SACRAMENTO, California—If you have that old hopeful feeling that the NBA will start soon, banish the thought.
The noise of millionaires arguing with billionaires over money goes on.
League Commissioner David Sterns and his bosses—the team owners—remain consistent with their stand: give no quarter to the players when it comes to sharing the NBA’s $4-billion-plus basketball related income (BRI) every year.
The players and their union president Derek Fisher want at least 52 percent from the till—5 percent less than what they got last season. But the owners are adamantly saying that’s a lot of quarters, buster—we’d settle for a 50-50 split, take it or leave it, thank you!
Meanwhile, both parties still have not resolved other non-BRI-related issues including elements of the luxury tax, the length of guaranteed contracts and mid-level exceptions.
And so as negotiations in the 125-day-old labor dispute falter, NBA fans fume all over the globe—from the Philippines to Poland, from Australia to Angola, from Mexico to Mozambique. They want their incredible shrinking league now!
Meantime, opening nights will come and go and additional games could fall from the regular season calendar like leaves in autumn.
The Houston Rockets were to be in town last night for the first game of a four-game home stand for the struggling Sacramento Kings.
It would have been bustling around my neck of the woods—the city’s North Natomas district. But the revelry that would have occurred to welcome the Kings for at least another year was eerily absent.
Opening night would have been a sellout; the sports bars and eating places around the Power Balance Pavilion would have been packed. The local media would have ignored the Kings’ lousy season last year and painted a rosy picture of them in the spirit of fun.
Instead, Sacramento lost sleep last night and feels beat up and sad. Its cheerlessness is shared by other NBA cities where opening nights were also closed for business.
But more throbbing than the economic pain of lost revenue is the growing frustration and disenchantment of fans while the owners and players haggle over how to split wealth.
In a well-chronicled episode of steam-venting recently, a fan sent Miami Heat owner Mickey Arison a tweet that read:
“Guess what? Fans provide all the money you’re fighting over, you greedy (expletive)!
Arison, in a reply that suggested disunity in the ranks of his fellow NBA billionaires, tweeted back:
“Honestly, u r barking at the wrong owner.”
Another fan then posted on Arison’s account: “Know it’s not ur fault at this point, it’s become child’s play. Grown men making stupid decisions over money.” Arison replied, “Exactly.”
The first poster then responded: “Then can you bark at the other owners? This is RIDICULOUS!!!” To which Arison replied: “Now u r making some sense.”
Arison was promptly fined $500,000 by Commissioner Stern for his lockout-related tweets in violation of a league directive not to make any comments on the topic.