For more than two months, the NBA has remained locked out and stagnant. In the interim, basketball heads have turned their attention to EuroBasket and salivated over highlights from the handful of barnstorming exhibitions and street-ball games. They have watched Kevin Durant become the breakout superstar of the summer, due to his appearances at summer-league hot spots like the Rucker in New York and the Goodman League in his native Washington, D.C. (Try and watch the highlights from the Goodman-Melo exhibition in Baltimore and tell me you don’t miss basketball).
The NBA, however, has remained in a deep freeze. For most of the summer, the only thing the two sides have agreed on is that they disagree on just about everything. David Stern went on Bill Simmons‘ podcast and couldn’t help baring his sarcastic fangs. The union talked about a gap of $7.6 billion, which is at once true and also overstated.
Yet there are signs ‘ even hopeful signs ‘ that things are about to get serious. That doesn’t mean solved. The lockout has really only just begun and we are coming to the time when the days finally begin to mean something. Training camps are less than a month away and soon the players will start to miss paychecks, while owners will start to lose gate receipts. This is when everyone waits for someone to blink and the staredown is in full effect.
But they are talking. The two sides met last week and they did so again on Wednesday with a plan to meet Thursday and possibly Friday.
“We agreed that we’re going to stay here for as many days as we can to see if we’re going to make progress,” Stern told reporters after a five-plus hour session on Wednesday. Both Stern and Hunter said there was still time to come to an agreement and begin the season on time with Stern pegging the timeframe as “three weeks.”
In and of itself, that doesn’t constitute any progress and so far the only concession that has been made public is the tacit agreement to tone down the rhetoric. This was a good move, not only for civility, but also because neither side has done much to move the public opinion needle. If anything, the players have been seen in a slightly more favorable light than usual during a work stoppage ‘ even one imposed by the owners ‘ possibly due to the perceived staggering demands of management.
But that’s a pyrrhic victory at best. In this era of labor unrest, fans (and this is a sweeping generalization) don’t care about wrong and right when it comes to these matters. They simply want the games back. Public relations matter far less than action, and that’s where we stand. Waiting for action.
To that end, two different storylines have emerged. One, as articulated by veteran hoops writer Chris Sheridan, is that the two sides are closer than they have let on. The other, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! is that the agents are growing restless with the tactics of Hunter and the union and are pushing for decertification, much like the NFL union did in their labor situation.
The next few weeks — if not days — will be critical if the NBA is to emerge with a new collective bargaining agreement in time to start the season as scheduled.