Let's cut right to the important part: Barring some unforeseen miracle, there isn't going to be basketball soon. Almost certainly not in 2011. Even early 2012 is unlikely. No, in all likelihood, the next time there is professional basketball to be played will be the 2012–2013 season, if then. This lockout is like a malevolent, all-consuming poop dragon. Instead of squashing it in the summer, when it was still a hatchling, or striking when it became momentarily vulnerable, the owners and players have continued to feed it poop, and now the dragon's pooping all over the NBA season. (In this most graceful metaphor, the dragon is both nourished by and composed of poop. And it also poops, of course).
The news from yesterday, if you managed to miss it, is that the players rejected the league's final offer and opted to disclaim their union. What that means, roughly, is that the players are now qualified to band together (as a "trade association", which is totally different from a union) to file an anti-trust lawsuit against the NBA. Filing a disclaimer is apparently different from decertification, which is what the players were originally threatening. The move they chose is, as Larry Coon explains, a "timelier but riskier approach". Decertification would have provided a built-in buffer of up to two months, during which time the league might have been pressured into negotiating anew. Instead, the lawyers are in control now, and the players have the lawyerest of the lawyers on their side. And now they'll go bicker over money in a court instead of in some fancy hotel. Good job, everybody.
There is, they say, some possibility of settling out of court. To date, though, it's been smarter to err on the side of chaos. It's wisest to expect lengthy litigation colored by all of the same animosity and greed that stank up the negotiations. Things have only become uglier and more uncertain as the poop dragon has expanded, and we're now left to wonder whether there will be a season at all. And if not, what of players' contracts? What of the 2012 draft? What of the league's TV deals and sponsorship and employees? And, most importantly, what of the league's rapidly dwindling fan base? By the end of this, will there be anyone left who cares?
(Well, there will be at least one of us. If you need me, I'll be over here watching Iman Shumpert YouTube clips and weeping.)