CBS Sports’ Ken Berger called in to Dennis & Callahan Friday morning to discuss the NBA lockout. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page .
Berger said the key difference between the CBA negotiations in 1998 and 2011 is ‘a groundswell now of support among the owners to fundamentally change the sport.’
‘That was not the case in the ‘98-99 lockout,’ Berger said. ‘The owners wanted cost-certainty, now they want to be guaranteed profit. They essentially want the players crushed and brought to their knees.’
While Berger said that the two biggest issues in these negotiations are profit-splits and the hard-cap, he also criticized the NBA owners for misrepresenting their profitability to justify their position.
‘I don’t want to say that the owners are lying, or committing accounting fraud, or anything like that,’ Berger said. ‘But as anybody knows, anybody who’s ever done a tax return or opened a lemonade stand, you know that you can make the numbers say whatever you want them to say.
‘They are clearly massaging the figures so that certain expenses ‘¦ are counted on their books as money going out the door year after year, when it’s not really money going out the door.’
Berger added that it was the media’s responsibility to report when owners or players were misrepresenting their positions.
Berger said this lockout is less about actual profit-distribution and more about ‘hard-line’ owners seeking ‘an absolute, and dramatic, and significant, and life-changing change to the way the NBA does business, to the money that the players get, and to the way the system is run.’
‘From a dollar standpoint, this can be figured out,’ he said. ‘I think if there were a serious effort on the part of the owners to want to compromise, a compromise would not be very difficult to find.’
On the other side of the negotiations, Berger said, ‘The players couldn’t possibly have been expected to bend.’
‘They were put in a corner from which they could not negotiate themselves out of,’ he added. Berger also said this cornering has prevented the players from fighting back from a public-relations standpoint.
‘Until the owners decide that they are willing to compromise as opposed to inflict their viewpoint and their way on the players, we are going to stay exactly where we are,’ Berger said.
Despite the lockout and how contentious the CBA negotiations currently are, Berger was still not convinced the 2011-12 season would be lost.
‘It’s a game of chicken,’ Berger said. “It’s easy to say on July 1 that you’re willing to risk the entire season. If they’re still willing to say that on September 1, then I’ll believe them.’
However, Berger added, ‘if the owners were willing to lock the players out at 12:01 this morning, then what they had better have been saying is that they are willing to lose an entire season, because that very well could happen once you go down that road.’
Berger said that while not all the owners were willing to risk a year of empty arena seats, the players may also crack under the pressure of continuing to miss paychecks, especially once the ‘lockout fund’ runs dry.
‘I think you’re looking at mid-November when people start to get agitated, and then you wonder, do you get a situation ‘¦ where the ownership of the union has to pay the price for the length of the lockout and the players becoming agitated and wanting to get paid?’ Berger said.
Berger said a lockout-shortened season would benefit the Celtics .
‘I think a veteran team like that, you would certainly have to say that it would benefit them just from a wear-and-tear standpoint,’ Berger said. ‘Your Big Three obviously are not getting any younger, and if you lop off 32 regular season games that they don’t have to play, that gives you a little more fuel in the tank for the playoffs.’
Comparing the CBA negotiations of the NFL and the NBA, Berger said the NBA’s situation is ‘far worse.’