Tied Up on the Court

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After years of spending too much money chasing too little talent, the owners of the 29 NBA franchises now want protection from themselves. After canceling the first two weeks of the basketball season, they're insisting no play will begin until players and owners agree on a new contract containing a salary cap that limits how much a team can spend on players. That's going over like a lead jump shot with the players union, which wants to let teams spend more on players if they pay a "luxury tax" for the privilege to the poorer teams in the league; that, presumably, would allow underperforming teams to go out and spend more on players.

The key to the next few weeks, says TIME business reporter Daniel Eisenberg, will come Sunday when an arbitrator will rule on whether the league will have to keep paying more than 230 players during the stoppage: "If the arbitrator says yes, it will mean this could go on for a while. More than half the players in the league will be getting paid, and they won't have any incentive to settle." For now, nobody is budging, which means ESPN is going to be showing a lot of hockey footage on SportsCenter.