HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The biggest shopping day of the year holds new meaning for those of us that choose to sit out this annual stampede on discounts across the country.
This is Black Friday in the NBA as well, the day the owners and players get back to the task of trying to save the 2011-12 season and finally end the lockout in time for us to celebrate with some games on Christmas.
We appreciate the way both sides have gone about their business this time around, quietly resuming talks instead of using the cameras to send their messages back and forth.
Of course, the tenor changes today with union president Derek Fisher reportedly joining the fray in New York with the clock ticking on the aforementioned Christmas Day start to a 66-game regular season, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
After deliberating for 24 hours, Players Association president Derek Fisher flew to New York on Thursday night to prepare for Friday’s labor settlement meeting with the NBA, a league source told Yahoo! Sports.
His appearance in this week’s negotiations – along with that of several other key Players Association officials – figures to run the risk of validating the league’s charges that the disbanding of the union was a “sham” negotiating tactic. Nevertheless, the belief that the end of the five-month lockout is within reach this weekend inspired Fisher to make the risky move to join the talks.
Representatives of the owners and players spoke on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the possible settlement of the players’ recent antitrust lawsuits – which would essentially be an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. It is felt that Fisher’s appearance is needed to reach an agreement on a deal.
Several high-ranking sources – on the league and players sides – believe there’s a do-or-die nature to getting a deal done to start the season on Dec. 25 and preserve a 66-game regular season.
Once again, the Players Association will have familiar negotiating faces in the room with the owners’ representatives: Fisher, executive director Billy Hunter, staff lawyer Ron Klempner and antitrust suit lawyers. Some on the players’ side still fear [NBA Commissioner David] Stern is setting up the players with these talks and will use the participation of key union figures to show the disbanding of the union wasn’t for the purpose of filing antitrust suit in court, but gaining leverage in negotiations. Fisher understood the consequences, but sources believe there’s so much motivation to reach an agreement to end the lockout he needed to join the negotiating sessions.
“They felt they needed Derek there to continue,” one high-ranking league official told Yahoo! Sports.
If Fisher’s attendance is what it takes to get this done, then he absolutely needs to be in that room. We’ve seen and heard enough from an assortment of players, the superstars and rank and file alike, to know that the one thing that they have been most sincere about is wanting to play this season.
Obviously, we’ve been here before several times in the past five months, believing that there is reason to be optimistic that a bargain could be struck by the end of the weekend to preserve the season. We’ve fallen through this ice several times, too. So we’d be wise to slow down right here and follow on our own advice and proceed with extreme caution from this point on. If talks collapse this time, when technically only a “settlement” can be reached since the union does not exist right now, who knows how ugly things will get in the aftermath of yet another failed attempt to come to an agreement.
ESPN The Magazine‘s Chris Broussard took to Twitter late last night with the sort of messages that give us reason to pause:
Lawyers 4 players looking 4 league to make concessions Friday. Players want 4-yr full midlevel contracts available every yr,10% cap 4 escrow
Players also want increase in mini midlevel 4 tax teams, sign&trades 4 tax teams for life of new CBA, fewer penalties for repeat tax teams
Players also want max salaries 4 superstars to be 30% of cap, not just 25%, as well as higher qualifying offers 4 restricted free agents
Constructive progress is needed today. We can’t afford another setback in this already ridiculously contentious process. Neither side can afford yet another public relations hit with fans that have long been fed up with the process.
If you’re going to tease us with the prospect of settlement talks and then get inside that room and continue the same foolishness that led us to antitrust lawsuits and the complete breakdown of the collective bargaining process … we’d have all been better off rising in the dark and braving the cold (in most places) of those Black Friday lines wrapped around the local mall or shopping center.
Please, in the name of Naismith, don’t leave us all hanging on for nothing again!