Tim Cowlishaw has a column in today’s Morning News [reg. req.] about the continuing NBA lockout. His thesis statement:
There is only one set of “bad guys,” and those are the owners represented by Commissioner David Stern. I don’t see the players as bad guys in this deal. There’s another word for it.
I believe it’s called “idiots.”
Before I go much further, I just want to point out that I generally like Cowlishaw’s column. And, here, I think he has a point that there are probably too many agents with, if not a seat at the table, at least too much influence. Also, yes, I know, we’re talking about billionaires squabbling with millionaires while many are living paycheck to paycheck (in some cases, at best). STIPULATED. (Also, also, basically none of my ire is directed at Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. One, he’s been pretty quiet in all of this. Two, he’s made some mistakes payroll-wise but I’ve never heard him looking to Stern for a handout. Three, I think if he were allowed to be more involved, this thing would already be over.)
All that said, I don’t believe you can call the players “idiots.” They overplayed their hand by not really engaging in any meaningful discussions until it was clear games would have to be canceled. I guess they felt the owners, already crying poor, would really start to sweat when they started losing revenue from games. They didn’t, and so there was no more leverage. So that wasn’t the smartest play, no.
But are they idiots? They’re losing money right now they’ll never get back. That is true. They lose an entire season, some guys will lose other things. For instance, it would be hard for Kobe Bryant to make any sort of run at the all-time points record without even an abbreviated schedule this year. But I understand what they’re doing. Not all of it may make a ton of sense, but I understand.
They’re fighting against the most unbelievable collection of self-serving, deluded, devious a-holes this side of the cast of Inside Job. The players were never going to win, and it was never going to be close. But every time they give in, the owners just up their demands. Under the last labor agreement — which the owners happily went along with, no guns to their heads — the players received 57 percent of basketball-related income (BRI). Have some owners lost money in recent years? Yes. Why? THEY are idiots. I wouldn’t trust Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver to successfully make me a sandwich. He’d overpay for pimento loaf or something, then have to give away all the other ingredients. He’s just one, and he’s one of the hardliners, keeping his foot on the throats of the players. Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has a truly awesome son, and basically nothing else to recommend him. He writes in Comic Sans. He SPEAKS in Comic Sans.
And yet, even though the financial mess was the owners’ own doing, the players made concessions. As Cowlishaw points out in that column, the players’ offer to split BRI 50-50 would have made up for the money the owners were losing. But the owners want more blood. And, you know, it’s hard to give in under those circumstances. Jim Dolan has mismanaged the New York Knicks in every conceivable way, and he’s going to come out ahead on this. The Maloof brothers have ruined the Sacramento Kings because of their own lack of financial aptitude, and they’ll come out ahead. At least for a while: bad owners are bad owners, and all those guys couldn’t function under any possible labor agreement. The players could have to pay to play, and the Maloofs would still figure out how to lose money. Dolan, Gilbert, Sarver — all those guys. Same with the good owners — they’d figure out how to prosper in any situation.
I’m frustrated that there is no basketball. It is the only sport I truly love. My team is the reigning NBA champions. I should be ecstatic. But no. And I’m angry for the workaday employees losing money (and maybe their jobs) in all of this. Truly. But I’m fully behind the players on this.
I’m sure many of you disagree. Let’s talk it out in the comments. But, please, let’s try to keep it mildly antagonistic.