HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Faced with the latest drop-dead date to save the on-time start to the regular season, we’ve arrived here to this afternoon’s scheduled meeting between the league and players’ union in New York.
Can they beat the deadline?
Can they save the season?
Will cool heads prevail?
Can we finally get back to basketball?
Only time will tell. And based on Sunday night’s “last-ditch” meeting that lasted nearly six hours, time is a fluid term during these labor negotiations.
But there is a growing sense among most of the people observing these proceedings that it might only be a matter of time before someone utters those magic words (“we have a deal”). And the basketball loving public surely won’t haggle over where it comes from, be it NBA Commissioner David Stern or union executive director Billy Hunter.
After all, during the last lockout there was just one meeting between the two sides before regular season games were canceled. This afternoon’s session will mark the sixth meeting in the past 11 days between the two sides …
Hold That Apocalypse
Mark Heisler of Sheridanhoops.com: After two years of bellicose posturing, the last weeks of September and the first few days of October would show who was serious.
Not only was that true, Stern wound up extending his drop-dead date for opening on time to Oct. 10.
Overheated as this thing has been, with owners who sensed their last great opportunity threatening to burn their village to save it, the last three weeks saw the parties whittle their “irreconcilable” differences down to three percentage points.
Stern, originally having sought 57 percent of revenue, moved to a 50-50 split.
The players offered to take 53 percent, hinting they might go to 52.
By then, the rest of the “issues” had been set aside.
Stern stopped “leaving open” drastic-to-the-point-of-incredulity options like contracting the league-supported team in New Orleans.
Cuts to the players’ existing contracts slipped down the memory hole.
The hard salary cap, which the owners sought, and abandoned, in every negotiation since adopting it in the ’80s, fell off the table again in favor of the best dollar deal.
With the owners now offering 50 percent, meaning Stern may be willing to offer them 51 percent … the players’ suggestion they might take 52 percent means they may take 51 percent.
Meet the most likely deal point: 51 percent.
Can they really rumble over a difference that small?
The Cost Of Saying No
Larry Coon of ESPN.com: For both sides, the negotiating process boils down to a simple question — should we accept the offer on the table, or can we do better if we say “no” and wait?
For the players, the cost of saying “no” can be easily quantified. The owners have offered the players 50 percent of BRI. This season’s BRI is expected to be around $4 billion, so the owners are offering the players a $2 billion slice of the pie. The players are holding out for a 53 percent share, so they’re looking for $2.12 billion.
That’s $120 million that separates them. Of course, that’s just in year one. Over the course of a six-year agreement, assuming four percent growth per year, the total is closer to $796 million.
To say “no” and wait means to suffer the consequences. Those consequences very soon will be cancelled games, meaning revenue will be lost that will never be recouped. The players will be faced with choosing between a 50 percent share of a larger pie, and a 53 percent share of a smaller pie. The longer they hold out, the more the pie will shrink.
If we use the 1998-99 lockout as a guide, a canceled game costs each player 1/82nd of his salary. A full NBA regular season lasts 170 days, so each missed week represents 7/170th of a player’s income. So if a week’s worth of games is cancelled because they say “no” to the owners’ 50 percent offer, the players miss out on $82.4 million.
The players are holding out for an additional $120 million in 2011-12, but holding out costs them $82.4 million per week. They would lose everything they stand to gain this season in less than two weeks. On Monday the league is expected to announce the cancellation of the first two weeks of the season, which will cost the players $164.8 million.
Over a six-year agreement, the players would burn through the $796 million in a little under 10 weeks. If they continue to hold out for 53 percent, and the owners hold firm at 50 percent, the players will reach the break-even point around December 16th. If the sides settle for 53 percent past that date, then the players would have been better off by taking the owners’ offer of 50 percent before games were cancelled.
Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: The Heat and every other team should be in training camp right now, preparing for a real season, for actual NBA games. But the ongoing and bitterly acrimonious lockout has canceled training camps, obliterated the entire preseason schedule and now seems all but certain to erase at least the first two weeks of the regular season — and possibly much more.
These exhibitions (this was the first in Miami) are supposed to fill in the void and whet the appetite.
Instead they only remind us of the avarice and intractability that have brought us to this rather ridiculous point.
“We’re happy to bring some kind of basketball to South Florida,” [Dwyane] Wade said. “This [lockout] is the business side of the game, and it’s unfortunate.”
It has gone somewhere beyond unfortunate.
Somehow the NFL managed to avoid this. The NFL had a hard-line players’ union and stubborn owners and an unpopular commissioner and far more billions at stake, and yet pro football managed to compromise and reach labor peace without damaging its product or this season.
The NBA is failing miserably at that, and three-plus months of bickering, stubbornness and occasional fruitless negotiating sessions have only proved that the owners and players are both to blame.
It is pointless to try and decipher which side is closer to being right when both sides are wrong.
We are left with the image of commissioner David Stern and his mega-rich owners on one side of an empty court, threatening to take their basketball and go home. And on the other side are wealthy and entitled superstars threatening to hold their breath until they get their way.
It is pathetic, really. The word is “compromise,” owners and players. Look it up.
Hope Remains As Talks Resume
Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel: Unease, for the most part, remains.
“They’re going to cancel the first two weeks of the season,” Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony said as he left the court Saturday at FIU. “We’ll see what happens then. If they want to lock us out, lock us out. We’re going to stick together.”
Such was the tenor of Saturday’s informal postgame players’ meeting, which also featured union vice-president Chris Paul. Union president Derek Fisher remained in New York in the since-realize hope of renewed talks.
“I don’t think anything is going to happen between now and Monday,” Anthony said late Saturday. “So we’ve just got to be prepared for that, be prepared for the lockout for the first two weeks and see where all this is going.”
Wade and James have stressed their support of the union, with [LeBron] James, in fact, offering his support of an exhibition Saturday participant Kevin Durant is considering for later this month in Oklahoma City.
The players left Saturday’s event reveling in the success of the game organized with the help of FIU coach Isiah Thomas, the Hall of Fame guard, an event that resulted in $100,000 in charitable donations.
But they also recognized the adrenaline of the 141-140 overtime win by Team Wade over Team LeBron soon enough could revert to lockout angst.
“It’s sad all the way across,” Anthony said. “It’s for us as players. It’s sad for the owners. It’s sad for the fans of the NBA.”
Unaware at the time about Sunday’s 11th-hour resumption of negotiations, players left the FIU campus resigned to play more games in such undersized venues, their oversized NBA dreams still on hold, at a point when all 30 teams would have been in the midst of the preseason.
“We want to play so bad,” Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire said. “We want to get going. We got a hot thing going right now in New York.”
The hope around the league Sunday was the heat would remain on the negotiators in New York to move closer to a deal.
“We want to play,” Stoudemire said, “as soon as we can.”
Watch The Calendar
Howard Beck of the New York Times: Even if the standoff is resolved this week, it may be difficult for the N.B.A. to start on time, with opening night scheduled for Nov. 1. The league needs at least a week to draft a new labor deal, a week to sign free agents, a week for training camps and some time for an exhibition game or two.
Beyond the revenue split, the players and owners must still resolve major differences over the salary cap and other so-called system issues, which will also take time. But it is the division of basketball-related income, or B.R.I., that has most vexed negotiators. Players have been earning 57 percent, a model that Stern says is unsustainable after reporting league-wide losses of $300 million per season.
The players have offered to reduce their share to 53 percent, with each percentage point representing $40 million in today’s dollars. Dropping to 50 percent would mean a pay cut of at least $280 million a year, notwithstanding future increases in league revenue. According to union estimates, and accounting for modest revenue growth, the players would give back $1.1 billion over a six-year deal.
The N.B.A. has not lost games to a labor crisis since 1998-99, when the league staged a compressed 50-game season after a six-month lockout that ended in January.