Ratto: NBA owners get their way ... not yours

September 13, 2011, 9:57 pm
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Sept. 13, 2011


Follow @RattoCSNRay Ratto

The last time a sports league wanted to go from a soft salary cap to a hard one, that league stopped operating for a year.That was the National Hockey League in 2004-5, and while the owners got their hard cap, they also learned the other parts of the equation.1. There are ways to evade the hard cap.2. The struggles in their other occupations did not abate because of it.3. They still dont trust each other.4. They hate the current system just as much, which is why their negotiations next year will be just as protracted and ugly as the NBAs currently are.5. The sporting world is running out of billionaires.
Ostensibly, the owners intransigence, as shown yet again by their refusal to move off their original proposal in negotiations with the players union, is designed to even the playing field between the haves and the know-nots, but we know better.This is just about beating the players, and if there was a hard cap, the owners would want something else even more draconian. The minimum wage. The end of free agency. No more medical. Players provide their own equipment. Whatever.This right here is how the owners compete, and they want to be thought of as competitors just as much as the players do. They want to beat the players because theyre the only ones available to go after, and we know this for one reason.In fact, its the first reason. Namely, you cant legislate against smart, or stupid. Or for that matter, honor and treachery.Whatever the system, teams with the eye for brigandry will get around it. Thats what the NHL saw in the days, months and years since they gave away a season for a deal that most of the owners now hate as much as the previous one.This is about the fact that some owners have advantages that they want to press, and other dont have those advantages or dont know how to press them. And since they know inherently that none of them can truly be trusted in an atmosphere where trust is for saps, they can only go after the other available target.The employees.Which is why Tuesdays development should have shocked no living being. The NBA lockout has barely begun by labor standards, and we are still in the early stages of ugly. The moderates are outnumbered, and the cost of closed doors hasnt really begun to sink in.Eventually the center reassembles itself and cobbles together a new deal, though it wont be for awhile maybe even that year the NHL threw away. But the owners will be no better off in the end, because they cant help themselves. They will try to game the system they fought for, their fellow owners will not trust them or vice versa, and we will be back again in a few years doing the same dance. Because as long as this is about punishing the players for being the entertainment, the owners will miss the central point, which is this:They still like the players more than they like each other.Ray Ratto is a columnist at CSNBayArea.com.

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