A few thoughts before the fallout kills us all:
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that the owners have a conference call today to discuss the next steps in their response to the players’ response to their response to the bargaining session that fell apart last week. The worry is that on the back of the two antitrust lawsuits filed by the players this week, the hard line owners will take this idiotic game of brinksmanship to the next level, instead of the more pertinent action: some plaintive discussion of the fact they overreached and a discussion about how best to bridge the moderate gap between their position and that of the former players union.
It’s a serious test of David Stern’s leadership and a chance for him to rise above the sturm und drang on both sides and focus on the part of his job that extends beyond bleeding every ounce of blood from his players simply because he can. That part, of course, is his responsibility to shepherd the league past the embarrassments of the last five months, guide the warring factions towards détente, and get everyone back to work.
Given that the differences between the two sides are nothing close to irreconcilable, this should be achievable. And while we’re still unsure exactly how many allies Stern has amongst his ownership group and how influential the outliers are, it’s for these dark times the NBA Commissioner is supposed to be built. Fans expect little from the Michael Heisleys of the world in terms of their long term perspective on the continuity and health of the game, and, to be fair, little more than that from the Grizzlies’ players, but we well are within our bounds to expect Stern to keep the lights on in the absence of any great crisis.
And there is no great crisis here. There’s a 50-50 split and largely inconsequential differences on system issues.
Of course, there’s also a race to the top of Mount Pettiness via Disrespectful Pass.
I believe Stern’s legacy tilts heavily on whether or not he can avert a lost season and, more importantly, I think he believes that too. Despite the fact that Billy Hunter has been overmatched in this negotiation and deserves blame for this last second legal ploy that’s spun this thing to a new level of chaos, Stern will — justifiably — have to own the end result of this lockout. He set the inhospitable tone for the negotiations. Or he allowed it to be set for him. Either way, as commissioner, it’s on him.
So, Stern either deescalates the conflicts between players and owners, rallies everyone around the logic of grabbing the majority of $4 billion in revenue or he makes an end run around those that would trade the 2011-12 season for 53% of BRI and cuts a deal despite their protestations.
Those are two options for the end of this nasty business.
We better not get to option three.