A Plan for a full NBA Season – CBA or no CBA

Sunday night’s meeting between the NBA and the NBPA brought some hope to a lot of basketball fans.  Although not much was said when the participants called it a night, system issues – such as the salary cap and luxury tax – were discussed, but the split of basketball-related income (BRI) was not. 

That’s actually positive news since it’s unlikely that the NBPA would drop below the 53-47 split that they’ve already offered without getting some concessions from the owners on the system issues.

With today’s negotiating session scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. EDT in New York, there is still a chance that an agreement can be reached and a full NBA season will be played. If a deal isn’t finalized, but the sides are close enough to warrant another session or two, commissioner David Stern can choose to push back his Monday deadline and allow negotiations to continue Tuesday without canceling any games.

However, if a deal still hasn’t been reached and the sides are so far apart that a deal isn’t imminent and won’t be finalized this week, here’s a 5-part plan to allow the season to start on time:

First, some facts and figures pertaining to my stopgap solution:

_ The owners have already lost money in the 2011-12 season because preseason games have been cancelled.

_ The owners’ major leverage is canceling some or all of the regular season.

_ The players’ major leverage is decertifying the union and taking the NBA to court.

_ The players have already agreed to take 53 percent of BRI instead of the 57 percent they received since 1999.

_ If the remaining differences between the NBA and NBPA were the only ones that existed when last season ended, they most likely wouldn’t be enough to warrant a lockout.

So here is a 5-step plan to save the 2011-12 season. We’ll call it Agreeing to Disagree.

The way to start the regular season on time, preserve everybody’s leverage and minimize or eliminate the owners’ losses is to take a snapshot of where things stand now, agree to some strange things, and then open training camps immediately.  The five steps:

1. The NBA and NBPA agree to extend the recently expired agreement until August 15, 2012 with one change: The players’ take of BRI is 53 percent instead of 57.  Both sides agree that this does not lock either of them into that percentage in later agreements.

2. Both sides agree that, if no agreement has been reached by July 31, 2012, the league will lock out the players again beginning on August 16, 2012 (this guarantees that summer league takes place and gives teams a chance to set up rehab for any players injured in summer league games).  A lockout must be in place for decertification to make any sense and to move the matter to the courtroom.  Agreeing to a lockout at a later date protects the players’ major leverage.

3. Both sides agree that if no agreement has been reached within a certain number of days after the August 2012 lockout begins, the preseason and the first two weeks of the 2012-13 season are canceled (costing the players a paycheck).

4. Both sides agree that, if no agreement has been reached by an even later date, the owners can start canceling games from Week 3 on, or cancel the entire season.  This would protect the owners’ major leverage, and since cancellation dates would already be set, time pressure would be preserved as well.

5.  Both sides agree to a negotiation schedule for the ’11-12 season that could make implementing steps 2, 3, and 4 unnecessary. 

Doing all this keeps the owners and players from losing any more money this season; significantly reduces – and possibly eliminates – the owners’ losses because they will be keeping 4 percent more of BRI; and preserves the “nuclear” options of both superpowers.

Hopefully, the deal will be done by Monday night. If it’s not, implementing these five steps would allow the season to get underway regardless.

(Note: thanks to Chris Sheridan for some editing improvements and for featuring me as his guest columnist today.  Please visit Chris’ site at www.sheridanhoops.com and follow him on Twitter @sheridanhoops )

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