Twice now in the course of this NBA lockout has there been some hope. Twice now that hope has been crushed. The first time, the momentum was reportedly destroyed by Kevin Garnett. The 2nd time, the momentum was reportedly destroyed by Paul Allen.
Now, for a 3rd time, there is a serious feeling of a potential resolution. Will the 3rd time be the charm?
After rumors leaked earlier this week that NBA Commissioner David Stern was preparing to announce another round of cancellations, things were looking bleak for a season. Instead of announcing those cancellations, however, the league and the players were actually having some secret conversations which lead to Wednesday’s 15 hour marathon negotiating session.
According to most NBA writers, there was some real progress in that meeting. Enough so that the league and the players are planning to meet again Thursday to pick up where they left off. There’s no mediator this time, and no instigators on either side. Just David Stern, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, Union boss Billy Hunter, and Players Association President Derek Fisher.
If more progress can be made Thursday, then talks could continue into the weekend. There is guarded optimism in some circles that a framework for an agreement could actually be close by the weekend. If that’s the case, expect the season to start by December 1, thus ensuring a full 82 games schedule.
The key to getting the talks jumpstarted again was the owners dropping their precondition that the players accept a 50-50 split before talks resumed. Instead of discussing the BRI split issues, the sides instead focused on the system issues.
It’s hard to read into whether this is good news or bad news for those who were holding out hope for real systematic changes. On one hand, some thought that holding out for an entire season was the best way to force the players to accept the changes the owners want.
However, the fact that the sides are negotiating this issue could be a positive sign. Perhaps the owners will “give back” 2% of the BRI in exchange for the players negotiating the system issues. I was a little worried that the owners were so steadfast on the 50-50 split that they would be willing to give up on system issues to get the split they wanted. Instead, it appears they are at least discussing the system issues.
It’s still possible, of course, that the owners could still give up a lot of ground in these talks in order to better push for more when it comes to the BRI split. Yet the fact remains the players have already moved from 57% to 53%. The owners would have to give up a lot more to get them to go to 50% right now. If the owners give back to 52%, they might be able to get more on the system side of things.
There’s no way, of course, to know for sure what the outcome will be. Heck, the owners and/or players might hear the details of these talks and get mad and kill the deal all over again. These situations are so volatile and unpredictable that it’s impossible to foresee what will happen. It’s just as easy to envision this thing being over with after the weekend as it is to picture everything falling apart again and an entire season being lost.
All we can say for sure is that on Thursday, heading into the resumed negotiations, there was more hope and more optimism for an NBA season floating around than at any other point in this process. For those who hope for a season to be salvaged, this is good news. For those of us who are hoping for real changes to the system, the best we can do is continue to wait it out and see what the ultimate outcome is going to be. Thursday looks to be another important day in that process.
Image Credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty