When paychecks stop, will NBA players crack?


When paychecks stop, will NBA players crack?

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
The NBA players union has publicly said all the right things during the lockout, about the need to stick together, about their willingness to miss games to ensure that they get the best deal possible for themselves and future generations of NBA players.

It sounds great; even noble.

But up until now, it has been just talk.

The idea of missing games and the checks that come with those games, is one thing.

But to actually do it is easier - much easier - said than done.

Having players like Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce or Dwyane Wade champion their cause by talking about holding out for the best deal - however long that is - certainly resonates with the rank-and-file union members.

But the NBA's elite players can go decades without making another dime, and still live like kings.

Their economic status doesn't speak for the majority of the league's players.

Dwyane Wade not getting paid isn't the same as say, Delonte West (he recently took a job with a furniture company).

And the owners are banking on the belief that that difference will ultimately create some division among the players and thus make them more susceptible to a more owner-friendly deal.

Divide and conquer, an old but highly successful tactic.

The union has been prepping its members for years in anticipation of this moment, well aware that there would be some struggles along the way in reaching a new CBA.

"At the end of the day, this is about business," Mo Evans, vice president of the players union, told CSNNE.com recently. "We understand this, and so do the owners. Both sides want the same thing, the best deal they can get."

Yes it is business.

But the NBA and most professional sports franchises in general, are different.

In most businesses, there's a clear distinction between your labor force and the product being manufactured.

The labor helps develop the product, which, if it's really good product, will be gobbled up by consumers.

But the NBA, like most professional sports teams, doesn't function within the framework of your typical business model.

NBA players aren't just the labor - they're the product, too.

"We believe that we're the most significant and important asset to this particular business," union president Derek Fisher told reporters on Tuesday. "And with the level of revenue that will continue to be generated as this business grows, that there's just a fair place that the compensation should start for this particular group."

Players got a 57 percent cut of the league's basketball-related income in the old CBA, a figure they fully expect to be lowered in a new deal. They have shown a willingness to go down to 53 percent or possibly 52 if certain additional concessions are made by the owners.

Owners countered with giving the players 46 percent of the BRI, but have shown that they are willing to increase their offer to a 50-50 split.

Being mere percentage points apart - each percentage point is worth about 40 million - gives some hope that this particular part of the CBA will be agreed upon soon.

But the NBA owners seem determined to make the new CBA, one that comes as close to guaranteeing them profits as possible.

With most NBA owners having businesses outside of basketball as their primary source of revenue, having a team in the red financially wasn't that big a deal because they could write it off.

But when those primary revenue streams began to dry up, they looked at ways to make those companies more profitable such as downsizing or modifying the pay scale.

To some extent, they're looking to do the same in this new CBA, which is why they were pushing so hard early on for a hard salary cap along with other system-related changes.

Eventually, the owners backed off of the hard salary cap demand.

But the threat of canceling the first two weeks of the regular season by Monday isn't just tough talk rhetoric on their part.

Only a last-minute change of heart by the players union to accept a 50-50 split, could save the season from having the first two weeks wiped out.

The players union rejected the 50-50 proposal on Tuesday, and when told that agreeing to that was the only way the NBA was coming back to the table to talk, several reports indicated that the union turned it down again.

So far, the players union has backed up its claims that they're on one accord and will stay strong, together, throughout this process.

But then again, nobody has missed a paycheck . . . yet.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics host the Raptors at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game Preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

- Live Extra FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Celtics: All of the most recent news and notes

- Talk about the game via social media on CSN's Pulse, presented by Ford

Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

BOSTON – Avery Bradley doesn’t mind being a standout, but this is probably not what he had in mind. 

Injuries have ravaged the Boston Celtics’ starting five to the point where only one player, Bradley, has been with the first unit in all 22 games this season. 

Just like Bradley was looked upon to step his game up in the absence of Isaiah Thomas (right groin) at Orlando on Wednesday, he will once again be challenged to lead Boston (13-9) to victory tonight when the Thomas-less Celtics face the Toronto Raptors. 

Bradley’s emergence as a two-way talent this season has overshadowed at times what has been another season of elite play defensively. 

And he’ll need to be on top of his defensive game tonight against a Raptors All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. 

Both Lowry and DeRozan present a different kind of challenge for Bradley who will spend time defending each of them at various points during the game. 

Lowry has good size, strength and deceptive quickness in addition to an under-rated perimeter game that will keep Bradley on his toes for sure. 

This season he's averaging 20.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and a career-high 7.6 assists while shooting 42.9 percent on 3's which is also a career mark. 

And DeRozan is having the kind of season that might get him a few league MVP votes. 

His 28.0 points per game ranks fifth in the NBA, but making his numbers even more impressive is that unlike most guards DeRozan doesn’t generate much offense from three-pointers.

DeRozan averages 1.8 three-point attempts per game which is the fewest attempts among any player ranked among the league’s top-25 scorers.

The 6-foot-7 All-Star is the master of the mid-range game which accounts for 31.5 percent of the points he scores. And when he’s not shooting the mid-range, he’s working a defender in one-on-one iso-situations. 

That helps explain why 76.4 percent of his two-point made field goals are unassisted. 

But here’s the thing about Bradley. 

As much as we give him props for what he does defensively, it’s his offense that has put him on the map as a potential All-Star this season. 

Bradley is averaging a career-high 17.9 points while shooting 47.2 percent from the field. He’s also averaging a career-high 7.8 rebounds per game in addition to shooting a career-high 40.7 percent on 3's.

But for Bradley, individual accolades are only going to come his way by the Celtics winning games; preferably against above-average teams like the Toronto Raptors.

And that would make both Bradley and the Celtics stand out this season.