US basketball players locked out

NBA Dallas MavericksAmerica's basketball league the NBA become the second of the country's sporting leagues to lock its players out yesterday as talks over a new collective bargaining deal broke down. Players will now not be paid or allowed to use team facilities. This could be huge blow for a sport on the up.
As we have already reported (see link below) the row between players and owners is over how the NBA's annual $4.3bn in revenue is split. Players currently receive 57% while the league takes 43%. The league wants to take a greater share and impose a salary cap, while players oppose the cap and want a more even distribution among clubs.

Big divide

Players union chief Billy Hunter said the two sides "just can't find any way to bridge that gap" while NBA commissioner David Stern said there was a "philosophical divide" between the parties. The last NBA lockout, in 1998/99, saw the season reduced to just 50 games.

Interest in basketball is at an all-time high, and the prospect of a sustained lockout has to some to air worries about a loss of momentum as interest turns elsewhere. But while it would be foolish to dismiss the negative effects of the lockout, basketball is deeply embedded in the national psyche.

US basketball writer Brian Ward says that, for most people, this is just "your typical billionaires vs. millionaires fracas, with both sides crying poverty and paying a bunch of lawyers to sit down for intense negotiations". And he says casual fans won't really notice the implications until actual games are lost.

Inept decision-making

He also points the finger at front office managers, who he describes as "inept", going on "Teams continue to recycle failed general managers, and coaches for that matter, then act shocked when these repeat-failures make a bad $100M decision for them."

He reckons the owners have enough money to enable them to sit things out for longer, and that the players' union will face increasing pressure from its own members to settle as the financial losses kick in. So what will be key in the coming weeks is the battle for public opinion.

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