The players currently receive 51 percent of the gross revenue garnered by the teams. This is an insanely stupid deal the owners never should have done. After all, what business owner gives his employees a percentage of the gross, before expenses? And the players are complaining about it. The teams lost a combined $370 million last season, and it's not hard to see why. A typical team may take in about $20 million in gate receipts (that's the actual stat for the Milwaukee Bucks, for example). They pay out three times that at least just in salary for their players (the Bucks spent $69 million in 2010). They make up revenue from advertising and TV contracts and all the rest, but NBA players are hardly being paid poorly. Again, the gross revenue shouldn't be any of the players' business, because it is the owners' capital.
Because of all of this, the owners are pushing for a hard salary cap, meaning that no team can spend more than a certain amount. The players don't want this, with good reason. But again, it's the owners' call, since it is the owners who pay.
The teams also want to apply a personal conduct policy to the league, to prevent idiots like Gilbert Arenas from bringing loaded handguns into locker rooms. The players oppose this because they want to continue to be able to act like morons without losing their jobs. Could you do this at your job and keep it? Didn't think so.
The bottom line: Members of the NBA Players Union are grabbing for a chunk of something that isn't theirs in the first place. And that's what players unions have been doing in every sport, driving up the cost of business -- costs that are passed on to the consumer. It now costs almost $50 for an average NBA ticket. That's been steady since 1999, when the players and owners locked out. Between 1990 and 1999, the ticket prices -- prompted by players' demands, which forced another lockout in 1995 -- rose 108.1 percent.
What about owners who bargain collectively? They're all in the same business, so they're more like franchisees of McDonald's than owners of Burger King vs. owners of McDonald's. They don't compete with each other because their business has common ground rules. That's why if they were smart (which they aren't), they'd tell the players to shove it. If they don't like the deal, they can find work elsewhere. They'd have to wait a couple of years to do that, though, until the current contracts expire.
But they're not smart, so they'll likely come to some sort of arrangement. And the fans will pay higher prices. Eventually, however, we'll stop going to the games. Then both the owners and the players will see where the true power lies: with the consumer.