Concessions that could end the lockout
LOS ANGELES -- Former Los Angeles Lakers guard Jerry West has served as the NBA's logo for decades.
West's silhouette driving toward the hoop with the basketball in his left hand represents the NBA in action -- alley-oops, last-second shots, coast-to-coast layups, defensive stops.
Current Los Angeles Lakers guard Derek Fisher has served as the NBA lockout's unofficial logo for months.
Shots of Fisher, the players' association president, in a distinguished-yet-subdued suit have accompanied just about every story you've seen since the lockout began.
The image of the five-time champion in a suit rather than in the Lakers' purple and gold represents the NBA in inaction -- five-hour labor meetings at swanky Manhattan hotels, players exploring overseas options, teams laying off employees, arena workers going without work.
Monday's cancelation of the first two weeks of games by commissioner David Stern was something Fisher said the union anticipated. Despite both sides meeting for more than 13 hours in the two days before the cancelation was announced, Stern acknowledged there was still a wide gulf on "virtually all issues."
Where do we go from here?
How do we get back to a place where we see Fisher with West's silhouette on his warm-ups and uniform the majority of the time and just a glimpse of him in a suit before and after games?
With the incentive of salvaging a full season off the table and both sides threatening to harden their stances as the lockout ticks past Day 102 and toward Day 204 (which is how long the lockout lasted in 1998-99) or beyond, there are no easy solutions.
But these four concessions -- two from the players' side and two from the owners' side -- would go a long way in bridging the gap that divides them.
1. Owners accepting a 52-48 Basketball Related Income split in the players' favor
As it stands now, the players are willing to take home 53 percent of the pie after earning 57 percent under the previous collective bargaining agreement. The owners want 53 percent for themselves after making 43 percent in the previous CBA. A 50-50 split was floated during negotiations last week, but Stern says the owners are back demanding the 53-47 split in their favor. This makes no sense. The players have already conceded 4 percent from the total they made in the previous deal. All the owners have done is demand another 6 percent. If the players drop down one more percentage point, as Phoenix Suns team rep Jared Dudley suggested they would be amenable to, the owners should accept that 5 percent cut as a good-faith gesture. Giving up 5 percent over the life of a 10-year, $40 billion deal amounts to $2 billion being put back in the owners' pockets off the top. Owners claimed $300 million in losses last season. The $200 million a year giveback by the players would be a contribution toward erasing that debt.
2. Players accepting shorter guaranteed contracts
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Under the previous CBA, a player could re-sign with his team for up to six years and sign with a new team for up to five years. That's too long. Injuries and poor performance have led to some players at the end those deals getting paid $10 million a year or more to be simply shuffled from team to team to accommodate a salary match for a trade. The maximum contract lengths should be cut to four years for players re-signing with their teams and three years for free agents. Players have guaranteed contracts, so their money would be secure. They would also be able to negotiate an extension with one year remaining on their deal to tack on another four years with their current team, or find a new three-year deal as a free agent.
3. Owners letting go of the hard cap idea and surrendering their "supertax" alternative
The idea that competitive balance is directly tied to a hard cap is wrong. A small-market team without the television revenue that allows it to overspend on player salaries can still be perennially competitive. It just has to draft well and choose free agents wisely, as San Antonio and Oklahoma City have done. A hard cap, and the "supertax" alternative that is really just a hard cap in disguise, would only go in place to save owners from themselves. If small-market owners feel like they don't have the resources to spend the way the Lakers or the New York Knicks do, they have to be disciplined enough not to do it. If large-market teams want to continue to overspend, then a dollar-for-dollar luxury tax paid back to the league and redistributed among all the teams that didn't cross the tax threshold is a fair price to pay.
4. Players accepting 10-year length to the new CBA
The players' stance is that the economic climate could dramatically improve in the next decade, so a six- or seven-year CBA would be more appropriate. What they fail to realize is that the economy could also continue to decline. By the owners assuming the risk of running their teams in a business so dependent on corporate funding in a time when long-standing corporations are going under, they deserve to have the deal pay off in the long run. Even if the terms seem disparate in Years 7 through 10, the players will be able to renegotiate those terms when it expires and the, gulp, next lockout becomes a possibility.Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.