations are revealed, the man behind the curtain can't help but seem a little pathetic. To be fair, this is a game both sides have played, though one definitely more than the other. Rather than head further down this road when the public has been educated in record time, an armistice has been declared at last week's bargaining session. From the New York Times' Howard Beck:
Fisher also said parties agreed to dispense with the rhetoric and public shots at each other.
While obviously this isn't V-E day, this could be the balance point that sees momentum finally start swinging the other way. Why? Both sides have been stating their cases in the media, with the blogosphere generating most of the meaningful analysis. However, even talking about the issues creates the illusion of work towards some kind of conclusion instead of the growling and feinting in the puppet show.
As most of us have been quick to notice, despite the steady trickle of (dis)information, nothing has actually been happening on the negotiating front. In other words, the NBA is content to sit on their superior short-term bargaining position provided the media is being fed something. But with no rhetoric and no progress, the NBA will feel pressured to show something, and with the players demonstrating desire to play with their goodwill exhibitions while the union reps demonstrate urgency, can the NBA really afford to appear less committed to finding a solution? We're about to find out.