NEW YORK — With the NBA lockout entering it’s first weekend and about to end it’s first official day, panic is beginning to set in for many around the NBA world.
Feverish flashbacks to the 1998-99 season, which didn’t start until February of ’99, have been coursing through the cerebral landscapes of fans, players ans owners alike. But another lockout should be coming to mind as it could relfect how this current NBA lockout may go.
That lockout isn’t the NBA’s or the NFL’s, it’s the 2004-05 NHL lockout which nearly crippled the sport. The cost of the labor dispute between NHL owners and players was the fan’s entire season of hockey. It’s safe to say the NBA can’t afford to go through this. But the signs aren’t pointing to an easy fix, or a standoff ala the one the NFL is currently in.
David Stern has been given a task no one in the world would trade spots with him for: try and find a way to pay the players like they want and still be able to keep NBA franchises out of the red.
The main focus of this CBA dispute is the salary cap, the players don’t want a hard one. This would basically mean that the superstars of the NBA, the guys who fans wear their jerseys, would get paid like kings and every other mid-level to lower level player would be forced to fight over the scraps left for them.
But there is an unforeseen X Factor in all of this and that is the agents of the players.
These guys are the ones really mucking up the works and they always have been. If a hard cap is implemented, then agents are pretty much irrelevant without there being a middle class of players. Now if you were an agent, and you made your living serving these players and that livelihood is now in jeopardy, you would react violently too.
Now, that’s not an excuse for the agents, it’s an understanding of their situation. But they put themselves there by jacking up average player salaries to make the dollar sign attached to their percentage rise.
Right now, Billy Hunter has the support of the players, but the agents WILL change that in due time. The agents are scared and backed into a corner here, and when you put even the most timid of animals in that spot, they turn violent.
“I honestly have no idea what our strategy is here,” one prominent agent said this week. “Do we have one?”
They don’t and Billy Hunter really has no way to negotiate them out of harms way. He really doesn’t have to, Hunter’s priority and his main concern is the players and he is looking out for them, not their lackies.
Agents will push for union desertification, and courtroom battles and absolute chaos. They will do this in order to try and force the owners into the corner they currently occupy. If the agents get their way, the owners will be forced to back down from their demands of a hard cap and cry uncle.
The NBA broke out of it’s lockout in 1998-99 because the players were unprepared to deal with it financially from the start. This time around it is a different story and the well prepared players have the resources to sit out for a long time.
Well, the financially set ones are. It’s the guys at the bottom everyone forgets about. But if everybody is going to start pointing the finger like they are in the NFL right now, then let’s all agree on one thing: point the finger directly at the agents of the NBA for feeding greed with greed.