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MARK HEISLER / ON THE NBA

A lockout is coming to NBA and it'll be here for some time

The players' union and owners will meet Thursday, but don't expect a new collective bargaining agreement until both sides start missing paychecks in September.

June 29, 2011|Mark Heisler
  • NBA Commissioner David Stern probably will have to wait until September before the players' union and owners will come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement.
NBA Commissioner David Stern probably will have to wait until September… (LM Otero / Associated Press )

Only a last-ditch negotiating session Thursday on a new collective bargaining agreement stands between the NBA and the midnight EDT deadline when it could lock out its players.

Of course, if the owners are encouraged by the meeting, Commissioner David Stern could extend the deadline. …

So, they might not have a lockout, after all?

Oh, no, that's still a lock, if not Friday, soon.

Both sides would just be trying to demonstrate they bargained in good faith to set up their cases in coming legal proceedings.

Are you saying this whole thing up to now has just been an act?

Exactamundo!

And months of it remain since both know the gargantuan financial gap can't be closed until the deadline approaches.

And by deadline, they don't mean the start of vacation so they don't have to worry about it over the summer.

It's opening night in late October when NBA owners start losing gate receipts and players their pay.

With one month needed to get ready for a season, the deadline for starting on time is Oct. 1.

OK, when the lockout comes, what happens next?

Nothing.

Nothing?

Even if the owners and the players' union meet, and go through the motions as they have the last few weeks, I wouldn't expect any meaningful talks before mid-August at the earliest.

As far as legal moves, I'd expect the union to make some, to the dismay of Stern.

Why would the union go to court?

A court, or the National Labor Relations Board, might rule in its favor, as the federal court in Minnesota ruled for the NFL players, dramatically shifting the balance of power in those talks.

With the case tangled up in court and NFL owners moving off their 18-game schedule, peace is reportedly near.

Why would the NBA and its players stop talking?

As Stern will explain in an expression of sorrow only slightly less moving than the Gettysburg Address, the failure to make a deal by both sides will force the owners to lock the players out, even if it means damaging their product with lost ticket sales, etc.

With those losses, the owners will be forced to pull their last offer off the table.

So, the NBA made major concessions?

That's the league's story.

The union says the league's last offer, guaranteeing the players $2 billion annually over 10 years, works out to about 45% of basketball-related income... or 12 percentage points less than players get now.

By the union's math, the owners, who wanted to go from their present 43% to 57%, now just want 55%.

That's not very much, is it?

Say you're making $50,000, your boss wants to cut you to $37,700, then backs off to $39,500?

How big a concession would you think that was?

What does the NBA say about the accuracy of those figures?

A league spokesman said it's not commenting on anything.

Isn't that kind of a bunker mentality on the NBA's part?

Let's just say, if you want to know which owners are on their labor committee, try the public library, or the Internet.

OK, even if the NBA trims its offer, why not keep talking?

Both sides will make the other suffer.

If they're both suffering, what's the point?

I don't know but they'll be doing it for the better part of three months.

Who's really going to be hurting?

The owners, who are rich, think the players spend all their money on cars and will be offering to work for food.

Actually, two management people recently told me that about 200 NBA players — almost half — are now being paid on a 12-month basis, as opposed to having already received last season's salary.

With teams happy to pay out slowly, like any business, 200 players bought lockout insurance.

The league can't be happy about that, can it?

What can it do now?

Of course, it may have a drone in the sky over my house, hacking my phone records to see which management people told me that.

Will the union decertify?

Not right away, according to one of its officials.

It's waiting for a decision on its complaint it has filed with the NLRB.

The NLRB could ask the Justice Dept. to take up the case and sue the NBA, seeking a preliminary injunction to lift the lockout.

Of course, if the players get an injunction, the NBA will appeal it as the NFL has.

And if the NLRB goes thumbs down on the players?

I'd bet the union will try to accomplish the same thing by decertifying and filing an antitrust suit, as the NFL players did, successfully.

This is way confusing. Is there a simple way to understand it?

Yeah, give it a total pass.

There weren't any games the next three months, except in the cancelled summer leagues, so who cares how the NBA spends its summer?

Come back Sept.1-15, when this opera finally gets to the fat lady's big number.

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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