No rest for the labor weary

UPDATE, 10:05 p.m.ish ET: The players’ union Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher met the media briefly Thursday night, reporting some progress on “system” issues. The two sides did not talk about Basketball-Related Income.

Neither Fisher or Hunter looked what you would call “fresh.” But that doesn’t mean they were beaten. Not by a long shot.

“It gets tougher right down at the end,” said Fisher, the president of the National Basketball Players Association.

That sounded promising. “The end” part.

“I think we’re within striking distance of getting a deal,” Hunter said.

Ohhhhhhhh …

After Hunter and Fisher spoke — maybe for five minutes — NBA Commissioner David Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver took their turn at the table. They were tired-looking, too, but smiling. Both, in fact, were in the back of the room when Fisher and Hunter talked.

“I must say, it’s good to see you at a rational hour,” Stern said, who last talked to the media about 3 a.m. Thursday.

“There’s an element of continuity, familiarity and I hope trust that I would hope enable us to look forward to tomorrow, where I would hope there would be some important and additional progress,” he added.

That sounded very promising.

“Or not.”

Dang.

Stern also told David Aldridge he finally has an “idea” of what a deal might look like.

Well … promising. Again.

And then Stern, in direct response to a question, offered up what we all have been waiting for. He said that it would be a failure not to get a deal in the next few days considering the momentum that has been gained over the last two days.

Break out the optimism! Again!

“There’s no guarantees that we’ll get it done, but we’re going to give it one heck of a shot tomorrow …,” Stern said, adding that he thought the union was in a similar state of mind. “We’re prepared to negotiate over everything. We’re looking forward to it.”

And so, the night breaks up with a renewed sense of optimism. We are now closer to an agreement than we’ve ever been.

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UPDATE, 9:45 p.m.ish ET: Reporters in New York are being told that the union can’t continue tonight because their economist — Kevin Murphy — is needed. He’ll be there for the morning session.

Murphy, as NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner found out, is a smart guy. The union wants him in its corner, especially when BRI matters arise.

News conferences coming up here and on NBA TV.

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UPDATE, 9:30 p.m.ish ET: We’re getting word now that the talks are done for the night. Still lots to do.

Early word is that they’ll reconvene Friday morning at 10:30.

So much for the long night …

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UPDATE, 9:20 p.m.ish ET: Our man David Aldridge reports (video above) that the sides are still going back and forth on “system” issues, most notably the luxury tax.

We told you this could be a long night.

As talks pass their seventh hour in this latest labor chat, ESPN’s Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) tweets a couple of important updates. First, Broussard says, the owners and players have broken for dinner. No word on who’s paying.

Secondly, Broussard tells us, the “next round of talks” will finally center on figuring out how owners and players should split Basketball-Related Income, still the pink elephant in the negotiating room. According to Broussard, the players are standing firm about not going below 52 percent of BRI, though their last public position was at 52.5.

Broussard didn’t say in his 140ish characters whether the “next round” means tomorrow or post-dinner. Either way, it’s not going to be a five-minute conversation.

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UPDATE, 7:30 p.m.ish ET: Some 5 1/2 hours into the latest tea party among owners and players, it’s clear that what’s in the air now smells less and less like optimism and more like all-out desperation.

Those who have followed the 100+ day trudge toward possible lost games and, perhaps, a lost season have had their moments of optimism, to be certain. Less than 12 hours or so ago, if you remember. The fact that the owners and the players’ union are meeting at all remains, no doubt about it, a positive sign. Remember, the two sides did not get together at all in the month of July, after the last collective bargaining agreement expired at midnight on June 30.

But as both sides work toward finding some kind of common ground, it’s probably best to temper that optimism with a little realism.

Yes, they’re talking. Yes, they may be closer on some things like the length of contracts and, maybe, the structure of the luxury tax. Sign-and-trades and things like that. But the hard work, as we’ve pointed out all day, has not even been front-burnered yet. And we’re running out of time.

The 82-game season is in real jeopardy, maybe days away from death (if it’s not DOA now). What follows if any games are scrapped will not be pretty. If owners start to lose the money that comes with a full schedule, as NBA Commissioner David Stern has said many times, the offers from the league will get much tougher for the players to swallow. These negotiations will get even dicier than they are now.

That’s no reason for all-out  pessimism, either. We’ve been down this road before, and a lot of people would prefer a shorter season anyway. Maybe not as short as the 50-game set that happened the last time these two sides partied like this, after the ’98 lockout dragged into the ’99 calendar and the season didn’t start until early February. But a shorter season, it’s figured, is better than nothing.

Whatever happens, though, a lazy summer mostly filled with rhetoric and inactivity has given way to a crunch time fall stocked with late-night meetings and, yes, a palpable sense of desperation. Everybody around these talks feels it. The question is whether those that matter can do anything about it.

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UPDATE, 5:30 p.m.ish: According to TNT’s David Aldridge (check out the video above), the two sides have not broached the subject of BRI yet, which means … which means the big lifting is still to come.

Instead, D.A. says the structure of a luxury tax — one of the “system” issues that the two sides worked so hard on in their 15-hour session yesterday (and this morning) — is still being debated. The league wants a harsher one than is in the just-expired agreement in order to discourage big-spending teams from going over the salary cap. The union fears a tax that is too punitive would restrict player movement.

This could be a long night. This could be a long weekend.

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UPDATE, 5 p.m.ish ET: The latest round in the NBA’s labor talks has cleared the three-hour mark in New York. No word, official or otherwise, on what’s going on inside the negotiations. The usual gaggle of NBA reporters — from the Associated Press, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, CBS Sports.com, NBA.com and others — has descended on the hotel’s lobby to tweet and otherwise report throughout the night.

This is the 119th day of the lockout (see NBA.com’s indispensable labor timeline here), and it may end up being both the most important and the trickiest. The BRI split that the two sides are said to be discussing has brought these talks to a screeching standstill before, most notably after the three days of federal mediation last week. The players have lately suggested a 52.5-to-47.5 division of BRI (with the players receiving the biggest chunk), though that’s probably not been formally offered. The league is, or has been, dead-set on a 50-50 share. The two sides have also discussed a sliding scale in which the share would move depending on how the revenue rises or falls.

A couple of things to remember there: BRI does not include all revenue that the league generates. Owners take some $600 million that isn’t included in the BRI pot, so the players insist that any 50-50 split really means than they get less than 50 percent of league revenue. The players also contend that a drop to 50 percent of BRI is an unpalatable 12 percent cut from their last contract, in which they earned 57 percent of BRI.

The owners counter that the 57 percent was too much, that it was in the last — now expired — contract (so it should have little bearing on a new one), and that they need a major financial reset this time around to give each team a chance to not only make a buck or two, but for each team to have a chance to compete for a championship.

There are arguments galore on both sides, of course. Which is how we got here in the first place.

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OCT. 27, 2 p.m.ish: The two sides in the NBA’s almost four-month-old labor siege came together again Thursday, ready to attack maybe the biggest difference remaining between owners and players — the split of revenue that is known as Basketball-Related Income.

After 15 hours of talks Wednesday, which lasted into the pre-dawn hours of Thursday, members of the owners’ labor relations committee are sitting down with the executive committee of the players’ union at a swank Manhattan hotel to try to figure out an equitable solution to their standoff. Though a strange sense of optimism began to pervade among followers late Wednesday and into Thursday — both sides said progress had been made on some of the so-called “system” issues in a proposed new collective bargaining agreement — everybody involved knows better than to get too giddy. It was only a week ago that a federally mediated gathering failed miserably when the owners would not budge on their insistence that a 50-50 split of BRI had to be accepted to continue the talks.

“Really Encourage about hearing whispers about a deal being close.. Hope both sides can get it done and feel good about it,” Suns forward Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) tweeted Thursday afternoon.

“BRI still a major lift 4 both sides,” TNT’s David Aldridge tweeted as the meetings started Thursday.

The stakes, at this point, are extremely high. A full 82-game schedule may still be possible, but that’s becoming less likely by the hour. It’s generally accepted that a month is needed between a handshake agreement and the start of the regular season. If an informal agreement is reached this weekend, that would mean the end of November, at the earliest, for the season’s start. NBA Commissioner David Stern already has announced the cancellation of the first two weeks of the season — it was to start on Tuesday — though Thursday morning he was noncommittal on the possibility of retaining the full 82-game schedule.

Among those in attendance for the players: Billy Hunter, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association; Derek Fisher, the Los Angeles Lakers point guard and the union’s president; and Washington Wizards guard Mo Evans, the vice president of the union. Economist Kevin Murphy, who took part in the 15-hour marathon Wednesday and Thursday on behalf of the players, will not be there as the talks re-set on Thursday afternoon. (Murphy explained the union’s position in a talk with Steve Aschburner of NBA.com. Aschburner also will be tweeting from the talks.)

Stern and NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver head the owners’ contingent.

41 Comments

  1. Andy says:

    I read an interesting take on the lock out over on Ephemerazine the other day. Should we be feeling sorry for any of these people? http://ephemerazine.com/nba-lockout

  2. Jay says:

    I feel as tho the lockout ahould end now… Its taking away great tv for all NBA fans… This is starting to get out of controll We would love to have basketball this season….. think of all the fans think of all the great memories the nba gives to its fans… Please just end the lockout…. PLEASE!!!!

  3. Rashad says:

    Yall SHUT UP! THERE WILL B AN NBA SEASON WATCH! MARK “MY” WORDS

  4. Small3ifiction says:

    ^
    ^
    ^
    ^CRAZY BuLLS FANS

  5. Danny Lee says:

    Every player should start of with equal amount of income. As they proved to be valuable then they should get a fixed % or a raise. This way, players who truly love the game will shine and at the same time earn a deserving higher pay. Just like at a regular work place. PEACE!

  6. phil says:

    @fredrick wells whatever you say buddy! what makes u think the bulls will beat the Heat!!! keep dreaming chicago fan!

  7. Fredrick Wells says:

    There definitely can be a deal and the Season can be salvaged by adding only one more week (since the NBA originally cancelled two weeks). It is only those East vs West games that were missing within those two weeks that must be made up along with some scattered in conference games only designed to even the home schedule with the road schedule. Free Agents are signed during the Season, however there is no training camp for this season. I think that the Bulls will finish with either the #1, 2, or 3 seed with at least 54 wins but no more than 67 wins and will win the NBA Title. The Celtics will lose to the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals and have revenge vs Miami. The Knicks will have the #4 or 5 Seed with at least 52 wins but no more than 57 wins and lose to the Bulls in the 2nd Round. The Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks will have good seasons with at least 50 wins but no more than 56 wins. The Lakers and Mavs will battle in the Western Conference Finals and the Mavs will return to the NBA Finals only to lose to the Bulls in 6. The Thunder will lose to the Mavs in the 2nd Round and the Suns will resurge to a 55 win season and lose to the Lakers in the 2nd Round.

    • Mike P. says:

      I love my Bulls and think they have the best shot to win. But unfortunatly two weeks more might have to go because training camps are a must. Injuries will rack up like no other. I think free agency will fly by like in the nfl this year but i would rather have a healthy shortened season that an array or hurt players. My only worry is with this lockout regardless of the season length is the fact i think free agency will not be as exciting even with amnesty because the scramble will make guys take he sure teams that want them and some solid money. I love it when guys change teams ( now granted only if it truly makes that team better and with the right money.)

  8. MaFox says:

    atleast there’s optimism.

  9. Bismark says:

    I love NBA but this lock out has proven that the players and the owners have no interest in the game but rather the money they get from us the fans watching them play.

  10. shomik chakraborty says:

    i wanna see some basketball so quit whining and get this deal over with cause i want to see some dirk, kobe,lebron,and the others play some basketball like i have been since 2006

  11. hey says:

    hey d-fish you’re not worthy of being paid 5million/year

  12. watcher says:

    “I think we’re within striking distance of getting a deal,” Hunter said.
    Poor choice of words.

  13. Trisco says:

    this NBA lockout is all about one thing for all parties – GREED.
    Greed has got them to where they are today – in a lockout and without any games.
    Play for the game, not for the money.

    It might not be a bad idea to introduce a points system for the players if the NBA wants to spread the talent.

  14. Ralph says:

    I have the solution! Either get an agreement done NOW, or let the owners and the NBA announce that the players union is defunct and then put out the offer to the current players “you can come to play under current contract and leave the union, or we will hire scabs to fill in the season in your place” and then just do it! Wouldn’t be the greatest season, but who knows what may come of it if they played with scabs?

    I almost like unions because they can protect the players, but they over do it, and in this case, they are over doing it.

  15. Larry says:

    Do the players even read these blogs? They should. They are being greedy and every fan knows it and alot of fans are expressing right here on these blogs. For real, do you guys really need 2.27 million instead of 2.13 million?(example).

  16. CK says:

    This is so dissapointing. I love basketball but this is really too much.. People used to tell me that basketball is way too commercialised and I never believed them.. now this proves it.
    Players and owners argueing about money they don’t need. Really? do you really need that extra bit of cash? Think about the people who work at the stadiums… do they need the cash more?

    I have had enough, I am officially giving up on the NBA. You turn sports in to pure business and this is what happens.

  17. Anthony says:

    i want basketball game so NBA make a deal

  18. mathew says:

    I dont understand the system? businesses have bosses why doesnt this one? why is there even an opportunity to have an arguement? I wish i could say to my boss hey im not working and then we both sit and negotiate for half a year without doing any work….but thats obviously not a reality so why is it here?

  19. Denise says:

    I think it will be over soon. I ‘m seeing at least 70 games.

  20. matt says:

    couldn’t agree with dennis more. I have had enough of this garbage, all it has done is make the players out to be greedy and the owners to be stubborn. my love for this league is fading every day. I hope the season does not go ahead, for making the fans suffer i think its only justice that the players and owners do to. Cancel the season already.

  21. This is my last hope! If they don’t come up with a deal by the end of the week, I am afraid I will take my interests elsewhere. I hate to admit it cause I love the game, but this is just too disappointing for me as a fan.

  22. Fred says:

    I’m a fan…or maybe I should say, I was. I live over 200 miles away from a court, so I do not attend games. Either scrap the entire season within a few days or resolve the issues within that time frame or I’ll never give it another thought. If it matters, I think the players are way overpaid, making millions of dollars per year while the fans worked all their lives for peanuts to retire broke or destitute. I’ve said what I felt should be said, I’ll watch some games on TV if they start, but I wont ever be planning on a 200 mile drive to see a game in person.

  23. Jonah says:

    Seriously?? Its us fans is what is keeping the NBA alive and is spending the money to watch these games. I can NOT believe they can’t come to an agreement over a $600 million pot just by a couple of percentage points. And if they don’t come to an agreement soon and end up folding the season, then my 16 years of loyalty to the NBA will be gone in a snap!!! So if they want to continue to keep up this greed then be my guest cause as far as I’m concerned they may not have an NBA for much longer due to lack of interest of fans at this point.

  24. jj says:

    I think both the players and the league are only realizing right now how they are starting to damage their reputation irreversibly. The owners might have been asking for too much concessions from the players in the first place, but if the league is being honest, it’s not hard for the players to understand the situation: nearly 70% of the franchises are not making any profit, and the level between the teams is totally unbalanced. In fact, how much more interesting would it be to see all the superstars isolated in teams where the rest of the players would be a supporting cast, and where everybody, coaches and players would need to put their effort together into building a real team spirit, instead of relying on 2 or 3 giant egos to score 80 points at each game, which takes off the original point of playing a team sport.

    Also, players don’t make me cry when they are saying that they need their paycheck asap. You guys are all millionaires, what are you talking about, you won’t be able to feed your kids in November? The real people who are suffering from your spoiled behavior are the ones who usually work in the arenas and make $8/hour. Those guys won’t be able to feed their kids in November.

    Anyway, no offense, I don’t mean to be too sarcastic, but if professional sport players where known for being real smart, they wouldn’t be professional sport players…..

  25. Ro says:

    When the owners get real about the realities of running an NBA franchise and take responsibility for their bone headed actions, we’ll get a deal done. All the players want is a fair deal and not get taken advantage of by the ridiculousness of the greedy and incompetent.

  26. corey says:

    please stop all this madness and bring back the game we all love…

  27. Jako says:

    One of the problems, as I see it, is that they have Derrick Fisher negotiating for the players. This is the same Derrick Fisher who used his daughter’s illness to back out of Utah. I mean, c’mon man. If you’re really concerned about your little girl do you re-sign with an entity that takes you out of town 44 days and for which you are expected to put in 12 hour days when you’re in town. How much time does that leave to be with your daughter? This guy by his actions will do anything to get what he wants or make more money. So why are the mid-range players letting someone that selfish dictate their loosing a bunch of work days? This whole thing is ridiculous. The rank and file players are the ones who should be negotiating, if anyone, but even then, why should someone get paid over a million dollars a year to play a game they skipped school to learn? And why should they then be able to dictate to their bosses, the owners, that they should be paid 57% BRI over and above their huge contracts? These guys make us all sick with their selfishness. Either play or shut up and go flip burgers.

    • jofer says:

      i agree with you 200%…players should go try flipping burgers and cleaning toilet bowls…,

    • Def says:

      Maybe that’s why they had D.Fish as the lead on negotiating… i’d pick the best deal maker i could, and he obviously know’s how to get things done for his personal reasons… so why not elect someone who can get it done… better then picking some dumb0 like amare stodamire or brandon jennings, lol…

  28. Blackmamba24 says:

    This season is over and won’t come back….This deal wont get done, mark my words!!!!

  29. Anthony says:

    please make a deal so we can watch basketball

  30. Dennis says:

    Over the last 25 years I have been following the NBA with great interest. Last season was the best in many years; but this CBA drama start to annoy me more and more each day. Where is the love for the game? I just watched some 80’s and 90’s NBA video highlights, this made me relive some beautiful memories. I find it hard to believe I will start to care as much as I did before. Maybe the time has come for me to stop bothering about the NBA: Sometimes it is better to loose something beautiful, better to loose it instead of never having had it (free translation of a Dutch song).

  31. David says:

    End the lockout please!!!! just do it!

  32. Troy says:

    I don’t even know why I keep reading this stuff. Just when you think they’re getting close, they get to the BRI and pull the rug right out from under us….again. Either start negotiating for real or just stop telling us about these “late night meetings.” Keep your tweets to yourselves.

  33. jme says:

    over it

  34. Max. W says:

    The NBA has a goal, and that goal is for every team in the league to have an equal chance at a championship. The goal for the future is to become the NFL and not fall down the ranks and became the NHL.

    The owners have pleaded strongly that the NBA is extremely lopsided when it comes to talent. That the big market teams have more of a chance for a championship.

    Howard Beck from the New York Times wrote that the last four NBA champions had payed a luxury tax given to the biggest spenders. The other stat was that the 10 highest spending teams over the last 6 years have an average of 48 wins while the lowest 10 spenders averaged 34 wins. Although the stats may be convincing, I believe this argument came a few years too late. Maybe 6 years ago this theory could’ve been true but this season really proved this theory wrong.

    To read more go to http://www.nbathroughmyveins.wordpress.com

    • Ray (Sub~Zero) Mack says:

      Max….I agree with you. I feel that NBA needed to halt all of this over spending on players. Its really hard to take a family of 4 to see a game, because the tickets are just too darn high. Today’s players are really filled with greed and with the money that make now, they ought to be thankful that they are getting paidto just only pay basketball. Doctors, Surgeons, Teachers, Policemen, and heck even the President does not make as much money as them and they have the nerve to CRY over 2% of the BRI. Com’on Man!!!!

    • Homer Page says:

      How did this season prove this theory wrong? The Mavericks had the biggest payroll in the league, even bigger than the Heats….and the Mavericks won the title…..so whats your point?

    • Dorken Wackenburg says:

      I don’t care if they play now or not. Me and my family are done with the NBA. No way that I’m going to go back to paying hundreds of dollars to go see 3rd grade level academically trained entitled tattooed guys bounce a ball. This lockout and the dialogue has opened my eyes. I see greed, stupidity, and a lack of concern for all of us “little people” out here trying to make ends meet in a horrible financial time.