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The time is closing down on the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and it looks in all likelihood that there will be no new agreement before expiration. In fact, judging from the most recent proposals from both sides and comments made by the people in the negotiations this is likely to spread into the traditional start of the NBA season and possibly cost the league an entire year of play.

This is not a good thing for those who don’t understand labor relations. The NHL had a work stoppage that cost the league an entire season. The league is still struggling to recover from that debacle and no one, especially not the players, benefited from the fight.

The issues are numerous but boil down to one simple thought. Are the owners making money or not in the NBA.

Now there is no arguement that some owners are making money, a lot of money actually. But you can’t make a league from 5 or 6 teams. Some teams aren’t making a lot of money but they are breaking even give or take a million or so one way or the other on the ledger. For billionaire play toys that isn’t a serious problem. A million here or there really isn’t that big of a dent.

However some teams are losing real money. Not a million here or there on aledger after factoring in depreciation and other non-cash expenses. Real money that comes out of someone’s pocket. at least 20% of the teams in the league have lost on averageapproximately $20 million a season since the last CBA negotiations. It isn’t hard to understand why the owners see no reason to maintainthe status quo in the league.

But is this the players problem?After all, no one is telling the owners to spend so much money on player contracts.As fans in Memphis know only too well, you don’t have to spendover the salary cap. You don’teven have to spend up to the salarycap. For years the Grizzlies existed with payrolls significantly BELOW the salary cap.

Now those teams were bad. Not sort of bad either. I mean really bad.So bad people didn’t even want to come out and watch them play. So bad that players prefered to have theirsalaries cut and released rather than play here. So badthat ESPN and other media outlets refused to even show replays of their games because people would turn off theirTVs instead of watching them.

It’s not a coincidence that theGrizzlies became respectable once they started spending money again. If other team’s are willing to spend way in excess of the cap number to buy the best players then eithersmall revenue teams need to overspend to keep their stars or be in a constant state of rebuilding. Luckily for Memphis Mr. Heisley made investments in the team that allowed the Grizzlies to escape the NBA lottery purgatory but there is no guarantee if he continues to lose large sums of money he will continue to spend money to keep the talent here.

That’s where the CBA comes into play. It’s an agreement between the players and the owners on a way of splitting the revenue to both sides profit equally. Both sides are going to end up with less than they want in their dream scenario but both sides will gain certain advantages as well in the negotiations.

Time will tell how much the fans caught in the middle of this will lose in the process.

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