The man in the middle

With little else going on in the NBA due to this lockout business, the folks at Hoopsworld are in the profiling the league’s various owners.

You know, the guys at least partially responsible for the ongoing labor impasse.

The website’s latest offering, on the owners of the Southwest Division, provides another reminder of Spurs chairman Peter Holt’s prominent place at the heart of the lockout.

As head of the league’s labor committee, Holt will have a big say in whatever deal is ultimately worked out with the players — and by extension how long this stalemate lasts.

Unlike one of his, ahem, , Holt prefers to keep a low public profile. We must use our imaginations to project his approach to the boardroom.

Having purchased the Spurs along with a group of 21 investors in 1993, and claiming a majority share in 1996, Holt is one of the league’s more tenured owners. He’s also one of the most widely respected.

“He runs the tractor business,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich once said of his owner, “and we run the basketball.”

Though it could be surmised Holt would support a new collective bargaining agreement favorable to small-market teams — since he owns one — the Spurs chairman is generally considered to be one of the more reasonable voices at the labor negotiating table.

There is hope, when talks resume, Holt might act as a buffer against a hardline faction of small-market owners, believed to include Phoenix’s Robert Sarver and Cleveland’s Dan Gilbert among others, bent on bleeding concessions out of the players’ union at any cost.

All of this will play out behind closed doors in the coming weeks and, most likely, months. The league office has prohibited its rank and file from making public comments on the lockout, by threat of seven-figure fine.

Though Holt is a respected voice with a powerful place within the NBA’s ownership ranks, he doesn’t have the power to end the lockout on his own. In a manner of speaking, however, the path toward ending the league’s latest labor stoppage runs through San Antonio.

Through the guy who runs the tractor business.

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