To me, at least in terms of pure economics, the owners are just following the optimal strategy to maximize their long term profits. Sheridan calls it “being lawyers instead of being humans” but I say it’s playing the game within the confines of the rules provided. Not to say it’s the most magnanimous negotiating strategy, but what economic motive do they have to let up? To be charitable? Please.
One could argue, I suppose, that there are detrimental factors involved in the PR nightmare that the lockout will continue to provoke and the loss of good will that could follow when the league comes back online. That there will be, for lack of a better term, a grudge factor that leads to substantial lost revenue.
Yet the NBA looks over to it’s most closely related cousin in the sports world, the NHL, and sees a sport that had to sacrifice an entire season to get an owner friendly deal. And you know what? The fans came back and that league looks a heck of a lot healthier now than it did eight or nine years ago. Ultimately this will only embolden the owners belief that they can risk the good will of the casual NBA follower because in the long run the association offers a product that can’t be duplicated anywhere in the world. Sad as it is to say, I think they’re right.
D) The players were destined to lose, and lose big
In a way, this was all just kismet.
I honestly believe that the owners knew that this was the path they were going to take all along and what we’re seeing now is their strategy playing out to a tee.
Start off with a ridiculous low ball offer, gradually work up to a more reasonable position, generously “conceding” on certain items like a hard cap that were never part of any collective bargaining agreement to begin with and never agreed to in principal by both parties. This gives the appearance of negotiating while really just masking the true motive of squeezing every dollar possible out of the union.
And while you can argue that it’s disingenuous or cutthroat or in bad faith, you can’t argue with the effectiveness of it as a tactic. In short, from a profit maximizing standpoint, this was exactly how the owners should have played it. And since we’re working on the premise that the owners primary objective is to maximize their profit, why are we surprised at all that we got to this point? Why despair the lack of reason when it appears that the owners are simply making the most rational economic choices possible.
The truth is the players never had a chance here. Without an ounce of leverage to battle back with there is really nothing they could have done to prevent this, other than to sign off on the owners list of system demands on Monday and take whatever offer was on the table, walking home in shame with their proverbial tail between their legs. Not going to happen.
In addition, the one game changing option they could employ, the nuclear bomb of decertifying the union, probably won’t come to pass because there would be too much money lost to role players who by in large make up the majority of union members.
Sure, Sebastian Telfair and Brandon Bass and J.J. Barea may have budgeted for a few months of missed paychecks, but will any of those guys be willing to to sacrifice an entire season of NBA salary to fight to the bitter end, especially if getting a more player friendly collective bargaining agreement would hardly be a sure thing? I doubt it. As many bystanders point out, including Bill Simmons, the money they lose now will never come back into their pockets. Just look at the recent writer’s strike in Hollywood for evidence of that.
It seems to me that the players have only two choices: lose big now or lose big later. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, and I know that ego plays a factor in not wanting to surrender so readily, but at some point they have to realize the outcome isn’t in doubt. In fact it never has been.
“Victorious warriors win first, then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war then seek to win.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
The players may not know it yet, but they’ve already lost. Sadder still, so have the fans.