NEW YORK — What if someone made you this offer:
If you give me $4 today, I will give you back $40 in a month. But if you refuse to give me $4, you are guaranteed to lose $40 within a month. So you will either gain $36, or lose $40.
You’d be nuts to turn that offer down, correct?
Well, multiply that $4 by 10 million, and then ask the same question: Would you let go of $40 million today if it ensured that you’d get $400 million back? Your net gain would be $360 million, and your only alternative would be a $400 million loss.
It’s a no brainer, right?
It is clear to anyone with a brain that the way for the sides in the NBA lockout to have closed the deal yesterday was to agree on a 51/49 split of revenues. As I wrote last night, 51 was the magic number. Instead, the union dug in its heels at 52 percent, and the owners wasted an opportunity to end this madness by announcing on the third consecutive day of talks that they were not willing to budge off their previous offer of a 50/50 split.
So with 99 percent of the work done, they let the final 1 percent become a deal-killer. They are $80 million apart, and they are willing to flush $4 billion down the toilet to show what badasses they are.
How could this be allowed to happen?
The best explanation of the morning comes from Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, who has analyzed this asshattery (his new favorite word) better than any other NBA writer throughout the entire NBA lockout:
“There is no rational way to explain this behavior, so there has to be something wrong. And the only answer is that neither Stern nor Hunter had the authority to negotiate beyond his established position. No wonder the NBA is in such sorry shape, losing $300 million a year and destroying the interest of people who might consider spending money on their product some day with every illogical decision they make. It’s easy to figure out who is giving Stern his marching orders; he works for the owners, many of whom are going for a bloodbath in this negotiation instead of a rational victory. Given the scope of the owners’ initial demands, the players have won a couple of surprising “victories” by holding onto guaranteed contracts and a $5 million mid-level exception and beating back the owners’ pursuit of a hard team salary cap. But every other aspect of the deal that’s been negotiated to this point is in favor of the owners: minimally, a $1.3 billion reduction in salaries over six years, shorter contracts, smaller raises, a more punitive luxury tax, and on and on. But Stern has done what I warned him not to do. A lawyer by trade, he failed to see the sure victory of a plea bargain in his midst and stubbornly — presumably not of his own free will — decided to take this one to the jury, where everybody loses. The one thing Stern remains empowered to do is own the spin game, and he did that masterfully again Friday by pinning the blame on Hunter for walking out. And as with most spin, there was an element of truth to Stern’s account. He and deputy commissioner Adam Silver conveniently omitted the part when there was an opportunity — both when Hunter was still in the room and after he left — for Stern to communicate a willingness to make the economic move he’d said he was prepared to make. He didn’t do it, he blamed Hunter, and he won the P.R. battle while failing to realize he’s losing the war.”