NBA has its own Melo-drama

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:38 PM ET

LOS ANGELES — Next to the ongoing Melo drama, no issue has dominated all-star weekend more than collective bargaining and the prospects of a work stoppage if a new deal isn’t reached by June 30.

During his annual address to the media, commissioner David Stern ended his opening remarks by referring to “this little issue about collective bargaining.

“I think it’s fair to say that we and the players have each made proposals to the other. We have each expressed to the other our dissatisfaction with each other’s proposals.”

As long as there’s no deal in place, an interruption to the season, which is what happened in 1998 when a lockout resulted in a 38-game season, or a complete cancellation remain very much possible.

But if there’s any glimmer of hope it’s that neither side is expressing the kind of acrimony that prevailed prior to this weekend.

On Friday, Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBA Players’ Association, categorized a two-hour meeting as “pretty cordial” and “amicable.” It was the first formal session between the NBA and its players since November.

And then on Saturday, Stern said a series of meetings will soon be held in New York.

According to league projections, a total of $350 million in losses will be felt this season.

For that reason, the owners are eyeing a hard salary cap to replace the current soft system that allows for exceptions. Owners are also seeking lesser contract lengths and values and non-guaranteed deals.

In the NBA, money is king and the teams willing to exceed the tax threshold aren’t guaranteed anything, the New York Knicks being the most obvious example, but teams willing to spend usually find themselves in the mix of a title race.

Be it the Lakers, Mavs, Celtics, Heat, Magic and even a small-market team such as San Antonio, teams that aren’t afraid to dole out the dough give themselves a chance.

Anthony could potentially be the first major superstar to sign under a new agreement.

“Nobody knows what’s going to happen with the lockout,” Anthony said. “If I was to sit here and say I’m not thinking about that, I would be lying to you guys. I don’t want to go into no lockout. I don’t think none of the players want to go into a lockout, so I hope that we can just come to an agreement.’’

Kevin Garnett, whose $100 million deal signed in Minnesota more than a decade ago helped convince the owners that something was amiss with the system, echoed Melo’s sentiment.

“If any player tells you it’s not on his mind, he’s lying,’’ Garnett said. “It’s something we’re going to deal with as players, as a whole, along with the NBA to get it done.

“Hopefully, we can get it done in a class manner, which both sides deserve. It’s unfortunate, but it’s business.’’

At the end of the day, no one puts a gun to an owner’s head to okay a deal that isn’t fiscally prudent.

Whether it was Garnett’s deal with the T’Wolves or the Knicks’ $100 million deal for Amare Stoudemire this off-season, the owners, more than anyone, are to blame for this current mess.

It’s ironic that Stern would describe the state of the game of basketball as being in “great shape. It’s never been better.”

But the business model is broken, one that may require plenty of bloodletting before every team can honestly say it has a chance to win a championship.

Stern was asked what lessons have been learned from the last lockout.

“What we have learned, and what the union has learned, is that we both have the capacity to shut down the league; that there’s no magic that’s going to keep this league operating if we don’t make a deal.

“That’s a very instructive lesson.”

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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