SALT LAKE CITY — I'm not great with money, which explains why I haven't balanced my checkbook in 15 years. My idea of financial planning is putting loose change in the ashtray of my car.

Still, I'm pretty sure I understand that when there is less money coming in than going out, there's a problem. In turn, that makes me wonder how NBA owners ever made a dime.

Maybe none of them ever read "Rich on Any Income."

The collective bargaining agreement expires Thursday, which means the league could soon experience its second lockout in 13 years. It lost 32 games last time this happened, in 1998-99. I don't think this one will last as long, because there are too many Ferrari payments to be made. But you never know, when both sides think the other is lying.

On the bright side, the rhetoric has been relatively tame this time. At least nobody has said, "We make a lot, but we spend a lot, too." But the lines are clearly drawn. The owners think the players are clueless to economic realities, while players think the owners have a giant cave in the Catskills, filled with gold bullion and precious gems.

With the NFL also in a lockout, we may all be watching figure skating next winter.

Dumb as NBA owners have been with their spending, my suggestion to the National Basketball Players Association is to do what everyone else in America has done for the last three years: Be grateful you have a job. Save your money. Don't make any ridiculous purchases.

In general, live a more austere lifestyle than you had before the financial crisis.

If 22 of 30 teams lost money this year — which the owners say occurred — what choice do the players have?

I've heard some interesting theories on all this. For instance, the union suggests the owners can fix the league's woes by increased revenue sharing, which means the teams that are making money would share with the teams that aren't. But if the league as a whole lost $300 million this year, how would this work?

By my semi-fuzzy accounting, that means the eight teams that made money this year would need to fork over $37.5 million apiece in order to make the other 22 teams solvent.

I'm doubting anyone cleared $37.5 million last season.

The Jazz are among the teams that lost money this year, and plenty of it. The previous year only six teams were in the black. For teams like the Jazz, whose revenue is down, the picture is serious. With the economy limping along, the team must charge less for advertising in the arena, broadcast rights, etc., yet keep ticket prices down so fans can afford them. Yet player salaries go up, which makes the spending by a few teams all the more ridiculous.

Those teams flout the luxury tax and salary cap and spend what they want so they can raise a championship trophy. Yet it's doubtful any of those team owners use the same financial model for their other businesses as they do their teams.

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Then there are the players, who say they understand the financial issues. I wonder about that. They have proposed a $500 million pay reduction over the next five years. By my figures that's an average of $100 million per year, or $3.3 million per team. Breaking that down further, with a 15-man roster, that's an average of about $220,000 per player.

This in a league with an average salary of nearly $5 million, so a $220,000 reduction amounts to roughly a 4 percent pay cut.

There goes their ice cream money.

Two dozen players attended Friday's meeting with owners in New York, wearing T-shirts that said, "Stand."

Realistically, they should be wearing shirts that say, "Think" or "Save."

Or maybe they should just go home and lie down until the fever passes.


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