"If it's about small-market teams not profiting, if the owners are really using that as a bargaining tool, if you're really concerned about it, then why aren't you profit-sharing like the other leagues are doing?" Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal asked after a workout at the Impact Basketball facility in Las Vegas Tuesday, after word had spread about the latest impasse in the labor talks.
"So do we accept a deal that totally butchers our game? Because what they don't understand, if you take out mid-tier deals and say, 'Fend for bare minimum at the bottom,' they'll be individualizing our game so severely."
That's something I hadn't thought about. Take away guarantees, turn most rosters into extremes of max guys and minimum guys, and you've got a squad full of guys trying to get their numbers to get paid. I saw that dynamic in play with the Clippers before, when Donald Sterling didn't extend the contracts of any of his free-agents-to-be and it was every man for himself.
Baseball and football teams benefit from players in contract years. They get more home runs, more tackles, more wins. In basketball, selfish goals destroy teams.
Guaranteed, salary cap-eating contracts from players who are injured or underperforming can wreck teams as well, of course.(...)
On Monday night I asked if the latest set of owner-union meetings actually represented progress, and as a demonstration I took one step closer to a wall some 40 yards away.
"That's progress," Charlotte Bobcats forward Corey Maggette said, taking the most literal definition he could.
On Tuesday, Maggette wasn't feeling the same way.
"We just took eight steps back," he said.
"Someone needs to compromise," Maggette said. "The owners have to compromise.
"We need to have revenue sharing with the teams that are not making money. That's important. I play[ed] for one of the teams that's one of the worst [in revenues], Milwaukee. We've got to have [sharing] with guys like the Lakers and the big-name teams that's making tons and tons of money. Donald Sterling's another guy that makes money even if he loses. We need to figure out a way to get that going."
The players say they've done a better job of financially preparing themselves for this lockout than they did in 1998. Playing overseas is a more viable option than it was then also. At this point the rank-and-file players might be more unified than the owners, who aren't in accord about whether to scrap the season or how to split the revenues once they resume.
But Maggette knows the cold truth.
"I don't care how much money that the NBA players have, you cannot beat billionaires,"