Scaling Down the BRI

There have been a myriad of reports from some high-quality, dedicated reporters graciously staking out the lockout meetings with hopes of getting a soundbite. Among the hot topics over the weekend (which I touched on before it hit the masses here) was how ludicrous it is for the owners and players to risk losing games over a dollar amount both will seemingly lose within 1-2 weeks anyways. Aside from this likely being true only to an extent there are four sociological truths worth noting as it pertains to where things stand:

1. This amateur math, to be fair to all involved, is probably only a fraction of the real snags, implications, etc affecting a deal. This is the equivalent to a fan complaining his team didn’t trade for a superstar at the trade deadline. It takes two teams to make a deal.

2. However, with that said, do both sides realize the above and the degrees of losses involved? Do the people they represent? That they, as representatives of their own parties, are collectively screwing over their people by playing this ridiculous game of chicken over what currently is a dollar amount that will be out the window in less than a week? The players, having already negotiated away somewhere between 4 and 5 points of Basketball Related Income (BRI), stand to gain nothing by waiting, and also somehow lose everything by waiting. 

3. People who make more money spend more money. Relative lifestyles do not make a person immune to missing paychecks because they make 1000% more money than an average human. Sure, it helps a lot, but they also spend 1000% more as well. Their $5 million house is not any cheaper on a monthly basis in relative terms when income is out the window.

3. That, far more importantly,  this #UnitedWeStand, “need to set up our brethren for the future,” stuff is utter bulldroppings. Listen, it is admirable to say such things, but in an argument about money, money talks louder than this magnanimous fluff straight from a CW-network TV Series. We live in a ‘me first’ society in which, as Cat Stevens would put it, there are Planes to Catch and Bills to Pay. These guys have an average of 4-5 years to make an unimaginable-to-the-public amount of money. For each game lost, a large percentage goes away with it. Forever. Rex Chapman summed it up perfectly over Twitter: “$1.08m that lockout ’98 stole from me still hasn’t arrived.” Put this to an anonymous vote and this deal gets ratified in less than an hour at a 50-50 split. No one cares about a player entering the league in 2019 when millions of dollars are at stake for themselves now. Nor should they. Michael Beasley absolutely 100% does not give a damn about how much money Harrison Barnes might make someday, especially when on the verge of missing 1/12th-1/6th of his income for the year for no reason. It’s basic survival instinct.

To illustrate this further, understanding that the author is computing basic bar-room math, has no law degree, has not been involved in negotiations and in general is a bit aloof at times, it may be best to scale back the numbers involved to an ‘average’ middle-class citizen. Again, this is not intended to exactly mirror the NBA outside of a loose, somewhat flawed application of the percentages involved. This is more intended to show how a normal human might react to this situation from a financial standpoint. Again, the author realizes the implausibility of what is going to follow, so nitpickers please do us all a favor: put a paper bag over your head and walk across a tightrope between 2 forty story buildings with the rest of your annoying brethren. You get the point. Anyhow:

You are an accountant making $50,000 per year and live a pretty good lifestyle for someone making such a salary. You drive a Honda Accord, live in a 2nd or 3rd ring suburb in a $250,000 home with your wife of a similar income, have a child in 4th grade…. and a Schnauzer named Kahn.

Unfortunately due to declining profits and the recent economic collapse, your company needs to cut some costs. The Board of Directors and CEO have, rather than layoff 20% of the company workforce, decided to negotiate with a few company Vice Presidents (representing the general staffers) in an effort to come to a conclusion on how to redistribute its revenue and save jobs. They conclude over an extensive negotiation, in a move that apparently will benefit the company, to shut down work if the two sides do not come to a conclusion by the end of the month. All employees will start to miss paychecks. As further part of the negotiations, both sides (an underconsidered part of where things stand in the NBA world) decided a 9% paycut will prevent any layoffs as a start (approx equivalent to player’s current BRI concessions). The Board wants to tack on two more points to that making it an 11% pay cut while the VP’s say ’9% is enough.’ It is the final day of negotiations before checks are missed.

Your salary is now chopped to $45,500 with the 9% hit, but with 2 more points on the table may go down to as low as $44,500. The former # ($45.5k) is a 100% guaranted reduced pay the minute you start work again no matter how long the negotiations occur, with the latter ($44.5k) being the absolute floor. The VP’s have already agreed to the initial hit on behalf of the company to avoid layoffs. It is already going to happen. Everyone has accepted it and indicated a willingness to get back to work at a reduced pay scale (in this example, let’s also assume you can’t quit this ridiculous scenario and find a new job. It’s pretend!)

Now, on the final day of possible negotiations, the two sides are still arguing over these two percentage points, and as an employee you are in danger of missing an entire month’s pay over what is currently a potential $1,000 swing in your favor by keeping the points. Versus the $3,791 you will lose by missing a month of pay. Meanwhile your VP’s have instructed all employees to start a campaign over Twitter and Facebook to stand united for the all of the college grads who will join your company in the next decade and be subjected to the horrors of earning $45,000 per year plus benefits in a terrible economy. Please.

Yeah, I’d immediately tell my VP’s they were idiots too for risking a month of my pay for an arbitrary horse and pony fluff case. I’d gladly give up the $1,000 bucks in futile opportunity cost and get back to my Excel spreadsheets. I don’t care about a college grad in six years when I have a mortgage commensurate with my income to pay, groceries to buy and children to support. Neither do you. And that’s ok. Disagree publicly and agree privately or whatever is needed, but that is just how the world works.

So when word breaks this afternoon that no deal is reached, the NBA Rank-and-File (another overused term throughout the lockout, along with ‘rhetoric’) has every right to be a little bit irked about getting screwed over by their bosses.