Last night was supposed to be a great night for Orlando. Demons were to be exorcized and a summer of frustration vented on the team that ended the season so prematurely. The Atlanta Hawks were supposed to be in town, our first look at the division rival who ended the season last year.
Who knows if the Magic would be rolling or would be struggling. Our two simulations seem to think both are possible.
One thing we know is that the Magic would be ready for the Hawks to come to town. Strat-O-Matic had the Magic winning a 95-78 game at Amway Center in a typically sluggish and ugly game between the two teams.
That does not seem to matter after the news today that the union has disclaimed interest in negotiations and has turned everything over to the lawyers to sort through in the antitrust suit to come. Sunday's game at UCF Arena might have been the last basketball we will see for the 2011-12 season.
The disclaiming of interest does not mean that the season is lost. No, the two sides could come to an agreement as they sort through the lawsuit. The players will officially miss their first paycheck Tuesday and we will see how long that might last. David Stern continues to contend the league would need only 30 days to get itself back up and running.
That is the optimist's view though.
Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher announced that the decision was a unanimous one from the union representatives and members present at today's meeting. The NBPA is no more. Maybe the threat of treble damages will shift the leverage and make a deal possible. As many have speculated, this move has come very late in the game and could take a long time to settle -- especially considering how stubborn the two sides have been throughout these negotiations.
Nobody is quite sure how things will work from here on out. The league is entering a "nuclear winter" as Stern described it on SportsCenter shortly after the union announced its decision to disclaim interest. That rhetoric might be hyperbole but there is an uncertainty.
Trials take a long time. And this negotiation tactic (as Stern would call it, but everything down to every press appearance is a negotiating tactic) is designed to put a threat on the owners. It is a gamble to go after the treble damages that an antitrust suit can bring. It could be a while before the players see those damages.
The owners though will persist, believing they are in the right and it is the players who bargained in bad faith. Stern has been good at spinning the league's take, and the truth is surely somewhere in the middle. But it has been the players trying to meet the owners halfway and he owners apparently putting road blocks and offering proposals they know the players would not accept. They forced the players hand to either give in to a bad deal or continue fighting.
Both decisions are bad ones.
And both sides have completely mishandled this lockout, letting hardliners rule negotiations and not striking a deal while the iron was hot. We are still pretty close to a deal, but stubbornness and intractability have reigned instead of common sense.
Stern may talk about competitive balance being necessary to improve the game, and he may be right. But surely losing a season hurts the game much more than any provision or plan for competitive balance. This short-sightedness is absolutely killing the momentum this league had generated. The scare tactics -- used at times by both sides -- have been childish.
This is becoming billionaires pushing around millionaires and millionaires crying poor. The fans and the public are not going to take it much longer. And who knows how long it will take for them to come back. It might not be until this next agreement expires, and then we get to go through this all over again.
It is just sickening.
I honestly would rather see an ugly game where Gilbert Arenas leads the Magic with 14 points and Dwight Howard plays only 11 minutes without committing a foul. At least then we could remember that basketball is just a game and a form of entertainment. Soon everyone will be turning elsewhere for it.