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Garnett Occupies Wall Street


Kevin_garnett_mediumWe miss basketball. No question about that. Were business happening as usual, the Wolves would have already played 4 preseason games and would be packing their bags for the annual Sioux Falls trip tonight. That they aren't is a testament to how broken negotiations between the league and its players really are. And a testament, perhaps, to the actions of a very prominent former Wolf.

About two weeks ago, reports exploded that Kevin Garnett exploded in a labor meeting that apparently killed a deal the two sides were close to agreeing on. A deal that Billy Hunter himself said "we though we could live with". Some are trying to downplay KG's involvement. I don't buy that at all. We die-hard T'Wolves fans know for facts two things about KG: he's fully capable of fiery emotion and fiery rhetoric. And when he goes at something, he goes 100%. And if we take this at surface value, the conclusion we reach is this: if it weren't for KG, we'd be playing basketball right now.

The big divide is over the split of BRI: Basketball Related Income. What percentage of the league's revenue goes to the players versus the owners. Obviously this is a fairly big deal. A big percentage for owners means more money for "basketball operations" (IE their pocketbook). Which means a smaller percentage to the players, resulting in smaller contacts. Or vice-versa. 

The owners have drawn a line in the sand at 48-and-some-odd-change as a player percentage. The players have put a 50/50 split on the table. A difference of 1.8% might seem like a petty thing to lock out over, but in the NBA that 1.8% translates to hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Now, the owners have every right to do what they're doing. Maybe not a 'moral' right, but certainly a business right. The NBA is indeed a business, and they are the collective owners of that business. They can more or less run it as they please. It's the same as how any other business can lay off employees while giving their CEO a multi-million dollar bonus. How government can shut down and lock out state workers. How banks can randomly charge you money to access your money, then take your money and sell it to make more money. It's outrageous, but that's the way the free market works. 

On the other hand, just because they can do it, doesn't mean they should. For one, making an executive power play for money during the Occupy Wall Street era is terrible PR. Second, the NBA is a player's league. And not in the sense that the players run the show, but in the sense that the players are the show. We don't go to the Target Center to watch Glen Taylor sit courtside for two hours. We go to watch the players play basketball. 

And third....and this is KG's ultimate point....the players have already given up enough. In fact, basically every single concession made in these negotiations have come from the players.

Garnett didn't make a stand for himself. He's 35, injured, with no more big contracts in his future. In fact, by killing a possible deal, he willingly gave up $21 million of his current contract. He made a stand for future generations of players. A sort of social justice, "pay forward" concept to give kids in their teens and 20s the same sort of opportunities he got when he was their age. Garnett has a lot to lose from this: $21 million and possibly his last chance at a second title. But he made the decision that the principle...that the league should treat its employees with fairness and respect...was more important. 

Yesterday the NBA and NBPA met for over 16 hours with a federal mediator to try and end the current lockout. Reportedly....and sadly, unsurprisingly....there was no progress made. So yes, we are without basketball, and likely will be for a long time. But in my book, Garnett did the right thing. Even though it might have cost us the season. 

What say you? Is Garnett's stand worth losing the season over?