SIDES TO CONTINUE TALKING THURSDAY
1:18 a.m. ET: After more than 12 hours, talks have halted and will continue Thursday at noon ET. While no deal was agreed upon and no significant progress was made, NBA commissioner David Stern said the deadline on moving to a 53-47 revenue split in the owners’ favor was being put on hold, as our own David Aldridge tweets:
Stern: We’ve agreed to stop the clock while we contnue to negotiate. Back at noon tomorrow. Neither optimistic nor pessimistic.
Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski tweets:
Stern wouldn’t deny progress had been made on system issues. “We’re not failing, and we’re not succeeding.” Stern: “It was understanding going in that at end of the session, whether it ends today or tomorrow, that’s when our offer reverts.”
Aldridge tweets the same message from Derek Fisher:
Union now. Fisher: we spent a lot of time covering the issues. I can’t say there was sig progress made, but we’re going to meet tomorrow.
Aldridge also tweets a smiliar tone from Billy Hunter:
Hunter: didn’t make much headway on any of the five system issues.
WEDNESDAY ROLLS INTO THURSDAY
11:58 p.m. ET: We’re headed for yet another marathon meeting, with Wednesday’s negotiations rolling into Thursday morning. But does the length equate to progress? ESPN’s Ric Bucher tweets his thoughts:
As night rolls on, my optimism on NBA deal being struck wanes. If they’re grinding at this point, it’s because fundamental divide remains.
Our own Steve Aschburner sums it up, too:
Has gone all ways. Long talks=”progress,” long talks=breakdown. Same w/ short talks.
WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE
11:07 p.m. ET: As Wednesday’s labor talks pass the 10-hour mark, our man David Aldridge gives us the following:
Don’t know if they can close the gap on everything, but do have the sense [David] Stern/[Billy] Hunter want to make a deal tonight if possible …
But, Aldridge points out:
But, again, we’ve been at this spot before and they haven’t been able to get it done. No promises or predictions tonight, either.
AND THE BEAT GOES ON
9:11 p.m. ET: A ray of hope, perhaps? Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports tweets that the owners and the players have made “significant progress.” The info is from sources who have been briefed on the talks. In a follow-up, Wojnarowski tweeted:
No deal was considered imminent, but talks were expected to extend late into the evening.
Sam Amick of sister site SI.com tweeted:
There is an interesting level of optimism among the NBA executive ranks regarding tonight’s talks and how this night will end.
Sums up our man Steve Aschburner:
Reports of “progress” in NBA labor mtg (multiple outlets). If it took chastened union attorney [Jeffrey] Kessler or Stern’s straw deadline, so be it.
NO DRUM ROLL YET
8:29 p.m. ET: After about seven hours of bargaining, which we hope is collective, still no word on whether progress has been made or whether commissioner David Stern has reset the owners’ offer. As Ken Berger of CBSSports.com puts it in a tweet:
Cranking along here at the lockout stakeout. Hour No. 8 has begun. Been given no indication of how things are going.
7:23 p.m. ET: With the CMA set to recognize the brightest country stars tonight, we wait with bated breath for an harmonious chord to be struck in the NBA labor negotiations. As the labor fiddling continues, media types have been forced out of their big waiting room in the Manhattan hotel. Says Howard Beck of The New York Times in a tweet:
In the latest round of stakeout hijinks, hotel took away our luxurious 4,000-square foot room and jammed us into two smaller ones.
I’LL HAVE THE CAVIAR, PLEASE
6:35 p.m., ET: This, from our man David Aldridge, a few minutes ago, via twitter.
League, union ordering in dinner. Make of it what you will. #smallmoves
Breaking bread? Good, right?
Or just loading up for the food fight to come?
This might take a while. A while longer, that is.
6:23 p.m., ET: While the Republican presidential wannabes get ready to tee it up in their latest debate, this one tonight at 9 in the suburbs of Detroit, our basketball leaders continue to hash out things in a midtown Manhattan hotel.
We could attempt to make some more ill-conceived parallels between those folks, one of whom may be the next POTUS, and our cast of characters, none of whom has acted particularly presidential lately. But we’ll stop there. Suffice it to say, they’ll be talking and gesturing and maybe pointing fingers tonight in Detroit. And in New York, they’re doing the same in the latest negotiating session between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. They’ve been at it about five hours worth today so far.
While we’re waiting for one to start and the other to end, enjoy the newest update from NBA TV (above). And remember to check NBA TV (and NBA.com) after the talks for all the news conferencing you can handle.
A GIFT FOR GAB
5:23 p.m., ET: NBA lockout expert Howard Beck (@HowardBeckNYT) of The New York Times tweets this, and we’re happy for his ciphering:
Updated tote board: Labor negotiations have now consumed 140 hours over 22 meetings since the lockout began.
That is a lot of gabbing since July 1. We need to count up the deadlines next, and the deadlines missed, and the comments by owners and players regretted, and the money lost and the time spent hanging around lobbies and the pizzas eaten (and the Tums) and the times we’ve written BRI and …
Oh, come on already.
BONG! BONG! BONG!
5 p.m., ET: From Merriam-Webster.com. The definition of the word deadline:
1 a : a line drawn within or around a prison that a prisoner passes at the risk of being shot2 a : a date or time before which something must be done
OK, we’re not absolutely positive which one applies at this hour. But that ringing you all just heard was the Stern-line passing. And, by all accounts, the talking between owners and players is still going on.
That, of course, was to be expected. If progress is being made [be gone, you cursed optimism], it makes no sense for either side to get up from the table. No sense at all.
Keep talking. Order in. We’ll pay!
On the negative side, as we’ve learned over these past months, the length of a bargaining session in no way is indicative of the results of said session. We have learned — or been told, anyway — that there comes a time when there’s nothing else to be said. And if differences still remain … well, that’s how we got here.
But on the hopeful side, as close as the two sides reportedly are, it can only be good that they’ve blown by the stated deadline and are still talking. Whether they can come to that elusive agreement or not and get the dang season started, we just don’t know at this point.
Either way, there went another deadline. That ringing you heard? Probably in your head.
AT WHAT COST?
4:43 p.m., ET: It has been reported, and tweeted, from the always-excellent TrueHoop blog on ESPN, that (and we’ll copy that tweet right here):
Difference between the two sides is tiny compared to cost of lost season, no matter what happens today
No doubt about it. And if sportswriters and fans can see that … don’t you figure the guys in the room should be able to, too?
Sorry. Slipped into common sense there for a second. No place for that here.
4:31 p.m., ET: We’re inside a half-hour until the David Stern-imposed deadline. After that, supposedly, things get worse.
Things can get worse?
‘ROUND AND ‘ROUND
4:20 p.m., ET: You do have to wonder, if you’re at least half-interested in the NBA lockout, what those guys talk about in the room for all these hours. After all, they met for 8 1/2 hours last Saturday and into Sunday. The players, on their own, have gotten together since then. The owners have, too.
They’ve been going at this for 132 days, for Podoloff’s sake. It’s been a tad sporadic, granted. But shouldn’t it be as simple as this?
ONE SIDE: “Have you guys moved? Are you willing to?”
THE OTHER SIDE: “What about you guys?”
If these guys don’t understand the other side’s position at this point, we’re all in trouble.
Anyway, NBA TV is, as they say, cutting into their regularly scheduled programming with updates. Rick Kamla gives you a rundown with the latest, above. And allow us a quick plug: If there are news conferences to be had after this meeting of the minds — good, bad or in-between (if there is an in-between at this point) — you can find them on NBA TV. Call your cable or satellite provider for details. Or click on the guide already. It’s not that hard.
GETTING ALL DIPLOMATIC
3:26 p.m., ET: Our man David Aldridge has offered up this bit of scribing, pointing out the need for diplomacy in these touchy times and alerting us as to what to listen for in the public pronouncements of the principals in these proceedings.
Wow. We’re only a couple of hours into this thing today and we’re getting all alliterative already. Time for a break.
Anyway, D.A. does a little reading between the lines for us:
- It’s true, the league has said it will put a new, harsher proposal on the table at 5 p.m. Wednesday that goes back to the 53-47 BRI split in favor of the owners and the “flex cap” NHL-style, harder salary ceiling. But even if the NBA does so, it’s just a proposal, not an ultimatum. [The bolding is Hang Time’s.] Which means it can be negotiated up as well as down. Just because the owners start there doesn’t mean they finish there, and if you dovetail some give by the players on BRI with some give by the owners on the system, you get very close to a deal.
- There are a good portion of hard-liners among the owners. But guess who isn’t a hard-liner? The owner of the New Orleans Hornets, which just happens to be the NBA. And guess who else probably isn’t today? Atlanta Spirit, the new/old owners of the Atlanta Hawks, who were put back in charge of the franchise last week when Alex Meruelo’s deal to buy the team fell through. It’s a pretty good guess that Atlanta Spirit will be willing to eschew whatever concerns it may have about a new deal in order to secure the help of one David J. Stern to help it make the best possible sale for the team. Those are two important votes the Commish has in his back pocket. And who knows how many other teams are on the block, and whose owners that are otherwise hawks might fall in line to facilitate a future sale?
IN THE ROOM
2:48 p.m., ET: Jeffrey Kessler, a lawyer for the National Basketball Players Association, is in the bargaining room today, too, according to the Turner Sports tag team of Steve Aschburner and David Aldridge.
This is news because Kessler, if you’ll recall, was the guy who couldn’t check his emotions, or his mouth, when the owners told players that the latest offer was the best that they were going to get, so they should take it. Remember?
“To present that in the context of ‘take it or leave it,’ in our view, that is not good faith. Instead of treating the players like partners, they’re treating them like plantation workers.”
Yep, generally speaking, “plantation workers” doesn’t go over well in any context. But Kessler went there Monday.
To his credit, we guess, Kessler apologized in a statement earlier today.
The comments that I made in The Washington Post took place in an interview late at night Monday after a very long day. Looking back, the words that I used were inappropriate; I did not intend to offend. I was merely passionately advocating for the players.
The players evidently thought that mea culpa sufficed enough to invite him back into the party today, where he will face NBA Commissioner David Stern. It was Stern, remember, who called Kessler’s actions during these negotiations “routinely despicable.”
See. This is why they don’t allow gavels in these meetings.
AND THEY’RE OFF
2 p.m., ET: The gavel sounded and the meeting came to order somewhere around 1:30 p.m. Well, we weren’t in there, and there probably wasn’t a gavel (it’s kind of dangerous to have a hammer in NBA negotiations), but reports from the scene indicated that the meeting started somewhere around 1:30.
This meeting reportedly is between a smaller group of players and owners, the kind of meeting in which most of the best and most productive work has been done during the lockout. Our guys in New York are busy running down a roll of who is there, but it’s a good bet that NBA Commissioner David Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver are repping the owners. Reports are that labor committee chairman Peter Holt of the San Antonio Spurs is in the room, too.
National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter and the union’s president, Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers, are sure to be there. Economist Kevin Murphy is helping out the players and is in town, it’s been reported, and several other players are milling around New York after Tuesday’s labor meeting and may be there.
Sources told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! for a piece earlier today that Stern has the authority to come off the owners’ demands on some of the system issues, which might be encouraging news.
NBA commissioner David Stern has the authority to make minor system alterations to the owners’ latest labor offer to the players to try to complete a collective bargaining agreement and end the lockout, ownership sources told Yahoo! Sports.
How much, though, and will it make a difference?
“It will be a very slight budge,” one high-ranking management source said.
We will see. We will see.
LET’S GET READY TO …
And so now, in Day 132 of the NBA’s maddening, frustrating and ever-tiring labor lockdown, we find ourselves once again wondering: Is this it?
Is this the day players and owners finally look for a compromise that everyone can live with and strike a new collective bargaining agreement? Is this the day that the players — largely regarded as giving the most so far in the back-and-forth of negotiations — finally tell the owners to take their offer and their 5 p.m. deadline and dunk it?
Or … is this just another misguided bit of silly optimism in this multi-billion dollar game that these guys are playing?
We will find out soon enough. Or, we’ll find out soon, anyway.
OK. We’ll find out. Hopefully.
Representatives for the owners and the players’ union are supposed to be gathering — once again — in a Manhattan hotel meeting room at this hour, supposedly to try to move the last few feet on an agreement that, according to many people’s estimation, is already 95 percent done. The owners have an offer on the table that they will snatch back, says NBA Commissioner David Stern, at 5 p.m. ET if the players don’t accept it. At that point, Stern has threatened to replace that offer with something decidedly less attractive to the players.
The players, after rejecting Stern’s offer on Tuesday, talked the owners back to the table today in a bid to bridge that final gap. The players are reportedly ready to take a 50-50 split of basketball-related income — it would actually mean 12 percent less for them than they had in the previous agreement — if the owners give a little on the so-called “system” issues which govern player movement, contract length, raises and those kind of things.
Will the owners move? Will they move enough? And if they don’t, what next?
Decertification by the union? More inane comments from those in the room? A fan revolt? Heads exploding?
It could be a long day. Or not. But our guys David Aldridge of TNT and Steve Aschburner of NBA.com are on hand to fill you in.
Hang around. And let us know what you think, too, while we’re waiting around for … whatever.