Reasonably, as long as they are trying to make a deal with the players rather than pancake them, the NBA owners would accept the 50-50 BRI split players offered on Tuesday, make system tweaks by Wednesday, and David Stern and Billy Hunter would shake hands with a tentative agreement Wednesday evening.
In a negotiation that was initially expected to come down to money, players have already agreed to $330 million worth of givebacks per season, according to Ken Berger, more than exceeding last year’s reported NBA losses. The problem is, NBA owners have been portrayed as far from reasonable, and David Stern may not hold any more power among them.
Hunter was the latest to question whether Stern is anything more than a puppet for the owners at this point. He actually wondered aloud whether Stern is now a “hostage” of NBA owners. (CBS Sports)
I asked Hunter, knowing Stern for as long as he has, how he expected the commissioner to react to having his bluff called Tuesday.
“I don’t know that we’ve ever called his bluff,” Hunter said.
“I think you just did,” I replied.
“It’s yet to be seen,” Hunter said. “My concern and what I’m trying to determine is whether or not David may be a hostage in his own camp. That’s what kind of concerns me, what’s going on over there. He may not have the sway that he once had. He’s been a hell of a commissioner, but I’m not sure.”
This thought is scarier than Rajon Rondo dribbling the ball thirty feet from the basket, Celtics down three, Game 7 of the NBA Finals, no time left to pass to anyone.*
What if Stern really isn’t calling the shots anymore? What if Dan Gilbert, Paul Allen and Michael Jordan have somehow seized control of the negotiations? What if the NBA owners really won’t budge from the proposal they made this weekend, which the players already decided they could not accept?
A prolonged legal battle centering on decertification of the union? The owners reversion to offering players 47% of the BRI split and a (mostly) hard cap, which the players would never accept? One year lost? More?
Hunter has already moved the players farther than they reasonably could have been expected to move. It’s David Stern’s turn now, unless he is nothing but a tool for the owners to boss around.
If Hunter’s worries are well-founded, if Stern is really being controlled, these lockout negotiations could soon resemble what Kobe Bryant called “nuclear winter.”
*Who am I kidding? At this point, if you told me the next NBA season would come down to one play, Celtics down three, Game 7 of the NBA Finals, Rondo shooting a thirty-foot jumper, I would A) call you a liar, and then B) jump for joy at the possibility you might be telling the truth.