Tuesday is a do or die day for the 2011 NBA season. Eventually the players will lose this labor battle, that is not up for debate. The players have no leverage, the owners are willing to miss a season and the players need these pay checks more than the owners need this season. The question is not if the players will lose, it is when they will give in to the owners and make a deal. Now I do not fault the players for fighting for what they already had. They are not asking for more, they are asking for what they already had. Are the owners being fair? That is up for discussion but that is not relevant. What is fair is not what is relevant in this lockout. This lockout is about reality right now. The reality is that the owners will never go back to what they had. Small market teams struggled financially, superstars formed alliances and owners were hurt by their own bad decisions. Owners have collectively committed to change the current system at all costs, including the 2011 season. Unlike the NFL lockout, in which the owners conceded to the players in order to save the season, the owners willingness to lose the season takes all leverage away from the players.
When the players association decided against decertification, the outcome of this lockout was pretty much decided. The players association gave up all the leverage they had. The owners know the players can’t afford to lose the season. Decertification is no longer in the cards for the players association because decertification rulings would take so long to get through the slow United States court system that the whole season would be lost. Also decertification would have resulted in all players having their current contracts void making every player a free agent. The players wanted to avoid this for obvious reason.
Billy Hunter needs to get all opposition to conceding into a room and he needs to give them a history lesson about the 1998 season. In 1998 the players decided to hold out and miss games rather than concede to the owners. Eventually the players caved and the owners got what they wanted plus the players lost millions of dollars. If the players were smart they would take a deal now. This is the best deal they are going to get and they are going to be sorry if they don’t agree to one soon.
Will the players get a fair deal? It doesn’t matter. This lockout is no longer about fairness but about reality. The reality is that the owners are prepared to miss the season and the players can’t afford to.