Posts Tagged ‘Howard Beck’

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: New Deadline To Deal With

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

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — You don’t need X-ray vision to figure out where the NBA’s labor impasse is heading this week (“straight past the ‘Dead End’ sign and over the cliff” is the way an agent put it to us early this morning).

The league has given the players and their union 72 hours to respond to their latest “proposal,” delivered during a marathon Saturday night bargaining session in New York. Union president Derek Fisher made it clear shortly thereafter that said “ultimatum” would not even be delivered to the players for a vote.

The end of business Wednesday deadline issued by NBA Commissioner David Stern is a car wreck we’re all being allowed to watch from a distance far too close for comfort. The threats — of a considerably worse offer if this one is not accepted by the owners and of the dissolution of the union by the players if they ignore Wednesday’s deadline — only make for a yet another wicked twist to an already disturbing tale.

Anyone assuming that at least some of the players are not ready to fight need only scan Twitter timelines, where guys like Deron Williams make it clear that they were ready to fight months ago: “I’ve been ready to sign a decertification petition since July? Can’t believe we are just now going this route! SMH”

That doesn’t sound like a union ready to capitulate or compromise, as union attorney Jeffrey Kessler made clear in the aftermath of Saturday’s nearly nine-hour session. It sounds more like players, at least a faction of them, willing to stare the league down on deadline day and come out swinging the morning after. What that means for us, the true casualties of this lockout, is the loss of more games and potentially the demise of the entire 2011-12 season.

Ugh!

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Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:  In the end, the truest words spoken early Sunday morning came from Kessler, who said the owners’ tactics were “not happening on Derek Fisher’s watch. It’s not happening on Billy Hunter‘s watch. It’s not happening on the watch of this executive committee.” If the players successfully decertified, none of the aforementioned would be in power. A decertification petition requiring the signatures of 30 percent of union membership would put the union on approximately a 60-day clock before an election is held to disband it — and that’s only if the National Labor Relations Board authorizes the election. Typically, the agency does not when a union has an unfair labor practices charge pending. The mere signing of the petition by 30 percent of the union would not by itself cease negotiations since the union would remain in power until the election, which wouldn’t happen before January — if at all. That leaves two months for cooler heads to prevail. But really, the stopwatch has been set for four days — 96 hours to spare chaos. Of all the inflammatory words spoken after this latest fiasco, the words “best and final offer” were never among them. That’s legal mumbo-jumbo for this: There’s still time to end the ass-hattery, if everyone’s heads return to a place oxygen is available. The clock is ticking.

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Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: After reports that Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan had become one of the most vocal of hardline owners, union officials were anxious for him to speak up in Saturday night’s meeting. Union officials, just as they wanted to do back at the last labor meeting that Jordan attended on All-Star weekend, were determined to throw back at Jordan many of his old anti-ownership screeds from the 1990s. As one official said, “He never opened his mouth, not once.” The two sides didn’t spend a great deal of the 8½ hours engaging each other, but rather had the federal mediator shuttling back and forth between rooms, a source said. Stern’s ultimatum comes with the backdrop of player agents actively canvassing their clients to determine if there were enough votes to move forward with a decertification vote on the union, agent and player sources told Yahoo! Sports. Before proceeding, agents and players were waiting on the outcome of the weekend’s labor talks. Several agents and players believed support would grow for a vote on dissolving the union without significant progress on a deal. Agents and players took part in two conference calls this week on the subject of decertification. Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce has taken a lead in spearheading those discussions, sources said.

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Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com: The owners, Kessler said, had been the ones who brought an abrupt halt to the proceedings. After 3 weeks of preconditions that were levied and then removed and then levied and removed again, the owners circled back to basically the same place they have been all along while giving the players a take-it-or-leave-it offer that for all intents and purposes would max out at 50.2 percent of revenues going to the players, 49.8 percent going to the owners. The players had dropped to 51 percent, or as Kessler termed it: “Fifty plus one,” with the extra one percent ($40 million) being earmarked for improved pension benefits for both current and retired players. “These are professional basketball players,’’ Kessler said. “They are the finest athletes in the world. How do you think they feel about threats? How do you think they feel about efforts at intimidation? Who negotiates in good faith when they say it’s this proposal or (back to) 47 percent? Take it or leave it. This is not good faith to the fans. ‘’ Big, bad Michael Jordan had become Paul Allen 2.0 during the meeting, Kessler said, barely uttering a word. Arbitrator George Cohen’ suggestions, Kessler said, had been hijacked by Stern and turned into the owners’ official offer. The money quote from my news story, after the 8 1/2 hours of meetings and 60 minutes of dueling news conferences had ended: “The story here is they want it all,” Kessler bellowed. “They want a win, win, win, win. We wanted a compromise. Our 51 percent offer was based on a fair system. They would have to come to us on the system, but they did not.”

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Howard Beck of the New York Times: This latest negotiating session, the 21st of the lockout, lasted for eight and a half hours, ending around 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Under the guidance of George Cohen, a federal mediator, the parties actually narrowed the gap on some crucial items before the talks collapsed. The players — who had vowed not to accept less than 52.5 percent of league revenues — proposed a 51 percent share, with 1 percent devoted to aid retired players. That moved them within 1 percent of the league’s longstanding proposal. On Saturday, the owners proposed a “band” that would pay the players 49 to 51 percent, depending on revenue growth. But the union said it amounted to a 50 percent offer, because the threshold for growth was so high that the share would never get to 51. Jeff Kessler, the union’s outside counsel and chief negotiator, called the 49 to 51 band “a fraud.” Yet it was ultimately the mechanics of a new system, not the revenue split, that killed the talks. The league’s standing proposal would eliminate spending options for teams that pay the luxury tax, by banning them from sign-and-trade deals and the use of the midlevel exception. At Cohen’s suggestion, the league proposed a “mini-midlevel” that would start at $2.5 million — half the value of the full midlevel — and would be limited to two-year deals. The N.B.A.’s proposal also called for an additional penalty — a so-called “repeater tax” — on teams that exceed the tax threshold three times in a five-year span. The union is open to the concept, but not at the steep rates proposed by the league. The net effect of the N.B.A.’s proposal, the union said, would be to eliminate the highest-spending teams from acquiring top talent — thus devastating the free-agent market.

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Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: The owners have not threatened to impose a flex-cap since last summer. But it’s a sign that they’re running out of patience with the players, who continue to hold out for more of the same soft-cap features that were part of the last collective bargaining agreement. “We want our players to play and we’d like to have a season and these are the terms upon which we’re prepared to gear up and get in as many games as possible,’’ Stern said. The league has already cancelled all of its November schedule. With the players already rejecting the owner’s latest offer, it seems fairly certain that December games will soon start to go up in smoke, too. In addition to the split of revenue, owners in this latest proposal want players to accept a decrease in the mid-level exception, from five years to two years for teams over the luxury tax. There would also be reductions in the terms of the exception for non-tax paying teams. The deal would also penalize taxpayers by not allowing them to work sign-and-trade transactions. Jordan is one of nearly 12 owners who don’t want players to get above 47%. But Stern said that he would have enough votes to get the deal for the players allowing for them to get upwards of 51%. That’s because Jordan, Charlotte majority owner, and other small- and mid-market owners who lost $300 million last season do not have enough votes to kill a deal. To ratify a deal, Stern needs a simple majority of 16 votes. “This is not good faith to the players or to the fans,’’ said union counsel Jeffrey Kessler. “The players will not be intimidated. That’s what the league is doing in presenting an ultimatum to us.’’

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Marc Stein of ESPN.com: Bear in mind that there’s a big difference between rounding up the 130 players needed to sign a petition to vote on decertification and finding a 50 percent-plus-one majority in a union of roughly 450 members amenable to actually voting for decertification. Because decertification is “risky and messy,” as established above, there is undeniable skepticism around the league about how many players would be willing to go all the way through with it. And maybe that’s why some ownership sources insist that the decertification process won’t have nearly as much impact as its supporters contend. But if it merely gets as far as a vote — no matter what would happen when decertification ballots are passed out — that’s when you’ll know that there’s really no hope for a 2011-12 season. If the union ultimately does decertify fully, there won’t even be time at that point to do what NBA commissioner David Stern does not want to do and stage another 50-game season. The reality, though, is that we’re still some distance removed from that crossroads. Wednesday is the deadline announced by Stern for the union to take the deal as currently constructed, but this sad saga can rumble on for at least another good month — and probably longer — unless Stern can convince the union that they better take Saturday’s offer because he’s serious about canceling the rest of the ’11-12 season before Thanksgiving.XX

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Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times: Player reaction to Stern’s take-it-or-leave-it offer was swift on Twitter. “U gotta love an ultimatum,” tweeted San Antonio Spurs guard Steve Novak. “How does basketball ever even get to this point?” … All 29 owners gathered early in the day Saturday for a meeting among themselves, and Cohen met separately with players and owners before collective negotiations resumed. Small-market owners in attendance included Charlotte’s Michael Jordan and Portland’s Paul Allen, believed to be among those wanting to hold the players’ share of revenue to 47%. Among large-market owners were the Lakers’ Jerry Buss and Miami’s Micky Arison, the latter of the recent $500,000 tweet claiming he wasn’t the reason the lockout was lingering. The discussions lacked star power on the players’ side. Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who had attended earlier negotiating sessions, announced via Twitter that he had landed in Sydney for the start of an exhibition tour. “Got off the plane in my jordan sweat suit,” Wade wrote, “but as soon as I walked out the airport it felt like Miami.” Clippers teammates Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan exchanged trash tweets regarding their alma maters’ Big 12 Conference football game in Norman, Okla. Tweeted Jordan: “Sorry but Texas A&M is going to smack OU today!!!” Final score: Oklahoma 41, Texas A&M 25. Jordan wouldn’t find a happy ending with the proceedings in New York either.

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Alan Hahn of Newsday: Stern said that the league would spend Sunday writing up two formal proposals, one as outlined above and another based on a less appealing offer that would come if Wednesday’s deadline passes without an agreement. That deal, Stern said, would have two ominous parts: a 47-53 split of league revenue in favor of the owners and a “flex” cap system that would replicate the NHL’s hard cap. “We hope that this juxtaposition will cause the union to assess its situation and accept the deal,” Stern said. If they don’t take the deal, the union is faced with one option: to decertify the union and fight the league in court. That, of course, would take up the kind of time that would essentially kill any chance of having a season. Neither Fisher nor Kessler would address decertification, which has been promoted by several agents. Union executive director Billy Hunter did not speak to reporters after the talks because, according to a union spokesman, he was under the weather. It was yet another long day for everyone involved, as the owners met early Saturday afternoon to discuss their strategy going into the meeting with the players. Michael Jordan, the Charlotte Bobcats owner who is the marquee name among a faction of hardlining small market owners, was in attendance, along with Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen and Heat owner Micky Arison, who last week was fined $500,000 for a few candid tweets about the lockout. On the players’ side, Knicks guard Chauncey Billups, one of the most respected veteran players in the league, made his first appearance at the talks at the request of the union’s executive committee, mainly vice president Mo Evans. But it was Kessler who had the strongest voice after the meetings, as he continually charged the owners with having no interest in making a deal. “Who negotiates in good faith and makes an ultimatum?” he said. Later he added, “The big story here is they want it all.”

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Labor Talks: Tumultuous Times Ahead

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Forget about Saturday’s scheduled resumption of talks between the warring factions in the NBA labor dispute. There are apparently bigger issues looming right now, particularly for the players and their union.

Both the New York Times and Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday night that a group of 50 players are pushing for the dissolution of the union if things don’t go the way they want this weekend. Whether they are serious about such a drastic move or simply using this as a tactic as a show of power, it presents yet another twist in a tumultuous affair that is clearly grating on all involved.

More from Howard Beck of the New York Times:

A group of 50 N.B.A. players intend to push for the dissolution of their union if a new round of labor negotiations fails this weekend, or if the talks produce an unpalatable deal, according to a person who has spoken to the players.

The movement was said to be entirely player-driven, and borne of a frustration with the pace of talks between the league and union leaders. The players have been locked out since July 1, and a month of games have been canceled.

Two conference calls were held this week between the players and an antitrust lawyer — once on Tuesday and again on Thursday. It is not clear whether union leaders have been directly informed of the effort.

“And the players are seriously considering decertification if a deal is not reached where the players’ proposals are in the final elements of the deal,” said the person connected to the players.

(more…)

Labor Talks: Finger-Pointing Season

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — If you thought October was filled with empty rhetoric from both sides and nastiness that prevents progress in the NBA’s lockout saga, wait until you get a load of the new narrative.

The only thing worse than yet another breakdown in lockout negotiations is the incessant finger-pointing that kicked off in earnest on what should have been the opening night of the season.

And it’s open season on any and everyone connected.

(more…)

Labor Talks: As The Lockout Turns

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We knew better than to believe there was any substance behind those Thursday night smiles that had us all believing that this thing was anywhere close to over.

From the moment the NBA lockout began July 1, one of our most trusted sources has been reminding us that we would not have NBA basketball to be thankful for at Thanksgiving. And we foolishly ignored that warning. The jovial back and forth between NBA Commissioner David Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter after Thursday night’s session threw us off just long enough for us to dream a little.

Well, we’re done dreaming here at the hideout.

The game face is back and there will be no more sugar-coating the smoldering hot mess that this labor impasse has become. No one has to worry about our hopes getting too high that a deal will be done in due time because we’re done with hope. The time has passed. The first month of the season went up in smoke officially Friday night, along with any chance the two sides had of preserving whatever ounce of goodwill remained amongst the basketball loving masses.

We know now that being “close” on system issues means nothing if the BRI gulf remains the same, that a smile for the cameras one night could easily be a frown for the same cameras the next.

No doubt, someone will reach out over this weekend or early next week and rekindle the talks and eventually everyone will come back to the table ready to play this game again. Just leave us out of this time. Save us the posturing, public sparring and those hollow smiles that make the best cliffhangers in the latest episode of As The Lockout Turns …

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: Just when this was starting to get fun, just when it was starting to get done, we all got snookered. That was the word Billy Hunter used Friday after negotiations to end the 120-day lockout went kablooey for the second time in a week and third time this month. That was what Hunter said David Stern did to him when the commissioner said Thursday night he was going into Friday’s seemingly promising bargaining session “ready to negotiate everything.” Only he wasn’t. Neither was Hunter. The two men who were supposed to be in position to finally close this deal did not have the authority to do so. That’s the only logical explanation when failing to get a deal this weekend results in approximately $800 million of economic carnage — the total cost to both sides of a month of lost games — when the distance between the two sides is $80 million. “Absurdity,” one person on the management side of the NBA business said Friday night. Oh, no. It’s worse than that. Altogether now: It’s ass-hattery. But you knew that already. I’d brought two bananas to Friday’s bargaining session — mostly for sustenance during these mentally debilitating hours spent waiting for grown men to finish staring at each other, but also as props. You may recall the banana-in-the-tailpipe column in which I detailed the blowout victory the owners were seeking in these negotiations. On Friday, we all fell for the banana in the tailpipe again. And we didn’t even have a late supper — shrimp salad sandwiches, say — to show for it. On top of that, I left my grocery bag with the bananas in the lobby, and by the time the predictable, double-talk-laden news conferences were over, two perfectly good bananas were gone. The latest casualties of the dumbest lockout ever.

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Labor Talks: Let’s Make A Deal

 

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — NBA Commissioner David Stern insisted that there is “no guarantee” that the finish line in this NBA lockout will be crossed today, the day according to all sides. But make no mistake, the proverbial full-court press is on.

That’s sweet music to the ears of basketball fans everywhere.

With Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter smiling and joking with one another as they walked out of that New York hotel late last night signaling that today’s bargaining session (which begins at 10:30 a.m.) could very well be the final push needed to bring our beloved game back, clearly it’s time to make a deal.

If it takes all day and night or even all weekend, now is the time. And there will be around the clock coverage of the proceedings here on NBA.com and on NBA TV, in addition to whatever nuggets we can gleam from our guys David Aldridge of TNT and NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner on Twitter.

Now, a little table-setting for this morning’s session …

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Waiting On The Magic Words

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Faced with the latest drop-dead date to save the on-time start to the regular season, we’ve arrived here to this afternoon’s scheduled meeting between the league and players’ union in New York.

Can they beat the deadline?

Can they save the season?

Will cool heads prevail?

Can we finally get back to basketball?

Only time will tell. And based on Sunday night’s “last-ditch” meeting that lasted nearly six hours, time is a fluid term during these labor negotiations.

But there is a growing sense among most of the people observing these proceedings that it might only be a matter of time before someone utters those magic words (“we have a deal”). And the basketball loving public surely won’t haggle over where it comes from, be it NBA Commissioner David Stern or union executive director Billy Hunter.

After all, during the last lockout there was just one meeting between the two sides before regular season games were canceled. This afternoon’s session will mark the sixth meeting in the past 11 days between the two sides …

Hold That Apocalypse

Mark Heisler of Sheridanhoops.com: After two years of bellicose posturing, the last weeks of September and the first few days of October would show who was serious.

Not only was that true, Stern wound up extending his drop-dead date for opening on time to Oct. 10.

Overheated as this thing has been, with owners who sensed their last great opportunity threatening to burn their village to save it, the last three weeks saw the parties whittle their “irreconcilable” differences down to three percentage points.

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Labor Talks: One Last Chance?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Might there be a glimmer of hope for an on-time start to the NBA regular season?

If so, it likely hinges on the goings-ons and the outcome of what Howard Beck of the New York Times reports is a “final and unexpected” meeting between the league and the union before Monday’s “deadline” to preserve the full NBA season:

The meeting will involve the primary negotiators for each side — Commissioner David Stern and the deputy commissioner Adam Silver for the league, with the union represented by its president, Derek Fisher, and its executive director, Billy Hunter.

Stern said last week that he would be forced to cancel the first two weeks of regular-season games on Monday if the sides did not have a breakthrough at the bargaining table. They have not met since then, with the N.B.A. insisting it will not move beyond the 50-50 split in league revenues that Stern proposed last Tuesday. The union rejected that stance, saying it would not resume talks with any preconditions.

It is not clear whether the league has moved off of its 50-50 proposal, or whether the union has softened its insistence on receiving 53 percent of league revenues in a new collective bargaining agreement. It is also possible that the sides are negotiating other, structural issues in an attempt to move forward.

TNT analysis David Aldridge confirms an 11th-hour meeting will be held but says players have not accepted the 50-50 proposal as a precondition to meeting. As of late Friday night, the sides were believed to be standing their ground, per Aldridge. But with the looming deadline on tap Monday and the pressure on both sides bubbling, something must have changed.

Since the details of the meeting are sketchy at best, it’s probably foolish to read any more into this latest development. But any meeting, any significant contact, is better than the alternative.

Reading The Labor Tea Leaves

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Good luck trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing in the NBA’s ongoing labor impasse.

One minute all seems lost, with voices from both sides (players and owners) dispensing ominous soundbites about their fear that any sort of peaceful accord is anywhere in sight. And then the next, we hear that progress, however slight, is being made and that perhaps there is a chance that common ground is in the distance.

And then comes the announcement, Friday morning, that the league is wiping out the first week of camps and preseason games.

It’s a wicked game being played by those trapped inside of the labor dispute matrix. And we’re forced to do our best to read the tea leaves every day to see if we can decipher fact from fiction.

Good luck:

There Is Still Hope

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: After more than two years of negotiations, it’s finally time to negotiate.

Following a series of small compromises by both sides, it was the owners’ turn to move the needle in a significant way. And they did: According to a person briefed on the negotiations, the league put forth a new number on the split of revenues, or basketball-related income, on Thursday, a step that could help propel the talks forward even as the start of training camps were set to be delayed and preseason games canceled — with such gloomy but fully expected and insignificant announcements expected Friday.

“It’s moving,” said another person with knowledge of the talks. “Not as fast as some people would want, but it’s moving.”

According to one of the people familiar with the bargaining, here is some of what transpired Thursday: After signaling last week that the players’ offer to move lower than the 54.3 percent share of BRI was a starting point that could lead to a deal on economics, league negotiators came back with their own number. Unsurprisingly, the number was lower than what the players had last proposed, though multiple people involved in the talks refused to specify by how much.

The owners’ proposed BRI split was made without specific system details tied to it, and the number itself was “unacceptable” to the union leadership, one of the sources said. Thus, the faces of both sides emerged from the Manhattan hotel after five hours of bargaining and delivered the same vague non-answers with strikingly similar flatlined demeanors and monotone voices.

“I’m sorry, but the most important thing is to see whether we can’t have negotiations conducive to ultimately getting a deal, which is what our committee and our board will like,” commissioner David Stern said on his 69th birthday. “And having these conversations with you doesn’t add anything to that. And that’s the dilemma.”

Cancellation Of Camp Could Send More Overseas

Mike Monroe of the Express-News: The decision could move some key Spurs to join the growing list of players signing on with teams overseas.

Before departing Argentina, where he helped Brazil qualify for next summer’s Olympic tournament, center Tiago Splitter told the Express-News he would sign on with Flamengo, a Brazilian club where former Suns guard Leandro Barbosa currently plays, if training camps were postponed or canceled.

“I do not want to be waiting for something to happen,” Splitter said. “I want to be playing, so if our (Spurs) camp will not start on time then I think I will sign with Flamengo.

“Of course, I will make sure I will be able to join the Spurs when the lockout ends, but I want to be playing and working on my game.”

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