Hey, remember when the Sun shone brighter, the birds chirped music most sweet, and NBA lockout news had turned optimistic?
You know, this whole past week?
It began with NBPA vice president Roger Mason's accidental "Looking like a season. How u" tweet that he today admitted was not a hack, but intended to be a text message. And NBA reporter Chris Sheridan was extremely bright about the negotiations. And everyone realized as long as each side made some concessions, maybe - just maybe - this season could miss zero games.
Then yesterday's meeting convened and each party spoke to the media.
Boom. Sudden storm clouds materialized in the blue sky. The birds began chirping Nickelback.
This from NBPA president Derek Fisher:
"We've advised (the players) they may have to sit out half the season before we get a deal."
Bobcats forward Corey Maggette wasn't very enthused either saying, "We just took eight steps back. Someone needs to compromise. The owners have to compromise."
Before you get into the fetal position and curl up with all the Ben & Jerry's the local supermarket stocks, it is important to make note that some significant financial issues took major steps to compromise.
As CBS' Ken Berger reports, both sides moved closer towards common ground on BRI (Basketball-Related Income) percentage:
Neither side would say how far the players moved economically, but a person with knowledge of the negotiations said they expressed a willingness to move lower than the 54.3 percent of basketball-related income they last proposed on June 30 as a starting point in a six-year deal. Stern disputed the players' contention that the owners haven't made an economic move since the day before the lockout was imposed. Nobody outside the room knows how many millions the two sides shaved off the gap, but it hardly matters since everyone seemed willing to concede that they've at least dipped their toes on common ground when it comes to dollars.
So it's not the end of the world? Well, it's not so simple.
But don't get too excited either. There still seems to be a wide gap between the NBPA and the NBA concerning the salary cap, with the owners wanting a hard cap and the players wanting to retain a soft cap system.
In short, the owners have great leverage and know they can put the pressure on the players in negotiations. They're going for the jugular to get what they want and facing concessions is seemingly not an option the owners want to face at all.
And this is the point of contention where the stalemate lies. NBPA executive director Billy Hunter calls this a "blood issue." Stern and Silver refuse to let it go as non-negotiable. All that progress above with the players letting the owners have a greater percentage of BRI goes out the window if the NBPA is as hard-nosed about a soft cap as they say. The player's association is OK with conceding some BRI but they are not willing to concede that and agree to a hard cap. The NBA has the supreme leverage and as long as they want a hard cap and the players refuse it, the BRI compromise appears moot.
As September hurtles onward, the possibility of games being canceled and players missing checks has become very real. For some owners, the missed revenue is just peachy because more pressure is applied to NBA players to agree to a new CBA that is even less in their favor than the current offer(s) on the table.
Add on to this the news that five extremely prominent agents are arguing for the NBPA to decertify, which they argue could create the uncertainty to move the leverage at least partially onto the players' court.
The agents' view is that the owners currently have most, if not all, of the leverage in these talks and that something needs to be done to turn the tide. They believe decertification will do the trick, creating uncertainty and wresting control away from the owners.
"The union has been negotiating with the league for a year and a half and the owners haven't changed their stance, so the conversation the agents had was about how to work with the union to enhance its strategy," a person close to the situation said on condition of anonymity. "The feeling is that decertification is the weapon that has to be pulled out of the arsenal, that it's the most effective way to change the dynamics of the negotiations."
Maggette clearly understands the problem: "I don't care how much money that the NBA players have, you cannot beat billionaires."
If decertification does indeed not happen, the NBPA must realize they have little to no leverage and take a better deal than what they will likely be offered in, say, November.
But at this point in time, that doesn't seem acceptable to Billy Hunter and the NBPA.
The lockout's end may be out of sight right now, but the sides have taken steps toward compromise in some regards. How long the lockout continues is reliant on the unwavering stalemate between the NBA and the NBPA concerning how the league's system will operate in the future.
Last week's optimism was fun, but the reality of the situation is that there are good odds that this lockout will last a good bit longer.