Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – Last Thursday, as the NBA negotiations seemed to be making progress, owners submarined any possible deal. Now, the owners are preparing to hit the players, and fans, again.
According to multiple reports, the NBA will officially cancel two more weeks of the season at some point Tuesday. That means all games through the weekend after Thanksgiving will be canceled.
In total, the NBA has canceled a total of 202 games have been canceled due to the ongoing lockout.
The Miami Heat will lose 4 home games and a road trip to Cleveland once the owners officially announce the cancellations Tuesday.
NBA Commissioner David Stern said previously that his gut was telling him that no games would be played through Christmas, which is typically a national showcase of the NBA’s best talent on television.
This year, the Miami Heat was scheduled to play against the Dallas Mavericks in a NBA Finals rematch and the Los Angeles Lakers were set to battle the Chicago Bulls on Christmas Day.
If that’s not bad enough, San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt doubled-down on the owners position and said they are ready to lose a season if necessary.
“The competitive issues and the economic issues, certainly we don’t want to lose the season, I don’t think the NHL did either. It ended up happening,” Holt told ESPN. “There are certain things we feel we must have.”
What is it the billionaire NBA owners need? Money, and a lot more of it.
Negotiations broke down last week over the 800-pound gorilla in the room, money. Specifically a huge gulf opened up over the division of basketball-related income, or BRI. This is the total amount of money the league brings in during a normal season.
Both sides had been moving towards middle ground to deal with the BRI, but hardliners on both sides drew a line in the sand and neither was willing to go beyond it.
Owners had been moving towards a 51-52 percent share of BRI for the players, before a Board of Governors meeting Thursday. Once the owners returned, led by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, the owners said they would go no higher than a 50/50 split.
It should be noted that Gilbert, and a few other small market owners, have been driving much of the dispute after the Miami Heat came together last season.
The owners felt like the players used the system against them and now the owners want blood to prevent players from putting themselves together on one team.
The ironic part of the owners’ motives is that they are willing to shrink the overall amount of money that could be made in a season just to force the players to succumb to their will.
The cancellation of the first two weeks cost the league north of $100 million. The owners, who canceled the games, want to recoup that money from the players through further givebacks.
After Thursday’s talks collapsed, federal mediator George Cohen said that no further talks are needed because both sides aren’t willing to work towards a common goal.
In the previous collective bargaining agreement, the players had a sweetheart deal. But the players are slowly starting to come down to more realistic terms.
But the owners are trying to run up the score and make the players pay for all of the bad contracts the owners have given out over the past several years. The owners are asking for more money from the players so the owners can protect them from themselves.
The issue is slowly devolving into a round of name-calling between both sides and Bryant Gumbel of HBO’s Real Sports accusing NBA Commissioner David Stern of acting like a slave owner in his dealings with the players.
The National Basketball Players Association has repeatedly said that it would negotiate with the NBA if the NBA would back down from its take it or leave it offer of a 50-50 BRI split. The NBA’s hardline owners have refused that request and no talks are scheduled in the coming weeks.
NBPA executive director Billy Hunter didn’t help his p.r. war with the league Monday when he talked ESPN’s Bill Simmons. Hunter said he’s worried about the future for retiring players because they’re not smart enough to manage their money well.
“Most of our players when they end playing basketball they are going to be living for another 40 years or so. And so I don’t know how long that money is going to last,” Hunter told ESPN. “Even if they made every prudent investment that they could possibly make, I don’t know at what level they are going to be able to live. But I think after a while it just becomes a principle. For a lot of these players that is what it’s about.”
Unfortunately for Heat fans hoping to catch LeBron, D-Wade, and Bosh take the court and pursue another NBA championship, the hardline owners, like Gilbert, are derailing the season.
In one way, it could be Gilbert’s ultimate revenge upon LeBron. With Dwyane Wade aging, the window for the Heat to win a championship may only be a few seasons.
If Gilbert and the hardliners can kill the season under the auspices of a new deal, Gilbert can finally give the shaft to LeBron like he felt LeBron did to him.
Sadly, that’s the type of dynamic going on between the two sides. In the end, both sides are going to continue to alienate the very people who provide the money both sides are arguing over.
The fans will continue to be the ultimate loser in the entire NBA debate. The question will be how long it takes the fans to come back if the issue is ever resolved.