Labor Talks: Circling The Wagons?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – While we admire the solidarity message the players’ union has delivered repeatedly throughout the NBA lockout, it’s tough to read exactly how that message has been received.

While the majority of the rank-and-file players have been saying (and tweeting) all the right things about their unified state, cracks in the union’s foundation have emerged (as Jerry Stackhouse displayed passionately). The voices of discontent over this latest standoff are getting louder and louder. And there is a growing sentiment that we could see some sort of significant movement in mood after the union brass and executive committee members gather for a “strategy session” today in New York.

Are they circling the wagons with this pow-wow and gearing up to take another stand against the owners? Or is this the beginning of the end of the “stand united” campaign and the union’s solidarity movement?

Union executive director Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher will find out sometime later today or perhaps this weekend, when the Boston Herald reports that negotiations are set to resume.

The world is watching …

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Chris Broussard of ESPN The Magazine: During a Tuesday night conference call with the union’s executive committee, union president Derek Fisher addressed the controversy surrounding his alleged meeting with the NBA, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. After making a statement proclaiming his innocence, Fisher answered questions from committee members about a supposed side deal he was accused of cutting with David Stern in a FoxSports.com column on Friday. Whether Fisher’s denial and explanation has put the episode to rest remains to be seen, but the committee will meet Thursday afternoon to discuss its next move. … Fisher and executive director Billy Hunter each sent a letter to members earlier this week denying reports about a rift among the leadership. Union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler said in court Wednesday that the NBA case should be tossed out because the league was trying to get the court involved on the mere possibility there would be an antitrust fight. “They have no case,” he said. “They’re seeking to do something unprecedented, inappropriate.” Mishkin insisted the league had to act to stop threats that were hampering negotiations. He said the union was prepared to dissolve itself, a necessary legal step before individual players could bring antitrust actions against the league in federal court. “They’ve already collected the cards. They can do it at any moment,” he said. “We don’t have to wait. We don’t have to be subject to their whim. We want to get the antitrust threat out of the bargaining.”

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Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic It is hard for most Suns fans to muster some dislike for Steve Nash, but the NBA lockout puts all owners and players on the public’s bad side. Nash gets it. Fans have his sympathy. He even thinks they are right.  However, Nash would like fans to understand that the players’ selfishness comes with a point. “You have two wealthy sides arguing over percentage points,” Nash said. “It’s hard for fans to understand that this is a business. I don’t blame them. If I were in their shoes, I’d be critical, frustrated or even angry. You just want to see the game you love. Both sides are arguing for inevitably selfish reasons, but also for what’s right when they are gone. It’s a big mess.” A new collective-bargaining agreement, which could last 10 years, won’t benefit the 37-year-old much. The 30 days of season that have been canceled would cost Nash $2 million in salary if no days are restored. He said his loyalty is to future players. The players union reportedly has fractures, but Nash contends it is solid. “It’s strange, because it’s never been the most stable group,” Nash said. Nash’s future in Phoenix remains a constant topic because of his age and the Suns’ decline. A September retweet by Nash sparked more speculation. ESPN.com writer Bill Simmons had a Twitter rant that included criticism of Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver for his role in the lockout. One Simmons tweet stated, “Sarver overpaid for team, spent last few years slicing $$$$ and turned Suns fans against him. Not he wants to blow up the system? Go away.” Former Suns guard Jason Richardson tweeted attention to the “good points,” and Nash retweeted that. It was taken as defiance. “Robert and I will have to have a nice talk to clear the air when this is over,” Nash said. “I have nothing personal against Robert. I know I appear critical of him by retweeting that. But when we go back to work, I’m a Phoenix Sun through and through. Right now, I’m on the other side of the table from him. We have fans criticizing us every day and owners making us out to be the bad guys. At some point, you want to make sure your point of view is expressed.”

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Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated:  SI.com polled a few industry types to assess the hypothetical damage being done and found that — much like the players and owners in these negotiations — no one could seem to agree. Tulane law professor and sports labor analyst Gabe Feldman is convinced the owners’ push will be worth it so long as an entire season isn’t lost. “I think for now, the cost-benefit analysis is fairly easy,” Feldman said. “For now, it’s worth the damage to goodwill that will come from missing a month or two from the games you might get. …The damage from missing a couple of months is probably quickly reparable, relatively speaking. “You’ve got to balance the short-term damage from missing a few weeks of the season vs. the long-term benefits that you get from a 10-year collective bargaining agreement. Then whatever gains you get are going to serve as the baseline for the next deal.” Yet missing an entire season, Feldman said, would be an entirely different story for both sides. “There’s a significant difference between canceling a month or two of the season and canceling the entire season, and I think both sides recognize that,” he said. Steve Kauffman, a prominent agent for NBA coaches and front-office executives who was a player agent during the 1998-99 lockout, believes the damage could be significant and blames hard-line owners and agents for preventing a deal from being reached. “A few of these owners might not have that pure love for the game,” Kauffman said. “That doesn’t mean these guys aren’t entitled to make business decisions that are in their best interests, but I don’t think they fully are taking into account the destruction that they’re causing to the game. It could become like wrestling, or boxing or the UFC. SlamBall could come back.” As Kauffman sees it, the group of seven agents that pushed for decertification of the union early and drew a 52-percent line in the sand is equally responsible. Nonetheless, he wondered aloud why union executive director Billy Hunter would allow those agents to have so much sway. “I saw it in ’98-99, and that’s the key thing: The agents try to hijack the process,” he said. “Billy and [NBA commissioner] David [Stern] have had to deal with these third-party influences and factors and it’s very discouraging. What I don’t understand is that Billy has a couple of years left on a lucrative contract. He’s 69 years old and has fought some heavy wars, so he needs to be able to say to those guys, ‘Screw it.'”

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Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports: Detroit Pistons forward DaJuan Summers  is the latest NBA player coming home early from an overseas job. He left his Italian team after only four games. Any other American NBA player considering making a similar job to Europe or Asia during the ongoing lockout might want to talk to Summers first. “I would tell them to be prepared for any and everything because it’s a different world than what you are used to,” Summers told Yahoo! Sports in a phone interview from Italy. Summers, 23, played for the Pistons the past two seasons, averaging 3.2 points as a reserve, but struggled to crack the team’s regular rotation given the number of forwards on the roster. Shortly after the lockout began, Summers signed a two-year contract with European powerhouse Montepaschi Siena. Siena finished third in the 2011 Euroleague Final Four and has won four straight Italian League championships. “They were telling me how much they wanted me to be a part of the team,” Summers said. “With those things considered, I thought it was a good move to get that exposure with the top Italian League, as well as a top Euroleague team.” A Baltimore native, Summers had never been to Europe until making his first trip to Italy. In fact, outside of a trip to China to play in a charity game for Yao Ming last year and traveling to Toronto to face the Raptors, he hadn’t spent much time outside the United States. … Summers was also given a Volkswagen by the team, but he quickly learned the difficulties of driving in Italy. On his second day in town, his car was rear-ended as he drove to practice. He was taken to the hospital, and his inability to speak Italian made it difficult for him to get help until someone realized he played for the local basketball team. By then, Summers’ girlfriend had already received a call from a team official alerting her that Summers hadn’t made it to practice. She was happy to eventually learn he had suffered only whiplash in the accident. “I got hit by a small SUV on my blind side of the passenger side,” Summers said. “When I got hit, I ended up on the other side of the car in the backseat. That’s how hard I got hit. I was just shocked. I never have been in an accident like that.”

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Stephen A. Smith of ESPNLosAngeles.com: Contrary to what union hardliners might want us to think, a 50-50 BRI split is in the best interest of the players. Something, simply, is better than nothing at all. If you are going to walk away from a league-average salary of $5 million, projected to escalate to $7 million, with $2 BILLION on the table — guaranteed minimally over at least the next seven years — during a ravaged economy and escalating unemployment, you damn well better have options in your back pocket. If Fisher has noticed the players don’t have any options, kudos to him. The union officials who talk about drawing a hard line in the sand by demanding nothing less than a 52-48 split can bloviate all they want over how they’ve given enough already, dropping from 57 percent to 52 percent on BRI, modifying luxury-tax issues and mid-level exceptions, etc. But to walk around with their chests protruding like they’re going to do something about it now, acting as if their biceps bulge bigger than those of the owners, is laughable. Correction, it’s sad! Sad because playing overseas is not an option for a rank-and-file consisting of at least 400 players. Sad because players formulating their own league was never an option. Sad because, at the end of the day, the evident lack of the players’ preparation for these negotiations in comparison to the owners’ has become clear, revealing how executive director Billy Hunter and the union’s recent arrival at these negotiations must have been predicted by owners years earlier. … So now that a 50-50 split is on the table, that D-Day has arrived, it’s time to throw Fisher to the wolves? Puh-leeze! “Derek Fisher needs to do the right deal,” one player closely connected to Hunter told me. “He needs to understand that some of these guys talking all this junk about being hardcore are the same guys who’ll be calling for his head the second the season is canceled, after they’ve finally realized the owners ain’t budging. “Who the hell doesn’t want a 52-48 split at this point?” the player said. “Hell, we wanted more than that. Billy’s right to demand it, too. He’s right to be frustrated. He’s right to feel like we’re getting abused. But at the end of the day, you don’t sit around and lose $2 billion, cost hundreds of players to lose our jobs and thousands more employed by the NBA to lose theirs, over two damn points on BRI because you are ticked off. You don’t do it. That’s just stupid.”

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Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal: A seasoned University of Memphis professor walked up to Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley and waited patiently. The gentleman finally shook Heisley’s hand, revealed that he is a Grizzlies season-ticket holder and spoke glowingly about the team’s success. Heisley smiled. “Thank you,” the Chicago-based billionaire said. Except for his speech on business principles during the Fogelman College of Business and Economics alumni awards program, Heisley used an economy of words Wednesday — especially regarding the NBA and a labor impasse that has wiped out the first month of the regular season. “I know very little. I’m not on the negotiating committee so I can only tell you that I think on both sides — all of us — hope we have a season,” Heisley, the event’s keynote speaker, told a crowd in the Holiday Inn at the University of Memphis. “The players want to play. The owners want to play. It’s a difficult negotiation. But they are all working very hard.” … Heisley said he not only agrees with the league’s edict but understands why it is in place. “I’ve been through a number of negotiations (in business),” Heisley said. “It’s a tough process.”

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35 Comments

  1. sickosych says:

    I’m with the owners this time with the lockout,what can we say their the boss and players are employees so act like one.. either way only nba superstars with endorsement are gonna survive this lockout,.. and oh,the owners ..

  2. Francis says:

    I have my own company, albeit nowhere near the size of nba. However, not in any way am I going to give 50% of my profits to my EMPLOYEES. That is just plain stupid.

    The players are employess. They get paid to play. They get paid to do what they love to do. And hell they get paid more than any other profession, more than doctors, more than lawyers. But at the end of the day, they are the employees.

    If they feel they are underpaid then go look for another job. See if any other company would pay them an average of 5mil per year.

    They’re just greedy.

    • This Stinks says:

      Even worse than 50% of profits, they currently get 57% of INCOME. Many teams are not profitable, if you believe what the owners say. Also, a good number of the players get endorsement deals that are worth more than their insane salaries.

    • Richo says:

      If your company even came close to resembling the NBA you could be entitled to this opinion, but no other company ever runs like a sports team is run, as the “product” is the game that can only be provided by insanely talented players. So in reality, the players are less like employees and more like the actual product that is being sold, so without that product/players you would have no league at all, and given the money that is being involved in this dispute, to only call the players greedy is very one-sided, as the owners could have agreed to 51-52% being given to players and still improved their position from 57% down to 52%. Why should the players cover all of the owners losses?

      • SMoove says:

        You know they really don’t have an insane amount of talent. They are just conditioned and some are not as fine tuned as others. Playing a sport or two since you have been young is your business but once you decide to sign a contract stating that you area member of a team being paid by theowner of that team, I believe in any country on this earth a player is considered an employee of the owner of that organization.

    • Mura says:

      The players, while you’re correct that they’re employees, are the product. Without them, there is no NBA. This is not a McDonalds franchise. As far as getting paid an average of 5 million a year, that’s actually the mean. That number is that high because the superstars, the ones who sell out visiting arenas, get paid a much higher amount than the average player making 200 thousand a year. In regards to the absurdity of someone who plays sports making far more than people of importance, like doctors and teachers, i’m with you 100%.

      • WHO IS THE TRUE PRESIDENT says:

        Both sides are understandable, but listen, whoever is the PRESIDENT of a company, must be able to run the company on his back, without any employee. Well i surely dont believe that Mr. President Stern & company can dunk like Jordan, they can’t even make a basket, they aren’t allowing baskets for now……

        So it seems to me that the players ARE more important to the league than anybody else, reason why they make the money the league draws.

        The owners really have been making it tough, thay gave 57 and now have gotten it down to 52 and still dont want to close a deal.

        Too bad for us, we are regular money makers and they are billionaires complaining. Oh what a bad life you have mr. billionaire.
        You cant dunk like them, this is their game, give it to them.

  3. GBtha G says:

    I said it before: the players are fully responsible for their own downfall so they must back down or else.look at the end of the day it is those owners that pay’em.

    • SMoove says:

      Yup and if this deal goes through a lot of these great players will be on very weak teams. I think I t would make for an outstanding season. I also believe they should bring Iverson back and stop the stupidity the man wants back in the NBA dammit. (sorry random thought)

  4. Bryan says:

    Do you go to Loyalist College?

  5. Rodriguez says:

    HEATTT! hi my name is Reedo i have a dream to be a better player and go to the nba!

  6. Dylan Robichaud says:

    Im a huge fan of the celtics but if they dont get a deal by like Feberuary i wont be a Fan anymore. This is abosolutely ridiculous that they would make us wait and miss opening night. With a diminishing fan base they cant afford to miss a half of a season, nevermind a full season. Somebody has to cave now. either the owners or the players and i hope its the players.

    • vidwhal says:

      You cant just not be a fan anymore. You cant just decide that your not going to follow a sport that you’ve loved for a X aount of time. In a years time you’ll be back watching again, I guarantee it. When its all a distant memory.

  7. Gary says:

    Players Union trying to get better deals for bench players. Go pro and make millions for doing nothing other than training and showing up. That’s the American Dream with these guys.

    • Michael says:

      You make it sound so easy but i dont see you warming the benches of any nba rosters, that stick must be too far up, i dont know about you but my american dream comes with showing up and playing in front of millions. Would you prefer to sit on the bench lol?

    • rj says:

      NFL did the same thing…

      • SMoove says:

        I believe that the players should take the 5050 deal or even present a 51 49 deal it would work. Never break down the contracts,don’t take the union cert. away just make a more compromising deal. By now the players are a little greedy the econy of the earth is horrible so …. somebody has to give up somthing and the owners are already on the short end of this particular stick.

  8. kobe fan says:

    I hope the greedy players get payed less than what they made before not only are they doing what they love for a living they are already making millions , i hope the owners get the better deal

    • Richo says:

      So basically what you saying is your happy for the billionaires to get richer and the millionaires to get poorer, Sounds like you really know what your talking about.

      • Mura says:

        Kobe fan, you do realize that the players are what people pay to see, right? You actually think that someone who can increase the value of a team 200 million dollars ( like Bron did with the Cavs ) and get paid like, 10% of that a year is greedy? This isn’t complicated math. You should probably read up on how a franchise can lose money and an owner doesn’t have to pay taxes on a loss, but will still reap the profits of a successful league. Richo, good man. Good to see someone who can actually think this thing through.

  9. J Mani says:

    If players can’t agree with what the owner presents, quit and find another job, then owners can find another “employees”. Fans, don’t pay the expensive tickets to watch the game then the owner will not make any money out of “you”. I know there’s somewhere in these word that will take $250.000 a year or less just to play basketball in TV.

    • Richo says:

      Sorry J Mani, but if you don’t know what your talking about, then keep your comments to yourself. “Quit and find another job”??? Good one loser.

      • SMoove says:

        There are plenty of basketball players just as good as the pros if not better. Look at the D league, look at the street ballers and the guys who play with chris paul and dwade and james at these events man there are plenty of ballers willing to take that 250,000 a year. of course I’m down for strike replacement.

  10. Miami says:

    I would like to know if the previous contract was giving 57% to players? If that is the case how can NBA ask them to reduce from 57% to 50% in first place.

    • Mura says:

      Yeah, that’s what the previous bri was set at. The players are taking the owners claims that they’re losing an estimated 300 million on good faith. That’s why they are willing to drop to 52.5 percent.

  11. Choosen ! says:

    Does anyone even care anymore??? So over this BS! The game has been ruined. Wrong time to do this to the fans! Bad decisions have made both sides loose more money than they realize. Donkeys!

  12. VOTE FOR PLAYERS LEAGUE says:

    VOTE FOR PLAYERS LEAGUE

    who is in favor?
    who is against?

    All i know is the owners are ruining the game.
    “NBA where it doesn’t happen”

  13. Interesting article on Jerry Sackhouse’s comments on CBSSPORTS.COM.

    While I understand where he is coming from, one cannot help but to know for a fact that these statements are coming from a veteran who’s career as an NBA player is at it’s end, and who is clearly worried that this may be his last chance, if there is even a chance since the Heat waived his contract in late 2010, to play in the NBA if the lockout continues.

    How can he make such statements about Derick Fisher? Did Stackhouse forget for a second that Fisher is not alone here and partnered up with Billy hunter, whom has been there and done that when it comes to these negotiations.

    Sorry Jerry but your comments have little validity in my opinion, and I think that this is just the first of many planned attacks against the union to try and make them seem as if they are breaking in the eyes of the media.

    I hate to be blunt, but to me, your a non factor in these negotiations and it seems as if you are just trying to get points from the owners, in a possible attempt at maybe obtaining an office position in one of the teams. Nexttttt……..

    END THE LOCKOUT!

  14. imad akel says:

    God this is going to take forever…

    Even if more than half the players want to play, it won’t solve anything unless there’s an overwhelming majority, which there is not.

    At least 30% will refuse the 50\50 deal. This will force the union to decertify.

    Lawsuits will follow. The owners will bleed a lot of money and most likely lose those suits, but the players won’t win back as much as their salaries would have been.

    The NBA will lose fans. I’m already losing interest in following more “lockout updates”.

    BOTH sides will lose so much more than they could have settled for.

    Players and owners alike -and especially Stern, Hunter, Fisher, and Silver- will all regret this lockout, for it will be the worst thing to happen in the history of the NBA.

    Oh, and First (maybe even Last since fans are losing interest quick)

  15. BFoulds says:

    Hopefully nobody comments. Oh wait.

  16. Will Green says:

    As a fan I don’t understand the position of the players to argue over luxury tax issues. Aren’t the owners to pay this tax? I understand that players want to choose what teams they could go to, but the burden then lies on the owner if they want to pay the ensuing tax that comes along with that player. Am I correct in this? If so, again I say why are the players arguing this point when financially it doesn’t hurt them?

    • MK says:

      The larger the tax the harder the cap and the harder the cap the less teams are willing to spend on players. Players are concerned they won’t get the same contracts they’ve been accustomed to getting for the last decade or so. Doesn’t really matter to superstars its more the rank and file guys that would be worried about it.

      • GreedSucks says:

        What would the rank and file guys make if they settled on 50/50? $800,000 a year? I could certainly manage on that.

    • dawi says:

      why players has BRI share?i thougt if you are an employee in a company you only have incentives.bonus,13th month pay and SALARY.if you are a good player you can get many endorsement and sponsor,that is your own income and goes to your own pocket.company has share in your endorsement?

      • MasterMind says:

        Of course the players have to get piece of the BRI. NBA is not like a regular company, it’s not like you have a store and the main product are vegetables, and you can have any person sell vegetables, in the NBA, the players are the product, without the players there is no NBA, so the players should get the piece of the BRI.