Originally posted on Celtics Town  |  Last updated 11/13/11


Unless the NBA’s latest ultimatum is a smoke screen designed solely to make the players fold, the NBA season is in serious jeopardy. A number of players have weighed in on the latest proposal, most of them describing a reaction similar to disgust, but those players may or may not have seen the full document.

One person who has? NBPA executive first vice president Etan Thomas. To say the least, Thomas does not think fondly of the NBA’s latest offer. Thomas wrote a guest article for ESPN.com, during which he more or less ran over the proposal with an 18-wheeler, backed up over it again, then dropped a grenade out the window to make sure that goddamn proposal would not survive.

Thomas called the proposal “awful.” He called it “worse than the proposal they gave us last week.” He said he has not met a single person who thinks it’s an acceptable deal. He said the proposed system functions as a hard cap. He said Michael Jordan’s presence at the negotiating table scares nobody. He said the proposed mid-level exception is so restricted, it’s ultimately useless. He said the players’ options are currently “a horrible deal now or a worse deal later,” and he said nobody should be surprised when the players take neither.

Sounds like no season, how u.

But Howard Beck of the New York Times obtained a copy of the proposal, too. Through what he called a side-by-side examination, Beck determined the new proposal is indeed better for the players than the last one, albeit not incredibly changed. He then called Adam Silver, who — surprise, surprise — defended the league’s proposal.

“It’s of grave concern to the league that there is an enormous amount of misinformation concerning our proposal,” Adam Silver, the deputy commissioner, said in a telephone interview Saturday night. “We believe that if the players are fully informed as to what is and is not in our proposal, they will agree that its terms are beneficial to them and represent a fair compromise.”

Of course, even if Beck’s position is correct and the new proposal is improved, slight movement on a few issues does not necessarily mean the players will accept the new proposal. To many of the players, accepting a poor deal is about far more than the money. Principles matter, too.

Thomas said the owners “want a bailout from their own mismanagement decisions.” He said the NBA doesn’t try to negotiate; it tells the players how things will be. He seconded Troy Polamalu’s opinion that this is bigger than millionaires fighting against billionaires: During the NFL lockout, Polamalu said, “The big business argument is, ‘I got the money and I got the power, therefore, I can tell you what to do.’ That’s life everywhere. I think this is a time when the football players are standing up saying, ‘No, no, no, the people have the power.’”

Thomas said the owners are equivalent to the “1%” that have inspired the Occupy Wall Street movement, and he said nobody should be surprised that Michael Jordan has become a hypocrite. “Why do people have difficulty understanding that he is no longer a player but currently joined at the hip with the rest of the CEOs of the NBA, who — like Bank of America, Wall Street and the rest of the 1 percent — not only want but expect a bailout for their own actions?” asked Thomas.

Tell us how you really feel, Etan. No need to hold back, sir.

David Stern, according to Thomas, has attempted to manipulate players through the media. I doubt you’ll find too many able-minded people to argue that premise. And that promise of a 72-game season if the proposal is accepted? It’s just to put pressure on the players. That deadline, after which the NBA will revert back to an incredibly inferior offer? It’s just to make the players fold. All these leaks, saying progress has been made, saying a deal is close, saying the league won’t consider a season less than 70 games, some of the leaks even coming from a close friend of Stern’s? They’re just to make the backlash greater if and when the players decide to reject the proposal.

What Stern should know better than anybody, what these blood-sucking owners need to realize, is that the NBA is, was and always has been a players league. Before Magic Johnson and Larry Bird became stars, playoff games were shown on tape delay. Then Michael Jordan took the league by storm, and Kobe Bryant carried the torch, and Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard and a number of other stars made the league more profitable than ever. If the backlash against players, against the league, is substantial — and it will be if this lockout continues much longer — the league will suffer.

After already winning all the economic concessions they could reasonably expect, the owners are continuing the lockout based on a wild goose they call “parity.” The NBA says it’s chasing competitive balance, but that’s like chasing a ghost — according to studies, competitive balance in the NBA cannot be achieved by changing the league’s financial landscape. Even if the mid-level exception is restricted, luxury tax is heightened, and sign-and-trades are not allowed for taxpayers, there’s zero reason to believe any proposed changes will result in increased parity.

All of which brings us back to the title of this post: Is the NBA’s new proposal better or worse than the last one? Maybe the answer doesn’t matter. If the players still consider the most recent proposal awful, which their executive first vice president certainly does, whether it’s better than the last one means absolutely nothing.

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