Last night David Stern and the league’s owners took what the union had to say in response to his ultimatum, threw up two middle fingers and countered with their “last best offer”. Reportedly, the proposal was met by Billy Hunter and the players with magnified shoulder shrugs, eye rolls, and cocked shot guns. And so now it’s looking like things will come down to sometime early next week when, after all the player reps are able to see Stern’s latest proposal, a formal vote will be cast. Should the players shoot the proposal down, Stern issued yet another threat (is anything more hollowed out these days?) about the possibility of the owner’s next offer being reset to their original 53/47 BRI stance. Which is awesome.
Yesterday there were several optimistic reports of serious progress, with relatively minor points such as the mid-level exception and sign-and-trade logistics existing as all that was now holding up a deal from being agreed upon. From the outside, it seems that both sides were nitpicking over philosophical differences that shouldn’t warrant a billion dollar season to be lost. It was assumed that intelligent heads would prevail and logic would triumph over stubborn self-regard.
Yet here we are. Today it was disclosed by ESPN that, according to a source within the union, Stern’s proposal will be rejected by the players on the basis that the owners are trying to restrict player movement by instituting a system that closely resembles a hard cap. Is this point worth losing what promises to be the most intriguing season in recent memory? Is it worth the possibility of permanently losing fans whose initial impatience has transformed into infuriated anger? Both sides say they’re looking at the big picture, but I’m not so sure, after what we’ve seen these past 134 days, that anyone involved would know what the big picture was if it punched them in the face.