UPDATE, 2 a.m. ET: And so, after another long day of back-and-forth, NBA owners and players came out of their latest negotiating session early Sunday morning feeling — in the words of both National Basketball Players Association president Derek Fisher and NBA commissioner David Stern — sad and frustrated.
For the rest of us, another game-shattering week awaits, with a Wednesday deadline for the players’ union to accept the NBA’s proposal or deal with a much worse offer on Thursday.
Bottom line: The entire 2011-12 NBA season still remains in jeopardy.
“We’re at a loss for reasons,” Fisher said, “why we could not close this out.”
According to Fisher, during 8 1/2 hours of talks Saturday, the players moved closer to the owners in the ever-important issue of basketball-related income, while standing firm on some of the other “system” sticking points such as luxury taxes and mid-level exceptions to the salary cap.
The owners, according to Fisher, countered with both system proposals that the players object to as too restrictive and a BRI split that, by the players’ view, is still a 50-50 split, some 12 percent lower than what the players had in their last collective bargaining agreement.
As always in these talks, each side painted the proceedings differently. Stern said the owners adopted five of the six proposals that federal mediator George Cohen offered in the meetings. Fisher said there was no formal proposal by the mediator, and that Cohen was simply trying to find a middle ground in an informal manner.
Whatever, the players soon will have a formal proposal, and owners will want an answer on it by close of business Wednesday.
Fisher said he doesn’t anticipate taking any formal proposal to the union rank-and-file for a vote, a fact that might make the owners’ formal proposal moot.
“We made the moves that we needed to make to get the deal done on the economics … It just doesn’t seem to be good enough for this particular group of team owners,” Fisher said.
Which means, still, it’s not good for anyone.
UPDATE, 1:42 a.m.: Said Derek Fisher, the Los Angeles Lakers guard and president of the National Basketball Players Association:
“We’ve been given the ultimatum, and our answer is, ‘That’s not acceptable to us …'”
And: “We just did not get the sense that they [owners] wanted to close this out tonight.”
Asked if he would take the owners’ proposal to the players for a vote: “There’s not a deal presented that we can take a vote on.”
And, on the split of basketball-related income presented by the owners: “There’d be no way in the world we’d ever get to 51 percent.”
UPDATE, 1:30 a.m.: The split of basketball-related income, at the heart of the talks between NBA players and owners, would not rise much above a 50-50 share in the owners’ latest proposal, probably one of the biggest reasons the union rejected it Saturday night.
Commissioner David Stern said that the players could get close to 51 percent under the proposal if revenues exceed a certain projection. But they also could drop to 49, if revenues fall below projections.
The players are coming up …
UPDATE, 2 a.m. ET (1 a.m. after clock change): Commissioner David Stern said in a hasty news conference that the league has given the players a deadline of Wednesday, at the close of business, to accept a new proposal that, notably, offers a split of revenue that will give the players between 49 and 51 percent, with a chance for the players to make more if the league beats certain revenue forecasts (or drops to 49 percent if the revenue falls short of forecasts).
The offer, brokered by federal mediator George Cohen, was not well-received by the players, according to Stern. It was initially rejected by the National Basketball Players Association’s main negotiator, Jeffrey Kessler.
“I think, certainly, Billy [Hunter, the NBPA's executive director] and I, share both a frustration and sadness,” a tired-looking Stern said.
Stern said if the offer is not accepted by Wednesday, owners will withdraw that proposal for one that offers the players just 47 percent of basketball revenue and includes elements of a “flex cap” on salaries.
The players will be up soon for their news conference …
UPDATE, 1:40 a.m. ET: Talks have ended for the night. Early word is, no deal yet. Waiting to see if the two sides will continue talks on Sunday or in the near future.
Will update soon …
UPDATE, 1:10 a.m. ET: Now eight hours into the latest negotiating session between NBA players and owners, it’s eerily quiet on the news front.
Reporters staking out the meeting at a Manhattan hotel have not been able to crack the cone of silence that has enveloped today’s meeting. Some unconfirmed comments have been tweeted — Michael Lee of the Washington Post tweets that a source said the the sides are “very close” — but nothing has been confirmed, or even close to it.
The meeting already has turned into one of the longer ones of the four-plus month lockout.
For a look on how we got into this, check out our labor timeline.
UPDATE, midnight ET: The two sides in the NBA’s ongoing labor dispute are still talking. No word, official or otherwise, on what has transpired in the seven hours the two sides have met this evening.
The owners, who locked out the players on July 1 when the last collective bargaining agreement expired, met for hours this morning before huddling with players. The discussions in both meetings are aimed at ending the impasse that, according to commissioner David Stern, already has cost the league and its players hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.
The league has canceled game throughout the month of November. If the two sides don’t agree to something soon, the high-profile Christmas Day games on national television may be the next big casualty of the lockout.
UPDATE, 11 p.m. ET: Six hours into the latest crucial negotiating session in the NBA’s labor impasse, representatives for the owners and players are still holed up in a Manhattan hotel, with no word on the progress — or lack — of the talks.
Various reports from the meeting, which is being staked out by several reporters, offer second-hand accounts of “progress.” But nothing has been made public yet.
Given the pre-meeting hype — including reports that the owners could increase their demand for more basketball-related income and the players might consider de-certifying the union in what commissioner David Stern has called the “nuclear option” — six hours of talks might seem encouraging for those fans who want to see the NBA get back on track.
But in the fifth month of the owner-imposed lockout, one thing has become crystal-clear in the muddied waters of these billion-dollar negotiations: So far, these meetings have meant little, with starts and stops and rhetoric so heavy at times that we don’t know what to believe.
And until we have a handshake agreement, there’s no reason for anyone to get too worked up. One way or the other.
UPDATE 9:52 p.m. ET: After almost five hours, not much has changed. Federal mediator George H. Cohen left the hotel for a dinner break but was expected to return. A source told tweeter Ken Berger of CBSSports.com that the session has consisted of, “Just a lot of talk so far.” Better to be talking than stalking out.
UPDATE 7:55 p.m. ET: Despite speculation early in the day – brought on by the apparent hardening of positions and the appearance of hardline owners — that the bargaining session today would be brief, the media contingent staking out the labor talks has finagled a TV for college football viewing and pizza to stave off hunger pangs. The session has lasted about three hours now, and NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner jokes that he hopes labor reporters aren’t watching Meet the Press on Sunday morning, as they continue to wait.
UPDATE 6:38 p.m. ET: During the first 90 minutes of talks, the two sides have met separately and together, according to the sources of tweeter Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. That strategy of facilitating communications is the style of federal mediator George H. Cohen.
UPDATE 5:35 p.m. ET: Our man on the scene Steve Aschburner and TNT Analyst David Aldridge report that, in addition to the usual Labor Relations Committee for the owners, Paul Allen, Michael Jordan and Mickey Arison are participating in the talks. For the players, Chauncey Billups is among the notable participants who are not members of the union’s Executive Committee. Federal mediator George H. Cohen met with each group before beginning the collective bargaining session.
UPDATE 5 p.m. ET: Talks are finally under way (an hour late) as players and owners attempt to bridge a gap that threatens to become even wider. Owners, after meeting privately for about five hours this morning (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.), could be taking an even harder line. At the last bargaining session more than a week ago, union executive Billy Hunter walked out after the owners would not agree to give the players 52 percent of basketball-related revenue. Under the last collective bargaining agreement, the players’ share was 57 percent. All of the teams were believed to be represented at the owners meeting. Commissioner David Stern and Michael Jordan, the hardline owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, were seen entering the hotel separately.
3:12 p.m. ET: The most important bargaining session yet in the ongoing labor strife is set to begin at 4 p.m. today in a Manhattan hotel. Without movement by the two sides this weekend, it’s likely there will be no basketball in 2011 and the entire 2011-12 NBA season could be in jeopardy. Positions on both sides are starting to harden. Many owners, who met among themselves this morning at 10 a.m., are expected to push to have the 50-50 split offer for basketball-related revenue taken off the table if the players refuse to accept it. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com tweets that he’s heard that owners raised new questions about system issues, even those supposedly already agreed to. On the players side, some union members are talking decertification of the players association if the owners can’t meet their desire for 52 percent of BRI. Players also refuse to accept system issues such as contract structuring and limitations that would be like a hard salary cap. Decertification would allow the players to sue on antitrust grounds, meaning the season likely would be lost. Meanwhile, the $4 billion BRI pie already has shrunk with the cancellation of all the games scheduled for November. One ray of hope: Federal mediator George H. Cohen rejoins the collective bargaining, which could bring a calming influence. For a look at how we arrived at this point, check out NBA.com’s labor timeline, and get the whole picture at Labor Central.