First, some facts: Yesterday’s meeting between the NBA Players’ Association and the league’s owners did not end with an agreement on a new CBA. It ended with separate press conferences in which the two parties described a chasm that, while narrowing, was still fairly substantial. The league canceled the rest of the preseason and announced that, if an agreement isn’t in place by Monday, regular season games will start to disappear. And that’s about where the certainty ends. See, I come to you as somebody who possesses a child’s understanding of the issues at hand, who hasn’t been camping out in front of New York mega-hotels, and who just wants a full NBA season, please. I couldn’t care less which rich people end up with which slice of which pie, and I follow the currents only to the extent that I can gauge the likelihood of the Knicks tipping off on November 2. Without intimate knowledge of the negotiations, I need to be told what to expect. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I imagine it’s something I share with a number of NBA fans. We just want to know if we can have our basketball back.
It’s tricky, though. Aside from the facts presented above, we’re dealing mostly with feelings, stances, reckonings, hankerings, and whims. The gulf between the owners and the players is intangible, so it’s left to various sources to estimate it for us. And depending on where you look, the two sides are either streeeeetching to clasp hands across a babbling brook, or lobbing grenades at each other from either side of a gaping canyon. The negotiators themselves, of course, can’t sound optimistic. That would undermine their ability to milk the other side. They have to say stuff like this, all via Ken Berger’s Twitter:
Fisher: “Intense discussions today … today was not the day for us to get this done.”
Hunter: “Our guys have indicated a willingness to lose games.”
Stern asked by NY Times if owners willing to blow up season to get 100 pct of what they want. Stern says, “We have a reset here.”
Stern says, “It makes me very sad” if some players lose the last year of their careers.
None of that sounds good, and it was enough to throw those NBA fans on Twitter into nihilistic turmoil last night. But then you have Berger himself, writing this morning of a BRI split that, while still not settled, is closer than it’s ever been, and a commissioner who still has the opportunity to bridge the gap by next week. Alternatively, you have someone like Marc Berman of the Post who, as he’s wont to do, foresees the worst. Everyone agrees that there’s a slim chance of a full season, but the precise waistline of that chance is impossible to pin down, in part because we’re being spun. The negotiators are compelled to spin in a way that helps their cause, while those who have been stuck reporting on the same miserable topic for six months must keep folks reading. There’s very little to latch onto.
The only certainty is the passage of time. We seem to have a deadline by which a new CBA must be in motion to preserve a full season. The next meetings that take place, probably this weekend, will be THE meetings. (Apologies for saying that yesterday’s meetings were THE meetings. That’s what I was led to believe). I think we can safely assume that the league wasn’t kidding about their plan to start gobbling up meaningful games if the weekend ends poorly, since we’re reaching the point at which there won’t be an alternative. In the meantime, some will do their best to read the tea leaves, (the content of letters written by agents to their clients, the tone of the players themselves, the exact octave of David Stern’s grunts) and the rest of us will just sit here and pray that there will be basketball sooner rather than later.