This post is what happens when I'm stuck in a NYC lobby for 15-hour increments spread across three days. For anyone not yet following the NBA stakeout via Twitter, which is much more interesting than following the NBA stakeout in person, you can do that here: Deep Sixer. Today's meeting started around 10:30 a.m. If everything is going well, this session should last an absolute minimum of 10-12 hours. Both sides said last night -- post is here: Thursday night update -- that they'd come to Friday's session prepared to stay as long as necessary to get a deal.
In talking with those around the 76ers organization, there's a decided sense of optimism that today (and by "today" we mean "today" as a starting point and likely stretching through the weekend) is the time for a deal. And that's the first time it's been that way. Both the NBA and the union have said a lot of things the previous two days to excite the fan base. Things like, "A deal is within reach if both sides show some flexibility," and, "We're preparing to negotiate over everything," and even admitting that they're considering ways to still play a full 82-game schedule. Stripped down, what each side is saying is that a new collective bargaining is possible, and the only way things fall apart this time is if one side (or both sides) refuse to display the necessary flexibility. It's no longer a matter of a ridiculously un-closeable gap, it's a matter of stepping to the plate and saving the game.
In the last three days, because of the odd hours, I've been Tweeting and interacting with a different segment of the Sixers' fan base: fans located overseas. All of us here at the stakeout have been reminded of the global reach of this game. Even if there's a certain sense of apathy in the U.S., and certainly that apathy exists in Philly (go ahead and post another "Who cares?" comment!), there is a notable following overseas. The NBA is risking a heck of a lot during this lockout, even if many downplay the game's relevance domestically.
For those of you desperate for the gruesome details of what these guys are hashing out, here's the quick-hit synopsis: the split in basketball revenue (BRI) and the luxury tax system. This is a generalization because there are smaller system issues as well, and more nuisances than I'd ever be able to comprehend or convey surrounding issues like the amnesty clause (read HERE for my discussion of this clause and Elton Brand), the mid-level exception, the contract lengths, etc. But to be able to discuss the issues intelligently (although I'm unsure anyone is really discussing this lockout), the two main things are the percentage of BRI split and the details of the luxury tax system. Last we've heard, the union was willing to accept around 51.5-52.0 percent of the BRI. The owners have formally proposed a 50-50 split. The BRI (according to what union chief Billy Hunter told Chris Sheridan of www.sheridanhoops.com) will be the first issue on today's agenda. Also important is the luxury tax system. The owners want a hard-hitting luxury tax enforced on teams (it used to be $1 for every $1 over the soft cap) that spend over the salary cap. This is the crucial "system" issue, while the split of BRI is the "economic" issue.
Anyone extremely interested in the details of this next CBA, I urge you to read the following blog post from ESPN's True Hoop: The Payroll Myth. As a Sixers' and NBA fan, when considering exactly what's happening in this lockout, it's important to understand what each side is fighting for. I think we can all agree the NBA has a number of system issues that have affected the on-court product. Things like long, guaranteed contracts can set franchise's back for half of a decade. The owners are standing behind the belief that payroll balance (hard cap or something akin to it) will solve all of the competitive balance issues. What's convenient for NBA owners is that payroll balance also puts money in their pockets and makes their franchises more profitable. Which is fine, but what the above blog addresses is whether payroll balance affects success or whether the real key is intelligent drafting. Please take a minute to read the research on this topic. You'll also be surprised to find that the Sixers success in drafting is actually quite high, although they're one of the few successful drafting teams whose win percentage doesn't correlate. The study covers all NBA drafts since 1989. The Sixers were ranked as No. 7 overall in drafting value, while only produced a winning percentage of 47.4 percent (tied with the New Orleans Hornets, who had the No. 1 overall drafting value). What does this blog suggest? That teams win championships not by signing all-star free agents, but through the draft. Obviously, the big problem with the NBA is that, because of this fact, many teams feel compelled to fully tank because then they can land a top draft pick. How do you solve that problem? You can't. Because the NBA is a star league, and teams want that fast return by tanking and then drafting a superstar. The NBA is the only league where one star can reverse your fortunes. I'm preaching to the choir here, of course. But if you buy into the draft being key, and not free agency, then the idea of the necessity of a hard salary cap (or insanely restrictive luxury tax) is moot.
Mostly, all of this is just food for thought. We're settling into a long day today of waiting. And it's likely that long day of waiting will turn into a long weekend of waiting.
Each week, Kate will check in from the road and answer fan questions about the Sixers. Click here to ask Kate a question or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.