Labor: Where Do We Go From Here?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Stunning is the only way to describe the mood shift here at the hideout in the past 24 hours.

From giddy anticipation for potential progress that could come from the first full bargaining session since the lockout began to the depths of despair in the aftermath of said meeting producing nothing of the sort. I tried to warn folks. No deal would be struck. The two sides were probably not going to move off of their initial positions. They did not.

The owners and players (and their representatives) are as far apart right now as they were when this entire ordeal began. It’s as if the calendar hasn’t moved one bit since July 1.

NBA commissioner David Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter might even agree on that. There is no next bargaining session scheduled. Not even a brief get together for coffee. Nothing.

The labor talks have “Hit a wall,” as our very own Steve Aschburner points out, but he is not the only one shining a light on the hard cap vs. soft cap debate that seems be at the center of the impasse (this week).

You can choose sides all you want, but as far as these eyes can see the only real losers in this entire affair are those of us who love the game and want to see it played as soon as possible.

Still, we have to gauge the reactions from all sides and examine the fine points of each and every argument. More importantly, we have to sort through the rubble now and figure out exactly where we go from here. Because optimism is no longer a part of this equation …

The Union’s Next Test … Decertification

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: When [Hunter] goes to Las Vegas on Wednesday for the most important players meeting of his tenure as executive director, does he find a coup awaiting him?

“Now Billy has to go to Las Vegas with nothing to bring the players,” a prominent agent told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday night.

“He’s chosen a particular path, and there hasn’t been any progress on that path. There was all this false optimism in the last week about how the league was going to come with a new proposal that he could take back to the players, and they came with nothing. Stern wants to stall, and stall until the players start missing paychecks.

“Billy was hoping that he could keep the players engaged, excited that a deal was coming. There was all that rhetoric of good feelings, and today was the day that Stern was going to come with a proposal. He was relying on the fact that Stern would negotiate in good faith with him, that he didn’t want to lose games. He thought that Stern would blink, start to negotiate. He was relying on the fact Stern didn’t want to hurt the game, and he was wrong.”

Yes, there had to be a pit in Hunter’s stomach. Three hours waiting for the owners to debate among themselves, big markets wanting to cut a deal, and small markets willing to lose games – lose the season – to get guaranteed profits and maybe a better chance to chase championships.

There’s a big labor meeting in Las Vegas on Thursday, and Hunter is competing for the hearts and minds of his rank-and-file players. He’s already lost the top agents, who are laying the groundwork for a coup, sources told Yahoo! Sports. The decision to make a move on Hunter could come as soon as this week, agents privately said.

Several high-profile agents, including Jeff Schwartz, Arn Tellem, Mark Bartelstein, Bill Duffy and Dan Fegan, have been on the phones with each other this week. Sources briefed on the conversations say they’re getting closer to pursuing a signed petition, with 30 percent of the NBA’s players needed to bring a formal vote on dissolving the union.

After that, they would need a majority of the NBA players to vote. To that end, the core agents had been recruiting rival agents to join them in the overthrow, trying to get the majority vote needed to decertify.

Players “Shocked” At Latest 

Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated: Some players taking part in Impact Basketball’s Competitive Training Series in Las Vegas were shocked. The internal sentiment had turned since last week, with the optimism rooted in the perceived reality that the owners were finally willing to take the necessary steps to get a deal done.

“I just thought we wouldn’t have a lockout after the type of season we had last season,” Wizards forward Rashard Lewis said. “As a whole, the playoffs were awesome. [You had] Miami not winning the championship, so I’m sure the fans are anticipating to see what happens with them this year. Kevin Durant is an awesome player. The list goes on and on. There’s a lot of good teams. Derrick Rose is the youngest MVP ever, and the Bulls were the best team in the league [in the regular season]. There’s just so [many] things that happened this year that you’d think the NBA would make something happen because the fans are anticipating it.

“It is shocking. I don’t want to bad-mouth the owners, or even on our side, but I think there’s just so much great talent in the NBA they’ve got to figure out something. Meet in the middle.”

Instead, as Bobcats forward Corey Maggette put it, it’s “back to the drawing board.” And straight to the unemployment line.

“Now guys have to make a decision about playing elsewhere, maintaining a living and all that,” said Maggette, who was among the many who had been encouraged by the tenor of last week’s talks. “As of right now, everyone is unemployed. You have to re-evaluate [your situation]. At the end of the day, you’re unemployed right now and you have to do a job in order to feed your families or whatever.

“I’m not saying guys don’t have money or that they’re not saving their money the right way, but ultimately — if you get fired or you have to find yourself another job — you’ve got to put out another résumé and pull another gig.”

Alternative Answers Need Consideration?

J.A. Adande of ESPN.com: The NBA’s salary cap — the first in American professional sports — was instituted in the 1984-85 season. Since then only nine teams have won a championship. The NFL and NHL have crowned 14 different champions each in that span. Baseball has had 17 different teams win a championship. The NBA has been the least successful at legislating balance. So it’s trying to do the next best thing and attempting to legislate profit.

“If it’s about small-market teams not profiting, if the owners are really using that as a bargaining tool, if you’re really concerned about it, then why aren’t you profit-sharing like the other leagues are doing?” Celtics center Jermaine O’Neal asked after a workout at the Impact Basketball facility in Las Vegas Tuesday, after word had spread about the latest impasse in the labor talks.

“So do we accept a deal that totally butchers our game? Because what they don’t understand, if you take out mid-tier deals and say, ‘Fend for bare minimum at the bottom,’ they’ll be individualizing our game so severely.”

That’s something I hadn’t thought about. Take away guarantees, turn most rosters into extremes of max guys and minimum guys, and you’ve got a squad full of guys trying to get their numbers to get paid. I saw that dynamic in play with the Clippers before, when Donald Sterling didn’t extend the contracts of any of his free-agents-to-be and it was every man for himself.

Baseball and football teams benefit from players in contract years. They get more home runs, more tackles, more wins. In basketball, selfish goals destroy teams.

Guaranteed, salary cap-eating contracts from players who are injured or underperforming can wreck teams as well, of course. But O’Neal served up a reminder that some apparent solutions create another set of problems.

A flawed system would be better than no system, which is what we have now. There still isn’t enough pressure to force a deal anytime soon, not with enough owners willing to lose real games.

“Money Issue” Solution In Place

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: The only thing both sides agreed on after this latest round of posturing and semi-negotiating was that the players had come to the table with economic concessions the owners and NBA negotiators could live with — or at least could envision writing into a new CBA. Though no written proposals were formally exchanged, hidden amid all the rhetoric and doomsday prognosticating was something extraordinary for how lost it became: the NBA and its union are on the verge of solving the biggest dispute between them, as in how much money each side gets.

It was still happy hour when Stern strolled out of the NBA offices, so someone should have been raising a glass for a toast.

Neither side would say how far the players moved economically, but a person with knowledge of the negotiations said they expressed a willingness to move lower than the 54.3 percent of basketball-related income they last proposed on June 30 as a starting point in a six-year deal. Stern disputed the players’ contention that the owners haven’t made an economic move since the day before the lockout was imposed. Nobody outside the room knows how many millions the two sides shaved off the gap, but it hardly matters since everyone seemed willing to concede that they’ve at least dipped their toes on common ground when it comes to dollars.

“I’d just say it’s on the road, and we know how to negotiate over dollars when the time comes,” Stern said.

Adam Silver, the deputy commissioner, said, “We said we went into this process with two goals: one was an economic goal, which we’ve addressed.”

So what’s the problem? It isn’t the economy, stupid. It’s the system. And the two sides’ positions on that are as far apart as their rhetoric.

The league’s indignation over the players’ refusal to accept a hard salary cap can be summed up like this: The union offered to make an economic move, but only if the owners would agree in advance to keep most of the current system — with its soft cap, luxury tax and various exceptions — in place.

“It actually didn’t make sense for us to respond to their non-negotiable demand that everything remain the same that it was,” Stern said.

The players’ astonishment at the owners’ ongoing demands can be summed up like this: The owners want significant salary concessions, which they’re on the verge of receiving, andthey want a more restrictive cap system to go with it. They can’t have both, say the players. It’s straight out of the cake-and-eat-it-too negotiating handbook.

“We don’t want a system where players come in, they have no security and you have two or three marquee players who get a guarantee — and not a full guarantee as they have proposed, but a limited guarantee — that everybody else would not have,” Hunter said. “And these guys would be on one- or two-year deals and at any whim of any given owner or GM or whatever, they’d be out the door. And so we’re saying, ‘No way.’”

There Is Still Hope, Right?

Kurt Hellin of ProBasketballTalk.com: There is still hope — if you believe that the cooler heads among the owners will start to make a push to get a deal done. You’ve seen the breakdown … there are plenty of doves among the owners who don’t want to punish the union and don’t want to lose the season. Right now they are not driving the bus, but that could start to change come Thursday’s Board of Governor’s meeting.

The theme out of Tuesday’s meeting was that this is about the salary cap, not about money (meaning the split of Basketball Related Income). Commissioner David Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver tried to seem confounded that the players considered a hard salary cap a deal breaker and what was tearing these talks apart.

Let’s be honest here — this is about the money. Always, on both sides. Anytime you are told it’s not about the money, that person is lying.

What the owners want is a larger slice of the overall pie — the BRI — and a hard cap that some in that group seem to think will lead to more competitive balance. The easy example is the NFL, with hard caps and a real parity where teams can go from last to first in a year or two with some shrewd moves.

With larger television deals to come and the belief that (like the NFL) parity and close games mean higher ratings, some are pushing competitive balance as an answer.

It’s not. Competitive balance in the NBA is never really going to happen. Because one superstar player can dominate a game and turn any team into a contender. If you have LeBron James you can surround him with pretty blah talent and still reach the NBA finals and have the best record in the league (see Cavaliers, Cleveland). Even if you flatten out the other talent in the league, if you have LeBron/Kobe/Wade/Durant you are going to win a lot of games.

Besides, when was the NBA the most popular and got the highest ratings? During the Michael Jordan era. When the Bulls dominated and the league had the least competitive balance.

38 Comments

  1. AFL says:

    This is such a load of BS. The average NBA salary is 7.5 MILLION a year, for playing freaken basketball. Will it really make such a huge deference to their lives if they make 8.00 mill a year. What a joke. 1 in 5 Americans are unemployed and these douche bags are asking for more money than 7.5 MILL per year. Who the hell do they think they are. If anything NBA players salary should go down. And more money to the struggling clubs like NOH. This is the players fault. Dereck Fisher, F OFF.

  2. Taspinar says:

    Just make this deal as soon as you can .

  3. Steve says:

    It’s great!!! This lockout is bringing the NBA back to reality. These grown men running up and down a court throwing a ball through a hoop DO NOT NEED as much money as they are vying for. I love watching basketball. BUT basketball has evolved into a greedy monstrosity that has taken it far from the roots of the intent of the game.

  4. Rik says:

    CURSE THE GREEDY PLAYERS!!! whats dishonest about 50\50? i thought players supposed to love the game, looks like they love the money more….
    whats half a million or a million less if you’re earning millions, we non-athletes have to do with a whole lot less and are managing fine. Owners point of view is logical, they’re losing money so something’s gotta give….
    INK IT AND PLAY THE GAME!!!!

  5. AusRob says:

    Rooting for the owners and the League is kind of like rooting for the dealer at the blackjack table. I think all hope is gone for seeing a full 82 game slate. The best we can hope for is probably a 50 game season, but as we get closer to Christmas I really don’t think we’ll see much progress. In the end, the losers are primarily the fans, and then the players and club personnel. I’ve said it before, but I reckon two-thirds of the league would be adversely affected by a year-long lockout, most of those teams with rebuilding plans or stars in their twilight years. It’s really hard to look at the NBA right now when you look over and see what the NFL’s done with their ten-year CBA.

  6. b0mb@ says:

    C’mon you all. Just come up with an agreement so we can enjoy this 2011-12 season. Can’t wait for another fantastic season.

  7. Balu says:

    Looks like a repeat of the 99 season looms. Possibly even worse and an even shorter season.

    One thing we can be sure of, whichever team wins the Championship this season will have an asterix next to their name.

    Personally I think the players are wrong in this and are truly showing how greedy they and how they value their contracts over the love of the game which has brought them everything they have in life.

  8. D-Mavs says:

    I cannot believe no season taking place but i have a bad feeling that it will be shortened – which won’t be the same.
    The NBA does have probems which needs ironing out but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the fans who just want to watch the great game.

  9. boy tae says:

    Watch PBA.

  10. fanlockout says:

    FANS UNITE. Do NOT purchase any NBA gear during the lockout. Do not attend any games equal to the number of games missed due to the lockout.Fans as consumers have the power to put pressure on both the players and owners to come to some sort of agreement.

  11. Thomas says:

    Stern, are you listening??? With all the other crap thats going down in this economy, and hitting people, you want to push this into a missed season NOW? Screw you and the NBA, You miss games and when you come back, I’m not watching on TV, I’m not going to any NBA games, I’m not doing anything. Everything you think your gaining, your not.

  12. BiC says:

    everybody anticipates a FULL 2011-2012 season.. Although if the hard cap is implemented, each team will have their superstar. Thus each team can be a championship contender.

  13. Mitch says:

    Owners need to just get replacement players and the players should just start their own league and then everyone can see that WE (the fans) watch the game because of the players NOT because the owners

    • Beogard says:

      Well that ain’t gonna happen as they won’t get paid at all. and they won’t have anywhere to play.

      Thing is owners can hold out the longest, even if the owners get all there demands through, the players will get the highest paycheck they get get anywhere.
      Sure a couple of superstars maybe can get top dollars in europe, china etc but that leaves 99% of the players still playing in the NBA or not plying at all.

  14. brando87 says:

    Well, looks like the lockout is going to take a chunk out of this season. I’ve written a little something to help us all get through this horrible, horrible ordeal. Check it out:

    http://www.squidoo.com/what-to-do-during-nba-lockout

  15. These Players are Crazy says:

    The idea that having a hard cap in the NBA being a bad idea is ludicrous. Only someone from a large market area would suggest that it is a bad idea, because they are the ones that are winning the championships year after year after year. For all of the other teams it is the same thing year after year of getting a good draft pick and then the draft pick leaving and going to a larger market team where he can get more money and a championship. So, as it sits you go to less than a third of the stadiums you see all of the banners from years of leading the league. But for the other two thirds of the teams you might have the one or two banners from the lucky season that there draft picks got them to a division championship or something before jumping ship. A hard cap will even the teams up.

    And the complaining about a hard cap cutting out the mid tier players is full of it. No one has even set what the ceiling of the hard cap would be, so how can anyone say how much would be available for any player.

  16. ed3 says:

    why weren’t the discussions had earlier they should have held meetings through out the season instead of waiting till the last minute and hope things work out

  17. WAT says:

    i hope the NBA owners realize that if there is no NBA season, most casual NBA fans that are starting to get into the league will go to football and will be costing the owners in future attendance, tv viewers, and promoting the league, since this is the highest its been in 20 years

  18. Aussie Mavs Fan41 says:

    this is crap, suck it up & play the game you(apparently) love.. or you can try giving out plumbing supplies for a living like i have to while paying $10 per game to play amateur leauge. seriously, how much money do you guys really need to do something that you love doing?

  19. Jesus says:

    I want this lockout to end but if a lockout is what it takes to make sure Lebron never wins a championship then I can wait.

  20. Orin says:

    Football season, baby!!!!

  21. Stu says:

    All the players envision a new system where the superstars still get their money but nobody else does. Maybe they should reduce the size of max contracts and leave mid levels ones in play since max contracts take up a large portion of each team’s cap *cough* Miami *cough*.

    • Beogard says:

      I agree with this if they want to protect the “mid level” players just put a max contact at maybe 10M/year not like now when they get an average of 20M then you have a lot more money for they other players and 10M is still a ***load of money, and the superstars will still get theres through other endorcements anyway.

  22. The voice in the distance says:

    If these people weren’t so damn greedy there wouldn’t be a problem. They should try spending some time living in the real world with people working hard and struggling to get by or losing their jobs through cut backs and closures. These people do not have any understanding just how privileged they are.

  23. Annoyed AF says:

    NBA </3 :'(

  24. MistaMilla says:

    C’mon STERN, we know you can pull strings so start pulling.
    There is way too much that will be lost besides a season, maybe Kobes last chance at a 6 ring, Duncan, Ginobli and Parker arent getting any younger, The Celtics Big three may do something special, D-Rose is a beast, Oklahoma may surprise everybody and win a title with a team of sub 25 year olds. Memphis looks formidable, Miami’s (cry-gate) may stop and they can play the way they are supposed to. Dallas may reel off another stellar performance in the post season, need I say more?
    Like Really who locks out a season when there is way more than money on the line? Owners, you need to check yo-self before you wreck yo-self! you’re about to lose way more of you’re precious dolla bills. Not to mention the respect of the fans. What fan wants to pay somebody money to watch a game when the owner doesn’t even give a crap about you as the fan>???? We need some serious traction on this!!!!!!! DO YOU HEAR US MR. STERN???????? (doubt it)

  25. DOO says:

    This is a battle between millionaires…this is so stupid!!!! A bunch of greedy millionaire people fighting for more money….And we, the people that MAKE then millionaires, are the real victims here…Screw this…

  26. Nick says:

    i say we start up a new league!
    im tired of hearing about owners and players and commisioners, all crying because they want more millions. we arent talking hundreds of dollars, Millions!. seriously, i love to watch the game and granted these guys work hard but, really?
    if its that hard to come to an agreement over this where neither side will meet in the middle then scrap the whole model and start a new,

  27. KINGJAMES BALLIN says:

    If the Heat won the finals, do you think we would be in a lockout now?

  28. GMAN says:

    Owners dont want to share… not even with each other..WOW lol. all they want to do is take take take

  29. NBA fan says:

    For the love of god, please stop fighting about MILLIONS OF DOLLARS,
    To all boneheaded NBA players: you are the only people in pro sports you get paid that much, just let it go! It’s enough just come to an agreement, the owners are another story, they’re just people who can’t apprieciate what they have and need more? I work harder than all of you and will probably make the average NBA salary in 50 years. Just stop being spoilt. Players and owners.

  30. WHAT??? says:

    This is BS, they’re turning out to be like our government, a bunch of little girls crying for three months, and NOTHING GETS DONE!!! And Cory Maggetti talking unemployment?? WTF? None of these crybabies deserve our hard paid tax money. Shouldn’t be allowed to collect if you made over $1M in a single year. F the NBA, over it!

  31. bsj says:

    Hope the players play ove seas and let the owners sweat it out next season.

  32. cool knick fan says:

    i don’t care what the the owners and players want (actually i want the players toget what they want so i could get big time money when i hit the nba), i want to see my Knicks win it all, curse the greedy owners

  33. John Jack says:

    I just want to see a new and competitive NBA season, I dont care how they solve this.

  34. ZikYoh says:

    This sucks. One thing is for sure. There are so MANY GREEDY PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD. SCREW THIS LOCKOUT. NBA will SUFFER.

  35. imad akel says:

    Alrite first of all, FIRST

    second of all, hatin the owners right now…these articles are pretty self explanatory and draw a clear picture.

    NBA dynamics is not the same as NFL or MLB. Owners want something that is not feasible because it will harm the game.

    Also it seems the owners are really dodging the issue of better revenue sharing.
    Doesn’t look like the owners are negotiating in good faith AT ALL.