Several NBA players, including Boston’s Paul Pierce and Brooklyn’s Deron Williams, have said that a change is needed atop the National Basketball Players Association’s hierarchy. In other words, Billy Hunter, cited recently for nepotism and conflicts of interest after 16 years as the union’s executive directory, needs to go.
Now, Nets veteran Jerry Stackhouse adds his voice, perhaps the most strident yet, to those seeking reforms that begin but don’t necessarily end with Hunter being replaced. Stackhouse made his views clear toDetroit News reporter Vincent Goodwill after Brooklyn’s victory over the Pistons Wednesday.
“I think we need wholesale changes all the way around,” Stackhouse said. “I think everybody’s pointing the finger at Billy, and rightfully so. He’s made some wrong moves, but at the same time, we’ve sat and allowed those moves to be made.”
In other words, NBA players bear responsibility for whatever has gone on that they might not like. That includes union president Derek Fisher and members of the NBPA’s executive committee.
Stackhouse says Hunter isn’t the only one who needs to be shown the door.
“Derek has stepped up and has really tried to grab the reins but I think he has to go too,” he said. “If you’re not aware of everything that’s happened on your watch for so long, I think the whole system is flawed.”
Stackhouse, a 1995 lottery pick in his 18th NBA season with his eighth franchise, said he will travel to Houston next week for what are expected to be some heavy-duty union meetings at All-Star weekend.
“I plan on going to make my point. I won’t be surprised if Billy was there, with all he’s done he’ll try to show his face and act as if business as usual,” Stackhouse said. “The same thing with Derek. They can’t operate as if business as usual. They’ve shown their flaws too much to still continue in their positions.”
With the current collective bargaining agreement in place for five more years, Stackhouse sees this as a time for the union to get its house in order. For that to happen, though, every NBA player has to show an interest in his and his peers’ business interests, rather than sticking someone in each team’s locker room with the “player rep” role and leaving important work only to them.
Some might note that Stackhouse, 38, wasn’t a familiar face at a lot of the CBA talks during the 2011 lockout. Others might wonder if he’s angling for a post-playing career as a union exec – though that would require him to stop playing, which Stackhouse has show no signs of doing.
Besides, he said, this matter is bigger than one guy’s ire or ambitions.
“It’s not about me,” said Stackhouse, who is likely to retire after this season or the next. “It’s about a league that’s been great to me and great to a lot of other people, to make sure we keep growing. The league is growing and the salaries should grow too.”
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Embattled players’ union president Derek Fisher said Friday night he would not quit despite the executive board of the National Basketball Players Association requesting his resignation in an 8-0 vote.
“I don’t agree with the executive committee’s decision to ask for my resignation,” the Thunder’s backup point guard said after the 103-92 victory over the Kings at Power Balance Pavilion. “It’s not something that I plan to do. I’m going to continue to push – not just as the president of the Players Association, but as a member of the Players Association – for what I think is the right thing to do. That is simply to take a look at the way we conduct our business, not just our finances, our overall business practices, and try to do a much better job than we have in the past serving our members.”
An internal fight with executive director Billy Hunter spilled into full public view after Fisher pressed to conduct a review of Hunter and the union. Hunter pushed back by rallying support to push Fisher out.
“I’m obviously spending more time on my phone communicating than I would like to be, especially at this point of the season,” Fisher said. “But I also challenge people to think about why I would chose consciously to do that. Normally at this time of year, the one thing that I’ve always wanted to concentrate solely on is helping lead a team to a championship. That’s what I am trying to do here with the Thunder, is to make positive contributions to a great team, and we’re trying to win a championship. That’s what I would really like to focus on solely.
“As I’ve tried to state, if this was just about me, that’s what I would do. I would just concentrate on basketball. But because this is bigger than me, this is bigger than any other one person, it’s really about all players and what’s best for our guys, then I’m willing to take the hits and some of the scrutiny that will come with some of the decisions right now.”
In-fighting between executive committee members of the NBA players’ union and President Derek Fisher escalated Friday night, with Fisher refusing to resign while urging the league’s 30 players reps to demand review of his performance and the union’s business practices and finances.
All of this would have grabbed far bigger headlines had it occurred six, eight or 12 months ago – before the NBA and the union agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement that will run at least through the 2016-17 season. Fisher, executive director Billy Hunter and the eight National Basketball Players Association vice presidents who have lined up behind Hunter in this skirmish were front and center then, with the league in a lockout that lasted five months.
Now it is more of an inside-basketball story that might not grab most fans’ attention. The players involved are mostly back at work on the courts, with the playoffs looming. But the political maneuvering by Hunter – who fended off a call by Fisher for an audit of Hunter’s performance, turning that into an 8-0 vote of non-support for the union president – and Fisher might explain some of the union’s inconsistencies and reversals during the CBA negotiations.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We apologize in advance for the conflicting reports you’re going to hear in the days and weeks ahead about basically any and every NBA player, free agent or not, being pursued by this team or that team.
Hey, it’s that time of year, just a few months later than normal.
Of course, with a condensed free agency period/training camp all rolled into one, things are going to be a little wilder and crazier than usual. So again, be prepared to hear any and everything and just remember that until at least Dec. 9, it’s all talk …
PACERS CHASING RONDO?
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: As Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge aggressively pursues possible deals for Rajon Rondo, the Indiana Pacers have emerged as an intriguing suitor for the point guard, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. For the past few days, Pacers officials – and third-party surrogates – have been making calls and gathering information and insight into Rondo’s reputation as a teammate and leader, sources said. The Pacers and Celtics have discussed the preliminary framework of a deal, but two sources said Indiana would need a third team to provide Boston with the talent it wants to do a deal. The Celtics are likely trying to gather the necessary pieces to make a bid for Ainge’s ultimate target: New Orleans point guard Chris Paul, sources said. It was unclear if the Pacers had begun to reach out to broaden discussions, but there was an expectation they would do so. The Celtics have been gauging Rondo’s trade value for more than a year, and have held discussions with teams about him across the past few trade deadlines and NBA drafts. There have long been divides within Boston’s front office, coaching staff and locker room about Rondo. He can be moody, difficult and stubborn, and several league sources were dubious if the Pacers’ young coach, Frank Vogel, would have the stature to deal with Rondo.
NETS READYING OFFER FOR DWIGHT HOWARD
Marc Stein and Chad Ford of ESPN.com: The New Jersey Nets are prepared to offer a trade package featuring Brook Lopez and two future first-round picks to acquire Dwight Howard before the Orlando Magic center becomes a free agent in July 2012, according to sources close to the situation. Sources told ESPN.com this week that, to sweeten the proposal, New Jersey would likewise offer to take back the contract of Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu, who has three seasons left on his contract worth just under $35 million. Absorbing Turkoglu’s remaining salary would become financially feasible for the Nets after the expected release of swingman Travis Outlaw through the amnesty clause that will be included in the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement and by including another smaller contract or two in the deal. No trade deadline for the 2011-12 season has been set in stone yet by the league office, but many team executives believe it will fall in March. Once the league officially re-opens for business, Howard’s future in Orlando is sure to be one of the season’s dominant story lines, along with Chris Paul’s future in New Orleans and the Nets’ attempts to secure a long-term commitment from star guard Deron Williams. It’s been an open secret around the league that the Nets’ dream scenario is pairing Howard with Williams, after they followed up their failed pursuit of Carmelo Anthony last season by trading for Williams just before the February trade deadline. It remains to be seen whether Howard will regard the Nets as a prime destination on par with the New York Knicks, even after they move out of New Jersey, but sources say that Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov has long believed that teaming them up would convince both Team USA stars to commit their long-term future to the Brooklyn-bound Nets.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Rarely have so few words received so much scrutiny.
But if we didn’t know any better, the amnesty provision in the NBA’s new labor proposal (and that’s all it remains at this point, until the untangling process is complete) would appear to be the most important piece of the pending collective bargaining agreement.
It seems strange that something that will be utilized by such a small number of teams would be the focus of everyone’s attention. Yet when you realize the names that could potentially be impacted by the rule — Brandon Roy, Rashard Lewis, Baron Davis, Richard Jefferson, Mehmet Okur,Gilbert Arenas and several others — the intense examination of how the rule works makes much more sense.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Now that we have the hardest part of that pesky 149-day lockout behind us, it’s time to refocus and turn our attention to the future. And that means the next step(s) teams will take in the process to return the NBA to fully operational.
With the 66-game schedule being arranged and free agency and training camp to begin simultaneously on Dec. 9, we should be in store for some fast and furious personnel action around the league. But before we get there, we have details that must be dissected and discussed.
There are, however, plenty of opinions regarding how this tentative out-of-court agreement between the players and owners was reached and what sort of structure it will allow teams to function in …
Michael Wilbon of ESPN.com: The funniest thing about these five months of melodrama is that the NBA will begin the season precisely when and how it should anyway. Play should never for any reason commence before Thanksgiving and probably not until the first week of December, at the earliest. Truth is, a tripleheader on Christmas Day with Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade, Dirk and D-Rose, plus the Knicks in the Garden hosting the Celtics, is probably better than these two quarrelsome parties deserve. It’s as though they stumbled into beginning the NASCAR season with Daytona. Please, don’t tell me the Christmas Day games need a makeover for scheduling reasons. How do you get better than the Mavericks receiving their 2011 NBA championship rings in front of the Miami players? The Lakers are must-see holiday TV, so if LeBron and D-Wade aren’t available, who better to share the stage with Kobe than reigning MVP Derrick Rose and a conference finalist team? The last time we saw the allegedly revamped Knicks, they were going out like dogs to the Celtics; what better place to start anew with the most overrated franchise in American sports? So please, don’t let the NBA screw up its first call of the new season. These matchups are irresistible. Purposefully or not, the league couldn’t stage a more satisfying comeback. Even if those games are all moved to TNT, I’ll feel the same way about the Christmas Day return.
Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel: An expected windfall for NBA contending teams in search of affordable talent could wind up short-circuited by the league’s soon-to-be-approved collective-bargaining agreement. The Sun Sentinel confirmed Sunday that instead of players being released under the league’s “amnesty” provision going directly to the open market, a bidding system has been put in place for teams operating below the league’s salary cap to add such players at a deep discount. ”That’s what the clause is in there for,” a party familiar with the impending process Sunday told the Sun Sentinel. “It’s so the Lakers can’t go in and scoop up all the players.” Under the amnesty program, a team can waive a player in order to remove his salary from its salary cap and luxury tax, while still paying out the balance of that contract. It had been widely assumed that such players then would immediately hit the open market. That could have positioned the Miami Heat to add players such as Baron Davis, Rashard Lewis, Brendan Haywood or Brandon Roy at the NBA salary minimum, with the players’ previous teams still paying their full salaries. (Team-by-team decisions on specific players, if any, to receive amnesty releases will not be announced until after the CBA is ratified.) However, in an outline of the proposed collective-bargaining agreement obtained by the Sun Sentinel, the NBA instead has instituted “a modified waiver process” that would allow teams operating below the salary cap to “submit competing offers to assume some but not all of the player’s remaining contract.” For example, while Lewis has two years at $44 million total remaining on his contract, a team currently operating below the salary cap could bid to pay Lewis $3 million in each of those years (with the Washington Wizards, who are expected to make Lewis available, then paying the balance of his salary). ”Some of it is still not 100-percent worked out,” a party familiar with the impending policy told the Sun Sentinel.
Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: I will admit (and not just because it’s easy to look up online) that I didn’t think the NBA owners and players had it in them to reach agreement. I believed a majority on each side of the table wanted to save the 2011-12 season, but I also believed that process and protocol had got the better of them. They knew what they should do, but they didn’t know how to do it — that’s what I thought would be the epitaph on this lost season. But they turned out to be bigger than the overwhelming circumstances. This is not a perfect deal, and it is surely loaded with all kinds of unintended consequences. For all anyone knows, the efforts to limit the dominance of the richest franchises could wind up giving them more power than ever, should a hardened salary cap inspire the players to chase endorsement income in the absence of a big free-agent payday. There are going to be bad feelings all around, and you may see some players refusing to do any commercial or public service work for their teams as an act of protest for the deal they feel was shoved down their throats. For objective people, however, it does no good to exclusively blame the players or the team owners. Because each side needs the other. Together they built up the NBA, together they threatened to bring it down, and together they came to an agreement when they finally realized just how much they need each other. These negotiations could have meant the end for the NBA. What they wound up generating was not the solution to all of their problems. But it is a beginning. In this world, a beginning is something to be celebrated.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: The NBA and Players Association are discussing the formation of a committee to study the age minimum for the league’s draft with the possibility that no immediate changes to the “one-and-done” rule will come in the finalization of the new collective bargaining agreement, a league official told Yahoo! Sports. “Only the agreement to have the committee may be part of the new CBA,” the source said. “I doubt it will have any affect on the 2012 draft.” This could mean the current class of star college freshmen, including potential No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis of Kentucky, will have the opportunity to enter the 2012 draft. The draft’s age rule is considered one of several “B-list” issues that were tabled in settlement talks, but must be resolved in negotiations before the league and players can get a signed agreement. The NBA and its players must still negotiate several more issues, including drug testing and NBA Developmental League assignments. The shelving of the age minimum debate buys the league more time to deal with the high-profile and impactful issue. For now, the rule calls for American-born players to turn 19 during the calendar year of the draft and be one year removed from their high school graduating class. Since its inception, the rule has created an era in college basketball known as the “one-and-done,” where many top players have spent one year on campus before leaping to the NBA. Within the NBA, there’s a growing movement to create a rule similar to Major League Baseball, which requires college players to stay three years before becoming eligible for the draft. Some NBA teams have suggested a system in which the age minimum for the draft would be 20. Under that scenario, non-international players also would have to wait until two years after their senior high school class has graduated.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Merry Christmas NBA fans. Our 149-day lockout nightmare, and the NBA’s “Nuclear Winter” is over.
It’s a little early, but most appropriate now that there is a tentative settlement agreement on lawsuits that will pave the way for a collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players, reached after a marathon, 15-hour Black Friday-early Saturday negotiating session in New York.
That means the shortened 2011-12 season starts on Christmas Day, a 66-game season with training camp and free agency starting simultaneously on Dec. 9 and season-opening slate of games – Boston Celtics at the New York Knicks; Miami Heat at the Dallas Mavericks; and Chicago Bulls at the Los Angeles Lakers — that should serve as a fitting return our beloved game for fans around the globe.
All that said, a multitude of issues remain. But the framework of the new deal is done — we’ve been telling folks for months now, this thing wasn’t officially over until we had NBA Commissioner David Stern and (former) union executive director Billy Hunter sitting next to each other smiling … “Yahtzee!”
As NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner reported before the sun rose over the hideout, “players are to receive a “band” share of basketball-related income ranging from 49 percent to 51 percent depending on the league’s growth (with a more reasonable shot at 51 than in previous offers). A laundry list of system issues, meanwhile, are intended to make the NBA more competitive across its 30 teams.”
Opinions will vary in the coming days and weeks about winners and losers. We will leave that for others to decide (more on that below). But I think it’s clear that the owners returned to the table ready to compromise in ways (the players already had) to ensure that we see NBA basketball before in time for the 2011 on that 2011-12 season to mean something.
In that respect, it’s a win-win for all sides (players/owners and most importantly the fans). Now, back to the news at hand (with a special HT hat tip to the dogged Ken Berger of CBSSports.com for breaking the story) …
Howard Beck of The New York Times: As a frantic Black Friday gave way to a sleepy Saturday morning in Midtown Manhattan, the biggest deal of all was consummated in a law office tucked between FAO Schwartz and the Apple Store. With handshakes, sighs and weary smiles, the N.B.A. and its players resolved a crippling labor dispute, allowing them to reopen their $4 billion-a-year business in time for the holidays. A 66-game season will start on Christmas Day, ending the second-longest lockout in league history. The deal was reached at about 3 a.m. Saturday, on the 149th day of the lockout, after a final 15-hour bargaining session at the law offices of Weil, Gotshal and Manges. “We’ve reached a tentative understanding that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations,” the league’s commissioner, David Stern, said at 3:40 a.m., “but we’re optimistic that that will all come to pass, and that the N.B.A. season will begin on Dec. 25, Christmas Day, with a tripleheader.” Training camps and free agency will open, simultaneously, on Dec. 9, giving teams two weeks to prepare. The three Christmas games are likely to be the ones that were already on the schedule: Boston at the Knicks, followed by Miami at Dallas and Chicago at the Los Angeles Lakers. The rest of the schedule will be reconstructed and released in the coming days. “We’re really excited,” said Peter Holt, the San Antonio Spurs owner and chairman of the league’s labor-relations committee. “We’re excited for the fans. We’re excited to start playing basketball, for players, for everybody involved.”
Brian C. Mahoney of the Associated Press (via The Washington Post): After a secret meeting earlier this week that got the broken process back on track, the sides met for more than 15 hours Friday, working to save the season. Stern said the agreement was “subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations, but we’re optimistic that will all come to pass and that the NBA season will begin Dec. 25. The league plans a 66-game season and aims to open training camps Dec. 9, with free agency opening at the same time. Stern has said it would take about 30 days from an agreement to playing the first game. “All I feel right now is ‘finally,’” Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade told The Associated Press. Just 12 days after talks broke down and Stern declared the NBA could be headed to a “nuclear winter,” he sat next to Hunter to announce the 10-year deal, with either side able to opt out after the sixth year. “For myself, it’s great to be a part of this particular moment in terms of giving our fans what they wanted and wanted to see,” said Derek Fisher, the president of the players’ association. A majority on each side is needed to approve the agreement, first reported by CBSSports.com. The NBA needs votes from 15 of 29 owners. (The league owns the New Orleans Hornets.) Stern said the labor committee plans to discuss the agreement later Saturday and expects them to endorse it and recommend to the full board. The union needs a simple majority of its 430-plus members. That process is a bit more complicated after the players dissolved the union Nov. 14. Now, they must drop their antitrust lawsuit in Minnesota and reform the union before voting on the deal.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: The owners made “significant moves” toward the players on several important system issues that long separated the two sides, a union source told Yahoo! Sports Saturday morning. “There’s still some tweaking to those that needs to be done,” the source said. After the tentative agreement was announced, some players privately said they would not vote for the deal, believing they had conceded too much to the owners. Still, there is not believed to be enough support to block ratification. “We’re optimistic that the [agreement] will hold and we’ll have ourselves an NBA season,” NBA commissioner David Stern said at a brief news conference held in New York with Players Association executive director Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher. Free agency and training camps will start on Dec. 9, Stern said. Under the current agreement, the regular season would have a 66-game schedule that begins on Christmas Day with three games: Boston Celtics at the New York Knicks; Miami Heat at the Dallas Mavericks; and Chicago Bulls at the Los Angeles Lakers. Players are not expected to be permitted to start working out at their team facilities – or with coaching staffs – until camps open on Dec. 9. “It’s finally great to wake up to this kind of news,” Houston Rockets guard Kevin Martin said.
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated: • Jeffrey Kessler nearly killed the deal. Again. Sort of. Kessler, the union’s outside counsel, has been a lightning rod for criticism during this process and a frequent target of Stern for what the NBA believes has been a disruptive influence in the negotiations. On Friday, Kessler nearly torpedoed the negotiations again when he, via speakerphone, asked the NBA for a 51 percent of the basketball-related income. Stern and Holt, who have been vehemently opposed to giving the players any more than 50 percent, rejected the proposal. While Kessler was merely the vessel delivering the union’s message, his offer infuriated representatives from the league and, according to a source close to the NBA’s Labor Relations Committee, nearly ended the negotiations. The two sides stayed at the table, however, and, according to the source, eventually agreed on a band that will give the players between 49 and 51 percent of the BRI. • The NBA is happy with this deal. The players are OK with it. Complete details of the new CBA won’t be disclosed for a few days, at least, but it’s clear the NBA got much of what it wanted. It reduced the players’ share of BRI by at least six percent (or $240 million per season) and will ultimately put significant restrictions on player movement, through the luxury tax, that will prevent big or more attractive markets from luring top players away from their incumbent teams. ”I think it will largely prevent the high-spending teams from competing in the free-agency market in the way they [have] in the past,” [NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam] Silver said. “It’s a compromise. It’s not the system we sought out to get in terms of the harder cap, but the luxury tax is harsher than it was in the past deal and we hope it’s effective. You never can be sure, but we feel, ultimately, it will give fans in every community hope that their team will be able to compete for championships and that their basis for believing in their team will be a function of management rather than how deep the owners’ pockets are or how large the market is.” The players? It seems they got a deal they can live with. While many players will likely be unhappy with the concessions made by the union, the majority will vote to approve the deal, in part because they believe it’s the best deal they can get and in part because they are not willing to sacrifice an entire season’s salary.
Henry Abbott of ESPN.com: Common sense suggests players – many of whom have not followed all that closely, and almost all of whom love playing NBA basketball – will approve the deal. But Hunter’s caution is not without reason. Compared to Stern, Hunter has a bigger, less predictable group that has surprised him more than once in this process with stridence. There are more than 400 players, for one thing. For another, many of them are incredibly competitive and are sensitive to the idea Stern and the owners have walked on them. And the players not only have real power — some of them are plaintiffs in a case that must be dropped for the NBA to operate – but they also have some bitter pills to swallow, including spending cuts that will affect several free agents in the years to come, a smaller mid-level exception, and less job security for many rank-and-file players. There may be some salesmanship in how Hunter, Derek Fisher and the Players Association handle the next few days. If I were doing the selling, these are some of the points I’d make: *NBA free agency – the bedrock of every players’ market value — is not everything it once was, but it’s alive and well. There is no hard cap, and every team will have at least some kind of mid-level exception every year. * The Bird exception has led to some of the league’s best-paid, winningest, happiest players, and is essentially untouched. *Minimum team payrolls will be climbing. The league instituted this in the name of competitive balance. But it will be in effect whether or not better players are available for stingy teams to sign, and whether or not owners know how to spend that money wisely. That’s a win for free agents. The Grizzlies reportedly signed Zach Randolph in part because they had to get their salaries up to the league minimum. There will be more deals like this in the future. * The best way to really make a lot of money as a non-superstar NBA player is to touch off a free-agent bidding war. Revenue sharing will help even the most tight-fisted teams to join these once in a while. If $3 million or so sounds like a decent salary to you, right now, for the first time have as many as 30 teams that both want you and can afford you.
Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com: Here are some of the key details of those moves, according to a league source who was privy to the details of the tentative agreement and shared those details with SheridanHoops.com. _ On the financial split, the players will receive between 49 and 51 percent of revenues, depending on annual growth. The players had complained prior to Saturday that the owners’ previous offer effectively limited them to 50.2 percent of revenues, but the source said 51 percent was now reasonably achievable with robust growth. _Owners dropped their insistence on what would have been known as the Carmelo Anthony rule, preventing teams from executing extend-and-trade deals similar to the one that sent Anthony from the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks last season. This means that if Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Chris Paul want to leverage their way out of Orlando, New Jersey and New Orleans, they will still be eligible to sign four-year extensions with their current teams before being immediately traded elsewhere. _ Teams above the salary cap will be able to offer four-year mid-level exception contracts to free agents each season. Previously, owners were asking that teams be limited to offering a four-year deal one year, a three-year deal the next, then four, then three, etc. _ The rookie salary scale and veteran minimum salaries will stay the same as they were last season. Owners had been seeking 12 percent cuts. _ Qualifying offers to restricted free agents will become “significantly” improved. The sides had already agreed to reduce the time for a team to match an offer to a restricted free agent from 7 days to 3. _ A new $2.5 million exception will be available to teams that go blow the salary cap, then use all of their cap room to sign free agents. Once they are back above the cap, they will be able to use the new exception instead of being limited to filling out their rosters with players on minimum contracts. _ The prohibition on luxury tax-paying teams from executing sign-and-trade deals was loosened, although the freedom to execute those types of deals will still be limited.
After 15 hours of negotiations Friday-into-Saturday –- and 149 days of lockout start to finish -– representatives of the NBA owners and players reached a tentative deal on settling their various lawsuits that should lead to a new collective bargaining agreement that will salvage a shortened 2011-12 season beginning on Christmas Day.
Details of what will become a new labor contract still were vague when the meeting ended after 3 a.m. ET at a New York law office. But the bones of a deal reportedly call for the players to receive a “band” share of basketball-related income ranging from 49 percent to 51 percent depending on the league’s growth (with a more reasonable shot at 51 than in previous offers). A laundry list of system issues, meanwhile, are intended to make the NBA more competitive across its 30 teams.
NBA commissioner David Stern and Billy Hunter, the former executive director of the players’ former union, met with reporters in an impromptu joint news conference shortly after the meeting.
“We’ve reached a tentative understanding,” Stern said, “that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations. But we’re optimistic that will all come to pass and that the NBA season will begin on December 25th, Christmas Day, with a triple-header.
“We’re very pleased that we’ve come this far. There’s still a lot of work to be done in a lot of places, with a lot of committees and player groups and the like. But we’re optimistic that it will hold and we’ll have ourselves an NBA season.
Stern said the owners’ labor relations committee would be briefed Saturday, with the agreement passing then to the overall Board of Governors. The commissioner said he expects both bodies to endorse the deal.
Said Hunter: “We’re going to turn it all over to the lawyers here and have them work out all the details. We’ll be able to then talk with you further as that process proceeds.” It could take a week to 10 days for the players to re-form their union and ratify a formal CBA.
Stern and Hunter did share a few details on the shortened season. A 66-game regular-season schedule, first reported by the New York Times Wednesday, is likely, pushing the start of a full playoff bracket a week or so later into spring. The plan is for training camps and free agency to both begin on Dec. 9, though details remained sketchy. All-Star Weekend in Orlando, initially set for Feb. 24-26, is expected to be preserved.
Technically, the talks that stretched from noon Friday into the wee hours Saturday were aimed at settling the antitrust lawsuit filed last week by the players when they dissolved their union. But the essence of that settlement will serve as the new CBA, assuming remaining “B-list” issues are worked out, lawsuits by both the players and the league (anticipating the union’s disclaimer of interest) get dismissed, the union gets re-formed with the league’s approval and the deal is ratified by both the NBA’s 30 owners and its 430-plus players.
The “A-list” issues, though, were the ones that had hung up the season, forcing what will be an opening night delayed by 55 days. They’re the ones that caused bargaining to break down Nov. 14 and they’re the ones that needed to be addressed to both sides’ satisfaction –- or tolerable dissatisfaction -– for the tentative agreement to get struck.
Finding middle ground on those was key. Among them:
– The mid-level exception for non-taxpaying teams will have a maximum length of four years every season (instead of alternating at four years, then three years). Starting salary can be as much as $5 million.
– There apparently will be a “mini” MLE for taxpaying teams, restricting the amount they can offer to free agents.
– A 10 percent maximum escrow tax will be withheld without the unlimited “true up” amount requested by the owners in their previous offer.
– Extend-and-trade deals –- as used by Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks last season –- will be modified but not eliminated in a new CBA. That could impact players such as Orlando’s Dwight Howard and New Jersey’s Deron Williams.
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.
Negotiations aimed at ending the N.B.A. lockout quietly resumed Tuesday, with a goal of resolving the dispute in time play games on Christmas, two people close to the talks confirmed Wednesday afternoon.
The exact participants are not yet known, but it is presumed that the talks are being conducted through lawyers for both sides, because of pending litigation. The talks, which began Tuesday and were continuing Wednesday, were first reported by Yahoo! Sports.
There are some necessary constraints on the talks because of the moves made last week by the players to disband their union and file an antitrust lawsuit. Negotiations are now considered part of settlement talks relating to the litigation. As such, the lawyers for the N.B.A. and the players must lead the way on an agreement.
Billy Hunter, the former executive director of the players union, is technically part of the legal team representing the players and could be part of the settlement discussions. Derek Fisher, who was the president of the union until it disbanded, is not involved in the talks. It is unclear whether Commissioner David Stern is involved at this stage.
If the parties can agree to the framework of a deal, the union will have to be reconstituted to negotiate certain items and to adopt a new collective bargaining agreement.
The parties need at least a handshake agreement in the next few days if the N.B.A. hopes to have games on Dec. 25 — the day that traditionally kicks off its national television schedule. It will take about four weeks to get a season started, given the time required to complete a labor deal, sign free agents and hold training camps.
There might be something to give thanks about (NBA related, that is) after all!