HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Don’t stick that finger in the air.
Not that one, the index finger you might use to gauge which way the NBA lockout winds are blowing. Let us save you the trouble. They’re blowing cold right now. That’s right, ice-cold is the read we’ve gotten on the owners’ 72-game season proposal delivered late Thursday night.
All of the early indications suggest that the players are not interested in accepting the “revised” proposal, the one with the 50-50 BRI split but with many of those pesky “system” issues still a problem for union executive director Billy Hunter, union president Derek Fisher and the men they represent.
The flood of instant reaction, even before the player reps from all 30 teams could make it to New York for Monday’s scheduled meeting with union brass to review the proposal, has been resounding. (That dream Dec. 15 opening night TNT double-header featuring the Heat-Knicks and Lakers-Mavs will vanish if the players punt on this latest proposal).
ESPN The Magazine‘s Ric Bucher identifies some of the elements causing the players to pause before their scheduled gathering:
Once NBA players digest all the details of the owners’ new contract proposal — including a clause that opens a way for more player demotions to the D-League — it’s hard to imagine even those desperate to play would be willing to ratify it, sources told Bucher.
The D-League clause, which previously had not been disclosed, is one of several elements in the owners’ proposal to the locked-out players that prompted one agent to describe the proposal as “draconian.”
The clause would give teams the right to send a player down to the NBA Development League at any time during his first five years, paying him a reduced contract while he’s there, a source who has examined the proposal told Bucher.
Any player sent down to the D-League would be paid at a pro-rated scale of $75,000 a season, which is slightly above the current D-League maximum but roughly one-sixth of the NBA minimum, the source said.
The owners’ new proposal also would prohibit luxury tax-paying teams from sign-and-trade deals after a two-year “phase-in” period, according to sources.
Non-tax-paying teams also would be prohibited from using the mid-level exception if doing so would take them over the salary cap, sources said.
“They don’t want to do a deal,” one agent said of the owners’ proposals. “And what they’ve underestimated is the resolve of the players.”
UPDATE — NBA Commissioner David Stern told our Steve Aschburner Saturday night that there is a wave of misinformation, the item above included, about the proposal being spread by agents trying to stir up the masses.
According to a tweet the NBA’s labor feed fired off at us late Saturday night, Bucher’s info is “incorrect.” There have only been preliminary talks on the D-League/NBA relationship thus far. There is nothing concrete in the latest proposal, as Bucher suggested.
The players were sounding their own alarms (via Twitter and elsewhere) throughout the day Friday, as details of the proposal no doubt trickled their way. And they were just as emphatic in their dismissal of any deal deemed unworthy being something they would accept just for the sake of guaranteeing that Dec. 15 start to the season.
— “From what I’ve seen and heard, the counter offer is the same they presented us a week ago, making a few minor changes that in the big scheme of things that really did nothing to the deal,” Pacers player rep Danny Granger told Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star. “I would expect that proposal to be rejected after all the players learn more about the deal. The next step I don’t know.”
— Kate Fagan of the Philadelphia Inquirer relayed this all-important message via twitter:
From current NBA player: “We all want to play, but we’re tryin to let young guys know we’re fighting for future. So they’re holding strong.”
— CBSSports.com‘s Ken Berger highlights the closing of the ranks by agents in opposition to the proposal and in favor of decertification, that dreaded word that could be on the tips of many tongues by late Monday:
According to multiple people involved in the process, the number of agencies involved in the movement to decertify the union — in response to the one-sided collective bargaining agreement that always was going to come of it — began to quickly multiply Friday. Moderate agents who had long opposed decertification or remained neutral were suddenly climbing aboard like stowaways on a runaway train. Two of the agents involved said nearly 200 signatures had been collected on decertification cards by Friday morning and that about half the union would ultimately be involved.
It was a stunningly swift show of solidarity in barely 48 hours of the agent-driven signature drive, a potential death knell for the revised proposal [NBA Commissioner David] Stern delivered Thursday night, complete with another ultimatum: Accept it, get ready for a 72-game season, or brace yourselves for the hellfire to come.
“This isn’t gonna fly,” one of the formerly moderate agents said Friday, “even if I told my guys to vote for it.”
— ESPN.com’s Marc Stein tweeted: Ominous warning from source on players’ side expecting NBA offer to be rejected: “Nothing was addressed. It’s same offer as it was before.”
What would make the players so sure that this latest proposal is so unacceptable if they haven’t even met to review it yet? There are plenty of rumors circulating about what is included in the proposal (everything from offseason drug testing to the raising of the age-limit from 19 to 20 has been discussed). The league office went on the offensive Friday, using the aforementioned labor twitter feed (@NBA_Labor), to fight the negative power with some details of their own:
- More mid-levels than 2005 CBA: $5M for non-taxpayers, $3M for taxpayers, $2.5M for room teams
- More cap exceptions for teams who are not taxpayers…
- Projected tax level ranges from $70M-$85M over next 6 years; more than enough money to keep teams together
- New trade rules to promote more player movement
- Projected max salaries range from $13M to $19M and growing
- Increased minimum team salary – from 75% of cap to 90%
- Plyr-friendly changes 4 restricted FAs: qualifying offers higher & 100% guaranteed, shorter match period 4 offer sheets
- Ability to stretch waived player’s salary frees up more money for teams to spend on FAs
- Players retain full Bird rights
- Repeat tax rates apply only when team is taxpayer 4 out of 5 yrs (not 3 out of 5)
— Mavericks guard Jason Terry conveyed the sentiments of many players best in a radio interview Friday morning in Dallas, telling the “Ben and Skin Show”:
“For us to take a bad deal at this point, as players, would be not good for the game of basketball and it won’t be good for the players going on into the future … In life and society there are three classes: There’s the upper class, the middle class and lower class. And what the owners are trying to do right now, what their proposal is, get rid of the middle class so you have one or two guys on each team making ‘X’ and the rest of the guys crunched down at a smaller number and then no middle ground.”
— Another factor to consider before we get to Monday’s (or Tuesday’s, depending on when the player reps meet) showdown, is the growing number of players that appear to be upset with the union leadership and their handling of things from the start. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports has been over this story for months and in the immediate aftermath of Thursday night’s proposal being delivered, he relayed some of those player concerns via twitter:
NBPA player rep on union leadership: “Why do they keep scrambling us to New York for these meetings when they never listen to us?”
Player rep (cont.): “We told them not to go past 53 percent. They did. We told them we’re not taking this deal. Why waste our time?”
Another veteran role player texts: “How quickly does Billy (Hunter) get fired after we sign this bull—-?”
Who knows where players heads will be by Monday, but there’s a lot of frustration and anger with union leadership tonight.
Here’s a player reps’ belief: If Hunter presents proposal to membership as harshly as he did to team reps Tuesday, it gets rejected.