Here's Your Leverage, Players
Up until this point in the NBA lockout, the players have let the 29 ownership groups hide behind David Stern and Adam Silver. Their individual views are largely under lock, key and threat of six-figure and seven-figure fines.
We have occasionally had an individual owner stumble into view, whether it was Dan Gilbert and the trust Billy Hunter should put in his gut, Paul Allen and his grim reaper silence, Peter Holt filling in for an infirmed Stern at a post-negotiation press conference, or the perennial bogeyman Robert Sarver.
But no owner can move the needle like Michael Jordan and a report from Howard Beck of the New York Times that the NBA’s greatest player of all-time is leading a militant charge, either against the players for a split of BRI that doesn’t go beyond 50/50, or a case against the big market owners for greater revenue share, has justly triggered an entire gamut of emotions.
The reputation of Michael Jordan amongst NBA players has been forever altered. They have taken note of where he stands and how fervently he stands against them. He will eventually survive this because he is who he is, but his ownership may be permanently tainted in the eyes of free agents.
As the lockout approaches a do or die moment, the only leverage players really have left is to very publicly take notes on the teams and owners that want to make a deal and the teams and owners that are trying to squeeze every last dollar from them.
The players need to start an #NBAscarletletter campaign on Twitter and promise to be preferential in their free agent decisions toward owners that haven’t battled them in CBA negotiations. Money will always rule the day for players, but the NBA system is setup where maximum contracts and MLE contracts are almost entirely set in stone. Because a team is almost never able to outbid other teams in purely financial dollars offered, existential reasons like odds of winning a title, location and faith in ownership become determining factors.
Owners such as Mark Cuban, Micky Arison, Jerry Buss and Jim Dolan have always gone out of their way to accommodate players and appear to continue doing so despite the lockout. Players want to join these franchises already and there is no question they will be even more eager to do so coming out of these negotiations.
The owners that have behaved in a way to suggest they are either hostile to players, or indifferent to whether there is a season should be counted in as public of a manner as possible. An equivalent of a scarlet letter needs to be issued, if the players want to get some leverage in talks. Whether or not the players can actually see this threat through is ultimately irrelevant if it softens the stance of hardline owners to get a favorable deal done.
I believe this is why we have seen the owners with nothing to lose currently be vocal since Kyrie Irving is years away from free agency, LaMarcus Aldridge is already signed long-term and the Spurs have their aging core.
Kevin Durant has publicly talked about the current fight being about the future as much as the present and I think this is why we have seen relatively little from his team's owner.
Isn't Derrick Rose wondering where the ownership of the Bulls stands? They are a big market franchise, but haven't been lumped into the category of the Mavericks, Heat, Lakers and Knicks since they have a history of being frugal.
One agent has already told NBA.com that he will refuse to send his players to the Bobcats in the future. While players have
Players can perceptively speculate who they are already and unless they give them a reason to think otherwise by getting a deal done, they need to publicly let them know the consequences will impact them for years.