PHILADELPHIA - It might be time to tap, even for the most optimistic of us.
Tuesday's meeting featuring expanded negotiating teams in New York from both the owners' and players' side ended with virtually everyone calling it "disappointing," and signaling a deal is nowhere close to be completed.
With real tangible evidence tough to come by, no one really knew where the NBA owners stood in their collective bargaining stance with the players. A lockout in the offseason was always inevitable but the denouement was never written in stone.
The doom and gloomers pointed to hockey's Armageddon in 2004-05 where the NHL shut down its sport for an entire year, intent on breaking its players and remaking a "broken system." Since the NBA has used similar rhetoric and the NHL's Gary Bettman learned at the feet of David Stern, they assumed the NBA's commish was headed down a similar path.
The glass is half full crowd, which I bought into early on, pointed out that the NHL was fighting over a pittance, at least comparatively speaking to what's at stake in these negotiations. In the NBA, players and owners are fighting over billions, not hundreds of millions.
In fact, the amount of revenue the league generates is staggering compared to the '04-05 NHL. A very strong season in which attendance, television ratings and merchandise sales peaked helped fuel Basketball Related Income (BRI) to an up tick for a sixth consecutive year. On July 22, the NBA and NBPA completed the 2010-11 NBA season audit and the results showed that BRI increased by 4.8 percent from $3.643 billion in 2009-10 to $3.817 billion in 2010-11.
Projections this season have BRI reaching to over $4 billion. That's not NFL money but any owner thinking about walking away from numbers like that in a very shaky world economy might need his head examined.
Well meet about 20 of the NBA's 30 owners, who have taken a hardline NHL-type stance hoping to create a fail-safe system, one protecting them from their own worst devices, a too big to fail type TARP environment that saves the very worst businessmen from failing again and again.
Most believe the real sticking point is the hard salary cap that the owners want versus the soft cap from the previous CBA, something the players have called a "blood issue" and "non-negotiable," according to deputy commissioner Adam Silver.
"We can't come out of here thinking that training camps and preseason are going to start on time at this point," NBPA president Derek Fisher said after today's meeting.
NBPA executive director Billy Hunter painted an even bleaker picture saying the union was prepared to make a "significant" move but owners weren't willing to move at all, claiming there was a "division of interest" involving the owners and that three of the four hours of negotiation were spent with the owners arguing amongst themselves.
"We've advised (players) they may have to sit out half the season before we get a deal," Hunter said.
Stern disagreed, although he did admit that the owners spent "substantial time" discussing a revenue sharing plan amongst themselves.
"We did not have a great day. We reiterated to the players that we need a system that is economically feasible," the commissioner said.
Stern also claimed that it's "not accurate" that owners are still sitting on the same proposal from June.
No further talks are scheduled.