Posts Tagged ‘Jeffrey Kessler’

Labor Talks: Nuclear Winter No More!

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

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Merry Christmas NBA fans. Our 149-day lockout nightmare, and the NBA’s “Nuclear Winter” is over.

It’s a little early, but most appropriate now that there is a tentative settlement agreement on lawsuits that will pave the way for a collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players, reached after a marathon, 15-hour Black Friday-early Saturday negotiating session in New York.

That means the shortened 2011-12 season starts on Christmas Day, a 66-game season with training camp and free agency starting simultaneously on Dec. 9 and season-opening slate of games — Boston Celtics at the New York Knicks; Miami Heat at the Dallas Mavericks; and Chicago Bulls at the Los Angeles Lakers — that should serve as a fitting return our beloved game for fans around the globe.

All that said, a multitude of issues remain. But the framework of the new deal is done — we’ve been telling folks for months now, this thing wasn’t officially over until we had NBA Commissioner David Stern and (former) union executive director Billy Hunter sitting next to each other smiling … “Yahtzee!”

As NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner reported before the sun rose over the hideout, “players are to receive a “band” share of basketball-related income ranging from 49 percent to 51 percent depending on the league’s growth (with a more reasonable shot at 51 than in previous offers). A laundry list of system issues, meanwhile, are intended to make the NBA more competitive across its 30 teams.”

If the immediate player reactions are any indication, the rest of the process is strictly a formality. These guys clearly want to get back to what they do best.

Opinions will vary in the coming days and weeks about winners and losers. We will leave that for others to decide (more on that below). But I think it’s clear that the owners returned to the table ready to compromise in ways (the players already had) to ensure that we see NBA basketball before in time for the 2011 on that 2011-12 season to mean something.

In that respect, it’s a win-win for all sides (players/owners and most importantly the fans). Now, back to the news at hand (with a special HT hat tip to the dogged Ken Berger of CBSSports.com for breaking the story) …

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Howard Beck of The New York Times: As a frantic Black Friday gave way to a sleepy Saturday morning in Midtown Manhattan, the biggest deal of all was consummated in a law office tucked between FAO Schwartz and the Apple Store. With handshakes, sighs and weary smiles, the N.B.A. and its players resolved a crippling labor dispute, allowing them to reopen their $4 billion-a-year business in time for the holidays. A 66-game season will start on Christmas Day, ending the second-longest lockout in league history. The deal was reached at about 3 a.m. Saturday, on the 149th day of the lockout, after a final 15-hour bargaining session at the law offices of Weil, Gotshal and Manges. “We’ve reached a tentative understanding that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations,” the league’s commissioner, David Stern, said at 3:40 a.m., “but we’re optimistic that that will all come to pass, and that the N.B.A. season will begin on Dec. 25, Christmas Day, with a tripleheader.” Training camps and free agency will open, simultaneously, on Dec. 9, giving teams two weeks to prepare. The three Christmas games are likely to be the ones that were already on the schedule: Boston at the Knicks, followed by Miami at Dallas and Chicago at the Los Angeles Lakers. The rest of the schedule will be reconstructed and released in the coming days. “We’re really excited,” said Peter Holt, the San Antonio Spurs owner and chairman of the league’s labor-relations committee. “We’re excited for the fans. We’re excited to start playing basketball, for players, for everybody involved.”

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Brian C. Mahoney of the Associated Press (via The Washington Post): After a secret meeting earlier this week that got the broken process back on track, the sides met for more than 15 hours Friday, working to save the season. Stern said the agreement was “subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations, but we’re optimistic that will all come to pass and that the NBA season will begin Dec. 25.  The league plans a 66-game season and aims to open training camps Dec. 9, with free agency opening at the same time. Stern has said it would take about 30 days from an agreement to playing the first game. “All I feel right now is ‘finally,’” Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade told The Associated Press. Just 12 days after talks broke down and Stern declared the NBA could be headed to a “nuclear winter,” he sat next to Hunter to announce the 10-year deal, with either side able to opt out after the sixth year. “For myself, it’s great to be a part of this particular moment in terms of giving our fans what they wanted and wanted to see,” said Derek Fisher, the president of the players’ association. A majority on each side is needed to approve the agreement, first reported by CBSSports.com. The NBA needs votes from 15 of 29 owners. (The league owns the New Orleans Hornets.) Stern said the labor committee plans to discuss the agreement later Saturday and expects them to endorse it and recommend to the full board. The union needs a simple majority of its 430-plus members. That process is a bit more complicated after the players dissolved the union Nov. 14. Now, they must drop their antitrust lawsuit in Minnesota and reform the union before voting on the deal.

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Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: The owners made “significant moves” toward the players on several important system issues that long separated the two sides, a union source told Yahoo! Sports Saturday morning. “There’s still some tweaking to those that needs to be done,” the source said. After the tentative agreement was announced, some players privately said they would not vote for the deal, believing they had conceded too much to the owners. Still, there is not believed to be enough support to block ratification. “We’re optimistic that the [agreement] will hold and we’ll have ourselves an NBA season,” NBA commissioner David Stern said at a brief news conference held in New York with Players Association executive director Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher. Free agency and training camps will start on Dec. 9, Stern said. Under the current agreement, the regular season would have a 66-game schedule that begins on Christmas Day with three games: Boston Celtics at the New York Knicks; Miami Heat at the Dallas Mavericks; and Chicago Bulls at the Los Angeles Lakers. Players are not expected to be permitted to start working out at their team facilities – or with coaching staffs – until camps open on Dec. 9. “It’s finally great to wake up to this kind of news,” Houston Rockets guard Kevin Martin said.

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Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated: • Jeffrey Kessler nearly killed the deal. Again. Sort of. Kessler, the union’s outside counsel, has been a lightning rod for criticism during this process and a frequent target of Stern for what the NBA believes has been a disruptive influence in the negotiations. On Friday, Kessler nearly torpedoed the negotiations again when he, via speakerphone, asked the NBA for a 51 percent of the basketball-related income. Stern and Holt, who have been vehemently opposed to giving the players any more than 50 percent, rejected the proposal. While Kessler was merely the vessel delivering the union’s message, his offer infuriated representatives from the league and, according to a source close to the NBA’s Labor Relations Committee, nearly ended the negotiations. The two sides stayed at the table, however, and, according to the source, eventually agreed on a band that will give the players between 49 and 51 percent of the BRI. • The NBA is happy with this deal. The players are OK with it. Complete details of the new CBA won’t be disclosed for a few days, at least, but it’s clear the NBA got much of what it wanted. It reduced the players’ share of BRI by at least six percent (or $240 million per season) and will ultimately put significant restrictions on player movement, through the luxury tax, that will prevent big or more attractive markets from luring top players away from their incumbent teams. “I think it will largely prevent the high-spending teams from competing in the free-agency market in the way they [have] in the past,” [NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam] Silver said. “It’s a compromise. It’s not the system we sought out to get in terms of the harder cap, but the luxury tax is harsher than it was in the past deal and we hope it’s effective. You never can be sure, but we feel, ultimately, it will give fans in every community hope that their team will be able to compete for championships and that their basis for believing in their team will be a function of management rather than how deep the owners’ pockets are or how large the market is.” The players? It seems they got a deal they can live with. While many players will likely be unhappy with the concessions made by the union, the majority will vote to approve the deal, in part because they believe it’s the best deal they can get and in part because they are not willing to sacrifice an entire season’s salary.

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Henry Abbott of ESPN.com: Common sense suggests players – many of whom have not followed all that closely, and almost all of whom love playing NBA basketball – will approve the deal.  But Hunter’s caution is not without reason. Compared to Stern, Hunter has a bigger, less predictable group that has surprised him more than once in this process with stridence.  There are more than 400 players, for one thing. For another, many of them are incredibly competitive and are sensitive to the idea Stern and the owners have walked on them. And the players not only have real power — some of them are plaintiffs in a case that must be dropped for the NBA to operate – but they also have some bitter pills to swallow, including spending cuts that will affect several free agents in the years to come, a smaller mid-level exception, and less job security for many rank-and-file players.  There may be some salesmanship in how Hunter, Derek Fisher and the Players Association handle the next few days.  If I were doing the selling, these are some of the points I’d make: *NBA free agency – the bedrock of every players’ market value — is not everything it once was, but it’s alive and well. There is no hard cap, and every team will have at least some kind of mid-level exception every year. * The Bird exception has led to some of the league’s best-paid, winningest, happiest players, and is essentially untouched. *Minimum team payrolls will be climbing. The league instituted this in the name of competitive balance. But it will be in effect whether or not better players are available for stingy teams to sign, and whether or not owners know how to spend that money wisely. That’s a win for free agents. The Grizzlies reportedly signed Zach Randolph in part because they had to get their salaries up to the league minimum. There will be more deals like this in the future. * The best way to really make a lot of money as a non-superstar NBA player is to touch off a free-agent bidding war. Revenue sharing will help even the most tight-fisted teams to join these once in a while. If $3 million or so sounds like a decent salary to you, right now, for the first time have as many as 30 teams that both want you and can afford you.

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Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com: Here are some of the key details of those moves, according to a league source who was privy to the details of the tentative agreement and shared those details with SheridanHoops.com. _ On the financial split, the players will receive between 49 and 51 percent of revenues, depending on annual growth. The players had complained prior to Saturday that the owners’ previous offer effectively limited them to 50.2 percent of revenues, but the source said 51 percent was now reasonably achievable with robust growth. _Owners dropped their insistence on what would have been known as the Carmelo Anthony rule, preventing teams from executing extend-and-trade deals similar to the one that sent Anthony from the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks last season. This means that if Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Chris Paul want to leverage their way out of Orlando, New Jersey and New Orleans, they will still be eligible to sign four-year extensions with their current teams before being immediately traded elsewhere. _ Teams above the salary cap will be able to offer four-year mid-level exception contracts to free agents each season. Previously, owners were asking that teams be limited to offering a four-year deal one year, a three-year deal the next, then four, then three, etc. _ The rookie salary scale and veteran minimum salaries will stay the same as they were last season. Owners had been seeking 12 percent cuts. _ Qualifying offers to restricted free agents will become “significantly” improved. The sides had already agreed to reduce the time for a team to match an offer to a restricted free agent from 7 days to 3. _ A new $2.5 million exception will be available to teams that go blow the salary cap, then use all of their cap room to sign free agents. Once they are back above the cap, they will be able to use the new exception instead of being limited to filling out their rosters with players on minimum contracts. _ The prohibition on luxury tax-paying teams from executing sign-and-trade deals was loosened, although the freedom to execute those types of deals will still be limited.

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We Have (The Makings Of) A Deal!

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

NBA.com’s Labor Central

After 15 hours of negotiations Friday-into-Saturday –- and 149 days of lockout start to finish -– representatives of the NBA owners and players reached a tentative deal on settling their various lawsuits that should lead to a new collective bargaining agreement that will salvage a shortened 2011-12 season beginning on Christmas Day.

Details of what will become a new labor contract still were vague when the meeting ended after 3 a.m. ET at a New York law office. But the bones of a deal reportedly call for the players to receive a “band” share of basketball-related income ranging from 49 percent to 51 percent depending on the league’s growth (with a more reasonable shot at 51 than in previous offers). A laundry list of system issues, meanwhile, are intended to make the NBA more competitive across its 30 teams.

NBA commissioner David Stern and Billy Hunter, the former executive director of the players’ former union, met with reporters in an impromptu joint news conference shortly after the meeting.

“We’ve reached a tentative understanding,” Stern said, “that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations. But we’re optimistic that will all come to pass and that the NBA season will begin on December 25th, Christmas Day, with a triple-header.

“We’re very pleased that we’ve come this far. There’s still a lot of work to be done in a lot of places, with a lot of committees and player groups and the like. But we’re optimistic that it will hold and we’ll have ourselves an NBA season.

Stern said the owners’ labor relations committee would be briefed Saturday, with the agreement passing then to the overall Board of Governors. The commissioner said he expects both bodies to endorse the deal.

Said Hunter: “We’re going to turn it all over to the lawyers here and have them work out all the details. We’ll be able to then talk with you further as that process proceeds.” It could take a week to 10 days for the players to re-form their union and ratify a formal CBA.

Stern and Hunter did share a few details on the shortened season. A 66-game regular-season schedule, first reported by the New York Times Wednesday, is likely, pushing the start of a full playoff bracket a week or so later into spring. The plan is for training camps and free agency to both begin on Dec. 9, though details remained sketchy. All-Star Weekend in Orlando, initially set for Feb. 24-26, is expected to be preserved.

Technically, the talks that stretched from noon Friday into the wee hours Saturday were aimed at settling the antitrust lawsuit filed last week by the players when they dissolved their union. But the essence of that settlement will serve as the new CBA, assuming remaining “B-list” issues are worked out, lawsuits by both the players and the league (anticipating the union’s disclaimer of interest) get dismissed, the union gets re-formed with the league’s approval and the deal is ratified by both the NBA’s 30 owners and its 430-plus players.

The “A-list” issues, though, were the ones that had hung up the season, forcing what will be an opening night delayed by 55 days. They’re the ones that caused bargaining to break down Nov. 14 and they’re the ones that needed to be addressed to both sides’ satisfaction –- or tolerable dissatisfaction -– for the tentative agreement to get struck.

Finding middle ground on those was key. Among them:

– The mid-level exception for non-taxpaying teams will have a maximum length of four years every season (instead of alternating at four years, then three years). Starting salary can be as much as $5 million.

– There apparently will be a “mini” MLE for taxpaying teams, restricting the amount they can offer to free agents.

– A 10 percent maximum escrow tax will be withheld without the unlimited “true up” amount requested by the owners in their previous offer.

– Extend-and-trade deals –- as used by Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks last season –- will be modified but not eliminated in a new CBA. That could impact players such as Orlando’s Dwight Howard and New Jersey’s Deron Williams.

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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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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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Deadline Day … Again

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

SIDES TO CONTINUE TALKING THURSDAY

1:18 a.m. ET: After more than 12 hours, talks have halted and will continue Thursday at noon ET. While no deal was agreed upon and no significant progress was made, NBA commissioner David Stern said the deadline on moving to a 53-47 revenue split in the owners’ favor was being put on hold, as our own David Aldridge tweets:

Stern: We’ve agreed to stop the clock while we contnue to negotiate. Back at noon tomorrow. Neither optimistic nor pessimistic.

Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski tweets:

Stern wouldn’t deny progress had been made on system issues. “We’re not failing, and we’re not succeeding.” Stern: “It was understanding going in that at end of the session, whether it ends today or tomorrow, that’s when our offer reverts.”

Aldridge tweets the same message from Derek Fisher:

Union now. Fisher: we spent a lot of time covering the issues. I can’t say there was sig progress made, but we’re going to meet tomorrow.

Aldridge also tweets a smiliar tone from Billy Hunter:

Hunter: didn’t make much headway on any of the five system issues.

WEDNESDAY ROLLS INTO THURSDAY

11:58 p.m. ET: We’re headed for yet another marathon meeting, with Wednesday’s negotiations rolling into Thursday morning. But does the length equate to progress? ESPN’s Ric Bucher tweets his thoughts:

As night rolls on, my optimism on NBA deal being struck wanes. If they’re grinding at this point, it’s because fundamental divide remains.

Our own Steve Aschburner sums it up, too:

Has gone all ways. Long talks=”progress,” long talks=breakdown. Same w/ short talks.

WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE

11:07 p.m. ET: As Wednesday’s labor talks pass the 10-hour mark, our man David Aldridge gives us the following:

Don’t know if they can close the gap on everything, but do have the sense [David] Stern/[Billy] Hunter want to make a deal tonight if possible …

But, Aldridge points out:

But, again, we’ve been at this spot before and they haven’t been able to get it done. No promises or predictions tonight, either.

AND THE BEAT GOES ON

9:11 p.m. ET: A ray of hope, perhaps? Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports tweets that the owners and the players have made “significant progress.”  The info is from sources who have been briefed on the talks. In a follow-up, Wojnarowski tweeted:

No deal was considered imminent, but talks were expected to extend late into the evening.

 Sam Amick of sister site SI.com tweeted:

There is an interesting level of optimism among the NBA executive ranks regarding tonight’s talks and how this night will end.

Sums up our man Steve Aschburner:

Reports of “progress” in NBA labor mtg (multiple outlets). If it took chastened union attorney [Jeffrey] Kessler or Stern’s straw deadline, so be it.

NO DRUM ROLL YET

8:29 p.m. ET:  After about seven hours of bargaining, which we hope is collective, still no word on whether progress has been made or whether commissioner David Stern has reset the owners’ offer.  As Ken Berger of CBSSports.com puts it in a tweet:

Cranking along here at the lockout stakeout. Hour No. 8 has begun. Been given no indication of how things are going.

SOUND OFF

7:23 p.m. ET:  With the CMA set to recognize the brightest country stars tonight, we wait with bated breath for an harmonious chord to be struck in the NBA labor negotiations.  As the labor fiddling continues, media types have been forced out of their big waiting room in the Manhattan hotel.  Says Howard Beck of The New York Times in a tweet:

In the latest round of stakeout hijinks, hotel took away our luxurious 4,000-square foot room and jammed us into two smaller ones.

I’LL HAVE THE CAVIAR, PLEASE

6:35 p.m., ET: This, from our man David Aldridge, a few minutes ago, via twitter.

League, union ordering in dinner. Make of it what you will. #smallmoves

Breaking bread? Good, right?

Or just loading up for the food fight to come?

This might take a while. A while longer, that is.

DEBATING, STILL

6:23 p.m., ET: While the Republican presidential wannabes get ready to tee it up in their latest debate, this one tonight at 9 in the suburbs of Detroit, our basketball leaders continue to hash out things in a midtown Manhattan hotel.

We could attempt to make some more ill-conceived parallels between those folks, one of whom may be the next POTUS, and our cast of characters, none of whom has acted particularly presidential lately. But we’ll stop there. Suffice it to say, they’ll be talking and gesturing and maybe pointing fingers tonight in Detroit. And in New York, they’re doing the same in the latest negotiating session between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. They’ve been at it about five hours worth today so far.

While we’re waiting for one to start and the other to end, enjoy the newest update from NBA TV (above). And remember to check NBA TV (and NBA.com) after the talks for all the news conferencing you can handle.

A GIFT FOR GAB

5:23 p.m., ET: NBA lockout expert Howard Beck (@HowardBeckNYT) of The New York Times tweets this, and we’re happy for his ciphering:

Updated tote board: Labor negotiations have now consumed 140 hours over 22 meetings since the lockout began.

That is a lot of gabbing since July 1. We need to count up the deadlines next, and the deadlines missed, and the comments by owners and players regretted, and the money lost and the time spent hanging around lobbies and the pizzas eaten (and the Tums) and the times we’ve written BRI and …

Oh, come on already.

BONG! BONG! BONG!

5 p.m., ET: From Merriam-Webster.com. The definition of the word deadline:

1 a : a line drawn within or around a prison that a prisoner passes at the risk of being shot
2 a : a date or time before which something must be done

OK, we’re not absolutely positive which one applies at this hour. But that ringing you all just heard was the Stern-line passing. And, by all accounts, the talking between owners and players is still going on.

That, of course, was to be expected. If progress is being made [be gone, you cursed optimism], it makes no sense for either side to get up from the table. No sense at all.

Keep talking. Order in. We’ll pay!

On the negative side, as we’ve learned over these past months, the length of a bargaining session in no way is indicative of the results of said session. We have learned — or been told, anyway — that there comes a time when there’s nothing else to be said. And if differences still remain … well, that’s how we got here.

But on the hopeful side, as close as the two sides reportedly are, it can only be good that they’ve blown by the stated deadline and are still talking. Whether they can come to that elusive agreement or not and get the dang season started, we just don’t know at this point.

Either way, there went another deadline. That ringing you heard? Probably in your head.

AT WHAT COST?

4:43 p.m., ET: It has been reported, and tweeted, from the always-excellent TrueHoop blog on ESPN, that (and we’ll copy that tweet right here):

Difference between the two sides is tiny compared to cost of lost season, no matter what happens today

No doubt about it. And if sportswriters and fans can see that … don’t you figure the guys in the room should be able to, too?

Sorry. Slipped into common sense there for a second. No place for that here.

DEADLINE NEARS

4:31 p.m., ET: We’re inside a half-hour until the David Stern-imposed deadline. After that, supposedly, things get worse.

Things can get worse?

‘ROUND AND ‘ROUND

4:20 p.m., ET: You do have to wonder, if you’re at least half-interested in the NBA lockout, what those guys talk about in the room for all these hours. After all, they met for 8 1/2 hours last Saturday and into Sunday. The players, on their own, have gotten together since then. The owners have, too.

They’ve been going at this for 132 days, for Podoloff’s sake. It’s been a tad sporadic, granted. But shouldn’t it be as simple as this?

ONE SIDE: “Have you guys moved? Are you willing to?”

THE OTHER SIDE: “What about you guys?”

If these guys don’t understand the other side’s position at this point, we’re all in trouble.

Anyway, NBA TV is, as they say, cutting into their regularly scheduled programming with updates. Rick Kamla gives you a rundown with the latest, above. And allow us a quick plug: If there are news conferences to be had after this meeting of the minds — good, bad or in-between (if there is an in-between at this point) — you can find them on NBA TV. Call your cable or satellite provider for details. Or click on the guide already. It’s not that hard.

GETTING ALL DIPLOMATIC

3:26 p.m., ET: Our man David Aldridge has offered up this bit of scribing, pointing out the need for diplomacy in these touchy times and alerting us as to what to listen for in the public pronouncements of the principals in these proceedings.

Wow. We’re only a couple of hours into this thing today and we’re getting all alliterative already. Time for a break.

Anyway, D.A. does a little reading between the lines for us:

  • It’s true, the league has said it will put a new, harsher proposal on the table at 5 p.m. Wednesday that goes back to the 53-47 BRI split in favor of the owners and the “flex cap” NHL-style, harder salary ceiling. But even if the NBA does so, it’s just a proposal, not an ultimatum. [The bolding is Hang Time’s.] Which means it can be negotiated up as well as down. Just because the owners start there doesn’t mean they finish there, and if you dovetail some give by the players on BRI with some give by the owners on the system, you get very close to a deal.
  • There are a good portion of hard-liners among the owners. But guess who isn’t a hard-liner? The owner of the New Orleans Hornets, which just happens to be the NBA. And guess who else probably isn’t today? Atlanta Spirit, the new/old owners of the Atlanta Hawks, who were put back in charge of the franchise last week when Alex Meruelo’s deal to buy the team fell through. It’s a pretty good guess that Atlanta Spirit will be willing to eschew whatever concerns it may have about a new deal in order to secure the help of one David J. Stern to help it make the best possible sale for the team. Those are two important votes the Commish has in his back pocket. And who knows how many other teams are on the block, and whose owners that are otherwise hawks might fall in line to facilitate a future sale?

IN THE ROOM

2:48 p.m., ET: Jeffrey Kessler, a lawyer for the National Basketball Players Association, is in the bargaining room today, too, according to the Turner Sports tag team of Steve Aschburner and David Aldridge.

This is news because Kessler, if you’ll recall, was the guy who couldn’t check his emotions, or his mouth, when the owners told players that the latest offer was the best that they were going to get, so they should take it. Remember?

“To present that in the context of ‘take it or leave it,’ in our view, that is not good faith. Instead of treating the players like partners, they’re treating them like plantation workers.”

Yep, generally speaking, “plantation workers” doesn’t go over well in any context. But Kessler went there Monday.

To his credit, we guess, Kessler apologized in a statement earlier today.

The comments that I made in The Washington Post took place in an interview late at night Monday after a very long day. Looking back, the words that I used were inappropriate; I did not intend to offend. I was merely passionately advocating for the players.

The players evidently thought that mea culpa sufficed enough to invite him back into the party today, where he will face NBA Commissioner David Stern. It was Stern, remember, who called Kessler’s actions during these negotiations “routinely despicable.”

See. This is why they don’t allow gavels in these meetings.

AND THEY’RE OFF

2 p.m., ET: The gavel sounded and the meeting came to order somewhere around 1:30 p.m. Well, we weren’t in there, and there probably wasn’t a gavel (it’s kind of dangerous to have a hammer in NBA negotiations), but reports from the scene indicated that the meeting started somewhere around 1:30.

This meeting reportedly is between a smaller group of players and owners, the kind of meeting in which most of the best and most productive work has been done during the lockout. Our guys in New York are busy running down a roll of who is there, but it’s a good bet that NBA Commissioner David Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver are repping the owners. Reports are that labor committee chairman Peter Holt of the San Antonio Spurs is in the room, too.

National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter and the union’s president, Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers, are sure to be there. Economist Kevin Murphy is helping out the players and is in town, it’s been reported, and several other players are milling around New York after Tuesday’s labor meeting and may be there.

Sources told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! for a piece earlier today that Stern has the authority to come off the owners’ demands on some of the system issues, which might be encouraging news.

NBA commissioner David Stern has the authority to make minor system alterations to the owners’ latest labor offer to the players to try to complete a collective bargaining agreement and end the lockout, ownership sources told Yahoo! Sports.

How much, though, and will it make a difference?

“It will be a very slight budge,” one high-ranking management source said.

We will see. We will see.

LET’S GET READY TO …

1:20 p.m., ET: The owners fired out an ultimatum. The players knocked it back with a “no can do.”

And so now, in Day 132 of the NBA’s maddening, frustrating and ever-tiring labor lockdown, we find ourselves once again wondering: Is this it?

Is this the day players and owners finally look for a compromise that everyone can live with and strike a new collective bargaining agreement? Is this the day that the players — largely regarded as giving the most so far in the back-and-forth of negotiations — finally tell the owners to take their offer and their 5 p.m. deadline and dunk it?

Or … is this just another misguided bit of silly optimism in this multi-billion dollar game that these guys are playing?

We will find out soon enough. Or, we’ll find out soon, anyway.

OK. We’ll find out. Hopefully.

Representatives for the owners and the players’ union are supposed to be gathering — once again — in a Manhattan hotel meeting room at this hour, supposedly to try to move the last few feet on an agreement that, according to many people’s estimation, is already 95 percent done. The owners have an offer on the table that they will snatch back, says NBA Commissioner David Stern, at 5 p.m. ET if the players don’t accept it. At that point, Stern has threatened to replace that offer with something decidedly less attractive to the players.

The players, after rejecting Stern’s offer on Tuesday, talked the owners back to the table today in a bid to bridge that final gap. The players are reportedly ready to take a 50-50 split of basketball-related income — it would actually mean 12 percent less for them than they had in the previous agreement — if the owners give a little on the so-called “system” issues which govern player movement, contract length, raises and those kind of things.

Will the owners move? Will they move enough? And if they don’t, what next?

Decertification by the union? More inane comments from those in the room? A fan revolt? Heads exploding?

It could be a long day. Or not. But our guys David Aldridge of TNT and Steve Aschburner of NBA.com are on hand to fill you in.

Hang around. And let us know what you think, too, while we’re waiting around for … whatever.

Labor Talks: Your Move … Owners

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

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It’s hard to believe that the NBA lockout has been going on for more than four months and we’re just now getting down to the real negotiating in the past four days.

Seriously, it has taken us all this time to get down to business. The owners submitted their proposal and issued their ultimatum Saturday with a deadline that expires and the “end of business” (5 p.m. ET) today. The players rejected it Tuesday. And here we are, hours away from that deadline with the ball, and the hope for a season sooner rather than later, in the owners’ court.

The players are willing to meet again to get what they say is a “fair” deal. They insist they are willing to negotiate on system issues and made it clear last night that they are willing to jump on the 50-50 split, provided the owners give on some of the system issues that have become sticking points.

That sounds like an offer to negotiate to us.

(As of Wednesday morning, per tweets from ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard and Yahoo! Sports’ Marc J. Spears, the sides appear to be working on a meeting this afternoon in New York. Additionally, The Associated Press reported the sides would meet in small groups — although they could include players still in the city after yesterday’s NBPA meeting — sometime today.)

But are the owners willing to budge on their stance and perhaps extend tonight’s deadline? Are the owners willing to concede at all on the system issues to save the season? Are they willing to take their blowout victory and show a little mercy now that they know the major battles have been won?

Those are fair questions. Why should one side be expected to move off while the other does not?

The drumbeat the players heard in the wake of that weekend ultimatum was that it was time for them to face reality and prepare to surrender in order to save the season. Shouldn’t the same apply to the owners in the minutes and hours leading up to this afternoon’s deadline?

***

Zach Lowe of SI.com: The NBA players’ union has called David Stern’s bluff — and it’s done so with a smile. Facing a take-it-or-leave-it deadline amid rumors of reserved conference rooms for negotiations on Wednesday and the possible cancellation of games through Christmas (a rumor the league denied), union officials met here Tuesday and made it clear they wouldn’t accept owners’ latest offer. They also made it clear they’re not too worried about Stern’s 5 p.m. Wednesday deadline, when the commissioner will supposedly pull the current offer and replace it with a harsher one. The union put on a united face Tuesday, saying it barely discussed the possibility of decertifying and hinting that it will almost certainly meet with owners Wednesday in a last-ditch effort to make a deal. When Bill Clinton, who was in town to promote his new book, Back to Work (the irony!), strode through the hotel lobby after the press conference, the players were practically giddy. “You’re with the players’ union now!” vice president Mo Williams shouted. “He’s with us!” The players essentially kept things status quo, which is newsworthy considering the clock ticking on Stern’s ultimatum. They emerged from the room with a clear message: We have volunteered to take 51 percent of the league’s $4 billion in basketball-related income (BRI) instead of the 57 percent we used to get, and we would even go down to 50-50, but we will not bend any more on the structure of the salary cap and luxury tax. “Without improvements in the system,” union president Derek Fisher said, “we don’t see a way of getting a deal done between now and the end of business tomorrow.”

***

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: Union chief Billy Hunter said Tuesday he’s “cool” with Paul Pierce leading a decertification movement within the National Basketball Players Association and is “not at all opposed” to the Celtics star taking the lead. “I think Paul is kind of frustrated with the process,” Hunter said after a news conference in which the players said they were rejecting the league’s latest take-it-or-leave-it proposal. “Paul has been at the bargaining table and he doesn’t feel that we’ve been making any kind of progress. And so he thought that maybe that’s necessary. We don’t have a lot of options and that’s the option Paul was pushing – still is pushing.” Asked in a small group of reporters if he’s cool with that, Hunter said, “Of course. Listen, I’m cool with Paul and all these guys. I think it’s very important. I’m happy that Paul and the others are involved in the process. That’s always been the problem with athletes, that a lot of stuff is foisted on them and they have no input. Paul has been actively engaged, he understands, he’s been in five or six of our negotiating sessions, he talks to me, and when they had the (decertification) calls, he called and let me know that they were having the calls. And I said, ‘Hey, I’m not at all opposed to you doing that.’ … I endorse what Paul did.” Hunter later said in an interview on NBA TV that Pierce informed him Tuesday that about 200 players have committed to signing a petition seeking a decertification election if a deal is not consummated before commissioner David Stern’s 5 p.m. ET Wednesday deadline to accept the owners’ latest proposal — which includes the same 50-50 split of revenues the union is now prepared to accept. With owners almost certainly following through on their threat to forward a worse proposal to the players if they didn’t accept the one on the table, the talks could be thrust into chaos even if Hunter is successful in securing another bargaining session Wednesday. Once the decertification petition is filed with the National Labor Relations Board, the players seeking to dissolve the union would have to wait 45-60 days for the agency to hold an election — a period during which negotiations with the NBPA could continue.

***

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: As one ownership source told Yahoo! Sports on Monday night, “If there were a couple of tweaks needed around the edges – not fundamental deal points – I believe there could be a deal if everything else is agreed upon. But there needs to be a meeting with David and Billy for anything to happen.” Fisher and Hunter indicated the union is willing to compromise on the proposed revenue split between the owners and players if the owners drop their demands for some specific system changes. “Without those improvements in the system we don’t see a way to get a deal done between now and the end of business [Wednesday] evening,” Fisher said. The union wants teams that cross the luxury tax threshold to still be allowed to use sign-and-trades and the regular midlevel exception to acquire players. Union officials also want the financial penalty for repeat tax offenders decreased and changes in the owners’ proposed escrow system. “There are things in the system … that we have to have, in order to be able to get this season going again,” Fisher said. The Players Association offered to drop its revenue split to 51 percent on Saturday. Hunter surprised some in Saturday’s mediation session when he suggested the players might be willing to drop to a 50-50 split, even when they had just stated their position as 51, sources in the room told Y! Sports.

***

***

Marcos Breton of the Sacramento Bee: The NBA, like all major sports leagues, is bloodthirsty when protecting its interests. So far in their labor talks, league owners have routed players by seeming unsatisfied with partial victories. They want it all: Big salary rollbacks, shorter contracts, restricted player movement, taxes on big-money teams that spend a lot on acquiring players and other demands too numerous to cite here. Stern said players have to give on all these issues by today – or else. In arena negotiations with cities like Sacramento, the NBA also has wanted it all. In Indianapolis, Memphis, Charlotte and other places, the communities took most of the financial risks while the league reaped most of the financial benefits. If the NBA expects to win such a rout in Sacramento, the entire arena effort is at risk. Very soon, city officials will know whether they can rely on city parking revenue to help generate the kind of money needed to fund an arena costing $400 million or more. AEG, the sports and entertainment titan controlling facilities across the globe, seems poised to invest millions in a Sacramento arena. City staff, officials and local leaders have worked endless hours to explore whether this arena deal is possible. It’s been a massive effort to prove that Sacramento wants to make this happen. But will the NBA and the Kings be willing to put money up for an arena construction deal as Sacramento and AEG seemed poised to do? Or will they string Sacramento out, play it against Anaheim or some other city and then try to blow up the deal while pinning the blame on Sacramento? They play that way when it suits them.

***

Amy Shipley of The Washington Post: There were no talks between the sides Tuesday as tension over the four-month-old labor dispute remained high. All games through Nov. 30 have been canceled. Jeffrey Kessler, a prominent attorney for the players, accused the owners of treating his clients like “plantation workers,” a comment that drew a furious response from Stern. Kessler said the owners’ current offer to give the players half of basketball-related income was not a “fair deal” and that the soft salary cap functioned like a hard cap. “To present that in the context of ‘take it or leave it,’ in our view, that is not good faith,” Kessler, who also represented the NFL players in their labor dispute with the NFL, said in a telephone interview Monday night. “Instead of treating the players like partners, they’re treating them like plantation workers.” In a phone call Tuesday, Stern blamed Kessler for the stalled talks and said he deserved to be “called to task” for the remark. “Kessler’s agenda is always to inflame and not to make a deal,” Stern said, “even if it means injecting race and thereby insulting his own clients. . . . He has been the single most divisive force in our negotiations and it doesn’t surprise me he would rant and not talk about specifics. Kessler’s conduct is routinely despicable.” The vitriol surely won’t help close the gap. “It certainly is dire,” Stern said about the stalemate.

***

Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com: NBA players want one more meeting with commissioner David Stern and the owners. And although they are probably not willing to say “pretty-please,” they are willing to pay for the privilege. Making the surprising declaration that they are prepared to make further financial concessions (goodbye, 51 percent), team representatives from the NBA players union said Tuesday they still want to make a deal, and they still want to make it by tomorrow, as long as it is fair. Union director Billy Hunter said he will likely call Stern on the phone tonight to ask for the meeting, which would be held — if Stern says OK — in the hours leading up to the commissioner’s “close of business Wednesday” deadline for the union to accept the current offer on the table or have it replaced by a new offer under which the players would receive only 47 percent of revenues. Quite clearly, the union is anxious to give this one more shot. What is unclear is whether the owners will be willing to budge on many of the salary cap system issues that are keeping the sides apart. … Owners have offered the players a 50-50 split, and the players came down from their demand for 52.5 percent of revenues to 51 percent during last Saturday’s ill-fated bargaining session. The one percent difference represents $40 million annually in a business that brought in $4.2 billion in revenues last season. “We’re open about potential compromises on financials, but there are certain things in the system we have to have,” Fisher said. “Of course players want to get a deal done, we’ve gotten thousands of those calls, but not by any means necessary.”

***

***

Harvey Araton of The New York Times: Those who have worked closely with Stern and who recognize that the players have made significant concessions this time around believe that he would have already cut a deal if past conditions still prevailed. “This is a very different economic situation than he’s had,” said Russ Granik, the former N.B.A. deputy commissioner and now a vice chairman of Galatioto Sports Partners, which advises pro teams and leagues on finances. “When the dynamics end up being more important than the economics, it’s the hardest kind of dispute to resolve.” And Stern winds up looking more like the provocateur than the pragmatist, though Granik added: “If he was concerned about his legacy, he would have walked away, retired a year ago. Everyone knew this was coming.” Those who know Stern said he would not have left the current mess to Adam Silver, who replaced Granik as deputy and could be Stern’s eventual replacement. For his part, Stern said he understood and accepted the heightened rhetoric and news media criticism that are parts of any contentious labor showdown. Regarding the most inflammatory of comments — HBO’s Bryant Gumbel’s likening him to “some kind of modern plantation overseer” — Stern sighed and called it “an occupational hazard.” But he didn’t leave it there because here, finally, was an attack not on the commissioner’s persona, but on his core person. “I have worked harder for inclusiveness and diversity than he could ever understand,” Stern said. “So when I heard what he said I sat back and waited for the e-mails from the people who know me, who have worked with me.”

***

Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star: Indiana Pacers swingmen Danny Granger and Dahntay Jones reached out to many of their teammates to get their thoughts on the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement offer before heading to New York for their meeting Tuesday. The consensus, according to Jones, was that they considered the league’s offer unacceptable. “Most people were abreast of the situation and knew what was at stake,” Jones said in a telephone interview after the players’ association meeting. “We were all on the same page according to how we felt about the deal.” The players’ union rejected the deal and hopes to meet with NBA officials in an attempt to put an end to the lockout, which has already caused the preseason and first month of the regular season to be canceled. “We knew the deal wasn’t what we wanted, but I wanted to know how bad the deal was,” Jones said. “We can get past the 50-50 (revenue split), but the (luxury tax and salary cap) system is so bad in the proposal that they left us no choice but to turn it down. “Hopefully, the system issues can be tweaked and it’ll be something we can work with and get a deal done.”

***

Ben Maller of The Post Game: If a professional sports league cancels games and nobody is around to care about it, does it really matter? An overwhelming 76 percent of respondents to a new scientific survey said they aren’t missing the National Basketball Association during the work stoppage. The lockout is now 130 days old, with the first full month of games canceled, yet a majority of Americans haven’t spent too much time crying in their beer over the bickering hoop stars. Only 12 percent are upset the games have gone away and another 12 percent couldn’t get off the fence and come up with an opinion. Race is a big dividing line in who is missing the NBA around the country. Only 8 percent of whites miss pro basketball, with 83 percent saying they don’t care about the loss of games. African-Americans feel much differently, with 26 percent saying they do miss NBA games, and 57 percent who don’t care, according to a scientifically conducted telephone survey of 1,179 registered voters nationwide by PollPosition.com … Men and women have pretty similar opinions about not watching LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Blake Griffin. The survey reports 72 percent of men weren’t upset about the postponed start to the NBA season, while 80 percent of women said they don’t miss NBA games. Only 8 percent of the ladies want pro hoops back asap. Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 are most brokenhearted about the canceled games. In the younger demographic, 29 percent say they’re missing games, 53 percent are not, and 18 percent without a strong a point of view either way. Generation X misses the NBA games the least, with 83 percent responding that they couldn’t care less about missed games, as opposed to 7 percent who do and 10 percent who had no opinion.

***

Labor Talks: Circling The Wagons?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – While we admire the solidarity message the players’ union has delivered repeatedly throughout the NBA lockout, it’s tough to read exactly how that message has been received.

While the majority of the rank-and-file players have been saying (and tweeting) all the right things about their unified state, cracks in the union’s foundation have emerged (as Jerry Stackhouse displayed passionately). The voices of discontent over this latest standoff are getting louder and louder. And there is a growing sentiment that we could see some sort of significant movement in mood after the union brass and executive committee members gather for a “strategy session” today in New York.

Are they circling the wagons with this pow-wow and gearing up to take another stand against the owners? Or is this the beginning of the end of the “stand united” campaign and the union’s solidarity movement?

Union executive director Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher will find out sometime later today or perhaps this weekend, when the Boston Herald reports that negotiations are set to resume.

(more…)

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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Labor Talks: Season On The Brink …

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.

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In The Aftermath Of Doomsday …

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The frayed emotions and exhausted looks on the faces of basketball lovers worldwide should be impossible to hide this morning.

Now that the doomsday fears have been realized, and the first two weeks of the NBA’s regular season have been canceled, we’re all left with the uneasy feeling of what faces the chopping block next as the lockout digs deeper into the fall.

We can dispense with all of the pleasantries now and get down to brass tacks. Forget about when the season starts. Most fans are wondering this morning if there will be a season. The unthinkable a few weeks ago has become our new reality …

Something To Salvage?

Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: Can the season be saved? The answer is yes, so long as the NBA owners are willing to negotiate into January, as they did to resolve their previous lockout in 1999.

Understand that two weeks of NBA games have been wiped away, and that more cancellations are to come. Nothing important is likely to change over the next two weeks that will enable basketball to be played in late November or early December.

On and on it will go, with both sides looking back to the salvation of the ’99 lockout. That resolution a dozen years ago may have influenced these extended talks that failed Monday night in New York. As much anxiety as both sides were feeling to reach an agreement this week, they weren’t experiencing the ultimate pressure that will be felt later this winter when the entire season is at risk. “The problem,” said a former league official who was involved in the negotiations that shortened the 1998-99 season to 50 games, “is that people tend to look at early January as the drop-dead date.”

He was worrying that the absolute final offer from either side may not emerge for another 12 weeks. Not until the final days of this calendar year will the owners fully understand the consequences of losing a full season during a recession, while more than 400 players find themselves confronted with the likelihood of a full year without an NBA paycheck.

In many ways these entire negotiations have gone according to form. It is not the formula anyone would have desired, but it has been entirely predictable. The owners lock out the players July 1, with little negotiating done for most of July and August, followed by sudden urgency to make a deal that can save the full season.

Lost Games Part Of The Plan?

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: On the sidewalk out on 63rd Street, sirens wailing and knucklehead cameramen jostling for position and cursing each other, here was Billy Hunter living in his own movie. Regular-season games lost on his watch, and on David Stern‘s, just as they’d discussed two years ago.

“It goes back to a comment that David said to me several years ago, when he said this is what my owners have to have,” Hunter said Monday night, after the first two weeks of the 2011-12 NBA regular season were canceled. “And I said, ‘Well, the only way you’re going to get that is, you prepare to lock us out for a year or two.’ And he’s indicated to me that they’re willing to do it. So my belief and contention is that everything that he’s done has demonstrated that he’s following that script.”

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