Reading The Labor Tea Leaves

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Good luck trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing in the NBA’s ongoing labor impasse.

One minute all seems lost, with voices from both sides (players and owners) dispensing ominous soundbites about their fear that any sort of peaceful accord is anywhere in sight. And then the next, we hear that progress, however slight, is being made and that perhaps there is a chance that common ground is in the distance.

And then comes the announcement, Friday morning, that the league is wiping out the first week of camps and preseason games.

It’s a wicked game being played by those trapped inside of the labor dispute matrix. And we’re forced to do our best to read the tea leaves every day to see if we can decipher fact from fiction.

Good luck:

There Is Still Hope

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: After more than two years of negotiations, it’s finally time to negotiate.

Following a series of small compromises by both sides, it was the owners’ turn to move the needle in a significant way. And they did: According to a person briefed on the negotiations, the league put forth a new number on the split of revenues, or basketball-related income, on Thursday, a step that could help propel the talks forward even as the start of training camps were set to be delayed and preseason games canceled — with such gloomy but fully expected and insignificant announcements expected Friday.

“It’s moving,” said another person with knowledge of the talks. “Not as fast as some people would want, but it’s moving.”

According to one of the people familiar with the bargaining, here is some of what transpired Thursday: After signaling last week that the players’ offer to move lower than the 54.3 percent share of BRI was a starting point that could lead to a deal on economics, league negotiators came back with their own number. Unsurprisingly, the number was lower than what the players had last proposed, though multiple people involved in the talks refused to specify by how much.

The owners’ proposed BRI split was made without specific system details tied to it, and the number itself was “unacceptable” to the union leadership, one of the sources said. Thus, the faces of both sides emerged from the Manhattan hotel after five hours of bargaining and delivered the same vague non-answers with strikingly similar flatlined demeanors and monotone voices.

“I’m sorry, but the most important thing is to see whether we can’t have negotiations conducive to ultimately getting a deal, which is what our committee and our board will like,” commissioner David Stern said on his 69th birthday. “And having these conversations with you doesn’t add anything to that. And that’s the dilemma.”

Cancellation Of Camp Could Send More Overseas

Mike Monroe of the Express-News: The decision could move some key Spurs to join the growing list of players signing on with teams overseas.

Before departing Argentina, where he helped Brazil qualify for next summer’s Olympic tournament, center Tiago Splitter told the Express-News he would sign on with Flamengo, a Brazilian club where former Suns guard Leandro Barbosa currently plays, if training camps were postponed or canceled.

“I do not want to be waiting for something to happen,” Splitter said. “I want to be playing, so if our (Spurs) camp will not start on time then I think I will sign with Flamengo.

“Of course, I will make sure I will be able to join the Spurs when the lockout ends, but I want to be playing and working on my game.”

Spurs All-Star guard Manu Ginobili has an offer to rejoin Virtus Bologna of the Italian League, but his agent, Herb Rudoy, reiterated on Thursday that Ginobili has made no decision about the Virtus offer, even after Thursday’s disappointing news.

Spurs guard Tony Parker, whose stellar play led France to an Olympic berth and a second-place finish in the EuroBasket tournament that concluded last weekend in Lithuania, has indicated his intent to play for French pro league team ASVEL, which he owns, if the lockout lingers into the regular season.

Forward DeJuan Blair already has signed on to play for the Russian team Krasnye Krylya Samara, and has been in Russia for more than two weeks.

“Both Sides Dug In”

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver met with union executive director Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher on Thursday in Manhattan. Afterward, the two sides revealed little publicly about the nature of the talks, but one source briefed on the meeting said “both sides dug in,” suggesting there wasn’t much movement from either the league or the union.

“No announcement to make today,” Stern said, “but the calendar is not our friend.”

A league source told Y! Sports on Wednesday that the league was prepared to announce the delay of the preseason by the end of the week if no progress was made in Thursday’s meeting. Silver said the sides hope to meet again next week.

The NBA’s training camps were expected to open Oct. 3 and six exhibition games were scheduled for Oct. 9. The league is expected to cancel exhibition games through Oct. 15 on Friday and then re-evaluate the final two weeks of the preseason on Oct. 1. The scheduled Nov. 1 start to the regular season also is in danger of being postponed.

“I’m not going to try and make a guess on that one,” Fisher said. “The calendar’s obviously not our friend, but we’re not going to give up on the process because of the time.”

Once a new labor agreement is reached, it is still expected to take two or three weeks for the lawyers to iron out the details and produce a legal document for the two sides to sign. There is expected to be no free-agent signings, trades or other deals until the agreement is signed.

Has Anything Really Changed?

Howard Beck of the New York Times: None of the principals in Thursday’s five-hour meeting would characterize the proceedings, other than to say that it is still worth talking. They plan to meet again next week.

“We’ll keep talking until we figure it out, until we get a fair deal done,” said Derek Fisher, the president of the players union.

Asked if anything had changed from last week, when union leaders expressed deep pessimism after another long meeting, Fisher said, “No.”

If body language and tone meant anything, the signs Thursday were discouraging. The usually talkative Fisher spoke for just two and a half minutes. He sounded weary after taking an overnight flight from Los Angeles, and surely disappointed at the lack of a deal. Stern, who celebrated his 69th birthday on Thursday, was as dour as he has been since the lockout began three months ago.

Stern turned more light-hearted when someone mentioned his glum demeanor.

“No, actually my demeanor is flat, because I don’t have anything to say,” Stern said. “We told them we wouldn’t say anything, I’ve told you I wouldn’t say anything. And so I don’t want to say anything. If you’d like me to smile, I’m happy to smile.”

The owners and players remain divided over both financial and structural issues, although they have closed the gap significantly in recent weeks. The players are prepared to reduce their share of revenue to 53 percent or less, from the current 57 percent, with every percentage point representing about $40 million. But the union has conditioned that offer on retaining a soft salary cap.

Hunter: Owners Still Not Ready To Do A Deal 

Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com: In an exclusive interview with SheridanHoops.com, Hunter said the league has made “glacial” movement recently in the amount of aggregate dollars they are willing to devote to player salaries, but those proposals have been hypothetical rather than formal.

“In general, we haven’t made any progress,” Hunter said. ”I really don’t think they’re ready to do a deal. My position is that they said 2 years ago they were prepared to lockout for a year to get what they wanted, and I think the way they’ve negotiated gives every indication that that’s bearing out.

“And while they’re talking about not wanting to miss the season or having to cancel games, I’m not really sure that that’s the truth,” Hunter said.

The sides are not expected to meet again until next week, after the owners’ labor relations committee caucuses to discuss whatever progress was or wasn’t made at Thursday’s five-plus hour bargaining session.

“Not much of anything got accomplished. We spent time talking, but we actually talked in terms of a two-pronged approach, one is economics and the other is the system. We’re still pretty far apart on the economics, so we agreed we’d get together next week and have more discussions on the system,” Hunter said.

As for reported here earlier this month, the sides began September $2.97 billion apart in aggregate dollars over the first six years of the proposed deal, with the owners seeking a 10-year agreement that would not raise players’ salaries and benefits to where they were last season – $2.19 billion — until Year 10.

In recent discussions, owners have shown a willingness to raise their annual dollar disbursement, although the numbers being bandied about have been fluid. And while the difference in aggregate dollars between the two sides appears to have been reduced by approximately $400-$600 million in negotiations over the past month, the hypothetical nature of those discussions makes it impossible to nail down exactly how much the financial gap has been narrowed.

Training camps are scheduled to open in the first week of October, and the first scheduled exhibition games are Oct. 9: Minnesota at Detroit, Memphis at Orlando, Utah at Portland, Golden State vs. the Los Angeles Lakers in Fresno, Calif., and New Orleans at San Antonio.

21 Comments

  1. Exactly? says:

    Lowly Bucks? are you serious? I’m a Bulls fan and even I know that Bucks fans are die hard. I’ve yet to see a Heat fan who hasn’t jumped off the bandwagon. Also when I last checked attendance hasn’t substantially dropped at the bradley center, unlike the hornets, in saying that where could they move? The thing that cheeses me is the fact that players want a soft cap and a larger cut of offcourt revenue, if they sacrificed at least one of those priviliges in negotiations they’d still be well-off, I’m sorry but I just can’t feel for the players on this one, they complain about the loss of job security and sustainable income, but when I last checked, some of these guys are more or less getting paid to just collect splinters on the bench. Forget about basketball and the NBA, this is reality, if you don’t perform at work, you get the sack without pay, why should these guys be any different. After all, aside from beng a presence on the court, no matter how good they are, how much do they invest in these teams to begin with, It’s easy to say the owners don’t lose much as they have money from other ventures, but they bought the teams because they like basketball, why should they make losses for it as well? Sure it sucks for us, we miss out on basketball, but its better to miss out on basketball for one year than to lose it forever in order to keep this leaue sustainable and viable…

  2. Brando says:

    Man, this whole arbitration business is getting annoying. I for one will be playing fantasy football until the season is settled. What’re you all going to do? Here are some suggestions.

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

  3. Kurt says:

    I just watched NBA at 50 again, partly to freshen up my NBA history knowledge and partly because I know it’s the only basketball I’ll see for quite a while (the local league is in the last game of the finals, and the WNBA is in the finals) until this labor dispute gets resolved.

    It’s sad to see how current players and owners are taking for granted what their predecessors fought hard to start. While the owners and players (Mr. Mikan vs. the Knickerbockers) worry whether they’ll be able to play another game or if there’s an arena schedule open for basketball, current owners and players bicker about who gets the bigger share of the pie. I wish the people involved appreciate what they have and be willing to be more flexible to get this league started on time.

    On a personal note, I believe a hard cap (with franchise player exception) would be a good thing. It forces GMs to be more keen on their contracts and player acquisition (get Kevin Pritchard a job! He’s an awesome GM!) and balances the league (let’s see the Clippers enter the playoffs 2 years in a row please!). To make up for the potential lost earnings for the players, let them have the 53-47 BRI split. That seems fair enough.

    Let’s get this league started on time people, because really, nobody wins in a lockout. And don’t take for granted that your predecessors weren’t afraid of which party gets the bigger pie; they were afraid that they won’t be able to be basketball players.

  4. Evan J says:

    What is going to happen for future draftees? People who count on jobs provided by the NBA? Fans who have season tickets and the NBA package on television? The league and the players need to come together and figure out a way to keep all these potential looming threats from happening.

  5. lb6 says:

    what will happen if this lockout will take effect the entire season? will there be a 2012-2013 nba draft?

  6. Exactly says:

    Napoleon stern? Hit the nail on the head with this one. I love basketball its unquestionably my favorite sport, and I live in a town where our NBA team is beloved and I live in a big market powerhouse team town, but I’m really sick of hearing from Kings and Bucks and Cavs camps about levelling the playing field and this and that. Have we forgotten the lowly Bucks play for an audience that I’m sorry, but does not care all that much about B-ball but lives and dies by those Cheeseheads. If theres another Mark Cuban willing to do to the Bucks what happened in Dallas, more power to ya, but its not automatic and its not guarenteed, and no CBA will ever guarentee a team is both financially sucessful and sucessful at winning titles, and I’m sorry but if your living right alongside a jugguaranaut like the superbowl champion Green Bay Packers, why are you seriously so surprised nobody is showing up at the Bradley center except when Miami or Chitown or Boston rolls into town. The truth is maybe the Bucks should move just like when the Rams left LA. Sorry but certain cities have popular teams in every sport and certain places like southern cali eat sleep and breathe Lakers while towns like Minny and Milwauke are all about Football, its why theres no NBA team in Montreal, why the Grizzlies left Vancouver and moved to Memphis. Its why the Jazz left Nawlins and why the Hornets might not be around for long (which is really sad considering how much that economy has suffered). If theres no market, if people are too busy watching the Steelers they’re not gonna wanna watch the Pittsburgh Ironmen, there just simply isn’t a large enough market everywhere in every part of the country for b ball, and thats not me as a hometown fan of a big market team talking down or belittling Kings fans or Bucks fans or Wizards fans, but its reality plain and simple. I’m sorry but just simply do not care all that much about basketball, and as such I think the idea that Reinsendorf Buss the Wyc Family Mickey Arason and the like are somehow obligated to fork over their hard earned talent and money to lackluster owners who alot of times don’t even spend that money is absolutely ridicolus. Of course I’m not gonna deny, I’d be bored to death if it was another ten years of Spurs Lakers, thats why this past playoffs were so exciting, changing of the guard and look we didn’t need revenue sharing or a new CBA to do it! Teams like the Thunder and the Grizz went out and made their place in the game felt on the floor, they didn’t need guarentees of profit and titles like that goofy Gilbert over in Clevland seems to think we need which brings me to him . Seriously this Gilbert guy is really just unbelieveble. What? It wasn’t enough you’ve gotten two number one draft picks in the past decade? Maybe Gilbert, you’ve should’ve made the effort to actually find a guy like Bosh to play alongside Lebron on the Cavs so he didnt have to do EVERYTHING. Maybe, just maybe ya know Ohio hasn’t one a championship in basketball football baseball or hockey in 40 years maybe thats just fate, maybe your Cavs play for loser fans in a loser rust belt state thats not meant to win professional titles, thats just the way the cookie crumbles man, I had to wait my entire life till my 18th birthday before I was able to finally get a chance to see my team winna title. I’m not saying all bad teams should be knicked, cuz the Mavs need the Spurs the Bulls need the Pistons the Lakers need the Suns Blazers Jazz the Celtics need the Nets Heat need Hawks and Magic, but if your not even gonna even try, then seriously if your not gonna place a bet and get in the game, then fold hand over your chips to somebody who can use the cards dealt to them, but its a buisiness and nobody is gonna guarentee you turn a profit and nobody is gonna guarantee turning a profit will earn you a title, just go ask the Knicks hahaha. Hmm also what if the Kings moved to Seattle? Now that would be interesting.

  7. f the entertainers and their ilk says:

    Lets just boycott all entertainment. Please tell me one field in entertainment where the stars are not way over payed. Just think if we all quit watching sporting events, concerts, movies, tv and listening to the radio for a month. Would the greedy entertainers wake up? Probably, but the problem is most of us are to spoiled, so our loss is only on us.

  8. shirl says:

    Come on just play ball – I though the NBA Cares….so much for that.

  9. DWADE123 says:

    I hope the lockout ends fast before the start of the actual regular season (November 1) Because then fans, players, and owners will be happy to have a 2011-2012 NBA Season

  10. come on top the lockout already and make the season davidstern how would you feel if you were in the nba and they cancelled the season

  11. QueenJAMEsCHOKE says:

    i still want my ring… :””( even C.Bosh is with me crying :””(

  12. Dom says:

    I feel bad for the players with less than 5 years in the league. I imagine most of them are suffering more than anybody else.

  13. UNHAPPY OVERSEAS-FANS says:

    COME’ON Owners! nobody is happy with the lockout. but you owners cannot expect to earn easy money by just owning a NBA team! you got to work on ways to attract superstars or sign telented rookies to your team! please don’t blame on the revenue split between players and you or whatever salary cap. WE FANS WANT TO WATCH AMAZING BASKETBALL WHICH ONLY HAPPENS IN THE N.B.A!
    i know you all work hard to get a deal done but please try to put yourself into players shoes AND THE FANS shoes as well !!!

  14. joblagz says:

    i shall create my oown league if this dont get resolve..

  15. quarogg says:

    for the owners side: players are being paid with good salary but nothing good was happening to their team and there are doing good for their team but paid minimally. owners invest to sustain the expenses of the team and salaries of players but they too should have a profit in return.players should play as they are paid to play but they too should have an income enough to sustain their needs and for their future because everybody don’t last as good players or as players in the nba. both parties should come to an agreement ASAP coz we fans are getting worried that we might not see our team or idols play again in the nba. if they can’t do it, better lock it up forever and we’d better watch WWE. to the owners and players union, 50/50NO MORE NO LESS. Salary won’t be much a problem to decide. Talk about incentives that players could get if they perform well for the team and if their teams perform well in the season

  16. ShadowMamba says:

    Honestly, the NBA lockout is a bigger loss to the owners than to the players as the players now are already receiving many offers to play elsewhere and some will even get paid better. If there is no NBA season this year, then i don’t see why there will be one next year or the year after next. Current NBA players will just move on to play in other leagues around the world and it is really just the NBA and the owners loss.

  17. KINGJAMESBALLIN says:

    I said it once and I’ll say it again. If the Miami Heat didn’t lose the championship, there would be no lockout.

  18. Greg Ewers says:

    Attention NBA Players and Owners:
    We want a season this year but if you would rather argue over $$$ and not have our (the fans) best interests at heart, please do us this one favor, STAY HOME!
    We still have WNBA!!
    Thank you, your unhappy fans

  19. dyrese says:

    the players and owners need to get this deal done already it seems like the owners r being ridiculous with tht bri split i say 50/50 a soft cap but a franchise tag and guarantee contracts but a buyout clause for players get injured for longer than 30 games tht have max contracts which should only be 4years or under perform depending on your positition like a pg for ny stats at least 12 ppg 6 ast 3 reb 1 stl and if u avergae thos stats or better you stay but if you dnt you can be bought out for 15% of your deal

  20. Napoleon Stern? says:

    Uhmm, I starting to wonder out loud if this will be the achilles heel of Commissioner Stern’s legacy or in Napoleon speak, the pain in the you know what at his la$t stand. At some point, he has to find the guts to tell certain “basketball” markets that the game just is NOT working there. If you take some of the BRI Killers” like Charlotte, Cleveland, Minny & Nawlins out of the equation, THEN profit sharing makes sense… the current system is not half bad if owners don’t waste their money on “potential”……

    Sure it’ll mean 60 less jobs in the L for players but there was a time when they were only 12 men on a roster, there would still be 30 + jobs than those times! I dunno, if they let some of these Money pit locations continue to run the show at negotiations they’ll have no games @ all + I don’t want to see the ramifications at that level…

    I mean if this gets really mean-spirited, the PA could start pointing out this obvious fact that’s the “elephant in the room”…. Recession or not, if some teams want to play, does not mean they should–the market value for NBA stars has been set and it is NOT that of the NHL!

    SAAAD DAY!!!

  21. GarbageTime says:

    I would imagine that team owners would not be too thrilled at the prospect of their star players feilding offers from overseas teams, perhaps that could get them talking more and maybe speed things up. At least it seems like the talks are moving forward, and not backwards but who knows.