The National Basketball Assn. appears poised to end its five-month lockout, and a new labor agreement can't come soon enough for the thousands of idled workers who don't have a seat at the negotiating table. Those include the employees and entrepreneurs who make a living inside and around the arenas, as well as the restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops that cater to the surge of fans on game days.
For everyone else, the announcement of a tentative deal is a mixed blessing. The union agreed to let owners slash payrolls by up to $3 billion over the coming decade, with lower maximum pay raises and a slower salary ramp-up for most young players. But given that the typical NBA career is short, most players couldn't afford to sacrifice the whole season in the hope of wearing down the owners. Besides, the league has little choice but to cut payrolls; collectively, the 30 teams are losing far too much.
The deal also would shorten player contracts and make it prohibitively expensive to exceed the league's formerly porous salary cap. As a result, players are likely to switch teams more often, and the dynastic big-market franchises (e.g., the Lakers and the Boston Celtics) will have a harder time keeping as many stars. The goal is to let small-market teams put together more competitive lineups, despite their limited ticket sales and television revenue.