NBA showing fans no respect

SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 3:47 PM ET

TORONTO - It would come as no surprise if an anxious fan read the headline, "NBA releases 2011/12 regular season schedule," and elated at the thought the dreaded lockout cost no games - they're disappointment once realizing nothing has been resolved between the league and the NBA Players Association is as understandable.

Of course, the NBA would claim the announcement be nothing more than taking care of business as usual and though some may side with the league for being optimistic a deal can be reached before the start of the season, it seems more like a move to draw in season ticketholders to fork over money for games that may never be played.

Though refunds would be given for any games missed due to the strike, the idea of asking fans to invest in a product that may not be available, due to a group of billionaire owners griping over millions with millionaire athletes, seems a bit disingenuous.

A possible ploy to dissuade fans from the idea NBA basketball may just not be on the slate come fall is a sign the league is not faring well early in the public relations battle that is ensuing between them and the players.

Currently, the players have been at the forefront of the situation and have made it abundantly clear they want to get back to do what they do best - play basketball.

With an increasing number of athletes considering offers from overseas and many others participating in semi-pro leagues across the U.S., the players are proving to fans their passion for the game still exists - overshadowing the fact they're squabbling over figures the average individual would never live to see after a lifetime of hard work.

Regardless, the players have been in the fans' good books, so far, while the league is slowly developing into a caricature of the big corporation trying to squeeze its workers for every last penny, as laying off 114 of its employees in effort to save $50 million off its multi-billionaire dollar budget would suggest.

There is also the possibility the lockout could affect the FIBA qualification tournaments for the 2012 Summer Olympics to be held in coming months, with many countries facing concerns over the amount of money it may cost to insure NBA players, as the NBA suspended a program associated with FIBA that provided an infrastructure for national federations seeking to purchase insurance policies on NBA players on their roster.

It's yet another instance of the league looking more like the bad guy in the situation, regardless of the financial concerns surrounding a vast majority of the teams and the alleged losses the league has had to endure in recent years.

Since the lockout officially began on July 1, both sides have traded shots on their respective stance in the collective bargaining agreement, as if they were opposing boxers exchanging self-bravado during a press conference prior to setting a foot in the ring - likewise without a single meeting at the negotiating table to speak of.

After all the grandstanding and representatives delving through an audit of last season's revenues over the past month, the first session between the league and players' union to discuss a new CBA is planned to get underway on Friday.

Don't expect issues to be resolved just yet, however, the meeting won't include commissioner David Stern, union executive director Billy Hunter, players or owners. It will be one of many negotiating discussions that will occur throughout the summer - likely ending in vain.

Unless the league comes to a compromise with the NBAPA, getting a deal done may be more difficult than it was over a decade ago.

There appears to be less incentive for players to make an unfavorable deal with the opportunity to play abroad at their disposal and a guarantee the funds won't dry up once the summer is up.

For the first time ever the players will receive escrow money - cash withheld from all NBA players' paychecks each season representing eight percent of their salary, held back each year to ensure that the players' share of basketball-related income does not exceed the agreed-upon percentage, currently 57 percent, which the league failed to deliver - providing $160 million in the midst of the league's labor lockout.

The combination of players seeking employment elsewhere, finances not being an issue for players during the long layoff and pressure from FIBA to not ruin the international competitions amidst the leagues labor issues may result in the NBA having to bite the bullet and reconsider its position in the CBA.

Even if that's the eventual outcome of this ordeal expect the league to draw the process out as long as it possibly can, in an effort to strong arm the NBAPA to take a more favorable deal for the owners.

Though it may not matter how fans perceive the league throughout the CBA proceedings, the recent actions of the NBA certainly won't be winning fans over and may leave the league regretting how its treated its most important investor - the patrons walking through turnstiles every game - when an agreement is finally reached.


Videos

Photos