NEW YORK – Wearing gray T-shirts over their street clothes that said, “STAND / 2011 NBPA Summer Meeting,” about 50 NBA players arrived in a group, exiting a limousine bus to attend Friday’s negotiating session for a new collective bargaining agreement.
The threat of a lockout looms, with the current CBA set to expire Thursday and the NBA owners and players still far apart after two years of proposals, counter-proposals and wrangling.
“The message is just solidarity, that we have to stand together, we have to be unified and be prepared to address whatever the circumstance is, but address it together,” said Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association.
The session that began Friday at 11 a.m. ET was the seventh, small- or big-group, since The Finals began in Miami on May 31. Comments from both sides after the initial meetings focused on positive elements, but more recent reactions – as specifics of the two sides’ proposals have been shared – have turned pessimistic that a compromise can be reached.
The owners have a Board of Governors meeting scheduled Tuesday in Dallas at which they are expected to vote to authorize a lockout that would begin on July 1. NBA commissioner David Stern has not said if an extension of that deadline, so that negotiations might continue, is being considered.
“We proposed that some time ago, but we didn’t get a response,” Hunter said. “They will determine how crucial it is. The 30th, it can be just another date. They’re the ones who determine whether or not it should carry more significance than it really should.
“What happens on the 30th is that the collective bargaining agreement expires. It doesn’t mean that it has to be the end of negotiations, it doesn’t mean that it has to be a lockout. The ball is in their court and they will decide how to treat it.”
The last time the NBA went into lockout, negotiations ended on June 22 and did not resume, in a brief session, until Aug. 6.
Citing financial losses by as many as 22 of the 30 teams, the owners have proposed a 10-year contract that would establish a 50-50 split of league revenues and a “flex” salary cap, generating givebacks that the players say would cost them $7 billion over the deal’s term. The union, resisting what they still consider to be a hard salary-cap system, has countered with pay cuts of approximately $500 million over a five-year contract.
Some insiders had joked about the likely duration of Friday’s session, suggesting that it might adjourn 15 minutes after it started. But the two sides still were in the room 40 minutes into the meeting, with the afternoon blocked out if needed.