Posted by Matt Moore
The NBA labor talks had been pretty cordial so far . Both sides had made some noise in the other's direction, but things looked like they might be headed towards progress. That's great news for those of us wanting to avoid a lockout and get back to the business of watching basketball. And then, Ted Leonsis decided to get all loose-lipped.
Leonsis spoke to a group of Washington businessmen Tuesday and accidentally, or perhaps "accidentally" let slip a significant aspect of the NBA owners' approach to the labor talks. In short, they really do want a hard cap, and they intend to get it. Buckle up.
"In a salary cap era -- and soon a hard salary cap in the NBA like it's in the NHL -- if everyone can pay the same amount to the same amount of players, its the small nuanced differences that matter," he said.Whoops. NBA commissioner David Stern was quick to bring the hammer down to try and contain the damage today in a statement to reporters.
"We're negotiating and that was one of our negotiating points," Stern told the Associated Press, "but collective bargaining is a negotiating process, and that was not something that Ted was authorized to say and he will be dealt with for that lapse in judgment."
Geez. Hope Ted doesn't own any horse stables. The NBAPA obviously did take notice of the little slip of the tongue, and commented the following on Twitter.
Wiz owner Leonsis likes NHL-style hard salary cap. Must like lockouts, too. http://tiny.cc/jikrx @dwadeofficial @kingjames @carmeloanthonyYikes. Message received, loud and clear, NBAPA.
This is a pretty big tip of the hand by the owners, and an attempt to gain public favor for a hard cap represents a pretty big violation of unspoken rules for the negotiations. This is all beside the fact that a hard cap? It's going to be total war for the owners to get. There's no middle ground here. The NBA currently has that middle ground, with a salary cap exceedable by various exceptions. A hard cap is an all-or-nothing element of the negotiations, and it represents a total victory for the owners. It's also the last line in the sand for the players, who in no way will want to play under something which restricts their salaries to that degree.
Leonsis either intended to reveal the ownership's desire for a hard cap, in a calculated effort to get the issue into public discussion, or really did slip, in which case he's not nearly the braniac we thought he was. This complicates the negotiations in general and enflames both sides.
Like I said, buckle up, kiddos. This is going to be a a long, hard lockout.