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NBA Lockout: Do Or Die (Again)

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Perhaps the greatest trick David Stern ever played was convincing us he had power. As the NBA lockout rolls on, it's impossible to think this is how he wanted it. Stern wanted Draconian cuts to player salary, sure. But he's gotten them: $240 million a year in cuts, or about 7 percent taken off the league's largest expense by far. Labor has agreed to cover 80 percent of the league's losses just to get back on the court. (Those concessions come with the expectation of the system issues working out for players, but if Stern's overriding concern is staying afloat, the system should be a very minor issue.) (Note: wally points out that a 7 percent paycut isn't exactly Draconian. He's right.)

But Stern works for the owners, and it's become clear enough owners want to stretch this out a bit more, with Wednesday serving as the doomsday: the players take the league's proposal, or it gets much, much worse. It's impossible to think that Stern would do that with the sides so close if it was his own battle, and not a battle he was being pushed into ... especially with the end of his commissionering career near the end.

Power. It's a tricky thing, and it's fleeting, and allowing all of this new money into the league has apparently diluted Stern's hold. That doesn't mean anything for the Sacramento Kings specifically -- the only reason any other team has to care about the Kings' relocation is the self-interest the L.A. and big-market clubs have to keep the Maloofs from eroding territorial "rights". But Stern's slipping power is greatly affecting our ability to enjoy the season of basketball that the people of Sacramento (with an assist from Stern, Clay Bennett and, yes, Ron Burkle) won the right to. It's become clear to me that in the battle within the battle, those of us who desperately want to get out to the ol' Snake Oil Pavilion need Stern to win. We need him to beat back his stingiest owners and get this deal done this week.

Stay tuned.