Both sides to blame in latest NBA blowup

JOHN MCMULLEN, SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 1:41 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- If you're like me, you have probably felt a little bipolar during the NBA lockout.

One day I find myself empathizing with the owners and the next I'm really feeling for the players. It's almost like I'm a Massachusetts politician desperate to become President.

But, unlike John Kerry or Mitt Romney, my flip-flops come from the heart. Like most real world issues, the problems in this labour dispute are not contrasted in black and white. Shades of gray are everywhere and can be spun by anyone with a microphone.

Optimism returned to the talks this week when Federal mediator George Cohen arrived on the scene but that was a little misguided. After all, even the most positive among us know nothing gets done in Washington these days. In fact, bringing in the Feds was a better forecast of doom and gloom than a high resolution Doppler Radar image 10 minutes before the latest storm the of century hits.

The mediated talks fell apart Thursday and Cohen fled back to D.C., leaving nothing but a statement just 24 hours after commenting on "how committed the parties were to solving their problems."

"No useful purpose would be served by requesting the parties to continue the mediation process at this time," the federal agitator-in-chief said.

With hindsight, we can now see that Cohen led a process filled with ego, irresponsibility and reckless behaviour.

As stewards of the sport of basketball, the owners have drawn a hard-line in the sand, pretending professional sports is like any other business.

Sure, their other enterprises don't pay 57%, never mind 50%, of the gross revenues to the employees but unless it's a "clean energy" company in bed with the Obama Administration other industries aren't exactly lavished with public funds every time they want to upgrade their 'outdated' facilities.

Like I said -- shades of gray.

The owners have moved the goal posts from Day 1 in these negotiations. First it was about the money, then it was the system and now it's the money again. It's all designed to get the players down to a 50-50 split of Basketball Related Income and the ultimatum came on Thursday.

"So here we are, we get here today and after some two-and-a-half days of negotiating ... they come in at the last minute and say, 'You've got an ultimatum. You can either accept 50-50, or it's off,' " Hunter chief Billy Hunter said after the talks broke down.

Of course, duplicitous negotiating tactics doesn't mean the players deserve a pass, players that made an average of $4.8 million dollars a year under the old collective bargaining agreement.

No one enjoys giving back anything that they have accrued over the years but millions upon millions of Americans have done exactly that in what is, despite what some analysts say, a double-dip recession.

To the players credit, they have already acquiesced somewhat, offering to drop their share of BRI to 52.5% but if you're truly 'partners' with the owners, explain to me the difficulty in getting to 50-50, something that will be done eventually whether it's tomorrow or next June.

The hard-line owners have hijacked this process now and are content to sit for the season rather than give the players a dollar more than 50%.

Standing up to that ultimatum may make you feel good and it may make you feel tough but when you're sole negotiating leverage is a loosely put together barnstorming tour for stars only, it may not be the most prudent option.

Is that fair?

The loyalty that the players have showed to their union is admirable. That doesn't make it logical. Simple math tells me 50% of $4 billion-plus is a lot better than 52.5% of nothing.

So, are Hunter and Union president Derek Fisher really doing what's what for their constituents?

Like I said -- shades of gray.


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