Ready For The Long Weekend?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Depending on what you choose to believe, we’re either days away from the beginning of a resolution to the NBA’s labor mess … or on the verge of an even bigger chasm between the owners and players.

No one seems to know for sure, but everyone seems to have a theory (or two or three) about how this weekend’s meetings (things begin Friday in New York) will play out.

In order for an on-time start to the regular season, the sides have to come together as soon as possible. So there is a very obvious reason for all of the extra emphasis on the coming talks (as expressed by NBA Commissioner David Stern, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA President Derek Fisher):

Players Prepared To Sit?

Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated: Unless major concessions are made by the owners by then, the sources said players are prepared to show a united front and express their willingness to sit out the entire season — if not more. There is a growing sentiment that missing the start of the regular season could mean missing the entire season, one that was recently reflected in the comments of agent David Falk. There has even been renewed talk of players starting a league of their own, which may or may not be realistic but is certainly indicative of their level of frustration and the types of strategies being considered.

There were hints of this we-determine-our-own-destiny approach in the latest letter from NBPA president Derek Fisher to the league’s players, which was first obtained by ESPN.com.

“We are a group of some of the most talented, savvy businessmen and business owners in the world,” Fisher wrote. “We have built our own brands, launched our own and other people’s companies, helped our communities. I keep that in the forefront of my mind each time we go into a negotiating session.

“If a Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or Russell Simmons were in this, there is no way they would take a deal that is unfair. Not when we are the talent, the most coveted asset, the most valuable resource that drives this business. Keep that in your mind as we walk down this road shoulder to shoulder.”

And the talent is far from happy.

According to sources who have been briefed on the talks in New York this week, the discussion over basketball-related income and how it is divvied up is the most maddening for the NBPA. While the owners have shown a willingness to give between 46 percent and 48 percent to the players (depending on other components of the deal that are in play), it is believed that the players — who received 57 percent in the previous deal — won’t accept anything less than 53 percent (again, depending on other aspect of the potential agreement). With the league’s revenues totaling about $4 billion last season, each percentage point represents approximately $40 million.

Season Hangs In Balance

Marc Stein of ESPN.com: When NBA labor talks resume Friday, NBA commissioner David Stern is planning to threaten players with the cancellation of the entire 2011-12 season if the sides haven’t made major progress toward a deal by the end of the weekend, according to sources close to the talks.

Although sources said the union views such an extreme stance as more of a negotiating tactic than a legitimate threat, Stern went almost that far in his comments to reporters in New York on Wednesday after a second straight day of negotiations.

Referring to meetings scheduled Friday that are expected to attract as many as 15 owners and star players such as the Heat’s LeBron James, Stern said: “I’m focused on let’s get the two committees in and see whether they can either have a season or not have a season, and that’s what’s at risk this weekend.”

In 1998-99, the only season in NBA history in which regular-season games were lost to a work stoppage, no deal was reached until Jan. 6, 1999, with a 50-game season finally starting on Feb. 6, 1999.

It remains to be seen if Stern’s remarks Thursday will have the intended “scare” effect and convince players to accept a deal now on the premise that the NBA is not willing to stage a shortened season this time.

At a minimum, sources said, cancellation of regular-season games next week is a certainty if a deal isn’t within sight by Monday.

It’s Over When Stern Says It’s Over

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: When Stern dictates this lockout is over, it ends.

That’s the hard truth, the hard road to labor peace. Stern’s job is convincing the owners to pull off the press, take the 30-point victory and leave the floor with some grace and dignity.

This has been rigged for years and months and weeks, and here’s how a deal happens this weekend: In the carnage of a devastating collective bargaining loss for the union with billions of dollars redirected into owners’ pockets, Stern has to give Hunter something to take back to the players, so that the union’s bloodied, bruised and beaten executive director can still raise his arms and declare that, yes, we won.

Stern’s “going to make a real hard push to get a deal this weekend,” one team president told Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday. “If the union makes a slight move, David will move.

“But the players have to blink first.”

When Stern decides to give Hunter an escape valve, this is over. When Stern can convince his owners to back off, this is over. Stern needs to give Hunter something to take back to the union, and say, “We won.” Maybe it’s the illusion of a soft salary cap, the preservation of the midlevel exception, a 50-50 revenue percentage split. Whatever. This isn’t about a fair deal, it’s about a deal the union can rationalize to the players for ratification.

Hunter has no leverage, and no way out. This isn’t about getting the players a great deal, it’s about getting out of this without the agents overthrowing him. The union keeps insisting its players will go the distance, sit out the season, and that’s not happening. It sounds noble and strong, and there are players with the stomach to do it. Yet, there aren’t enough of them. What’s more, there’s the sobering understanding that the bad deal being offered now becomes worse in December.

This isn’t about right or wrong. Just or unjust. When the union didn’t decertify back in July, it was destined for this dark place. It’s too bad, too. Because the players have largely won the PR war. The public knows far more about the owners in the digital age, knows far more about their finances and agendas and, yes, incompetence.

Nevertheless, these cross-country exhibition games have been an awakening of sorts to the players, to everyone, about how much the players need the NBA’s machinery. They need its platform, its coaching, its competitive environment. There’s nothing but a devoted, narrow fan base that can watch these summer exhibitions. It’s bad basketball, and too much of it will devalue the NBA stars playing in the games.

Stakes Raised Heading Into The Weekend

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: You didn’t have to read to closely between the lines to catch the meaning from Stern and Silver, who sought to ratchet up the pressure on getting a deal or risk not simply an on-time start to the season, but indeed the whole thing. With training camps already postponed and a first batch of preseason games canceled, Stern said the two sides are “at a period of enormous opportunity and great risk.”

“I can’t say that common ground is evident, but our desire to try to get there I think is there,” Fisher said. “We still have a great deal of issues to work through, so there won’t be any Magic that will happen this weekend to just make those things go away. But we have to put the time in. We have a responsibility to people to do so.”

The incremental rise in doomsday talk from Stern signaled that the negotiations are entering a new phase, where the threat of a canceled season will become a leverage point for both sides. If no agreement is reached by the end of the weekend — the four-week mark before the scheduled regular season opener — it would be virtually impossible to get a subsequent deal written, hold abbreviated training camps and a preseason schedule, and pull off a shortened free-agent period.

And yet neither side evidently was prepared to move enough Wednesday to get within reach of a deal. That moment of truth, one way or another, should come in the next 96 hours.

Once the league agreed to replace its insistence on a hard cap with the more punitive luxury tax and other provisions — a “breakthrough,” as one person familiar with the talks called it — it sparked “the process of negotiation” that the two sides have arrived at now.

“There could be some compromises reached,” the person said.

According to multiple sources familiar with the talks, the owners did not enhance their economic offer Wednesday, instead focusing on using systemic changes to hit the number they are seeking to achieve — still 46 percent for the players over the life of a new deal. The problem, sources say, is that the players are not willing to accept a deal at that percentage, and that some of the systemic adjustments the league has proposed as alternatives to a hard team cap will act like a hard cap — such as a luxury-tax system that rises from dollar-for-dollar tax to $2 or more.

NBPA executive director Billy Hunter has called a hard team salary cap a “blood issue” for the union, and Fisher wrote in a letter to the union membership this week that he and Hunter will continue to oppose any deal that includes one “unless you, the group we represent, tell us otherwise.”

41 Comments

  1. John Stanton says:

    The PLAYERS are the GAME NOT the greeedy owners for whom owning an NBA team is only a hobby; they don’t need the NBA to make their income. In addition, the players have very short careers and risk injury each and every game they play while the owners sit in their comfortable seats courtside hob nobing with celebreties.

    Also, the thousands of people who depend upon a season for their income need to be considered as mentioned above.. Many of the NBA owners are already billionaires or hundred millionaires with the value of their NBA franchises escalating in value beating inflation by a wide margin. So as for this huge NBA fan, I’m on the side of the players — GIVE it up GREEDY OWNERS and let the players have a fair deal NOW so we fans don’t lose the 2011-2012 season!!

  2. jay vaaz says:

    frankly, sekou, i don’t give a damn. i’ve lost interest.

  3. Chris says:

    One thing i don’t quite get is how players keep going on about not wanting a ‘hard’ cap. While it probably could limit the amount a player could make (and its not like they’re making pathetic money to begin with), they’re not looking at it from the other side – the soft cap system means owners / teams need to pay luxury tax to keep players. Which might be alright if the guy you’re signing is worth busting your budget for (but that’s a big IF).

    I wonder if the players remember they’re not the only employees in the different teams (as someone pointed out earlier). The owners need to pay the players and everyone else working to make the teams run smoothly (and whose combined salaries may not even come close to what some of the players are making). How many other employees in an organisation get more than half of the income that comes in from a particular source (i.e. BRI)? Their other colleagues in the other roles in the organisation don’t get that for sure.

    Ok, so as NBA players you’re the best in the business, and perhaps it can be argued that (some of) you deserve the share of the money you’re getting. But then the owner needs to split the remain 43% of that income stream between all the other expenses involved (wages, rental, utilities etc etc) while still needing to make something for themselves, and that something is PROFIT. The owners put money in because they believe they can build on the investment to generate more – not bleed themselves to death by continually pumping money into something that can’t even generate enough income to be self-sustaining.

    And if the teams end up bleeding to death from losses then what? you think the players are going to stick around and play for free? They’ll jump on the next opportunity they can (some of them are already sort of doing that now by opting to play overseas). “What about loyalty?” people might ask. Well…. the way i see it, players and teams (in this day and age) are loyal only to themselves (and their interests). Players’ll demand trades / sign free agent contracts where they can get the best deal (either financially or in terms of winning championships etc). And teams, well once players outlive their usefulness, they either cut them or trade them – even if the players involved don’t want to go. The bottomline is at the end of the day everyone looks out for themselves – players and teams both. I don’t blame them, since if they don’t look out for themselves, nobody’s going to look out for them.

    One big thing that irks most people about this lockout is the perceived selfishness of the players (and the fact that most of them have seemed to lost touch with reality on the ground). Hardly anyone makes anything close to what you do, and people having to hear you guys complain about how what you’re making isn’t enough (which is more than what some people would be able to make in their lifetimes) just really pisses everyone off. This lockout isn’t just about the players and the owners – there’s everyone else employed by the teams as well. Not everyone else in the organization is like you – where they can pack up and leave, move to somewhere else where the money is (by doing things like going to play overseas). If a team’s bleeding money and making losses, the players aren’t going the first ones to be cut from the team – it’ll be the other staff (since they might be viewed as more easily replaceable). Wonder if the players have ever thought of that?

  4. Wayne F says:

    I guess that is why the rich keeps getting richer…they use their strength and get whatever they want. Now what happens when the two rich guys are of equal strength? They give up a “few” million dollars (like a lost or reduced season) to save their pride. I don’t know the details of the deal but I believe that the guy who takes the risk should get the biggest piece of the pie. For the most part, employees (aka the players) are guaranteed their wages… no risk. The owners can actually loose money (even if they are lying about it). Players, just sign the damn deal!!! Instead of getting $1M, you get $995K… big deal

  5. JustStartTheSeason says:

    Im sick and tired of this bullcrap. Just Start The Season

  6. dgibson says:

    i broke up with my girlfriend so that i could watch as much basketball as possible without her bothering me.. so please come to a deal, because if u dont then i have broken a poor girls heart without good reason!

  7. dave says:

    I don’t understand how it can be this difficult to manage a budget in such large organizations such as NBA teams. There is plenty of revenue to go around. Ya’ll need to realize that all you are doing is hurting the brand that you have created. The method of scaring consumers by threatening to hold out a season will only hurt your fan base.
    In other news hockey season starts next week and if you aren’t already a fan you should start watching. With HD TV’s making it much easier to see all the action, hockey is the fastest and most physical sport there is, and they FIGHT! Get into it.

  8. danko says:

    iam not going to see one game this year,,screw them,,half of the world is hungry ,kids dying from hunger,, greedy bastards..we should all boykot them this year,,with empty arena they worthless

  9. danko says:

    shame ..shame,,greeeedddd..you should all work in factory for one year make $30,000,,,,,iam sick of all of you,,,

  10. Matthew Marino says:

    this greed over who is going to get paid more needs to stop. I bust my butt everday just to make ends meet and the players and owners are fighting over who gets a little extra at the end of the year. you already get your contract wages this is just a bonus. Suck it up and get back to work so I have something to look forward to after work when I drink my beer.

  11. Will Brown says:

    please for the love of God end the lockout

  12. Nard says:

    Just end the Lock Out and everybody will be happy..

  13. Phyllis says:

    Let’s agree on a contract! Do you remember the last shortened season? The Spurs took it all. Do we want that again? You darn right. Go Spurs Go

  14. Kays says:

    End the lockout pleeeeeese i want nba these year.

  15. matt e says:

    This is really sad, the average player in the NBA makes what somewhere between 5 – 7 million a year. Very few other sports make that much on average, “excluding superstars”, I understand that the players are the “show” but if you look at the rank of the nba throughout the world it is behind european football(soccer), behind NFL and behind MLB. They rarely suffer career or life threating injuries, and they play indoors. How good do you want it? Personally i think the NBPA has made too much of this and because of the stir they have caused they can’t go back with their tails between their legs with nothing to show. The NBA should intervene with the teams who are not making a profit and see why they aren’t. No doubt the NBA has bags of cash to throw around, you see it with all the advertising they paint everywhere. Instead of advertising so much help out the clubs that can’t get their system right. At the end of the day, if 22 teams are unsustainable there will be what 8 in the comp. If the players are happy for this to continue, then it just shows TYPICAL AMERICAN GREED. Nobody plays for the love anymore except maybe Kevin Durant.

  16. peezy says:

    …. I don’t usually wish grievous bodily harm on anybody, but if someone were to hit david stern in the head with a pillow case full of bed bugs and nickels… I would be OK with it.

  17. DE B-BALL FAN says:

    end the lockout!!!! You are already million airs! i cant live without a 2012 NBA season!

  18. TG says:

    I need a season as well! Come on, let’s end this crap already!

  19. Lakers24 says:

    It is truly time for the lockout to end. The NBA is going to lose a LOT of momentum carried on from last years’ success, if the lockout continues. I truly think that major progress will be made this weekend. The Lockout might even end by next week or so if they can get progress done of this new CBA.

    I hope this lockout ends soon!

  20. Corey Dore says:

    LETS END THIS SILLY LOCKOUT TOMORROW PLEASE CAUSE YOU ONLY HURTING YOURSELF IF THINGS GET MORE WORST & LET ALL THE NBA PLAYERS GET BACK TO WORK & END THIS LOCKOUT!!

  21. jballerz says:

    if the nba season doesnt come back im gonna be so sad for the rest of 2011 and 2012

  22. Alec Sparta says:

    I really care as i am a junkie for ball!
    But listen, if the players don’t agree that last agreement was in their favor and this new one needs to benefit the owners (because the economy is a lot different now then last time) and figure a way to split this enormous amount of money the league is earning im gonna be out too.
    The players had what 57% last time? lets flip it this time 57% for owners and 43% for players?? Because thats fair right? You had a larger share for a while and now its my turn…
    But also, i hope the players playing in those 22 cities that are losing money realize that their stadiums are not full and that means that the owner/team is probably not profitable but still pay the players regardless of their situation. Im sure they enjoy their job as an NBA player, so now its time for them to give something up in order to make sure the company they work for is around to employ future generation of players and not close shop due to losing all its money.
    I will boycott the NBA and the players if they cant agree to get paid $5,000,000/per season instead of the usual $7,000,000 that an average player makes. Have they seen what contracts Hockey players get? Did you see the NFL negotiate a deal to save the season?
    Gitty Up and get this done! Players need to vote on a new deal if it makes sense not just because a union rep

  23. Michael Webb says:

    Please end the Lock Out!! Im coming over from New Zealand and wanna see some NBA action!! go knicks!!

  24. Tal says:

    The players clearly have a very flawed understanding of how this system works. Obviously they are the talent that people come to see, so they do deserve a large cut of the profit. But lets be realistic here, the average NBA player risks nothing by joining the NBA; they effectively have everything to gain and nothing to lose, and will typically outearn 10 years worth of a typical job on their first contract. The owners, on the other hand, are the ones who invest huge amounts of money to make all of this possible, and thus are the ones at risk, because if the NBA fails it is them who lose out, not the players.

    • someguy says:

      No the players lose, because the owners, force them to. That’s exactly what this lockout is all about.

      • Wayne F says:

        The players CANNOT loose. Their salaries are much greater than their work related expense. If they choose to live bigger than their income that is their business. The owners take the risk… the owners should be in a position to make the most money. I agree with Tal. In fact, the real persons who loose are the thousands of people who have a “regular” job because of the NBA… vendors, cleaners, security guards, and others who earn 10 – 20 bucks per hour… they won’t have a job if their is no season!!!!

  25. Viper says:

    “Because the players have largely won the PR war.”

    Erm, what? Everywhere I read, I only see people saying the players need to get over themselves and stop the diva acts. I’m sorry players…but screaming that being paid 2 million, instead of 4, is unfair, just doesn’t sit well with me. Bottom line is, the teams are companies in their own right, and now they are not making money. That is just not sustainable.

  26. QuestionMark says:

    This weekend is the only time to end the lockout and keeping a full season, this isn’t the time for owners and players to get greedy, its time to end the lockout but at the same time keep everything fair.

  27. Syed Fazal Akbar says:

    The problem with censorship is that it can suppress but cannot change public opinion, or the facts.

  28. 4i4aka says:

    Please NBA stop this lockout now! Do this for the people who love this game! PLEASE STOP BEING GREEDY!!!

  29. Oscar says:

    Yes! Please end this lockout, they are all rich anyway, is not that they are going to be in hunger or without a house. Come on either way they are stil getting paid millions. I know is unfair some things to the players but as I said, still they will be rich! I think a 50-50 deal cold get it done. What I am just trying to say is that all over the world people need the NBA so stop this damn lockout now. Kobe is the best player ever!! He will win again! Oh yes he will!

  30. Kevin Woods says:

    It has been estimated that for every NBA game not played 2,000 people will be out of work. Will not be paid! AT EACH VENUE! Think about it. Venue staff (ticket takers, food concessions, souvenier vendors, security, those that clean the bathrooms, etc), parking lot attendants, taxi cab drivers, restaurant waitstaff, radio & tv engineers & staff,first aid staff, the guy that cleans the parking lot the day after, others. The circle is far bigger then the 450ish players, their agents, and the owners. Do the players & owners REALLY understand how much they are impacting the little guy on the street? In this economy?? These people depend on this income for their Life!

  31. natefilewood says:

    Im sick of this. Its a joke. These guys get paid beyond what anyone is worth, whilst the rest of us work more hours than we have to provide for our families.
    Shut up, man up and take what you’ve been offered. No player is really ever going to go without are they? No.

  32. arcywafu says:

    Is Fisher responsible on all of this?

  33. NBAFAN says:

    This needs to END now, just split it up 50/50. You are doing a diservice to the fans, and will lose a large fanbase by having a lockout

  34. Pat Brown says:

    Please, please end this lockout soon. I am a huge basketball fan and I am ready for the season to begin. Its time for some trash talking.

  35. jazzfan says:

    Seriously stop being greedy, just end it your all acting spoilt. Players and owners

  36. Jens says:

    Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease end the lockout…I am in need of a NBA Season :)

  37. Eduardo says:

    The lockout has to end if not all the NBA player will leave and play for other countrys.

  38. numb3r69 says:

    END IT NOW !

  39. Lanre says:

    END IT TOMORROW