Basketball Writers Are Locked Out, Too

By Dan Levine

The NBA lockout hasn’t just ruined Summer League, Preseason and Training Camp for the players, while killing (future) real games for the fans, and causing hundreds of NBA employees to become unemployed.. there’s another casualty here – the writers.

Instead of covering team-based stories and charting rookie progress, NBA writers are stuck covering The Lockout, 24/7. And with every single basketball writer in America focused on the work stoppage, we get tons of news, even when there is really nothing new to report.

For example, the latest marathon bargaining session that took place Wednesday offers “hope.” Have you heard this story before?

“NBA owners and players ended a marathon negotiation session early Thursday after meeting for more than 15 hours in talks aimed at ending the lockout. ‘We can’t say that major progress was made in any way, (said union president Derek Fisher), but some progress was made on system issues — obviously enough for us to come back.’

NBA commissioner David Stern said he hopes to build upon the progress made. ‘We’re not going to talk about the particular progress,” he said. “The energy in the room has been good; the back and forth has been good.'”

So, there was progress, but not really, if I understand this correctly. As in, the sides made it through a day of bargaining without getting into a huge, public pissing match. I guess that’s progress.

But in terms of offering actual hope, I’m not buying it. NBA owners and players have already proven that sitting in a room together for large amounts of time often amounts to nothing at all. Remember this 16-hour session (Oct. 19)? Or how about these back-to-back talks from Oct. 1 when commissioner David Stern emerged saying,

“If we didn’t think there was any hope, we wouldn’t be scheduling the meetings.”

And so the the days change, but the rhetoric stays the same. And so, to push the story and to maintain fan interest, NBA reporters continue to push the theme of hope and progress, even when there are few indications that REAL progress is really being made.

Of course, that’s not to try and take away from some of the excellent reporting and commentary coming from NBA writers, who have actually been impressive in their effort to stay on top of this never-ending story. Once you get past all the BS out there, some of the latest news is pretty interesting.

For example, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst has details on a growing divide between small market and big market teams at the ownership level.

“When the Lakers agreed to a new local television deal worth several billion dollars last winter, it only further united their small-market competition in pressing for a makeover of both the revenue-sharing system and the split with the players.

“That Lakers’ TV deal scared the hell out of everybody,” one league official said. “Everyone thought there is no way to compete with that. Then everyone started thinking that it wasn’t fair that they didn’t have to share it with the teams they’re playing against.”

Pile all of those factors together and you have a faction of owners in 2006 that has turned into a majority in 2011. They are furious that the players are getting paid so much. They are furious that the NBA’s current revenue sharing ($60 million a year) is worth less than half of a league like the NHL ($137 million). And they are trying to take advantage of throwing their new weight around.”

As if these talks weren’t contentious enough already, we now have an owners-vs-owners dispute to settle. And it probably won’t be quick and easy, either.

There is also plenty of writing out there, favouring either the players and the owners. I’m not getting too deep into my opinion, but Ian O’Connor lays out some of the reasons that NBA money should go to the guys who bounce the ball, while Dan Le Batard explains why this lockout has become all about greedy owners waiting for the players to cave:

“The players are an easy target but not an accurate one. They already have agreed, in essence, to a league-wide pay cut that gives back hundreds of millions of dollars — and they have done it because the owners have run their business improperly, basically giving back hundreds of millions in concessions to help the owners police themselves. And it hasn’t been enough. It really is breathtaking in its stupidity and makes you wonder how these people got rich in the first place doing business this way. We build these wealthy men arenas. We invest in their product in more ways than one. And what do we get in return now? These successful businessmen have somehow figured out a way to take the paying customer’s sport and team and fun — but not the paying customer’s money.”

Maybe you disagree. Either way, it seems obvious that the lockout won’t end until the players do cave, rightly or wrongly.

Finally, David Stern still says the NBA could play 82 games this year, though some (most?) people are skeptical that it could actually work. Count myself among that crowd.

Where do you stand on all this? Read any great lockout articles you want to share? Drop the links below, tell us what you think, and have a great Thursday.


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