NBA owners and the NBPA had a quiet July. There were no negotiating sessions and few verbal grenades thrown by either side. Monday's first meeting between the parties since the lockout started seems to have unleashed the vitriol. Since the meeting, commissioner David Stern expressed harsh words for the union, accusing them of not bargaining in good faith, and then the owners took legal action against the union. Yesterday in Baltimore, union chief Billy Hunter had this to say, as per the Chicago Tribune:
"The circumstances have changed among his (Stern's) constituency," said Hunter, the executive director since 1996. "In the last six or seven years, there is a new group of owners to come in who paid a premium for their franchises, and what they're doing is kind of holding his feet to the fire."
Because negotiators are dug in, Hunter said "something has to happen that both of us can use as leverage to save face."
Asked by a conference attendee whether there would be a 2011-12 season, he replied: "If I had to bet on it at this moment, I would probably say no."
Reason for alarm? The first impression is that of course we don't want to see each side launching Scuds at the other. Eventually, they'll have to arrive at an agreement and it ultimately does neither side any good to damage the other. They need each other to run a successful league.
However, I see it another way. It was inevitable that it was going to come to this, and the sooner it bottoms out after each side has unloaded their weapons, the sooner they can start to get serious about resolving the conflict. This is all part of the dance. Sure, it's a crappy dance and not close to as fun as the one pictured above, but this is where we are now, and the statements and actions we've seen this week were going to happen sometime. Might as well get them over with now; it's more helpful than each side sitting on their hands doing nothing.