Wherever NBA games are played, there are thousands of people who depend on related opportunities to pay the bills, including those employed at the arena, nearby restaurants and hotels and game-day staff.
Their livelihood is not a hot topic these days, as commissioner David Stern and his cronies, billionaire owners, stage a war of words against NBA Players Association chief Billy Hunter and the players.
As predictable as a Hokkaido snowstorm in January, Stern canceled the league’s entire preseason schedule. The first two weeks of the regular season were called off, too. And the lockout, which began on July 1, drags on with no end in sight.
The bad economy in the United States is made worse by the NBA’s ongoing woes. Ticket sales staff, parking lot attendants and others with so-called ordinary ties to Stern’s league are now a part of the broader job crisis. Their plight is conveniently ignored by both sides throughout this public-relations disaster.
But that doesn’t mean that some folks outside of the spotlight aren’t thinking about their situation.
“My heart goes out to the many families who depend on that income to survive,” former NBA guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf told Hoop Scoop on Monday.
According to The Washington Times, the NBA’s national television rights are worth about $930 million per year. And that’s only one piece of the league’s astronomical earnings.
Or as Abdul-Rauf, who played for the Kyoto Hannaryz the past two seasons told me, “Needless to say, I’m not a big fan of David Stern or ‘big business.’ I believe there are exploitation issues on both sides. But no worries, the goal of the NBA is to make money so there’s too much on the table for them not to have a season, and I think many will agree with that at least.”
Looking back on the situation in the late 1990s that led to the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, Abdul-Rauf remembered the way things were more than a decade ago and how the current situation developed within the NBA.
“There are always things the NBA could have done better: better pension plans, not treating older players who are still valuable players left like useless antiques to be discarded, and overpaying unproven players proven veteran money with many of them not improving from year to year,” he said.
Countless meetings — collectively and separately for the two groups — have not produced any tangible results for a new collective bargaining agreement. Still, looking at the aforementioned methodology to dish out player contracts, Abdul-Rauf, one of the best pure shooters in NBA history, said, this is the situation that remains: “I guess this is one of the reasons they (the owners) want some of their money back after seeing the disastrous results year after year.”
A longtime NBA coach, who began working in the league several years before Michael Jordan won his first championship, told Hoop Scoop that the current impasse was inevitable.
“I have spoken to a number of people about the lockout and everyone feels the owners must win this one,” the coach said.
“Too many teams are losing millions while too many players are making millions,” were the words he used to describe the situation.
So whose fault is it?
Well, the coach said, “the owners made a bad deal with the players the last time and now they have to get the power back.
“The players are running the league. It all falls on the owners’ shoulders. Lots of folks are losing money until this is settled.”
How and when will it be settled?
The latest plan on the table involves working with federal mediator George Cohen on Tuesday.
ESPN.com‘s Larry Coon explored this issue in a story posted online on Monday, noting “the success of Tuesday’s mediation will rest on Cohen’s ability to get both sides to step away from the cliff.”
In Coon’s view, a canceled season is “a nightmare scenario for both sides.”
Yokohama B-Corsairs coach Reggie Geary, a former guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs, spoke about the NBA’s current situation during a postgame chat with reporters on Sunday in Saitama.
I asked Geary what message he would give to Stern, the owners and the players association. Geary then issued the following statements:
“The game, the NBA, it hasn’t been this healthy, domestically or globally, in a very, very long time. And to lose this momentum — the story line (of) Boston, Miami, L.A. and New York now becoming more of a factor with some of the big names — that the quibbling or the arguing over the money they are doing right now, it doesn’t seem to make financial sense to lose that momentum.”
No one expected a simple compromise to be reached over the summer. Pride, egos and lots of cash are at stake here. Nevertheless, the lockout is an excruciating tale of stupidity and mathematical nonsense that has dragged on for far too long.