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Monday, November 14, 2011
Updated: November 15, 10:47 PM ET
How did NBA lockout get in this mess?

ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network

NBA
Players stood united with the union and shot down the latest offer. The result: Soon, no more union.

A day that started off with a faint glimmer of hope, with players meeting in New York to discuss the owners' latest offer on the table, ended with comissioner David Stern predicting a "nuclear winter."

Welcome (back) to the NBA lockout. We may be here for a while.

Which means there'll be plenty of time to debate some of the decisions that led us to this point. Including: Should all NBA players, not just the player reps, have at least voted on the deal? Was the NBA's recent public relations blitz the right move? Will we see an NBA game in the 2011-12 season?

Our panel, featuring responses from you sent in via the NBA on ESPN Facebook and Twitter accounts in the sixth-man spot, weighs in on some of the looming questions after the latest labor-dispute session.


1. Fact or Fiction: The owners and players have negotiated in good faith.


Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: Fiction. It's a weightless concept anyway, but the empty ultimatums thrown around by David Stern never sat well with me -- especially with two months to go from the drop-dead date of the 1998-99 lockout-shortened season. The owners' proposal was clear: "You're playing on our terms." That's not collective bargaining.

Zach Harper, Daily Dime Live: Fiction. The players have mostly negotiated in good faith, even if it has been an embarrassing display of bargaining execution. The owners, on the other hand, have been deplorable in the way they've negotiated. While I don't disagree with their motives for wanting change, the way they've attempted to "negotiate" with the players has been bullying at best. They should learn how to use their words.

Rob Mahoney, Two-Man Game: Fiction. Armed only with the information we have thus far, it certainly doesn't seem that way. The players have made very real, substantive concessions relative to the last collective bargaining agreement, while the owners began negotiating from an outlandish position and have simply dubbed the adoption of a more reasonable stance as an equal concession. Both sides deserve blame for the current situation, but the players' efforts to negotiate have seemed a bit more genuine.

Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: Both. The NBA's unnecessary ultimatums don't fit the fuzzy definition of "good faith," but I suppose that's the luxury of being a monopolist. The league's tactics have driven us to this point -- I don't want to equivocate here -- but disclaiming isn't a very collaborative approach, either. Frighteningly enough, it actually precludes collective negotiation.

David Thorpe, Scouts Inc.: Fiction. The players have, without doubt. I think union executive director Billy Hunter has, too. Union attorney Jeffrey Kessler, in my opinion, still has a lot to prove as to whether or not he has acted in the players' good faith on his own. The owners have not, in the sense that negotiation suggests compromise. The owners wanted $300 million a year back from the players and a new system. That's their only goal.


VOICE OF THE FAN (via Facebook)

Hesham Hambazaza:
Fiction. Both factions have continuously used threats, low-ball offers and the media to try to become the "PR winner." In this scenario, everybody loses.


2. Fact or Fiction: The NBA was wise to reach out more directly to players.


Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: Fact. Good idea, poor execution. The NBA was smart to take advantage of the miscommunication within the NBPA, but they blew the opportunity by routinely sidestepping tough questions and deploying condescending rhetoric. Chris Paul is still patiently waiting, by the way.

Zach Harper, Daily Dime Live: Fact. The NBA was very wise to try to reach out to the players in a more direct way and try to get their proposal seen in a good light. But if you're going to say it executed this plan in any competent way, that's complete fiction. Just because you know how to use social media doesn't mean you're capable of using it correctly.

Rob Mahoney, Two-Man Game: Fact, especially considering the communication issues that allegedly plague the union's infrastructure. The NBA was right -- in theory -- to publicly connect with players and sell them on the deal, but their execution was smug and demeaning; any player who posed a question was talked down to, echoing the sickening tone of David Stern and the core of owners throughout this entire process. Any chance the NBA had to capitalize on the potential of new media crumbled away under Stern and Adam Silver's fingertips.

Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: Fiction. Any players who caught Stern's condescending words were basically told "Look, you guys don't know what's best for you. Put your trust in us, and we'll take care of you by paying you less and artificially restricting your market value." The NBA: Where awkward and inflammatory approaches to social media happen.

David Thorpe, Scouts Inc.: Neither, in the short term. It may end up being fact when the players finally accept a deal and "they" see what the deal they turned down today actually looked like. But it had no impact at all today.


VOICE OF THE FAN (via Facebook)

Nasim Ali:
Fiction. It looked like they were trying to undercut Derek Fisher and Hunter, which probably didn't sit well with them. Reach out to the people you're directly negotiating with.


3. Fact or Fiction: Players should've taken a vote on the owners' proposal.


Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: Fact. If the union officials weren't confident that their constituents were sufficiently informed about the ins-and-outs of the deal, then that's the leadership's fault. No one else. Educate them on the proposal's merits (or lack thereof) and put it up to vote. I realize lecturing 450 people on esoteric language isn't super convenient or exciting, but with millions on the line, each player deserves it.

Zach Harper, Daily Dime Live: Fiction. I think the majority of the deal was fair enough to help the league move forward. However, there were aspects of the proposed CBA that left me fearing they were limiting the options for player movement. The players should have come back saying that they want to vote on the majority of the proposal but need certain changes. There's an old term they use for something like this. It's called "negotiating."

Rob Mahoney, Two-Man Game: Fact. Despite Kessler's claims to the contrary, the NBPA is not a typical union going about typical union procedure. The players have made it clear throughout the lockout that these are extraordinary circumstances, and with so much money at stake, every player deserved a voice -- and a vote -- before union leadership disclaimed interest.

Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: Ideally, Fact. But here's the problem with a pure democracy: Ignorant votes count as much as everyone else's. I understand the union's hesitancy to turn the decision-making process over to a group that's shown wildly various levels of interest throughout the process. However, filing a disclaimer of interest is an extreme choice, one that demands full explanation before being executed.

David Thorpe, Scouts Inc.: Fact, on paper. Fiction in practice. Very few players have been kept up to speed religiously by their union and reps. The union failed in that regard. The media has done a far better job informing them. (One player not signed up to Twitter told me he gets his updates from the Twitter box on ESPN.com's NBA page.) That lack of communication and the casualness some players took to the lockout forced the few to speak for the many.


VOICE OF THE FAN (via Twitter)

Aaron Peck (@AaronPeck):
Fiction. The players should've countered the offer with proposal changes. That would've have put the onus on owners and made them the bad guys in the end.


4. Fact or Fiction: The NBA should resume now under 2010-11 rules.


Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: Fiction. Every fan votes "Fact" here, but sadly, we're pretty much irrelevant in this dispute. The truth is that such a resolution would just infuriate the owners even further. You thought the hard-liners were unreasonable now?

Zach Harper, Daily Dime Live: Fiction. Let's pretend we have adults handling this collective bargaining situation. These "adults" would be able to hammer out a deal, even if it means missing a sizeable chunk of the season, and have a new system for everybody to work under. That's what should happen. Instead, the league is obliterating any good faith it had with the fans.

Rob Mahoney, Two-Man Game: Fiction. As much as we'd like to see NBA basketball again, an adoption of the old rules would only result in endless complaints and bitterness from both sides. Like it or not, this lockout process needs real resolution, whether through earnest collective bargaining or drawn-out litigation.

Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: Fiction. I don't agree with the NBA that player movement hurts the league and think The Decision was the best thing for the league's ratings and profile since Jordan. But certain improvements -- shrinking the midlevel exception, decreasing the number of games, increasing max contracts, dis-incentivizing tanking and, of course, returning a team to Seattle -- could have made the league better for fans.

David Thorpe, Scouts Inc.: Fact, if only because the huge majority of people would be happy and only 23 or so men would be sad. I'd even suggest going back to those rules and splitting the basketball related income (BRI) 50/50. That makes the teams whole and the players happy. It's fantasy, I know, but so is the $5 billion or so they'd be splitting if they played. Oops, that part is real. Or was.


VOICE OF THE FAN (via Facebook)

Dustin Jesberger:
Fiction. The system is broken and they need to reach a new deal. Or else, what was all of this for?


5. Fact or Fiction: The 2011-12 season is essentially gone.


Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: Fact. Partly because hedging is one of my favorite pastimes and the word "essentially" is the Michael Jordan of hedges. Partly because, after watching Stern breathe fire on "SportsCenter," I think there's a better chance that LeBron James is voted governor of the state of Ohio than Stern going back to the negotiating table.

Zach Harper, Daily Dime Live: Fact. It's going to take a miracle. The owners have no idea how to deliver a proposal in a mature manner. The players are so misguided that they are taking actions that should have happened four months ago, if they were ever going to happen. The result is we're losing a season. I would say think of the fans, but the owners and players only think of the fans when they need them.

Rob Mahoney, Two-Man Game: For the sake of all our sanity, I sincerely hope Fiction. The potential for a lost season seems to have grown dramatically in the past 24 hours, but I won't profess to know the ins and outs of the legal process from here on out. Basketball fans remain at the mercy of the players, the league and now their lawyers, but it's hard to predict the outcome of these events aside from recognizing the gravity of the union's move.

Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: Fiction. If there's anything we've learned thus far, it's that we shouldn't overreact to each side's best efforts to win the next 24 hours of commentary. Assuming both sides actually want a season -- I remain unconvinced that there's real consensus among owners to ditch a season that, with their BRI gains, is guaranteed to be profitable -- I'm not willing to call this one.

David Thorpe, Scouts Inc.: Fiction. If you read between the lines, you can picture the two sides talking soon, perhaps as early as Friday. Once the lawsuit is filed, negotiations can resume. Newly appointed union attorney David Boies, I have to believe, will say to his clients, "Let me tweak these few issues and then let's get to work. We can't ignore over $2 billion this year alone and put an additional couple of billion at risk next season just because we think most of the owners are jerks."


VOICE OF THE FAN (via Twitter)

Allan April (@itsaprilfools):
Fiction. 2011 is all but gone, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed we will see games by Feb. 5 -- same date the 1998-99 season began.


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