Labor

Labor Talks: Something To Talk About?

– For labor updates, follow: @daldridgetnt | @AschNBA

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – That glimmer of hope that cooler heads might prevail and save the 2011-12 NBA season is flickering again.

The sides are back on speaking terms, which is more than they have done since the players disbanded the union and filed antitrust lawsuits against the owners.

Exactly what they are talking about remains to be seen. But multiple reports have confirmed that “settlement talks” between the players and the league resumed in the past 24 hours and are ongoing.

More from Howard Beck of The New York Times:

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!

Labor Talks: No Thanks And No Giving

– For labor updates, follow: @daldridgetnt | @AschNBA

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Holiday season?

Where?

The mood has yet to strike us here at the hideout. Sure, we’ve got all the Turkey Day fixings ready for Thursday.

But Thanksgiving?

Whatever.

Inside our own little basketball world here, there is little to be thankful about these days. We’re thankful the entire season hasn’t been canceled (yet). We’re thankful there is still a scrap of hope that the sides will come to their collective senses and put an end to this dreadful lockout.

But without either side giving an inch in the coming days and weeks, we won’t have that scrap to hold onto. Time is running short and not even the holiday season seems to be affecting the mood of the major players in this drama.

The consolidation of lawsuits and the refusal of either side to pick up a phone and do the right thing to bring NBA basketball to the fans this season is becoming an increasingly frustrating soap opera to watch since, as NBA.com‘s Steve Aschburner points out, all we are is stuck in court. Keep this up and those same fans will find other outlets for their creative juices.

Many of these owners know how damaging a lockout can be, having gone through the 1998-99 lockout. There are 33 active players living through the second lockout of their careers — Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Grant Hill among many others — an average of slightly more than one player per team. You’d think they would know exactly how costly this current fight will be on the collective psyche of fans that don’t care about the particulars and just want their game back.

But while millions of people will spend Thursday carving that Thanksgiving turkey and watching NFL games with family and friends, enjoying every second, our game will remain dormant. Someone needs to wake up and breathe life back into the game. All it takes is one phone call to get the proverbial ball rolling …

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Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: The NBA season is now in the hands of lawyers who can’t even figure out how to start a game of phone tag. That’s where we are. In a media briefing Monday to announce that the players have consolidated and refiled two separate antitrust claims into one class action in Minnesota, attorney David Boies lamented the slow response and virtual silence from the NBA since the actions were first filed last Tuesday. In fact, he scoffed at the league’s response — delivered to reporters via email from NBA counsel Rick Buchanan, and not commissioner David Stern — as evidence for why making a phone call to begin settlement talks would be “a waste of time.” “I think they’ve made pretty clear, including by the statement that they just made, that they’ve got no interest in talking to us,” Boies said at his Manhattan office. “It takes two people to negotiate.” But it only takes one person to pick up the phone and dial a number to get the ball rolling. And Boies said neither side had done that as of Tuesday, at least not at the highest levels of the law firms involved — the law firms that now hold the future of a sport in their hands. Legal protocol says that Stern can’t really call former union director Billy Hunter, and the attorneys for either side can’t call one of the clients on the other. It’s a tangled web they’ve woven, one that has made tracks in four district courtrooms in three states since the NBA first sued the players in August. As to whether the players’ attorneys should call the NBA’s attorneys, or vice versa, there is protocol for that, too. The players have sued the NBA, and thus it is incumbent upon the NBA to respond. The league has until Dec. 5 to formally respond to the lawsuit in the U.S. District Co in Minnesota. Or, its legal representatives can at any time pick up the phone and call Boies or any of his associates working on behalf of the players to initiate settlement talks. This would not only bring the league closer to stopping the clock on potential damages, but also would start the clock on possibly having a basketball season.

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Howard Beck of The New York Times: The N.B.A. will argue that the players’ disbanding of the union is a sham perpetrated solely as a bargaining tactic, and that the antitrust laws should not apply. Boies said the primary goal remained a quick settlement that would save the 2011-12 season. “If the league’s approach is to ignore this litigation and try to go into a state of denial and hope it goes away, I think that will not be in anybody’s interest,” Boies said. “I don’t think it’s in our interest, I don’t think it’s in their interest. It’s certainly not in the fans’ interest.” Boies said he originally considered filing the lawsuit in Minnesota, which is in the Eighth Circuit, before choosing Northern California, which is in the Ninth Circuit. Both jurisdictions have a history of player-friendly rulings, with one notable recent exception. Last spring, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected N.F.L. players’ bid for a permanent injunction to end that league’s lockout. Boies represented the N.F.L. in that case. The Minnesota court provides two advantages over the Northern California courts, Boies said. It generally has a less congested docket, and it has a history of moving cases along swiftly. Although antitrust cases can sometimes take years to resolve, Boies said he believed he could get a declaration of summary judgment much sooner, perhaps in three months. “This is not a complex antitrust suit,” Schiller said, adding, “It’s not going to take years. It’s going to take months, if not weeks.”

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Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com: The next logical step in the illogical NBA lockout is for David Boies to call Jeffrey Mishkin, or for Jeffrey Mishkin to call David Boies. The latter attorney, Boies, who represented Al Gore against George W. Bush in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, now represents NBA players, and Mishkin is the outside counsel for NBA commissioner David Stern and the owners. It would take approximately 2 minutes for their secretaries to put that call together. And after obfuscating and posturing for the better part of an hour in a meeting with reporters Monday night, Boies finally yielded to the  relentless logical questioning of yours truly, put his hands to his temples for 13 seconds and then said he may just go ahead and make that phone call sometime in the next day or two. “Some lawyers say to pick up the phone is a sign of weakness,” Boies said. “But if you’re weak, you’re weak, and if you’re strong, you’re strong.  It doesn’t make you weak or strong by your calling or not calling. On the other hand, until they’re prepared to say something other than what they just put out in this statement, the question is, why are you calling?” This particular episode of peacocking … oops, I mean news briefing … was designed to be a show of strength from the players’ new lead attorney, an epic billable hour ($1,225 is Boies’ going rate) of rhetorical posturing about how the NBA owners are now in really, really big trouble because they are leaving themselves open for triple damages —  about $6 billion if the entire 2011-12 season is missed.

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Marcus Thompson II of the Oakland Tribune: Warriors rookie Klay Thompson, drafted No. 11 overall, crossed that bridge last week when his beloved Washington State Cougars took on rival Gonzaga. Watching from home, he said had he known the lockout would have come to this, “it probably would have affected my decision” to leave college early. Whether they should have stayed college isn’t the only nagging question. Should they go overseas? Should they borrow money or tough it out? It is common practice for rookies — especially first-rounders, millionaires-in-waiting — to get a loan from their financial adviser. Some, like Thompson, however, don’t want to accumulate debt. So he’s “living like a broke college student” while staying at home with his parents. Tyler is living with his brother in Cupertino. The hard part about the waiting, they say, is they have no idea when it will end. Eventually, they’ll get paid, get to play on the big stage. Until then, their time is filled trying not to go insane. “They need to work out,” Oakland-based agent Aaron Goodwin said. “Take a class or two online. Do some work towards finishing their degree.” Both Warriors rookies said they work out daily. Preparing for camp, whenever it starts. Training for their debut, whenever it comes. Tyler, who’s been training at Cal, said he is embracing the center position. He’s trying to get in the best shape possible and work on his low-post game. Thompson trains at various spots in Southern California and plays pick-up with various NBA players in the area. Still, he acknowledged the monotony of it all. “It’s de-motivating,” Thompson said. “Not knowing when the season is starting. Not knowing how long this will go on. We’re doing the same thing every day. I’m not going to lie. It’s hard to stay motivated.”

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Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk.com: Hope of a partial season springs from the fact in the next few weeks (likely after Dec. 5) we can expect the judge to order more mediated negotiations between the two sides, PBT was told. Mandated mediation is commonly part of anti-trust lawsuits, essentially a chance for the judge to make sure the two sides really want to go down this path. To give the sides one more chance to settle their differences without a judge involved. (It is possible one side picks up the phone and calls the other to ask for a negotiating session, but that is the less likely scenario. The owners have said they wouldn’t do that and players attorney Boies said he would not because the league is not receptive.) A judge likely will order mediated negotiations by the middle of December if not before, according to the source. Talks would start soon after. This would be similar to the talks when federal mediator George Cohen sat down with the sides last month. The one key difference would be the level of pressure on both sides to figure this out — the players do not want to lose a season of salary ($2.2 billion), the owners do not want to lose a season of revenue (at a much higher percentage for them than the last deal), plus neither side wants to damage the game by costing a full season. What is the point of fighting over how to divide up the revenue pie if the pie itself gets smaller? In addition, the threat of summary judgment — which would certainly be a huge loss for whichever side did not convince the judge of its case — is another motivation for both sides to figure this out.

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Lee Benson of the Deseret News: Derek Fisher isn’t unique or alone. He simply serves as a convenient and highly visible example of the serious dysfunction that is the NBA, a place where for decades well-paid, well-fed employees have constantly snapped at the hands that feed them. Here in Utah we’ve been watching it up close and personal since the Jazz first arrived in 1979. It’s been like living next door to the expensive house on the hill where the parents continually and lavishly spoil their children. They give them whatever they want, treat them like royalty — and in turn the children behave like ungrateful brats. We’ve all watched as salaries have increased like Argentinian inflation, as amenities that range from plush practice and playing facilities to charter jets have grown exponentially, as players have become so pampered they don’t even drive their own Escalades to the arena and wouldn’t think of paying full-price for anything. (And as the price of tickets and concessions rise year after year.) And yet, it’s never enough. Right now, the average NBA salary is $5.1 million, the median NBA salary is $2.4 million (half of the players make more, half make less), and the least anyone can make is $500,000 (the rookie minimum). And the players are revolting at the owners’ notion that they need to scale back because there’s a Great Recession going on, almost a 10th of America is unemployed … and by the way, two-thirds of the league’s franchises are losing money every year. In a way you can’t fault the players. Isn’t this how the overindulged always behave? By the same token, the owners have only themselves to blame. They purchased their season of discontent through their decades of constant pampering and acquiescence.

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Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Andray Blatche may have missed out on his first NBA paycheck of the season last week – and might lose out on $6.4 million if the NBA lockout wipes out the 2011-12 campaign – but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to make Thanksgiving special for some families in need. Blatche plans to join Roger Mason Jr. and the National Basketball Players Association on Tuesday to hand out 100 turkeys on a first-come-first-serve basis at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Blatche has given away turkeys through his charity foundation in the past, but he rarely had the opportunity to connect with people since he was busy playing for the Wizards. But already this year, Blatche has given turkeys to single-parent mothers, breast cancer survivors and battered woman in his hometown of Syracuse, in South Carolina and Florida. He also volunteered over the weekend at a round-robin basketball challenge sponsored by the Maryland-National Capital Park Police. “I’m at a point in my life where I’m straight,” Blatche said in a recent telephone interview. “I’m just doing what me and my family believe in, which is giving back and always count your blessings. That’s why I’m out here doing as much stuff as possible. Even though it’s not the season, I’m still continuing to do what I’ve been doing.” Blatche has been a steady presence over the past few months at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club, where he has worked out with trainer Joe Connelly four to five days a week. Mason and Wizards teammates John Wall and Hamady Ndiaye have also trained with Blatche in recent weeks. “They let me work out there, so I’m showing some love back,” Blatche said of his turkey giveaway.

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Iman Shumpert for the New York Post: Friday night, I headed out to Bridgeport, Conn., to play in another charity game for us locked-out players. The people who came out — maybe 2,000 — provided us plenty energy with cheers and competitive boos. I decided to sit out the last part of the game after going up for a dunk and feeling an awkward pain in my knee. I could have kept playing, but decided just to ice it to ensure I was OK. Nothing major. I think it was due to not warming up at half because I was hanging out with fans and doing photos and autographs, which is partly why we were there. Some of the many participants were Tyreke Evans, Sam Young, Josh Selby, Wes Mathews, Nolan Smith, Howard Thomkins and Travis Leslie. My team won, 171-169. The best part for me was getting a chance to connect with more Knicks fans praying for a season! It was a great turnout. The last couple days, I’ve spent time in the studio where Tupac was shot — Quad Recording Studios in Midtown. Definitely a magical feeling in that sort of work environment. I did a collaboration with Billz, an up-and-coming, unsigned Brooklyn group. This Thanksgiving, I have a lot to be thankful for. The lockout has given me a chance to for once have a lot of down time to spend with family and friends.

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Labor Talks: Pierce Clears The Air

– For labor updates, follow: @daldridgetnt | @AschNBA

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – No offense to Billy Hunter or Derek Fisher, the two men who have been the public faces of the players’ side of the NBA lockout for months now.

But Paul Pierce is the man most of us have wanted to hear from in recent weeks. His name has been tossed about as some sort of rebel in this entire process, the one veteran star brave enough/crazy enough to push for decertification when few others had the gumption to go there.

Pierce has been portrayed as some sort of modern-day NBA version of Robert Roy McGregor and one of the main culprits in the process reaching its breaking point last week with the disbanding of the union and the filing of multiple federal lawsuits. But how you view him is all about perspective, and which side of this argument you are sitting on.

As often seems the case, Pierce’s role has been greatly exaggerated in some respects and probably not given enough credence in others. My main man Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports caught up with Pierce after a charity game Saturday night and the Celtics’ captain and star clears the air on several outstanding issues. It’s always much better to hear it straight from the source (and not an anonymous one) whether or not the rest of us should get our hopes up about the possibility of a 2011-12 season being played:

“I’m optimistic that we will have a season,” Pierce told Yahoo! Sports by phone Saturday. “People ask me that every day when I leave the house if we are going to have a season. I’ve been probably saying, ‘Hopefully in a couple weeks,’ the last two months. That’s how optimistic I am. I just feel like something is going to happen.

“There is going to be something that turns the light on for both sides and gets this thing going. I think there is too much at stake for both sides. The [popularity] that the game is building nationally and worldwide … it’s crazy that we are at this place right now.”

Pierce doesn’t downplay his role in the whole disclaimer/decertification movement on the players’ side. And from what he told Spears he absolutely was the driving force behind informing his fellow players about their options regarding that course of action.

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Labor Talks: Bleak Outlook Ahead

– For labor updates, follow: @daldridgetnt | @AschNBA

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – You knew it was strictly a matter of time before these things began percolating again, the much-feared exodus of NBA players to overseas playing options during the lockout.

The only semi-surprising part of this latest wave is the names of the players involved.

Heat star Dwayne Wade has finally added his name to the list of players weighing the merits of an international excursion while this process plays itself out:

“I told my agent to just take a peek,” Wade said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s time. There’s a possibility that we’re not going to have a season. We’ve got to see what’s out there, what the possibilities are. I want to play competitive basketball this year. I’ve missed a year of basketball in my life before. I’m not trying to miss another. I don’t have too many years of basketball left.”

Word came a little later from SI.com’s Sam Amick that Kevin Durant‘s agent, Aaron Goodwin, is in discussions with a team in Germany (one that would allow him the flexibility to return to the states if and whenever an abbreviated NBA season begins), one of several options, about the Thunder star potentially making the trek for a temporary stint:

“We’re just discussing it,” Goodwin said. “We’re in discussions and it’s definitely a consideration, but we’re not in the final stages.”

Disturbing news?

Sure.

No one want to see some mass exodus of NBA stars at such a crucial time in these labor talks, and despite all of the legal proceedings going on around the country on behalf of both sides, we very much consider this an ongoing situation.

But we agree with most optimistic fringe in the belief that there is more than enough time on the calendar to turn this thing around and salvage some sort of an abbreviated season.

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Labor Talks: A Different Take On Things

– For labor updates, follow: @daldridgetnt | @AschNBA

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Opinions on the current state of affairs between the NBA and its players are flying in every direction and from all manner of so-called expert, with the emphasis on the “so-called’ portion of the equation.

The blame-game is still in the first quarter with everyone from former union director Billy Hunter and NBA Commissioner David Stern to the attorneys for both sides and the hundreds of players that comprise(d) the union all being identified in one way or another as the main culprits for this fiasco that has cost us games through at least Dec. 15, and counting.

Lawsuits have been filed and reportedly there could be more on the way, news that no doubt sends more chills up the spines of NBA lovers around the globe. The potential for settlement talks, provided by our very own Steve Aschburner, also seem to be making the rounds right now. Anything seems possible at this juncture.

But we are admittedly in unfamiliar territory here. No one is quite sure where this process goes from here … because we’ve never been here before.

So we figured a little perspective is needed. And in trying times, that perspective might come from unexpected places. We found one of those places on this morning’s playback of NBA TV’s Game Time from Tuesday night.

David Falk, once a super agent and the man that helped guide the likes of Michael Jordan during the zenith of his career, provided a sobering perspective on where things stand right now in this labor dispute:

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Speculation about the 2011-12 season, and if and/or when it might get stated, remains the hottest topic on the minds of most. Hopeful is the magic word being used here at the hideout.

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Welcome To The NBA’s Nuclear Winter

– For labor updates, follow: @daldridgetnt | @AschNBA

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – In a matter of hours Monday, the NBA’s labor impasse went from maddening to certifiably ridiculous thanks to raging emotions on both sides of a nasty fight.

What’s that phrase Kobe Bryant uttered a few weeks ago? It’s the same one NBA Commissioner David Stern used yesterday in the aftermath of the union rejecting the league’s proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement and disbanding (read up on the details here), the first step in an anti-trust lawsuit being filed by the trade association formerly known as the union.

“The union decided in its infinite wisdom that the proposal would not be presented to membership,” Stern said. “Obviously, Mr. [union attorney Jeffrey] Kessler got his way and we are about to go into the nuclear winter of the NBA.”

Raise your hand if you’ve had enough of this already.

We spent 137 days waiting for something that could have come July 1. If this affair was going to end up in the courts with one side suing the other, we only wish it had come right away instead of months later, when it seemed the sides might be working their way to an uneasy alliance for the greater good of the game.

Instead, we’re left with the prospect of that aforementioned nuclear winter.

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Union Rejects Proposal, Will Disband

– For labor updates, follow: @daldridgetnt | @AschNBA

THE BEAUTY AND CURSE THAT IS TWITTER

– 4:53 p.m.: If you’re like most of us, one minute you love Twitter. And the next … well, you know what’s on the other side of that line.

As huge a role as the social networks have played in this saga since July, you had to know they’d be on fire in the aftermath of today’s decision by the players to disband the union and reject the owners’ latest proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement.

SI.com‘s Point Forward blog captured the moment in all of its enigmatic splendor shortly after the decision came down. Click here to enjoy it/punch-a-hole-in-the-wall (careful, that wall doesn’t give much).

Our favorite?

It comes from Seattle native and rookie Isaiah Thomas shouting out another diminutive guard from the Emerald City (which boasts one of the deepest NBA rosters in the league these days), Nate Robinson:

Welp, since we ain’t playing hoop in the NBA ima sign up for a 6ft and under league back at the crib u down @nate_robinson lol?

It’s not nearly as funny as it would have been four months ago!

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NEW LABOR LEADERS SPEAK

– 4:27 p.m.: It didn’t take long to track down the men heading up the players’ fight in what has shifted from negotiations to a lawsuit.

Both union attorney Jeffrey Kessler and his new partner David Boies answered questions for reporters in New York after the union presser earlier this afternoon. Their answers shed some interesting light on where this process is headed (text courtesy of our friends at TrueHoop.com):

Since the decertification didn’t work for the NFL, how much better is this disclaimer?Boies: Well, remember, in the NFL case, the disclaimer …. although it was ruled valid by the district court, was never really decided by the court of appeals. The point, too, in the NFL case, was whether or not there could be an injunction. As you heard in there, we are not going to seek an injunction. While we’re going to go back, and we’re going to look at legal options, you heard Billy say that one of the things the players are not going to do is go seek an injunction here.Why not?Boies: Well, my view, and this is one that Jeffrey and I may have a different view on, is that under the Norris-Laguardia Act it’s very difficult to get an injunction. That doesn’t mean you can’t have damages. And in fact, the whole point of the Norris-Laguardia Act was to stop injunctions and force the these kinds of disputes into the damage arena.Even if you could get an injunction — let’s say Jeffrey’s wrong and I’m right on this — it would be, obviously, a drawn-out process. And I think what the players are focusing on right now is what is the fastest way to get this resolved.

Kessler: If you look at it from a player’s standpoint, collective bargaining has totally failed. So rather than exercise their labor law rights to futility, they’ve decided to free up all players to exert their antitrust rights to triple damages. And we think — not we, the players — think that is the best protection for NBA players going forward.

How do you go about deciding who the plaintiffs will be?

Kessler: We’re not going to talk about any legal strategies or tactics.

Is there any indication, knowing how the NBA has been bargaining, that this will bring them back [to a more reasonable bargaining position]?

Boies: I have no expectation about that one way or another. I’m involved in this a few hours, OK?

I would hope that, in the face of a disclaiming union, where there’s no hope of collective bargaining, that the owners would reconsider whether, under these circumstances, it makes sense to continue to boycott. But I have no idea what their strategy is.

This is clearly uncharted waters for all involved, to a large extent. but these are the men that will lead the fight from the players’ side going forward. It would be wise to study up on them and their extensive histories in the litigation field.

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PROPOSAL REJECTED, ANTITRUST ACTION TO BE FILED

– 2:19 p.m.: In the words of union executive director Billy Hunter, the “collective bargaining process has completely broken down” and the players have refused the league’s latest proposal. They have already begun the process to disband union. But they have not decided to decertify, there is a difference.

The players are filing a disclaimer of interest, an antitrust action against the league within the next two days. In basic terms, they are taking the league to court.

This decision puts the 2011-12 season in jeopardy and obliterates any hopes of the 72-game season that would have begun on Dec. 15 which was in the proposal the players rejected.

Hunter says players were not prepared to accept NBA Commissioner David Stern‘s ultimatum, saying they thought it was “extremely unfair.”

Stay tuned to NBA.com and NBA TV for more details.

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MEETINGS OVER, PRESSER IN MINUTES ON NBA TV AND NBA.COM

– 1:47 p.m.: Meetings over!

Brace yourselves folks and tune into NBA TV and live here at NBA.com to see where things stand after the player reps’ review of the current proposal from the league.

… NOT SO FAST MY FRIENDS

– 1:37 p.m: We thought things were wrapping up in New York when we saw some tweets suggesting that the end of the meeting might be at hand.

But Asch informed us it was a false alarm. Someone mistook a break in the action for the end of the meeting. Oh well, back to what you were doing folks.

As soon as the meeting wraps, though, you need to be here. As my main man John Schuhmann tweeted earlier, if there’s a press conference it will be on NBA TVand right here on NBA.com.

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STERN: NO TWEAKS

– 12:09 p.m.: Well, so much for adding a few notes and sending that proposal back to the owners for a few revisions.

NBA Commissioner David Stern said the league was done “negotiating” last week and he meant it. More from Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press:

“I want to answer this diplomatically. The next time we meet to discuss anything, we’ll be discussing the 47 percent proposal. This is it …  we’ve been negotiating this for 2½ years. The owners authorized a revised proposal, and they said if it’s not acceptable and they want to keep negotiating, we present them with a 47 percent, flex cap proposal. They know it.”

This was in response to Mahoney’s question Saturday night asking whether or not the league would accept any tweaks for further negotiations.

That, my friends, is what the good folks at Merriam-Wesbter call an ultimatum!

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AGENT(S) STRIKE BACK

– 11:29 a.m.: You had to know a weekend of direct hits aimed at agents representing NBA players would be met with some sort of rebuttal from said agents.

Well, Mark Bartelstein countered, courtesy of Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:, with a straight right of his own:

“If the players are going to make the concessions to address over $300 million a year in a shift in revenue from the players to the owners, the one thing the players should get back is flexibility, freedom, freedom of choice and a more vibrant and free-market system, because it’s a zero-sum game,” Bartelstein said. “Instead, they’re ratcheting down the system in the name of competitive balance, and that’s completely disingenuous.

“A negotiation is supposed to be about making trades,” Bartelstein said. “The biggest part of any negotiation is the dollars. That’s the biggest part of this negotiation. The players are giving the owners the dollars. If the owners are concerned about competitive balance, it can absolutely be handled through revenue sharing. And the myth they’re putting out there that they can’t share losses, there’s no truth to that argument whatsoever. Revenue sharing has nothing to do with sharing profits and losses. It’s about making sure low-revenue teams can have more revenue so they can be more competitive and you can have a better product. That should be done through revenue sharing, not through getting concessions from the players.”

These are scraps we’d rather were not a part of this negotiation, but this is where we are!

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SCOLA ROCKS THE VOTE

– 10:37 a.m.: Whatever the player reps decide today, there is no mistaking Luis Scola‘s position on the lockout talks. The Rockets’ big man wants the latest proposal put to a vote of the entire union.

He said as much on Twitter this morning:

At this point I believe that all the players should vote. not only the 30 reps.

Hard to disagree with him at this point. If nothing else, hearing from the entire union (rank and file, middle class and stars alike) would give us all a much better measure of where they stand on this latest proposal.

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PLAYERS ARRIVE

– 9:46 a.m.: In addition to the player reps and executive board members in attendance at the meeting in New York today, our very own Steve Aschburner is on the scene with camera (phone) in hand.

Asch spotted Russell Westbrook (red hoodie) and Luc Mbah a Moute heading into the hotel:

The players arrive at the hotel in New York ready to dissect and debate the NBA's latest proposal.

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There are still voices suggesting that even with today’s meeting there are major hurdles in the way of a new deal. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports highlights some of the “B-list” issues that could derail the process:

 If the players were to vote to accept the terms of the owners’ current proposal, the litany of B-list issues – including contraction, drug testing, Developmental League assignments and draft age eligibility – would still have to be agreed upon.

There’s a growing belief that Stern doesn’t have the ownership support to pass the very proposal he’s been pushing all weekend, and that owners would ultimately kill this deal with the list of non-negotiable B-list issues the players would oppose. This way, the league can say it worked hard to cut a fairer deal with players, but in the end, the owners will get the draconian ‘reset’ proposal that many of them have wanted all along.

“A lot of teams – more all the time – don’t like the deal on the table,” one high-ranking league official said.

That’s going to be an interesting discussion going on in that room this morning. We’re imagining this one turns into a pretty long day for all involved.

Sorry Asch!

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***

MAJOR QUESTIONS LOOM …

– 8:33 a.m.: If your head is still spinning after a weekend of rumors, misinformation, Twitter chats and the ensuing chaos flooding the scene in the wake of the NBA’s latest proposal to the union, the next 24 to 48 hours will offer you no respite.

In fact, you’re in for another heavy dose of lockout-apalooza with the representatives from all 30 teams scheduled to meet with the union’s executive board members this morning in New York. They have decisions to make, be it season-saving or season-delaying, depending on the outcome of this meeting.

If they reject the proposal (read it for yourself in a PDF version of it here) without even taking a vote, as they did the last one, we’re floating into treacherous territory. And honestly, no one wants that.

The player reps need to go over this thing with BluBlockers. They need to study every word, absorb every nuance and then decide what comes next. But they don’t need to go into that room with their minds made up before examining the proposal.

What they do after that is a bit tricky. They could review the proposal and then pass it on to their membership for a full vote, and then we’ll have to await word on that outcome. They could also review it, add their own revisions and then try to send it back to the league (though NBA Commissioner David Stern made it clear over the weekend that he is done negotiating).

Whatever happens, it’s going down today.

And the one nagging thing that’s impossible to shake from our collective psyche here at the hideout is whether or not these men, these proud players, are ready to risk the $4 billion in revenues (and all of the other periphery revenue associated with just one NBA season) for the promise of something better than what is one the table right now?

The best and most succinct summation of what the player are chewing on right now was played brilliantly by Howard Beck of The New York Times in the final two paragraphs of this story:

By any measure, the proposed deal would be a major win for the owners. The players are being asked to take a $280 million pay cut, with shorter contracts, lower raises and tighter restrictions on the top-spending teams. But league officials insist that the deal is not nearly as bad as the rumor mill suggests.

“It’s of grave concern to the league that there is an enormous amount of misinformation concerning our proposal, both on Twitter and in the more traditional media,” Adam Silver, the deputy commissioner, said Saturday night. “We believe that if the players are fully informed as to what is and is not in our proposal, they will agree that its terms are beneficial to them and represent a fair compromise.”

Beck did attempt to add a little more gravity on what’s to come in the new NBA, but this is more conjecture on the part of all involved, since no one is sure that a new collective bargaining agreement can deliver on any of the things this proposal is designed to bring. But union executive director Billy Hunter and union president Derek Fisher are responsible for making very clear to the player reps what is on the table, not what everyone has heard is included.

(Stern used this memo to make that specific point to the players directly.)

In the name of competitive balance, ESPN The Magazine’s Ric Bucher (the man who got us rung up by the NBA’s labor twitter feed over the weekend) has sources that continue to spell out the union’s displeasure with the current proposal. He cited several issues within the new proposal that could be stumbling blocks to an agreement, including an “unlimited escrow system”:

The escrow system would assure that owners would be reimbursed for however much they exceed the negotiated amount of basketball-related income allowed to be spent on player salaries.

In the current seven-page proposal, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN The Magazine, the players have a choice of selecting a 50-50 split of BRI or a 49-51 band.

If teams spend more than the allotted percentage, they not only retain the 10 percent of each salary held in escrow, but if that 10 percent doesn’t cover the excess then the additional funds can be deducted from a one percent of BRI dedicated to “post-career player annuity and player benefits.”

If the excess still hasn’t been satisfied, future benefits and escrow funds can be utilized to cover it. In essence, it assures the owners that no matter how much they spend in any one season, they will not have to pay more than the stated percentage.

Another source of contention from the players side, according to sources, are triggers that would implement a hard cap on any non-taxpaying teams that use an exception to sign a player.

Great. More mixed signals. That’s all we need this morning.

And that’s why today, we know you’ve heard this before, ranks as the biggest day of the lockout so far. This could be the day all this madness goes away. Or it could be the day when the real fireworks begin. We’ll know one way or another in a few hours.

Labor Talks: Cold Winds Blowing

– For labor updates, follow: @daldridgetnt | @AschNBA

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.

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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.

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Labor Talks: 72-Game Season Or Bust

– For labor updates, follow: @daldridgetnt | @AschNBA

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The choice seems rather simple from here, it’s either the 72-game season or bust. Take the deal and start the season in roughly a month or blow it all up.

And this time, it’s all on the players.

They asked for the owners to move a bit, show a little flexibility and come off that ultimatum talk that freaked everybody out earlier this week. Well, you got what you asked for and the proposal is in your hands (for review by the player reps from each team by Monday or Tuesday at the latest).

If time is what the union needs, that is what they will get with the weekend. Look it over, soak it in, chew on the details and think long and hard about what you do next, because if we’re this close to seeing the 2011-12 season and it somehow slips away between now and early next week … there will be no mercy from the masses.

NBA Commissioner David Stern made it clear late last night that there will be no better offer from the owners. This is it. Best offer on the table. Take it or leave it.

***

Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: On the 133rd day of the lockout, commissioner David Stern called the players’ bluff: Are you going to accept the new era for the NBA, or are you going to decertify? It is now time for everyone at the table to show his cards. Players finished 23 collective hours of negotiation Thursday with a final offer from the owners that Stern hoped would end the lockout with minimal damage to the season. On Monday or Tuesday, the union representatives from all 30 teams will meet to decide whether they should put this offer to the entire membership for a vote. Should the players accept, Stern said they will be able to salvage a 72-game season starting Dec. 15, with the playoffs and the NBA Finals starting one week later than normal. The final offer comes amid a swelling movement among the players to pursue decertification. They had been hoping to force the owners to compromise in negotiations by threatening to take the union’s case to court. Union executive director Billy Hunter acknowledged this week that as many as 200 players were prepared to sign a petition that would send the union down a path of 45 days or longer to potential decertification. Now the players face a hard choice of gambling on the courts and the uncertain bargaining leverage of decertifying, or instead embracing the certainty of a proposal that Stern insists is the best deal they’ll ever see. Union president Derek Fisher declined to assess the quality of the offer, other than to acknowledge it wasn’t good enough to earn his outright approval. Hunter said he was going to leave it up to the player representatives. “It’s not the greatest proposal in the world, but I have an obligation to at least present it to our membership,” said Hunter. “So that’s what we’re going to do.”

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Is There Really Time For 72 Games?

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU – We don’t know all the details of the NBA’s proposal, but we know that the players have a decision to make early next week. And if they choose to accept the deal, we’ll have a 72-game schedule beginning on Dec. 15.

In the league’s news conference on Thursday night, Adam Silver said that the playoffs would be pushed back “roughly a week.” The original schedule ends on April 18, so the revised one would end on or about April 25. That gives the league 132 days to play 1,080 games.

Last week, we noted that a 72-game schedule that started on Dec. 1 and ended on April 30 would have the same pace as a standard, 82-game schedule that begins around Nov. 1. But when you remove 19 calendar days from that hypothetical 72-game schedule, you get a pace about equal to the 50-game, post-lockout schedule that was played in 1999.

And when you take away four days for All-Star Weekend (which was canceled in ’99), you have teams playing slightly more games per week than they did in ’99, when they played some back-to-back-to-backs.

Schedule pace

Season G/Team Total G Days G/Day Team G/Week
Normal 82 1,230 *166 7.4 3.46
1998-99 50 725 90 8.1 3.89
2011-12 72 1,080 *128 8.4 3.94

* Subtracting four days for All-Star Weekend.

As we laid it out last week, a 72-game schedule allows every team to play in every arena at least once. Each team would play the 15 teams in the other conference two times and the 14 teams in their own conference three times.

There are obvious reasons for maximizing the number of games played in the available timeframe. With 72 games, the players would only be losing out on 12 percent (10/82) of their salary, and owners would only be losing five home games of revenue.

But if the players approve this deal, get ready for a schedule with very little time for practice or recovery from aches and pains.