David Stern is starting to talk big as collective bargaining looms over the 2010-11 season.
If last year was a prelude to the potential free agent bonanza casting a shadow over the events of the season, this year might as well be played in the dark. An even bigger shadow will be cast upon the season this year. The looming collective bargaining negotiation and the potential lockout in the summer of 2011 figures to tinge every part of the conversation about the NBA's future.
It is simply too hard to predict what will happen beyond this year because the league, headed by commissioner David Stern, is demanding major concessions from the players.
The league contends it is losing somewhere near $400 million per year because of the economic downturn. The owners want a major reduction in salaries and potentially a new formula for determining the basketball related income that goes into computing the salary cap. Then there is the issue of whether to maintain the current soft cap system or go to an NFL-like hard cap system.
A lot of the words being exchanged in the public are pure posturing. No one is revealing their negotiating strategy at this point in hopes of getting what they really want when they sit down for formal negotiations -- likely during the All-Star Break in Los Angeles or right before the June 30 deadline to have a new deal in place.
That does not mean the posturing will be pretty at all and give fans more than a few scares.
David Stern briefly mentioned perhaps the worst thing imaginable consequence of this collective bargaining for a lot of fans. Contraction.
That word is death knell to any team in a small market or with a losing history (or no history). It is a word that raises some red flags even where it shouldn't. Orlando should not be worried about a possible contraction, after all we just built a new arena for an NBA franchise and have one of the better teams in the league. But it was not so long ago that Orlando was a struggling team with no plans to replace an aging arena.
Remember those days? It was a difficult time for Magic fans (at least the few that went to games every night). We really did not know the future of the franchise. The team almost moved to Louisville or Kansas City. It was really close too!
So this is a scary scary proposition for the NBA to be making. The idea of contraction is one that a lot of old-school NBA fans who believe the talent pool has been diluted by over expansion want. So this might be music to their ears.
"That would be more for them in their decision-making process than ours," union president Derek Fisher said in an ESPN.com report. "We have a responsibility to protect as many jobs as we possibly can, so that would be more for the commissioner and the league and the owners to make a decision on contraction and numbers of teams and those things."
Stern is pretty adamant right now that contractions is not going to happen. But you have to remember these comments are all posturing. The players and the owners are trying to make their positions sound a whole lot better than they actually are.
Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com is fairly certain a deal will be reached and the season will not be interrupted. This is especially considering the fact the NFL is going through labor troubles of its own. It seems unlikely the NBA would break much of the goodwill it has created the last 10 years since the 1999 lockout. The league is unarguably the most popular it has been since Michael Jordan's retirement. It is very difficult to imagine throwing it all away as players and owner bicker with each other over millions of dollars.
Still it is no encouraging to hear less than a year from when this all needs to get done that the players and the owners are still seemingly very far apart.