A group of disgruntled NBA owners held a conference call Monday to express its displeasure with the 50-50 revenue offer commissioner David Stern has presented to the players' association, according to sources with knowledge of the call. The deal, which the union sees as an "ultimatum" offer, calls for players to receive anywhere between 49 and 51 percent of basketball-related income, but the group of displeased owners, the sources said, is hoping the players reject it. -- Chris Broussard

At this stage in the negotiations, with both sides looking for as much leverage as possible, any information leaked to the media should be taken with a grain of salt. Broussard’s report certainly sounds like an attempt to scare the players, because the underlying implication is truly frightening.

The owners know the players will never accept a hard salary cap, which is why they quickly abandoned it when negotiations began a few months ago. If they put it back on the table, it can only mean one thing: some never wanted a season in the first place.

Owners like the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Dan Gilbert, long rumored to be one of the biggest hardliners, would be better off if there’s no NBA basketball until 2012, regardless of what the CBA ultimately contains.

Gilbert bought the Cavs for $375 million in 2005, even though the franchise was located in one of the league’s smaller markets and had no great tradition of success. But because they had lucked into hometown boy LeBron James in the 2003 NBA Lottery, Cleveland was near the center of the NBA universe.

As a result, Gilbert spent frantically to convince James to stay. In the 2009-10 season, Cleveland had a $94 million payroll, swallowing the $20 million contract of Shaquille O'Neal and Antawn Jamison’s $11.5 million in a desperate effort to upgrade their frontcourt after they were embarrassed by Dwight Howard in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals.

But Cleveland paid the ultimate price for their lack of a long-term plan last summer. Knowing that his legacy would be determined by the number of championships he won, LeBron decided he would rather play with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade than Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao.

There’s a reason he won two straight MVP’s: without him, the Cavs won 42 fewer games. Even worse, from Gilbert’s point of view, the value of the franchise plummeted from $476 million to $355 million, $20 million less than what he paid for it in 2005.

Gilbert made his fortune as CEO of Quicken Loans, the largest online mortgage retailer in the US. According to a federal lawsuit, Quicken was able to boost its profits by using high-pressure sales tactics on elderly homeowners to sell them adjustable-rate mortgages they didn’t need that would later blow up on them during the 2008 economic crash. With foreclosures reaching a record high in Cleveland, 2009-2010 was the most profitable period in the history of Quicken Loans.

Now, like so many of his customers, Gilbert is “underwater” on the biggest purchase of his life. The difference is they were swindled by fast-talking college graduates with impressive resumes and nice suits; a 25-year-old without a college education cost Gilbert over $100 million dollars. He had lavished money and attention on LeBron in an effort to buy his loyalty, only to see LeBron make the rational business decision and leave a team that was in a situation where building a championship supporting cast became nearly impossible.

Men worth hundreds of millions of dollars do not like feeling powerless. The end result was the infamous Comic Sans letter he released in the aftermath of “The Decision”. Showing a shocking lack of basic grammar and punctuation skills, Gilbert ranted about a “cowardly betrayal” while foolishly declaring he would win an NBA championship before LeBron.

Now, in pushing for a deal he knows the players can’t take, despite the unprecedented concessions the owners have already received, Gilbert has somehow managed to act even more childishly. In effect, he’s trying to take his ball and go home so no one else can play with it.

If there is no 2011-12 season, LeBron can’t win a championship while Wade will lose a year in the prime of his career. In contrast, a lost season might end up being the best thing to happen for the Cavaliers.

They learned from their mistakes building around LeBron, tearing the team down to its foundations after his departure. As Sam Presti demonstrated in Oklahoma City, amassing lottery picks and drafting well is the best way for a small-market team to contend. A 19-win team that just drafted two college freshmen, Duke point guard Kyrie Irving and Texas power forward Tristan Thompson, isn’t expecting to contend anytime soon.

Cleveland was on pace to lose 55-60 games this season. Without one, they can accumulate another high draft pick without the humiliation of being a national laughingstock.

The 2012 NBA Draft is projected to be one of the most talent-rich in recent years. If the Cavs can acquire one of its elite big men -- Connecticut’s Andre Drummond, Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, Baylor’s Perry Jones III -- they’ll have one of the most intriguing young cores in the NBA, and that’s while still being in line to get another top pick in the 2013 draft.

All of a sudden, especially if Gilbert can institute a CBA that makes nearly impossible for the Heat to make the necessary tweaks to their roster, his bold talk after “The Decision” doesn’t seem quite as insane.

If they draft well, Cavs-Heat would be an incredible rivalry. Unfortunately, it would cost the NBA a season in the process. And if you think Gilbert cares about the underlying morality of what he is doing, you’re welcome to get in line behind the Americans who were thrown out of their homes because of his company’s business practices, which one West Virginia judge called “unconscionable”.

Before the lockout can end, the owners have to agree on what their end goal is. There are many ready to settle; they should realize some of their colleagues might have a different agenda.