Labor Talks: All About The Benjamins

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For all of the posturing and rhetoric tossed around the past four months or so, the NBA lockout returns to its roots this morning.

It’s “All About the Benjamins,” folks, always has been and always will be. We’re talking about losses in the hundreds of millions just with the cancellation of the remainder of the preseason.

If the league holds to the Oct. 10 deadline of squashing the first two weeks of the regular season, without a deal in place, you can start adding to that total relentlessly.

Any hope for a compromise during Tuesday’s negotiating session was dismissed by both sides when the owners refused to budge the percentage of BRI (47) that they felt comfortable with and the players did the same (they’re locked at 53). That proposed 50-50 split that has become such a hot topic (which was apparently never a formal offer) since the union decided the discussion should end at the mere mention of that proposed — and disputed — “even” split.

Even more chilling for those of us in the basketball public is that the prospect of another negotiating session is nowhere on the horizon. Everyone involved, it seems, needs a break after 10 intense sessions over the past month.

We’re left with more theories than real solutions in the meantime. But if you thought the weeks and months since July 1 were trying, the coming days and perhaps weeks will test us even more …

Season Can Be Saved

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: Just maybe, the NBA’s 2011-12 season can be saved.

Despite the intransigence of the owners in their goal of achieving profitability and a level playing field … despite the players’ almost religious zeal for guaranteed contracts and other perks achieved over the years … and despite formidable external forces that threatened to implode the negotiations … the NBA and the players association are only about $80 million a year apart on the economics of a new collective bargaining agreement, multiple people with knowledge of the deal told CBSSports.com.

So even though all parties left a Times Square hotel looking grim-faced and feeling disappointed, the two sides in theory have moved so close to a deal that it is almost incomprehensible they would choose hundreds of millions in losses — or billions from a completely lost season — instead.

According to sources, here is how the two sides closed the gap, which stood at about $320 million in the first year of a new deal — the difference between the players’ standing offer that they get 54 percent of revenues and the owners’ 46 percent offer — when they walked into the room Tuesday.

After the owners offered the players a 50-50 split of revenues that effectively was a 47-percent share with about $350 million in expenses deducted first, the two sides met in small groups in the hallway while each side’s larger group caucused in separate rooms. As the hour grew late, the tension was rising and becoming palpable. Both sides recognized it was time to try everything possible to make a deal.

In the group for the league side were commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver and Spurs owner Peter Holt, the chairman of the labor relations committee. For the players, it was union president Derek Fisher, outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler and two of the brightest stars who attended Tuesday’s crucial bargaining session — Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, according to one of the people with knowledge of the side meeting.

In that group, the league — sensing the opportunity for a deal was there — proposed essentially a 50-50 split with no additional expense reductions over a seven-year proposal, with each side having the ability to opt out after the sixth year, two of the people said. This was the offer Stern described in his news conference Tuesday evening, one he and Silver thought would be enough to finally close the enormous gap between the two sides.

 

Union Angered By 50/50 Disclosure

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated: Union officials were furious that Stern publicly disclosed the offer. Some believe it was put out to drive a wedge between the union, which thus far has been largely represented by veteran players making mid-seven- or eight-figure salaries. And in some ways, it had that effect. Three role players told SI.com via text message that, while needing further details, a 50-50 split sounded fair.

Most perplexing is that with the gap starting to close — at one point the two sides were $8 billion apart over a 10-year deal — they are walking away from the bargaining table. The NBA canceled the remainder of the preseason on Tuesday (at a cost, according to Stern, of $200 million) and on Monday plan to wipe out the first two weeks of the regular season if no deal is reached. While both sides have publicly and privately expressed a willingness to keep negotiating (“We had a large group of owners who had flown in and were prepared to negotiate around the clock,” Silver said) and a union source said there will likely be at least a phone call between Stern and Hunter before Monday, no meetings have been scheduled. While addressing the media, Hunter speculated that it could be months before the two sides sit down again.

“We’re playing hardball now?” one veteran player not in the room told SI.com. “You have got to be kidding me.”

Hunter now faces battles on multiple fronts. Several high-powered agents are pushing for the union to decertify and make the labor negotiations a court fight. These agents are adamantly opposed to the union cutting any kind of deal that guarantees them anything below 52 percent of the split with most pushing for at least 54. And, whether Hunter admits it or not, there is genuine unrest among the league’s role players to make a deal before an entire season is lost.

Players Need To Take Pay Cut, Get Back To Work

Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: The NBA is not the NFL. Heck, right now, amid the major leagues’ thrilling late-season rush, the NBA is not even baseball. Yet the NBA’s average player salary of about $5.1 million equals the average salary of those two sports combined.

The NBA players need to do the math, listen to the yawns, and look in the mirror.

The NBA players need to take a pay cut and go back to work in a sport that will be healthier because of it.

Under the old agreement, the players were making 57% of basketball-related income. After Tuesday’s negotiating session, the owners were talking about giving the players 50%.

What happens if the players take that horrible pay cut? They will still be the highest-paid team athletes in American pro sports. Some of them will still make millions to spend their lives on a bench. The only thing that might radically change is that more owners might have more money to field better teams, increasing parity and popularity while ensuring survival.

The players are thus far refusing to take anything less than 53% because they say that, in the NBA, more than in any other sport, the stars are bigger than the league.

It’s true that no sport generates glitter like the NBA. It’s true that only in the NBA can one single player on one single night — Kevin Durant on a February Friday in Phoenix — convince thousands of fans to buy tickets to that game.

But the stars bigger than the league? Not even close. The stars can’t exist without the league, which not only pays them the money to ensure the security of their families’ future generations, but also provides them with the stage to make even more money in endorsements and business ventures.

If the stars are bigger than the league, then how come the likes of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony don’t just spend the rest of their careers playing in those barnstorming playground games that have become so trendy? How come no major television network has paid for the rights to televise those games? How come no major sponsors have rushed to be associated with those games?

 

Not That Far Apart

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: In spite of all the rhetoric, the midpoints of the two offers indicates the gap between the two sides is just two BRI percentage points.

The owners, Stern said, have moved off their demands for a hard cap and rollbacks on existing player contracts.

Six of the league’s top agents who have been pushing for the union to decertify are expected to talk with their clients within the next day and determine what next step to take. Hunter said decertification is “something we have to give some thought to.”

Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were among the players who attended Tuesday’s meeting. Garnett was extremely emotional in a meeting with players before the full negotiating session, sources said. He rallied the players, who would begin to miss paychecks around Nov. 15, to hold firm on the BRI split.

“The thought among some of the owners is that once the players started missing checks, they would cave,” Hunter said.

Hunter said it would be wrong for the owners to test the players’ resolve.

“Our guys have indicated a willingness to lose games,” Hunter said.

Progress Made?

Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com: No new talks are scheduled, but there is a lot of time between now and Monday.

The union is going to try to maintain its ground now — “The union told us there was no reason to schedule another meeting,” Silver said — but there will certainly come a point between now and Sunday when it behooves everyone to try to make the closing push.

“We’re ready to meet and discuss anything anyone wants to talk about,” Stern said.

And when those talks come, which they will, somewhere in between 50 and 53 will be the magic number that settles this lockout. The sides are simply too close to throw in the towel now — especially with the true 11th hour now known.

Moreover, the 50-50 concept (Stern made sure everyone understood the distinction that the owners are officially offering 47 percent, but conceptually are willing to go to 50-50. They also made it known that owners last weekend backed off their demand for rollbacks or givebacks from players’ current contracts) does not constitute the owners’ final offer.

“It demonstrates the potential for more movement on our part,” Silver said.

So if you read between the lines and cut through the bullshit, the end game became clear.

There is a deal to be done at 51/49 or 52/48, and there are five days to get there.

To me, that’s a layup.

 

29 Comments

  1. Max. W says:

    Check this out.
    http://www.nbathroughmyveins.wordpress.com
    It’s an NBA blog full of insightful articles. The most recent article takes a captivating look on the lockout.

  2. Gary says:

    The players are reckless spenders who just want more cash to cover their splurging on luxuries. 50-50 is ridiculous because if I’m the boss/owner, there’s no way my employee/player is going to be making the same as or more than me.

  3. drew says:

    These greedy players make more in one season than regular people will ever make in a lifetime. Stop being such cry babies and play some ball. Because of these superstars ridiculous salaries they can afford to take off a year while our economy plunges more into despair. If there is no season this year I am going on a spectator strike next year just like when baseball came back in 1995.

  4. Blown up!! says:

    Open letter to the owners and players. If this season goes down the tubes,

    YOU WILL be left with less profits for the foreseeable future.

    YOU WILL have to contract teams,

    YOU WILL have to work for less money,

    YOU WILL have to starting kissing butt to win the fans back!

    YOU WILL have to cut games and roster spots!

    AND FINALLY all the good will, WILL be lost and the hardcore fans will go to NCAA.

    Think about the fans because that’s where the money comes from.

  5. Janice says:

    I agree with the owners. The players should take 46% and be happy. The purpose of being in business is to make money. Do you think a common worker would get a raise if he walks into his boss office and state, you made millions and I want 10% of that. He would immediately be fired. Wake up players. Take what you can. Down with unions. They are destroying America.

  6. gene bocknek says:

    When it came to Viet Nam LBJ said “we’re in this too deep to quit”. When it came to Iraq Bush said the same thing. Now, with Afghani/Paki Obama says the same thing. Stubborn, proud fools- all of them. Who among these leaders talked about the wasted lives?
    The NBA is sounding more and more like war, and not negotiations. Will pride cost you all the goose laying the golden eggs? Its time to meet in the middle and stop acting like spoiled children. Your fans, the ones who are paying you all, deserve consideration and respect. Or they may decide you just aren’t worth their respect.

  7. jam says:

    GREEDY PLAYERS…
    go overseas.. go to iraq and find a good salary job there…

  8. jam says:

    greedy players get out.. go to iraq find a job there…

  9. ryan says:

    Just added basketball channel to my cable subscription during the latter part of NBA’s last season. Want to watch a full season.
    Please come to agreement.

  10. walsi says:

    It is really sad to see the season evaporates. 50/50 split is more than just fair. Imagine getting paid for doing a job that you love, not everybody is capable of doing that.

  11. J. Pla says:

    I’m a 64 years old basketball, but man … in these days its about money the is no more love for the sport just money counts ,well thats a shame .Not the NBA or the NBPA cares about the fans and the love for the sport.SHAME ON YOU GUYS” YOUALL ARE A BUNCH OF HYPOCRITES.

  12. Rich says:

    Only 5% (or even less) of the players are stars. To collectively claim that the players should get more of the BRI because they are the stars are insane. The reason why great players get more salary is because they are the real stars. Only the insecure players are dragging the talks. 50-50 is more than fair enough. Owners will definitely survive during a lockout. Players too will but a lot of them will run out of money in the bank a lot sooner than the owners are. I love basketball. I eat, sleep and die with basketball. But if the union are showing this kind of thinking then I really won’t mind a prolonged lock-out. Let these players play overseas where they will be getting less than half of what they would be getting Go overseas for less salary and less benefit and the demand to play would be enormous because these so-called stars would have to carry the whole team on their backs, which means force play, more minutes, great expectations create more pressure – which would eventually result to inevitable injuries. Goodluck with your new benefits !
    I bet if players will vote anonymously, majority of them would have accepted the 50-50.

  13. Jack says:

    This is sad for the NBA and Players why because this show that they can’t get the job done!!!

  14. Serious Thinker says:

    After this whole debacle I am not sure I even want to watch the NBA anymore. I am just as big a basketball fan as anyone else out there but, this whole lockout has revealed the hearts of men. Men who crave power and wealth above the game and have left many disappointed. I believe there are enough talented players out there that would be willing to play for a fraction of what these men are demanding. Let’s give them a chance to play. I guarantee that you would get a lot more hustle and commitment in the league from players who never had a shot until now. Why go back and forth with a majority who have a negative stigma surrounding them already. Blow it up and start all over with fresh faces and a clean slate. Even if this season starts on time now the precedent has been set. Young men who are spoiled by a society that idolizes them can hold their breath till Mommy and Daddy give in to there demands. I would say to the owners, where is your integrity; and where is the integrity of the league?

  15. JK says:

    In reference to the BRI. The owners are the only side putting money into this kitty, perhaps the players should include their endorsement totals in the kitty. Basketball endorsements would be non-existent to the players without the existence of the NBA or any other venue to showcase their talents. Owners take all the risks and pay the players exorbitant salaries. Without the owners the players would be showcasing their talents on the neighborhood playgrounds. Cancel the season and let the players and interfering agents take the hit. I will watch hockey for my sports fix.

    • Odysseus says:

      Hey JK… I really like your point here! I’d like to see the players put in some of their endorsement money into the BRI pot. But you know what the owners should do? After reading Derek Fisher’s letter to the players, and seeing how conceited their view on what they bring to the league is, then the owners should just sell their shares in the NBA to the players, and let them run business. Let’s see how long they feel that they are asking for “fair” salaries and benefits.

  16. guru says:

    deal will be made as the difference in margin is way less compared to the loss of an entire NBA season….i do agree players can come down to 50-50…giving owners more money to attract new talent…that is best for the league and NBA

  17. Jack says:

    I don’t care no sides are right when you getting millions players just to play basketball I think you should just let it rest Before you lose fans by being money greed!

  18. Matt Terry says:

    After reading all of this, I’m of the opinion that the players are appearing to be somewhat greedy. I also read the letter than Derek wrote to the players and he seemed angry, immovable, and not the least bit concerned about the fans who are the ones actually paying for basketball and the NBA.

    It’s a business and if the Owners are having losses, it doesn’t make sense that the players don’t seem to understand that. I really don’t get it. Don’t the players make so much money that they can concede some of it back to the owners who are not making money, but losing money?

    Why do the players have the attitude that they are being screwed by the owners? I’m sure that profit and loss statements are being furnished by the owners for their review. We wouldn’t hear about the owners having losses if it wasn’t a legitimate complaint.

    Derek’s letter was nicely written and seemed intelligently thought out, but I have to wonder how smart he really is. To say that he, representing the players, is willing to give up the whole season and stand his ground, no matter what, is pretty inconsiderate of us, the fans, and also lacks any understanding of business or how much this will effect others. Not just the owners, but all the people employed in every aspect of the business. We’re in the midst of a terrible economy and he’s not considering the jobs that will be lost if he doesn’t compromise.

    Negotiations are stopping because Derek says so? That is not negotiating. He is giving the impression of being a spoiled and self-centered child. My suggestion is to find someone more reasonable and mature to handle this for the players.

    • MJ says:

      I totally agree. There are some players who don’t make the money nor have the endorsements that Carmelo, D-Wade, LeBron, and other players have. Those are the players who need to stand up and speak up. There is a player working at a freaking furniture store. Now first he needs to get some money management because that don’t make sense but that is also sad because he apparently need money now and after Nov 1st those checks stop.

      Derrick Fisher probably had someone to write the letter for him because I doubt if he can write anything that educated. The owners are in the position they are because they managed their money well to be able to OWN a team. Now without those owners these same players would not have a JOB. The problem is the players they are greedy and uneducated. Its sad that these are the people we pay to take our kids to see.

      David Stern needs to raise the age requirement to enter the NBA to 20 years with at least 2 years of college experience. Maybe then we can get some players with brains in their head and not in their pockets.

      I’m on the owners side and the NBA. I wish the NBA could just have replacement players and move up the D-league so we the fans can have our sport return to TV.

      • Jukes says:

        Love the D-League idea – it would prove to the NBA Brats that its about the game not the players.

  19. NBA fans everywhere hope that a deal will be done before the NBA is forced to cancel regular-season games. Despite the fact that no future meetings have yet been scheduled, fans everywhere are holding out hope that the NBA and NBPA will meet and strike a deal by Monday to save the 2011-2012 NBA season.

  20. Odysseus says:

    The players have once again shown their greed and their lack of “good faith” in these negotiations. The owners made concessions on practically all their issues and one could say that their only remaining demand was the split, which at 50-50 I think that it’s more than fair, and more than the players actually deserve. Yet they are “too good” to accept that. I just don’t see any of that good faith they claim to be bringing to the bargaining table. As of now, if there is no NBA season, or games get cancelled, it’s completely on the players. They’re the ones who haven’t moved an inch.

    • Team South Beach says:

      But the so called 50-50 split was after the league removing about 350 million off the top, making the actual deal a 47-53 deal in favor of the owners. The owner were just trying to get the players to accept 47% dressed as a 50%. I think both sides should stop the BS and get to work on this so we can have a season, but I disagree that it’s “players greed” holding this up. It’s the owners trying to get the players to pay for the owners incompetence. Some of the teams have been loosing money because the owners have mismanaged their teams, they have no one to blame for their failed business ventures but themself. They said small market teams can’t compete? What about San Antonio, Menphis, OKC, Portland, Dallas? If you manage your team properly, you will do well. Now cut the nonsence and let the players play!!

  21. a bravo says:

    why dont the owners go set up a game and see if anyone will pay to see them play?
    i am with the players all the way!!!!

    • JWY BUOY says:

      NBA… CITY OF SUPERSTARS…
      PLEASE END THE LOCK-OUT SOON…

      AROUND THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR YOU.

    • Pickled Prunes says:

      Q) Why don’t the players leave the NBA and form their own league.

      A) Because they can’t. They need the league more than the league needs them. Heard from A. I. recently? How about Maurbury? T-Mac is around because he found a way to humble himself. Each of these guys thought they were bigger than the league at one point but ask them now. The league rolls on. 50-50 is fair….. shut it and play ball!

      • MJ says:

        Amen, If there weren’t owners there would not be an NBA for these uneducated men to work and make milions that they blow on cars, rims, and women.

      • R4 says:

        Truth be told players can always be replace by more players. No one man is bigger than the NBA. Without a stadium for these guys to show their talent no one is who they are today. Let’s be real, If I played ball at the YMCA and told them I need the floor to be clean before I come on the court. They would just say there are 50 other guys waiting to play. So let’s not kidd ourselves about who in control. who ever is paying cheques are in control. That why reporters can’t report what they feel only what their chief tell them