Labor Talks: Getting Down To Business

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – After months of disagreeing on almost everything, the end of September has delivered the first common ground NBA players and owners can share: time is of the essence.

With a clear understanding that the calendar is not on anyone’s side in the league’s labor dispute, the sense of urgency for both sides has cranked up. We offer the robust attendance and reported tone of the action during Friday’s meetings in New York Friday, which will continue today as reported by NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner, as Exhibit A:

A source told NBA.com’s David Aldridge that at one point, NBA commissioner David Stern was emphatically directing a comment — and pointing his finger — at [Dwyane] Wade, the Miami Heat’s All-Star guard. Wade objected and interrupted Stern, reportedly saying: “Don’t point your finger at me. I’m a grown man. I have children.”

The meeting broke at that point. A few minutes later, Stern sought out Billy Hunter, NBPA executive director, to briefly talk privately.  Soon thereafter, the session resumed.

While no one sounds ready to declare that a deal is imminent or even in the works, there is no doubt that everyone involved understands that it is time to get down to the business of solving their differences before it’s too late …

Stars Step Into the Spotlight

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: Before a stunning confrontation between Dwyane Wade and NBA commissioner David Stern in Friday’s labor meeting, Wade, LeBron James and Chris Paul told their Players Association peers that they’re willing to sit out the season rather than make further concessions to the owners, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Wade, James and Paul were at the forefront of a strong players presence at a Park Avenue hotel for Friday’s contentious bargaining session. In a private union meeting prior to the bargaining session with owners, James kept reiterating to the group of elite players that they shouldn’t give back a greater share of the league’s basketball-related income (BRI) than what they’d already conceded in previous negotiations.

“We’re all together on 53 [percent], right?” James said. “All together on 53 right?”

“LeBron, Wade and Paul want to fight this so hard, they don’t seem scared about missing the season,” one source in the negotiating room told Yahoo! Sports.

James, Wade and Paul believe the owners are bluffing in threatening to ultimately cancel the season to get the changes they want in the collective bargaining agreement, a source in the meeting said. In the meeting with union peers, the three stars declared their willingness to miss games rather than drop down from the 53 percent of BRI the union has proposed to the NBA.

Despite the bold talk out of the sport’s biggest stars, the union privately has expressed a willingness to move further toward ownership this weekend with an understanding that Stern wants desperately to cut a deal with the players and avoid a prolonged work stoppage.

If nothing else, the owners did see the star players’ resolve on Friday. Once the players entered the room with the owners, Wade reacted harshly to what he perceived as Stern’s condescending way of lecturing him on the issue.

Union Holding The Line

Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: There was widespread speculation entering the weekend that the union might be willing to make compromises in order to salvage the income from a full 82-game season. But two union sources said the players agreed to hold firm during an emotional private meeting Friday before the afternoon negotiations, with crucial leadership provided by [Paul] Pierce, the 2008 NBA Finals MVP of the Celtics.

The union leadership reviewed the recent give-and-take of the negotiations amid repeated questioning by Pierce and heated talk from James. Others spoke up as well, but when Pierce was told that the union had already offered to cut its revenue-share from 57 percent to 54 percent of Basketball Related Income (BRI) in order to help the owners deal with their operating losses, he urged his fellow players to unite behind Fisher and union chief Billy Hunter in not yielding further.

Of course it is understood that the players will eventually have to make additional compromises in order to reach an agreement; the union has admitted it was willing to make a larger financial concession as recently as Sept. 13 in exchange for maintaining the current luxury-tax system. It also must be noted that the owners will argue — with equal frustration — that the union’s current downgrade to 54 percent of revenues doesn’t cover all of their reported losses.

What matters most to the players this weekend is their ability to remain unified, and to that end they succeeded. They entered the negotiating session believing they were on the same page. One union source said Pierce had a “galvanizing” impact on his fellow players.

“I’ve been here, I’ve seen the first lockout (as a rookie in 1998-99), I understand fully what’s going on,” Pierce told SI.com. “It’s just about driving the best deal for both sides so we can start the season, that’s basically what we’re trying to do.”

Pierce has long been a leader within the union. He is known to have a good relationship with Hunter, and it was Pierce who came up with the idea of outfitting the players with “STAND” T-shirts (implying they would stand together) last June as the lockout approached. Pierce deferred to Fisher when asked if the union should make further financial concessions. “We’re making our moves, that’s where we stand,” said Pierce. “It’s a process. It’s hard to say are we closer or are we farther (apart). Right now we’re just putting all our ideas out on the table.”

One Item Of Contention Settled?

Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com: One insider described the meeting as more or less a scene-setter for the more serious round of talks that will begin at some point during the weekend, possibly carrying into the early part of next week. Of the league’s 29 owners, 10 were in attendance.

Stern has said the owners were already sharing $54 million in revenues, and he previously promised to triple it in a new labor deal.

A quadrupling of that number would provide a pool of at least $216 million by the 2014-15 season.

But owners have resisted including an internal revenue-sharing plan as a part of the new collective bargaining agreement, and they have not moved off that stance. It was unclear if the players had acquiesced to the owners keeping revenue sharing out of the labor agreement, but Stern’s remarks seemed to indicate that they had.

“They know precisely as much as we know as to how it is going to work,” Stern said.

So if Stern is to be taken at his word, the two remaining big issues — finances and the operating system — will be the focus of the chess match over the next several days if the sides are to reach an agreement that will save the scheduled Nov. 1 start of the regular season.

Stern said he did not, and would not, issue a threat to cancel the entire season if an agreement is not reached in this round of discussions.

“It’s as ludicrous today as it was the day Marc Stein wrote it on ESPN.com,” Stern said, taking the unusual step of singling out a reporter for criticism by name and affiliation.

Someone Needs To Watch The Clock

Howard Beck of the New York Times: Time is growing short. The league needs three to four weeks to draft a deal, sign free agents, hold training camps and play one or two preseason games before starting the season. Opening night is scheduled for Nov. 1.

If the parties do not have the framework of an agreement in the coming week, cancellations will be practically unavoidable. N.B.A. officials will not make that concession just yet, however. Commissioner David Stern also denied, in the strongest terms, that he had any intention of canceling the entire season if no deal was made this weekend.

ESPN.com, citing anonymous sources, reported on Wednesday night that Stern intended to make that threat at Friday’s meeting.

“Whatever the eventuality is, the idea that we would at an early stage cancel the season is as ludicrous today as it was” when it was reported, Stern said. “It’s just not in the cards. The only thing that we said is that it’s hard, in terms of negotiations, if you start to lose regular-season games, because both parties’ positions harden.”

Fisher and Billy Hunter, the union’s executive director, also denied that any threat had been made, or even implied. Hunter called the report “way off base.”

Friday’s meeting was the most heavily attended since the lockout began on July 1, and the first since then to involve so many elite players. Those present included Boston’s Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Cleveland’s Baron Davis and Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala, in addition to James and Wade of the Miami Heat and the Knicks’ [Carmelo] Anthony. They joined the union’s nine-man executive board, which includes the New Orleans star Chris Paul.

The owners had 9 of 11 members of their labor committee present, plus the Miami Heat owner Mickey Arison.

While the labor agreement remains out of reach, one critical piece of the N.B.A.’s new economy — a broader revenue-sharing plan — is nearly in place. Stern said the league would triple its revenue-sharing pool next season and quadruple it by the third year of a new labor deal. The league has presented the outline to the union, which had been demanding more information about the revenue-sharing plan as part of the negotiations.

The league is still seeking major economic concessions from the players, however, to address a reported $300 million in annual losses.

“As we’ve said before, revenue sharing doesn’t change the aggregate economics,” Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said. “The union understands that as well.”

33 Comments

  1. MIke says:

    I am a die hard NBA fan and I love the way your write Mr. Smith.

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  2. gus says:

    I have an Idea. Ellison and a few others that want NBA teams should make their own league. I am sure Larry Ellison is a better business person then anybody running the NBA. Their is no need for unions. I don’t even think that the players need agents. As long as they are 18 years of age they can decide if they want to play for 20 dollars of 20 million.

    The problem is that free market capitalism is the only thing that works. Anything that is put in place to make things fair just causes problems.

    Owners should not be protected from themselves either. If they make wrong business deals they deserve to fail and leave a competent owner take over.

  3. Nosleeptillbrooklyn says:

    Fact ! wade n lebron can afford too loose a full season as they’re multi millionaires , but there are alot of players on min contracts who simply can’t afford too loose a full season , but we don’t seem to be hearing from those players just the so-called stars like Carmello ! Be interesting to hear from some other players ! All that “we aren’t doing this just for ourselves but for the future players” is just aload of bull ! Simply in it for the money !

  4. Max. W says:

    Check this out.
    http://www.nbathroughmyveins.wordpress.com
    A great nba blog, full of interesting articles about the lockout.

  5. Howard Fisher says:

    I used to be a die hard NBA fan,growing up outside Philly,I used to see the Celtics with Bird,Lakers with Magic, and of course Dr.J. TV Now I never go to games or watch on except sometimes the playoffs, go ahead cancel the season who really cares,I get more excitement watching college ball anyways.

  6. J. Pla says:

    D.Wade,L.James both should be ashame .Both of you are irresponsible and greedy.I quit as your fan .Be sensible .I’m just a worker and I make sacrifice to see you playing .Respect the fans and yourselfs.5% is the differrence betwen self respect and common sense..

  7. Miami Heat says:

    Dwyane Wade stood up for the NBPA, let’s go!

  8. guys the season ain’t starting on time. i think it will start somewhere around Feburary or if not then NOOOOO season. This is what i had in mind if it did start

    Eastern Conference and Western /=and

    1.Heat/Mavs
    2.Bulls /Thunder
    3.Knicks/Lakers
    4.CelticsGrizzles
    5.Magic/Blazers
    6.Hawks/Spurs
    7.Nets/Nuggets
    8.Bucks/Clippers

  9. TS says:

    Luke Babbitt gets paid more then Nicolas Batum.

    That is just, not, right. How can that possibly happen? A kid that stinks it up somethin fierce gets way more because his dad is rich? Then another guy kicks some serious bootay, and gets league minimum? What ever happened to fair contracts that are based on performance? There’s too many Luke Babbitt’s in the NBA that can’t play a lick, but get paid millions anyway.

  10. cedric says:

    Part of the problem is the owners.They are the one that started paying the high price contracts. The other thing is the players need to shutup because they are over paid. They should not be making more than a million dollars a year that would shut them up quick.

  11. gumster says:

    MannyMo: “It’s difficult for me to believe that grown men who are all multi-millionaires, are disputing over 5% (respectively). It’s an insult to me as a regular Joe who works and struggles to stay above water. Having attended NBA games and purchasing NBA gear and paying for NBA broadcasts on DirecTV, I find it incomprehensible that they will make the fans suffer by holding out and possibly canceling the 2011/2012 NBA season. Most, if not all of these people don’t ever have to worry about money again for the rest of their lives even if they gave in for 5% less. The salaries they make, plus the endorsements they get…how greedy can one be to let the fans suffer. The fans who pay those salaries for the new stadiums, the big contracts, the expensive seats.

    I am with the owners, and angry at the players. They make millions for playing a sport. Granted it’s time consuming, but it’s a sport. Most complete families working full time for their entire lives will not make what they make in 1 month of earnings related to the sport.

    It’s an insult to the fans of NBA basketball.”

    This ^^^

  12. DennisR says:

    With so many folks out of work I find the union greed to be despicable. Cancel the season. Baseball and hockey had to learn their lessons the hard way. It may be the only way to reach the greedy union prima donna millionaires club..

    • Rip Greenfire says:

      That’s not necissarly true, there are other players that AREN’T making millions upon millions. For every player who makes 5 million a year, there are 10 who make less then 100,000. I won’t say some of them ARE greedy, but some might need this money to feed their family.

      • kunckleninja says:

        can’t feed your family on a 100 grand? Really? you’re going to say that? with the living cost in the US lower than most other countries in the west, you could do a lot more than struggle to feed your family on a 100 grand… Face it, players are overpaid, and owners, even though they did overpay them, shouldn’t have to deal with it anymore. If they’re so concerned about how they’d have to struggle making 5% less in BRI and a hard cap, they need to book a session with a financial planner and get a psychiatrist to see whats wrong with them.. someone mentioned that 5% is a lot of money. yes if you’re dealing with billions, on paper 5% of that is a lot, but in comparison to the billions it’s squat. If you thought 5% was a huge amount you would cherish 5 cent pieces more wouldn’t you?

  13. robertohenry says:

    This is the only chance the owners have to fix the mess they made over the last 20 years.
    If it takes losing the season to get it done…. so be it.

    • js says:

      that right there is what has really been the problem. this isnt just about here and now, the owners are really trying to make up for lost ground from previous labor agreements where they felt they got the short end of the stick. I can understand where they are comming from but sometimes you just have to accept you didnt win out and move on for the greater good

  14. Henry says:

    Lebron, Dwayne need to shut their traps and start playing ball. That’s what “FANS” pay them for not the owners. The money comes from us, it only has the owners name on it.

  15. js says:

    absolutely love what Wade did. this is a players vs owners problem, stern has no right to single any player out like that. I think the best point ive read so far in all of this is that the difference between the NBA lockout and the NFL is that NFL teams werent losing money across the board like alot of NBA teams are (well claiming anyway). This means the NBA owners are alot more prone to just canceling the season than NFL owners were because at the end of the day they still make money during the season. And to the comment above, dont let 5% fool you. that represents ALOT of money so its a huge difference between 50 or 54%. You are right though at the end of the day they are just shooting themselves in the foot.

  16. Dave T. says:

    I predict that the first regular season game will be the weekend right after Thanksgiving….prepping us up for the big holiday games. Go Lakers!

  17. MannyMo says:

    It’s difficult for me to believe that grown men who are all multi-millionaires, are disputing over 5% (respectively). It’s an insult to me as a regular Joe who works and struggles to stay above water. Having attended NBA games and purchasing NBA gear and paying for NBA broadcasts on DirecTV, I find it incomprehensible that they will make the fans suffer by holding out and possibly canceling the 2011/2012 NBA season. Most, if not all of these people don’t ever have to worry about money again for the rest of their lives even if they gave in for 5% less. The salaries they make, plus the endorsements they get…how greedy can one be to let the fans suffer. The fans who pay those salaries for the new stadiums, the big contracts, the expensive seats.

    I am with the owners, and angry at the players. They make millions for playing a sport. Granted it’s time consuming, but it’s a sport. Most complete families working full time for their entire lives will not make what they make in 1 month of earnings related to the sport.

    It’s an insult to the fans of NBA basketball.

  18. christopher says:

    nba season is going to start on time

  19. zach says:

    Why do Lebron, Wade, and Paul think that they know what’s best for the league. They are not intelligent business savy individuals. They get paid to play basketball, they are basketball players. Sure they have people that work for them and manage their off court presence and finances but they are frikkin basketball players get on the court and play ball, thats what they are good for. The owners “Own” the league, Jeez. Get to work you stupid basketball players and stop being so greedy. You are all losing mad respect… you should listen to your MVP and stop bikkering like little girls be a real man like d-rose.

  20. Nick says:

    NBA is going to lose a lot of NBA Fans because of this. Hopefully the season starts on time because missing games = losing fans.

  21. David says:

    plz end the lockout!

  22. Joe says:

    Im with the owners in this, NBA players are overpaid more than any other sport. A solid cap would allow better distribution of the leagues talent instead of in the hands of a few teams, which would make the Heat playing the Cavaliers less of a joke. Also inluding somthing like a cap minimum would help with talent distribution as it would force teams to spend money on players rather than keep it for themselves. I live in Boston and we have other sports including the Bruins who are defending the championship, I’ll always be a basketball person but i cant say that for other people i know, so if the NBA lost money last year, what is missing a season going to do for them both financially and in regards to their fan base?

  23. John Marshall says:

    Cancel the season, don’t pay the players! J

  24. Victor thyme says:

    A question, why dont the owners agree on whatever cap deal the player wants and then internally between the 30 owners agree that no one is allowed to go above a certain amount?

    This would allow the owners to set it up anyway they want as long as they are agreeing it between themselves, right?

    • JustStartTheSeason says:

      Yeah

    • Draak Grafula says:

      Victor, your comment makes so much sense I can’t believe why I haven’t read it anywhere else before. The cap indeed seems like something the owners can just arrange between them selves. I was shortly thinking it might be illegal in some way simmilar as it’s illegal for companies or stores to agree on a fixed minnimum price for a product, but I don’t think that is a correct comparrison.

      • knickfan212 says:

        The problem with that is once you enter into a written contract you can’t amend it with a verbal agreement.
        Now I’m not sure if that’s true since I heard it on one of those court shows.
        To tell the truth, I’m almost at the point where I don’t care if they play or not. Remember, it took baseball quite a long time to get the fans back when they went on strike.

    • imad akel says:

      Actually Draak that’s not a correct comparison.
      And despite your sarcasm, there is no rule that says the owners can’t agree with each other on a limit for players contracts.

      The problem with agreeing on the limit between themselves, is they can’t have it on paper because mandated caps must be agreed on in the CBA. And if you don’t put it on paper, owners won’t stick to this agreement between each other simply because many of them can afford to pay their players more.

      but to your point Draak Grafula, the owners have every right to draw up players contracts as they wish. In fact, the reason many mediocre NBA players are overpaid today is that rich owners overpaid them (when they didn’t have to). But here’s the kicker in this scenario, it’s not that these mediocre players deserve to be overpaid. If you ask me, many deserve a salary cut down. The real kicker is that the teams who can afford to overpay these bad players are making money regardless and therefore dont really care that they are overpaying their players. The teams that are complaining for a hard cap don’t even have that problem of overpaying players, they just have bad markets and bad management.

      Making money as an NBA owner comes down to two things: being in a good market and having a winning team.
      If you have one of these two, you’ll be fine. If you have both, you’ll be great. If you have neither, you have to fix one of them. Paying players less is not the solution. You either move your team or change up your team to get fans in their seats, period.

      • js says:

        uh, I dont think draak was being sarcastic at all…his post seems sincere. and to answer it im not really sure what the governing rules are. Your right about price fixing but the NBA is a pretty unique business venture, because theres no real competition to it. theres no other basketball league in the country that comes close to the NBA so right there its already a monopoly. I dont what could keep the owners from doing that, I dont know what law would prevent it

  25. JustStartTheSeason says:

    LessGo Wade!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!