HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Your anger is understandable.
Mostly because the actions of so many are indefensible.
With this latest breakdown in talks between the two sides in the NBA’s labor madness comes a sobering truth about this entire process. It’s never been about saving the game or even preserving it for the fans. It’s about two sides fighting over a billion dollar pie and each one wanting the biggest piece. Someone has to win and someone has to lose, compromise be damned!
We knew as much when this thing started, but we seemed to lose sight of that in the past few months with all the details tossed into the fray to deflect our attention from the fundamentals of this dispute. Our confidence has been betrayed by the men who have asked for that very thing from us, the basketball loving public,. And here we stand, just days away from what should have been the start of a season, staring at a potential season on the brink.
When the federal mediator both sides agreed to let dive into the middle of this battle packs up his stuff and heads for the door after three days of listening to everyone talk, it’s clear the “gulf” between the positions NBA Commissioner David Stern spoke of last week is greater than most of us imagined.
Unlike many of my less cynical colleagues here at the hideout and beyond, I wasn’t expecting a resolution to this process this week. I did (foolishly) assume that some tangible progress this week could lead to a deal sometime in the very near future.
But not after reading these words from NBPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler after the Board of Governors meeting:
“This meeting was hijacked. Something happened at their [owners] meeting. This is not the move where the owners were yesterday. We were making progress, as you heard.
“They came back, they came without the commissioner. They came with Paul Allen. We were told Paul Allen was here to express the views of the other members of the Board of Governors. And that view was: ‘Our way or the highway.’
“That’s what we were told. We were shocked. We went in there trying to negotiate, and they came in and said, ‘You either accept 50-50 or we’re done. And we won’t discuss anything else.’ “
Point fingers in whatever direction you like. Both sides are doing the same now without hesitation.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Depending on what you choose to believe, we’re either days away from the beginning of a resolution to the NBA’s labor mess … or on the verge of an even bigger chasm between the owners and players.
No one seems to know for sure, but everyone seems to have a theory (or two or three) about how this weekend’s meetings (things begin Friday in New York) will play out.
In order for an on-time start to the regular season, the sides have to come together as soon as possible. So there is a very obvious reason for all of the extra emphasis on the coming talks (as expressed by NBA Commissioner David Stern, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA President Derek Fisher):
Players Prepared To Sit?
Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated: Unless major concessions are made by the owners by then, the sources said players are prepared to show a united front and express their willingness to sit out the entire season — if not more. There is a growing sentiment that missing the start of the regular season could mean missing the entire season, one that was recently reflected in the comments of agent David Falk. There has even been renewed talk of players starting a league of their own, which may or may not be realistic but is certainly indicative of their level of frustration and the types of strategies being considered.
There were hints of this we-determine-our-own-destiny approach in the latest letter from NBPA president Derek Fisher to the league’s players, which was first obtained by ESPN.com.
“We are a group of some of the most talented, savvy businessmen and business owners in the world,” Fisher wrote. “We have built our own brands, launched our own and other people’s companies, helped our communities. I keep that in the forefront of my mind each time we go into a negotiating session.
“If a Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or Russell Simmons were in this, there is no way they would take a deal that is unfair. Not when we are the talent, the most coveted asset, the most valuable resource that drives this business. Keep that in your mind as we walk down this road shoulder to shoulder.”
And the talent is far from happy.
According to sources who have been briefed on the talks in New York this week, the discussion over basketball-related income and how it is divvied up is the most maddening for the NBPA. While the owners have shown a willingness to give between 46 percent and 48 percent to the players (depending on other components of the deal that are in play), it is believed that the players — who received 57 percent in the previous deal — won’t accept anything less than 53 percent (again, depending on other aspect of the potential agreement). With the league’s revenues totaling about $4 billion last season, each percentage point represents approximately $40 million.
Season Hangs In Balance
Marc Stein of ESPN.com: When NBA labor talks resume Friday, NBA commissioner David Stern is planning to threaten players with the cancellation of the entire 2011-12 season if the sides haven’t made major progress toward a deal by the end of the weekend, according to sources close to the talks.
Although sources said the union views such an extreme stance as more of a negotiating tactic than a legitimate threat, Stern went almost that far in his comments to reporters in New York on Wednesday after a second straight day of negotiations.
Referring to meetings scheduled Friday that are expected to attract as many as 15 owners and star players such as the Heat’s LeBron James, Stern said: “I’m focused on let’s get the two committees in and see whether they can either have a season or not have a season, and that’s what’s at risk this weekend.”
In 1998-99, the only season in NBA history in which regular-season games were lost to a work stoppage, no deal was reached until Jan. 6, 1999, with a 50-game season finally starting on Feb. 6, 1999.
It remains to be seen if Stern’s remarks Thursday will have the intended “scare” effect and convince players to accept a deal now on the premise that the NBA is not willing to stage a shortened season this time.
At a minimum, sources said, cancellation of regular-season games next week is a certainty if a deal isn’t within sight by Monday.
That’s the hard truth, the hard road to labor peace. Stern’s job is convincing the owners to pull off the press, take the 30-point victory and leave the floor with some grace and dignity.
This has been rigged for years and months and weeks, and here’s how a deal happens this weekend: In the carnage of a devastating collective bargaining loss for the union with billions of dollars redirected into owners’ pockets, Stern has to give Hunter something to take back to the players, so that the union’s bloodied, bruised and beaten executive director can still raise his arms and declare that, yes, we won.