What the NBA players need to realize is that the NBA Owners have already written off the season. A settlement of any kind that puts games on this year would merely be a gift. Here are the primary barriers to any kind of early settlement.
In the first place we are not just arguing a split of funds here. The Owners are seeking a complete restructuring of the business model. To be specific, current NBA contracts are “guaranteed contracts”,, meaning the moment a player signs his contract he is entitled to the money in a fully guaranteed contract, providing he shows up to play the games. This is the polar opposite of the NFL system which are partially guaranteed conditional contracts. That means very specifically that the player is only sure of receiving the guaranteed portion of the contract, the rest is conditional upon making the roster, etc. This is the system the NBA is looking to move to, which is a complete departure from its current arrangement. This is great for owners and horrendous for players, especially if they get injured or their performance slips. This is where the NBA owners want to go, to the NFL system of partially guaranteed contracts.
Second, the current NBA system is a “soft cap” system. Very simply put it means owners have a huge range with player salaries and mid – range cap exceptions, Larry Bird exceptions, and various ways to spend beyond the cap to keep players on the roster. Owners have all kinds of room to pay veteran players who otherwise would not be eligible to receive large salaries. They can stay on a roster and create luxuries for teams like the Miami Heat to carry multiple highly paid players. The more you have the more you can spend creating huge disparities between teams that don’t have the finances to pay big salaries. Football is a hard cap system. Meaning the salary cap is hard and you have to fit your players into the salary system at the expense of the players. Football just cured their whole system by implementing a rookie wage scale. Again, it is the complete opposite of the NBA. The NBA owners are declaring they are their own worst enemies and can only be saved from themselves with a hard cap.
So, in essence the heart of the NBA dispute is in the structure of the league in as much as it is in how to split up the money. If the owners are committed to a complete overall of the business model then figuring out how to split the money is the tip of the iceberg and we are all in for a long winter.