NBA labour issues escalate quickly

JOHN McMULLEN, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 3:31 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Listening to David Stern speak after the NBA's recent Board of Governors meeting, I couldn't help but think about Ron Burgundy addressing his Channel 4 news team after a rumble with other local San Diego news outlets.

"Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast," the world's funniest news anchor said.

After finishing two days of meetings with the league's owners, Stern and his deputy commissioner Adam Silver admitted that the NBA would be seeking sharp rollbacks from the current collective bargaining agreement that expires on June 30 of next year.

In fact I think I heard a faint whisper of the The Gap Band's 1982 hit "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" when Stern took a page out of Burgundy's playbook claiming there was no "quantifiable progress" in collective bargaining talks over the summer, and that the league will be seeking a reduction in player costs by about one-third, or $750-800 million dollars from the $2.1 billion currently earmarked for salaries and benefits.

CBSSports later reported that salaries weren't the only area that the NBA was looking to cut and brought up the "C" word -- contraction.

If Champ Kind were here, he might say "It jumped up a notch."

"We would like to get profitable, have a return on investment," Stern said of his league and its owners. "There's a swing of somewhere in the neighborhood of $750 to $800 million that we would like to change. That's our story and we're sticking with it."

A strange sentence to end that statement with but Stern is ever-mindful of the players association's thoughts on the subject.

Most agree that the Unites States economy is not running on all cylinders right now and some have even argued that it's come off the tracks completely, but the players can't help thinking Stern is using fuzzy math to ensure a crisis isn't put to waste.

In essence the NBPA and all of its millionaires have now become like average rank and file workers across America, suspicious of management

Silver confirmed the league told its union that owners are in a "diseconomic situation" in which 57% of basketball-related income is funneled directly to the players. Under the current CBA, according to Silver, the NBA has projected league-wide losses of about $340-350 million this season, over $30 million per team.

Recent empirical evidence supports Billy Hunter, the executive director of the players association, and his constituents , however.

A doom-and-gloom prediction by the NBA that the salary cap would decrease from $57.7 million to $50.4 million in 2010 was way off and the league announced that the cap would actually increase next season to $58 million, a development that actually upset a number of the league's owners, who were taken by surprise.

Those same owners are continuing to spend at a dizzying pace despite the sour economy while season tickets sales and merchandising revenues are up. Meanwhile, the NBA's massive television contract is a fixed number that is never affected by the strength or lack thereof of the economy unless its television partners go bell-up, an unlikely scenario.

Silver downplayed that rosy outlook.

"Even though we reported we have record season ticket sales over the summer and otherwise very robust revenue generation, because of the built-in cost of the system, it's virtually impossible for us to move the needle in terms of our losses," Silver said. "There's no chance we can change the fundamental economics regardless of our success because it just costs us too much money to generate those sales."

The NBPA by asking why the haves of the league can't expand revenue sharing in order to offset the losses of the have-nots, something Stern and Silver claimed was coming but only when a new deal is agreed upon.

NBA Gross revenues are projected to shatter the league's all-time record this season thanks to increased interest after the "Summer of LeBron," and the league's burgeoning worldwide popularity. At the same time the NBA is drowning in red ink thanks to the excesses of owners who can't control their spending.

It's now Stern's job to save his owners from themselves at the expense of his players.

And somehow stay classy while doing it.


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