HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The polls are closed and the voting is done for the 2012 All-Star Game.
The starters will be announced tonight live on TNT during a special one-hour pregame show at 7 p.m. ET, with Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith, followed by the TNT doubleheader featuring the Bulls and Knicks (8 p.m. ET) and Nuggets-Clippers (10:30 p.m.). There will also be a special one-hour pregame show on TNT on Feb. 9 to announce the All-Star reserves.
But it’s a bittersweet time here at the hideout. We woke up this morning and realized that there was yet another casualty of the five-month lockout that abbreviated this season. There were none of the clever All-Star campaign ads (like the one above featuring Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Love or the one below of Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay, both from last season) to entertain us this time around.
The mailbox and inbox here at the hideout are usually overflowing with campaign literature and trinkets touting one player or another, but this year there was nothing.
We’ll get over it, of course. The announcement of the starters tonight and the Eastern and Western Conference reserves next week will certainly help take the pain away.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The seemingly never-ending debate surrounding the late-game prowess of both Kobe Bryant and LeBron James went under Kenny Smith‘s microscope last night on TNT.
It’s as concise an examination (with video assistance) of their late-game strengths and weaknesses, and what it all means their respective teams, as we’ve seen. So we figured we’d share for those that might have missed it:
A little more info on Kobe and LeBron in the clutch, courtesy of my main man and NBA.com’s John Schuhmann (aka StatMasterFlex):
Thus far this season in clutch time (last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime with a score differential of five points or less), Bryant is 8-for-23 (35 percent) from the field, 1-for-4 from 3-point range and 7-for-8 from the line, with five assists and five turnovers. James is 5-for-15 (33 percent) from the field, 0-for-3 from 3-point range and 7-for-12 from the line, with 10 assists and four turnovers.
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.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Appreciation for days like this one, Veterans Day, were forged years ago in Shaquille O’Neal, the son of a father who served in the military.
Preparation for the days like this one and the many ahead has been a part of O’Neal’s thought process for years, long before he began his 19-year journey in the NBA.
Unlike countless others before him, O’Neal didn’t wrestle with the idea of what he’d do when his playing days ended. He’s already kicked off his career as a TNT analyst (check him out talking lockout with several of his new colleagues). His biography, “Shaq Uncut: My Story,” with Jackie MacMullan, hits the shelves Nov. 15 and will include an extensive book tour where fans will no doubt want to hear more about some of his legendary battles, on and off the court, with some of basketball’s biggest names.
“Going into the next phase of my life never worried me,” O’Neal said. “Growing up and watching everybody else’s successes and failures, I’ve prepared for this. I even talk about it in my book. My father came home one day and hit me in the back of the head with a book. He said, ‘read this.’ And it was Kareem‘s book on how he lost all his money. And my father told me, ‘it’s never going to happen to you.’ It’s all about having a plan. And that’s how I got here.”
That doesn’t mean he spared anyone or anything in his book. With an extensive history playing with and against some of the biggest names in the game — including the league’s three biggest current stars, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — there will be plenty for fans to chew on once they get their hands on more than just the excerpts that have already circulated.
“The worst thing about the world we live in now, is there is more than one outlet that people respect. Back when we were coming up if it didn’t come from ESPN, NBC, CBS or ABC it didn’t have that stamp. But now, people are just taking excerpts and putting them out like they have the whole story,” O’Neal said of early criticisms, particularly his relationship with Bryant. “In the long run, it’s only going to help me have a No. 1 bestseller. Look, a lot of this stuff is just me reflecting on what’s already been out there and what’s been said. But a lot of guys that don’t have any creativity, guys like Bill Plaschke (of The Los Angeles Times) and Ric Bucher (of ESPN The Magazine), they don’t have any creativity to come up with their own stories. So to keep people paying attention and respect what they do, they keep bringing up old (expletive).
11:47 p.m.: At least no one delivered any ultimatums this time.
The labor talks broke after nearly 11 hours tonight and despite chatter earlier about a deal being done, the sides finished the night the same place they finished them last weekend. The players have a proposal to consider and will now take that proposal to their player reps, as early as Monday, per union executive director Billy Hunter.
The proposal is a revised one and not the “reset” proposal that was threatened if the players did not accept last weekend’s deal by the end of business Wednesday. Hunter and union president Derek Fisher didn’t seem particularly enthused by what they’d heard.
“We have what we characterize a revised proposal from the NBA,” Fisher said. “It does not meet us entirely on the system issues … We’ve decided to take a step back and confer with our player reps.”
Both Hunter and Fisher were asked about the disappointing expressions they wore when they faced the media before departing the hotel, but Hunter insisted that it should not be taken as an indicator of anything but the fatigue associated with the process.
“Its been a long haul. We’re coming near the end of it,” Hunter said. “We’re trying to get this thing done.”
It has to get done if the players want the current deal on the table, which NBA Commissioner David Stern said will include a 72-game schedule that would start Dec. 15 and would require the start of the playoffs and The Finals back a week to make the calendar work. If the players don’t accept the offer, Stern indicated that the league’s reset proposal, with the 47 percent of BRI and salary rollbacks, would be the only deal on the table.
Stern also said the time for negotiating is finished.
“There comes a time when you have to be done negotiating, and we are,” Stern said.”We wait the response from the union. We did our best … We moved as far as we can move. I am optimistic the NBA owners would approve it if the players union approves it.”
Stern stopped short of calling it the league’s last, best offer. But that’s exactly what it is.
“We took pains out of respect to the efforts of everybody, not to characterize it precisely that way,” Stern said. “But if this offer is not accepted, then we will revert to our 47 percent. We have made our revised proposal and we’re not making another one.”
Both Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged how tough it would be for any union to take the proposal on the table back to their reps, but he also made clear that the players are not the only ones uncomfortable with the details of the proposal.
“We don’t expect [the players] to like every aspect of our revised proposal,” he said. “Many teams don’t like every aspect of our proposal.”
But at this stage of the game, some 132 days deep in this lockout, this is where they are. And that means the players hold the fate of this season, the one that could begin as early as Dec. 15 and include just 10 missed games, in their hands.
10:21 p.m.: Finally, we get some news that should wake up the masses, courtesy of Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Might there be a proposal on the way for the players to consider?
After finishing call with owners’ labor relations committee, David Stern will deliver union a revised offer tonight, league sources tell Y!
He then added this for good measure:
Owners revised offer will be working off current negotiations with players — not the threatened ‘reset’ offer awaiting if talks broke down.
Now this sounds like real progress. And it’s some welcome, positive news after the hype and letdown from Checketts-gate earlier.
RUH-ROH, NEW ISSUES CROPPING UP?
8:56 p.m.: Turn away from your computer for two minutes and all the positive vibes about a potential deal being on the horizon are replaced with gloom and doom. (Thanks a lot Ken Berger).
Berger, of CBSSSports.com delivered a nasty backhand to the face of basketball lovers everywhere a short while ago when he tweeted that there was modest progress being made on the mid-level and that new “hurdles” had emerged.
Nine hours of negotiations, a day after both sides pulled a 12-hour marathon session, and we get hurdles? Hurdles? In the infamous words of John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious?”
Negotiators for the league and players’ association made modest progress on the use of the mid-level exception for luxury tax-paying teams Thursday, but other guidelines governing exceptions and the tax level emerged as a new sticking point, three people briefed on the labor talks told CBSSports.com.
One of the people said league negotiators signaled a willingness to raise the so-called “mini mid-level” to three years starting at $3 million for teams above the luxury-tax level, to be available every other year. The previous offer was a two-year deal starting at $2.5 million, available every other year to tax teams. There was no indication union negotiators were ready to agree to this slight improvement in the owners’ proposal, as it would reduce the mid-level exception for tax teams from last year’s five-year, $37 million total to three years and $9 million for teams above the tax line.
Also Thursday, a new hurdle emerged in the discussion over when teams would face the new restrictions owners are proposing for teams above the luxury tax threshold. Two of the people briefed on the talks said owners were pushing for teams under the tax at the time of the transaction to be restricted from using the full mid-level — four-year deals starting at $5 million — if the signing put the team over the tax. In that case, the team would be restricted to use of the mini mid-level. Union negotiators want the new restrictions to be based on where a team’s payroll sits in relation to the tax prior to the use of the exception — not where it stands afterward.
After a 12-hour session Wednesday produced minimal progress, the two sides pushed past the eight-hour mark Thursday with the threat looming that league negotiators would pull their existing offer off the table and replace it with a worse one. The new offer, originally scheduled to be furnished to the players at 5 p.m. Wednesday but delayed due to the ongoing talks, would feature a 53-47 economic split in favor of the owners and also would include a hard team salary cap and rollbacks of existing contracts. The two sides currently are negotiating off a league proposal that would give the players a 50 percent share of revenue and maintain a soft-cap system — albeit with a vastly more onerous luxury tax system, more restrictions on exceptions, shorter contracts and smaller annual raises.
That’s just fantastic.
All that talk of progress and now this.
There have to be evil spirits at work to do this to us after all this time. Whenever things appear to be close to some sort of resolution we go right back to the point where both sides need a break from each other before things go haywire.
No offense to Mr. Checketts, who spent almost as much time talking about the lockout as he did Penn State and his Real Salt Lake soccer team, but we’ll spend our time listening to our own in-house experts (check the video above and below). And for the record, everyone from DA to the Dalai Lama has refuted the report from Checketts as being not only wildly premature but mostly just false (for now).
The folks at TNT were kind enough to round up the likes of Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Reggie Miller, Steve Kerr, Steve Smith, Chris Webber and the newest member of the family, Shaquille O’Neal, to discuss the lockout’s current state of affairs with the venerable Ernie Johnson serving as moderator. It’s worth your time:
LEGEND BLASTS HARD-LINERS ON BOTH SIDES
4:42 p.m.: We know it’s not necessarily the chic thing to do in today’s NBA, but the players and owners might want to take a minute to listen to the “old heads.”
“As a very interested bystander, I just hope they get a deal,” Russell told CBSSports.com in a phone interview. “And it will not come from the hard-liners on either side. I think they all know that. I have this theory that hard-liners are like true believers. And true believers think that any compromise is a retreat. And moving forward, that doesn’t cut it.”
Russell’s words carry weight – and not just because he is the most decorated champion in NBA history. The former Celtics’ star was among a group of 20 All-Stars who threatened to boycott the 1964 All-Star Game in Boston unless the NBA recognized the newly formed players’ union.
“Basically I was one of those guys that helped get the players’ association started,” Russell said. “And they’ve done wonderful things. I knew David Stern before he was commissioner, when he was associate attorney for the NBA. And if I remember correctly, he said, ‘I do not consider the players’ association my adversaries. They’re my business partners.’
“That’s where, a lot of the things that David has done — and I’ve known him up close — have been beneficial for both sides,” Russell said.
Russell, 77, winner of 11 NBA titles, wanted to speak with CBSSports.com after he learned of union attorney Jeffrey Kessler’s comments in which he referred to NBA players being treated like “plantation workers.” Kessler, who made the comments to The Washington Post Monday night, apologized to several outlets Wednesday.
“I think that’s an invalid accusation,” Kessler said. “I think the whole deal is not about black and white. It’s about money, OK? I don’t see any signs of being greedy. It’s a typical negotiation and that’s all it is. And there are a couple of reasons it’s difficult, because there are hard-liners on both sides.
“But to me, the name-calling or vilifying the other side is a non-issue,” Russell said. “All that is is a distraction — a distraction from the task at hand, which is reaching an agreement that neither side will probably be completely happy with. But that’s the art of compromise.”
TAKING STOCK OF THE NBA LOCKOUT
3:45 p.m.: The intrepid and incredibly dedicated group of reporters staking out the labor negotiations in Manhattan are doing more than just playing with that solitaire app on their iPads!
They are working while they wait. What they are working on, however, well …
Asch sent this memo from the scene:
NBA labor tote board through 11/9
Courtesy of the accounting firm of Howard & Beck, NYT:
– Total NBA labor negotiations meeting time:
22 sessions, 148 hours … since lockout imposed July 1 THRU the 12-hour Wednesday session Nov. 9.
– Since they “got serious” (Sept. 27 THRU Nov. 9):
16 sessions, 118 hours.
Today (11/10) is session No. 23 in honor of the great alleged turncoat Michael Jordan.
This is quality accounting work!
THREE HOURS AND COUNTING …
3:02 p.m.: All is quiet on the meeting front as things push past the three-hour mark. But progress is being made, according to DA (check the video above). That works for us.
The news cycle of the past few days could use a positive spin. And the end of the lockout would certainly qualify. Just being on the cusp of a deal would go a long way around here.
The tone of things has certainly improved from earlier in the week, when both sides were obviously a bit perturbed with each other. There was the business of that ultimatum the owners issued. And then there was that union/unity press conference Tuesday.
owners were so upset by Tuesday’s player press conference that they nearly refused to meet b4 Wed’s deadline. Stern must’ve calmed them down
Now if they could just get a deal done!
IDENTIFICATION PLEASE …
1:51 p.m.: More Twitter fun for us all, courtesy of DA:
TO: Members of the News Media
FROM: The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service
As you know, FMCS Director George H. Cohen has been involved in mediating the ongoing NBA and NBA Players Association negotiation.
It has come to our attention that a Twitter user identified as @TheMediatorGC has been impersonating Mr. Cohen, using his photo, and has impersonated him in contacts with various members of the media via Twitter. The impersonator has made false, defaming and inflammatory comments regarding the parties in the negotiation and the Director of the FMCS. Please be aware that this is an impersonation. Director Cohen does not have a Twitter account. Please do not attribute comments or information found on Twitter to Mr. Cohen or to the FMCS without first checking with the FMCS Office of Public Affairs …
– I miss the LA times telling me how sucky I am. That’s the best. End the lock out. I miss jeff van gundy. The Malcolm x of announcers
– I miss the unhealthy plane food. I miss staples low music in the arena . Lebron misses Cleveland. I miss locking down people.
– I miss zen phil not giving Luke and Adam morrison playing time! I miss the bald headed Espn announcers. I miss the going bald TNT announcers
– I miss the dance teams cheering because they have too not necessarily because they want to. I miss Kobe taking shot after shot. Lmafo
– I miss Philly , Detroit and Boston fans. They craziest fans in the NBA . I be scared man! I miss going to Philly n Kobe buying Philly steaks
– I miss the refs running down the court like they have hot tomales in their pants.. I miss Charles Barkley commentating
– I miss Clyde fraziers lime green pig skin suites with orange slices throughout the linen and pitbull skit chin-klet-tas
– I miss the supersonics
SYSTEM ISSUES TO BE RESOLVED
1:15 p.m.:TNT’s David Aldridge checked in with some informative information from New York that should help us prepare for today’s session:
Assuming no delays in the pre-meeting caucus each sides conducts with itself, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association should be underway in their pivotal meeting in New York.
Sources have indicated that the sides made progress Wednesday on three of the five significant system issues that separate them. Those are believed to be the escrow account that the league has implemented since 2006 where a portion of player salaries are withheld and placed in escrow in case the players’ overall share exceeds their agreed-upon percentage (the league is looking for a 10 percent escrow commitment from players in the next collective bargaining agreement), the league’s “repeater tax” proposal that would add additional financial penalties for luxury tax paying teams that do so three or more times in a five-year period, and the so-called “cliff” issue, with the union concerned that teams that are marginally and infrequently tax payers get punished financially under the league’s proposals just as badly as teams that are tax paying recidivists.
It is not known how much progress was made on those issues, though a source indicated Thursday morning that the moves were incremental rather than substantial, a view also expressed by the union’s executive director, Billy Hunter, in his post-meeting remarks early Thursday.
That would leave mid-level exception use for taxpayers and the ability of tax payers to execute sign-and-trade deals as the two significant issues that still aren’t close to being solved.
The NBA wants to limit tax paying teams to a “mini mid-level” exception that would only run two years and start at $2.5 million in the first year. The union has countered with a four-year mid-level starting at $5 million. Both sides have agreed that whatever mid-level is adopted for tax payers, it will only be available to them every other year.
The league argues that teams that go into the tax shouldn’t be able to add to their rosters by using the full mid-level, as the Lakers did with Ron Artest in 2009 and the Celtics did with Jermaine O’Neal last season. The idea is both to reduce the payrolls of tax paying teams to bring them closer to those of non-payers, which the league thinks will help competitive balance, and to get more players into the system for non-tax payers. The union believes that such restrictions will chill the market for free agents–in essence, taking the top five or six paying teams out of play–and will also affect players who don’t sign with the top teams, because the teams that bid for them will be able to sign them to smaller contracts than they would have to if the bigger payroll teams were able to pursue those players.
The NBA has similar concerns about allowing tax paying teams to execute sign-and-trade deals, where a free agent is allowed to add an additional year to his contract by signing a deal with his old team, which then immediately trades him to another team. Free agents got a seventh year if they re-signed with their old teams under the previous CBA, but only six years if they signed with another team. This was the method used, for example, by LeBron James when he went from Cleveland to Miami last summer–though the Heat was not over the tax threshold when it made the deal.
The union has pointed out that tax payers have only been involved in sign-and-trade deals five times over the past several years, making it an issue hardly likely to impact competitive balance.
A PICTURE IS WORTH … ?
1:02 p.m.: Using recent negotiation sessions as a guide, the men (below, pic courtesy of Steve Aschburner) setting up this room for the post-session media briefings probably don’t need to rush.
Asch has ordered us not to read anything into their being just one room used for the pressers. Apparently there are certain factors at work within the hotel that prevent the use of more than one room. And by no means are we assuming anything with the union backdrop going up first.
READY FOR ANOTHER ROUND …
12:24 p.m.: It’s time. It’s time for the owners and players to go back into that negotiating room in Manhattan and time for them to get back to the business of bringing our beloved game back to the masses.
So what if we’ve said that before every single meeting throughout this lockout. But that 12-hour session that ended early this morning was hopefully just the appetizer for today’s pow-wow, which kicked off minutes ago.
The league’s assertions that they are losing upwards of $300 million per season have been met with skepticism from the players association and fans alike. After being given the opportunity to examine the league’s books, the union admitted the league was losing money, but said the losses were closer to $100 million than $300 million.
The union also believes the league has up its sleeve a few extra ways of squeezing out a profit. One of these is an ancillary benefit associated with negotiating a more favorable split of basketball related income (BRI) with the players. Business valuations are tied to revenues and expenses. By negotiating the players down from 57 percent of revenues to 50 percent (and counting), the league is ensuring the teams a decrease in expenses – and therefore an increase in projected profits. This will drive up franchise values.
How much will franchise values increase? It’s hard to say. There are a lot of factors that go into determining the value of a business, and a number of ways to do the calculation. A conservative estimate might be a $3 million to $12 million average increase in franchise values for each percentage point in revenues the league wrests from the players. Decreasing the players’ split of BRI from 57 percent to 50 percent therefore might be worth $21 million to $84 million per team.
The owners will only see this money when they sell their teams. But when they do sell, none of it is shared with the players.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – At least we can’t stop arguing about it now.
Kevin Love or Blake Griffin?Ray Allen or Raymond Felton? All those debate come to an end this evening.
The All-Star reserves for both the Eastern and Western conference will be announced tonight, during a special one-hour edition of NBA Tip-Off presented by AutoTrader.com on TNT at 7 p.m. ET, before the Heat-Magic, Spurs-Lakers doubleheader. Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Chris Webber will all have their say tonight.
But we can’t wait that long.
We’re delivering HT’s picks for those coveted 14 spots (15, if you count the injury replacement selection for Yao Ming) right here and now.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – At least one part of our ongoing All-Star debate, the one we’ve had here at the hideout, on The Jump (above) and everywhere else basketball is discussed, comes to an end this evening.
Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and the entire Thursday night crew is in New York and will have the exclusive announcement of the 2010 NBA All-Star Starters during a special edition of NBA Tipoff presented by AutoTrader.com live from Madison Square Garden that starts at 7 p.m. ET.
It’ll serve as the perfect appetizer for tonight’s doubleheader, Heat-Knicks at 8 p.m. ET, followed by the Celtics-Blazers at 10:30 p.m. ET.
Based on the last batch of returns we’ve seen from the voting, at least three Eastern Conference starters will be on display tonight. The Heat’s LeBron James and the Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire project as the starting forwards for the East, while Heat star Dwyane Wade projects to join them as one of the starting guards.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Since we’ve already been informed that the NBA D-League show will go on next season no matter what happens with the NBA’s collective bargaining negotiations, don’t you think Kenny and Charles need to brush up a little bit on their D-League details?