Money will have its say in NBA dispute

Boston superstar Ray Allen told the Boston Globe this week that he is OK with a lost season if it...

Boston superstar Ray Allen told the Boston Globe this week that he is OK with a lost season if it means not agreeing to a bad deal. (REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:11 PM ET

On the surface, Friday's announcement that the NBA has postponed training camps and cancelled 43 pre-season games was an ominous sign for those hoping for a swift end to the lockout.

On the other hand, scrapping the scheduled Oct. 3 start to camps and games through Oct. 15 just might get the chains moving on this thing.

It had better, because if not, it could be a long time until we see NBA basketball again.

Commissioner David Stern said on Wednesday that the owners and players have "three weeks" to come to a deal to start the season on time.

Though they remain at odds on several issues, Friday's step back just might move talks forward again in the near future.

Why? Simple. Money talks. In labour wars that don't end up in an annihilated season, usually serious progress is not made until players start missing cheques.

Come October, that's going to happen and while the owners won't lament the absence of pre-season games because they don't make much - or any - profit off of it, the players will definitely miss their money.

While few expect any of the remaining pre-season games to be played -- there has to be enough time for a proper free-agency period before camps can open -- increased motivation on the part of the players certainly can't hurt. As well, reports indicate the owners have come down a bit on their demands of how to split basketball-related income (BRI).

Will it be enough? Probably not. The players apparently still didn't like the new BRI proposal and, more importantly, the owners are asking for a massively revamped system, complete with a hard salary cap, something the NBAPA is strongly opposed to. The owners believe a hard cap will control their costs and bring NFL-like competitive balance, increasing the value of every franchise, not just the perennial contenders. Since 1980, only nine franchises have won the NBA championship.

The players aren't interested in taking what they believe will be massive cuts in salaries.

Boston superstar Ray Allen told the Boston Globe this week that he is OK with a lost season if it means not agreeing to a bad deal and NBAPA vice-president Matt Bonner has called the NHL's CBA, which brought in a hard cap following a lost season, "the worst in sports."

"Nobody wants to miss a year," Allen said.

"But I'm prepared to do what the team needs me to do, what my players association, players union team, what they need me to do, because we want to make sure we get the right deal for us."

That said, Allen has not forfeited any of his $10-million U.S. salary yet. Will the 36-year-old be as willing to risk perhaps the last major payday of his career a couple of months from now? (He is in the final year of his deal).

Allen's former Seattle teammate Rashard Lewis, owner of perhaps the most inflated contract in the sport, also said he would give up his $22-million contract to ensure a positive result.

"I'm willing to sacrifice my salary to get a fair deal," Lewis told the Washington Post.

Lewis believes the players shouldn't pay for the sins of owners and general managers who hand out head-scratching mega-deals every summer.

"Talk to the owner. He gave me the deal," Lewis said.

"When it comes to contracts, the players aren't sitting there negotiating that contract. I'm sitting at home and my agent calls me, saying: 'I got a max on the table.' I'm not going to sit there and say, 'Naw, that's too much. Go out there and negotiate $20 or $30 (million) less' ... I understand the owners don't want to overpay players, but you've got to do better negotiating. Try your best to save money."

And that's just what they are doing at the moment.

The NBA cancelled what was left of the 1998 pre-season on Oct. 5 of that year and the first two weeks of the regular season on Oct. 13.

A deal resulting in a 50-game season was not signed until Jan. 20, 1999.

We should get a good indication in the next few weeks if progress will be made faster this time around.


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