Posts Tagged ‘NBA Lockout’

Labor Talks: Bleak Outlook Ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disturbing news?

Sure.

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

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

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Labor Talks: A Different Take On Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Welcome To The NBA’s Nuclear Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Union Rejects Proposal, Will Disband

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

THE BEAUTY AND CURSE THAT IS TWITTER

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

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

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

Our favorite?

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

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

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

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NEW LABOR LEADERS SPEAK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PROPOSAL REJECTED, ANTITRUST ACTION TO BE FILED

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

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

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

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

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

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

– 1:47 p.m.: Meetings over!

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

… NOT SO FAST MY FRIENDS

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

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

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

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STERN: NO TWEAKS

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

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

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

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

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

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AGENT(S) STRIKE BACK

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

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

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

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

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

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SCOLA ROCKS THE VOTE

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

He said as much on Twitter this morning:

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

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

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PLAYERS ARRIVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry Asch!

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MAJOR QUESTIONS LOOM …

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

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

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

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

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

Whatever happens, it’s going down today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labor Talks: Cold Winds Blowing

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

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Don’t stick that finger in the air.

Not that one, the index finger you might use to gauge which way the NBA lockout winds are blowing. Let us save you the trouble. They’re blowing cold right now. That’s right, ice-cold is the read we’ve gotten on the owners’ 72-game season proposal delivered late Thursday night.

All of the early indications suggest that the players are not interested in accepting the “revised” proposal, the one with the 50-50 BRI split but with many of those pesky “system” issues still a problem for union executive director Billy Hunter, union president Derek Fisher and the men they represent.

The flood of instant reaction, even before the player reps from all 30 teams could make it to New York for Monday’s scheduled meeting with union brass to review the proposal, has been resounding. (That dream Dec. 15 opening night TNT double-header featuring the Heat-Knicks and Lakers-Mavs will vanish if the players punt on this latest proposal).

ESPN The Magazine‘s Ric Bucher identifies some of the elements causing the players to pause before their scheduled gathering:

Once NBA players digest all the details of the owners’ new contract proposal — including a clause that opens a way for more player demotions to the D-League — it’s hard to imagine even those desperate to play would be willing to ratify it, sources told Bucher.

The D-League clause, which previously had not been disclosed, is one of several elements in the owners’ proposal to the locked-out players that prompted one agent to describe the proposal as “draconian.”

The clause would give teams the right to send a player down to the NBA Development League at any time during his first five years, paying him a reduced contract while he’s there, a source who has examined the proposal told Bucher.

Any player sent down to the D-League would be paid at a pro-rated scale of $75,000 a season, which is slightly above the current D-League maximum but roughly one-sixth of the NBA minimum, the source said.

The owners’ new proposal also would prohibit luxury tax-paying teams from sign-and-trade deals after a two-year “phase-in” period, according to sources.

Non-tax-paying teams also would be prohibited from using the mid-level exception if doing so would take them over the salary cap, sources said.

“They don’t want to do a deal,” one agent said of the owners’ proposals. “And what they’ve underestimated is the resolve of the players.”

UPDATE – NBA Commissioner David Stern told our Steve Aschburner Saturday night that there is a wave of misinformation, the item above included, about the proposal being spread by agents trying to stir up the masses.

According to a tweet the NBA’s labor feed fired off at us late Saturday night, Bucher’s info is “incorrect.” There have only been preliminary talks on the D-League/NBA relationship thus far. There is nothing concrete in the latest proposal, as Bucher suggested.

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The players were sounding their own alarms (via Twitter and elsewhere) throughout the day Friday, as details of the proposal no doubt trickled their way. And they were just as emphatic in their dismissal of any deal deemed unworthy being something they would accept just for the sake of guaranteeing that Dec. 15 start to the season.

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Labor Talks: 72-Game Season Or Bust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Time For Some Action … Next Week

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

REVISED PROPOSAL TO BE REVIEWED BY PLAYER REPS

11:47 p.m.: At least no one delivered any ultimatums this time.

The labor talks broke after nearly 11 hours tonight and despite chatter earlier about a deal being done, the sides finished the night the same place they finished them last weekend. The players have a proposal to consider and will now take that proposal to their player reps, as early as Monday, per union executive director Billy Hunter.

The proposal is a revised one and not the “reset” proposal that was threatened if the players did not accept last weekend’s deal by the end of business Wednesday. Hunter and union president Derek Fisher didn’t seem particularly enthused by what they’d heard.

“We have what we characterize a revised proposal from the NBA,” Fisher said. “It does not meet us entirely on the system issues … We’ve decided to take a step back and confer with our player reps.”

Both Hunter and Fisher were asked about the disappointing expressions they wore when they faced the media before departing the hotel, but Hunter insisted that it should not be taken as an indicator of anything but the fatigue associated with the process.

“Its been a long haul. We’re coming near the end of it,” Hunter said. “We’re trying to get this thing done.”

It has to get done if the players want the current deal on the table, which NBA Commissioner David Stern said will include a 72-game schedule that would start Dec. 15 and would require the start of the playoffs and The Finals back a week to make the calendar work. If the players don’t accept the offer, Stern indicated that the league’s reset proposal, with the 47 percent of BRI and salary rollbacks, would be the only deal on the table.

Stern also said the time for negotiating is finished.

“There comes a time when you have to be done negotiating, and we are,” Stern said.”We wait the response from the union. We did our best … We moved as far as we can move. I am optimistic the NBA owners would approve it if the players union approves it.”

Stern stopped short of calling it the league’s last, best offer. But that’s exactly what it is.

“We took pains out of respect to the efforts of everybody, not to characterize it precisely that way,” Stern said. “But if this offer is not accepted, then we will revert to our 47 percent. We have made our revised proposal and we’re not making another one.”

Both Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged how tough it would be for any union to take the proposal on the table back to their reps, but he also made clear that the players are not the only ones uncomfortable with the details of the proposal.

“We don’t expect [the players] to like every aspect of our revised proposal,” he said. “Many teams don’t like every aspect of our proposal.”

But at this stage of the game, some 132 days deep in this lockout, this is where they are. And that means the players hold the fate of this season, the one that could begin as early as Dec. 15 and include just 10 missed games, in their hands.

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SPECIAL DELIVERY

10:21 p.m.: Finally, we get some news that should wake up the masses, courtesy of Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Might there be a proposal on the way for the players to consider?

According to Woj’s latest tweet there is:

After finishing call with owners’ labor relations committee, David Stern will deliver union a revised offer tonight, league sources tell Y!

He then added this for good measure:

Owners revised offer will be working off current negotiations with players — not the threatened ‘reset’ offer awaiting if talks broke down.

Now this sounds like real progress. And it’s some welcome, positive news after the hype and letdown from Checketts-gate earlier.

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RUH-ROH, NEW ISSUES CROPPING UP?

8:56 p.m.: Turn away from your computer for two minutes and all the positive vibes about a potential deal being on the horizon are replaced with gloom and doom. (Thanks a lot Ken Berger).

Berger, of CBSSSports.com delivered a nasty backhand to the face of basketball lovers everywhere a short while ago when he tweeted that there was modest progress being made on the mid-level and that new “hurdles” had emerged.

Nine hours of negotiations, a day after both sides pulled a 12-hour marathon session, and we get hurdles? Hurdles? In the infamous words of John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious?”

Unfortunately, he was dead serious:

Negotiators for the league and players’ association made modest progress on the use of the mid-level exception for luxury tax-paying teams Thursday, but other guidelines governing exceptions and the tax level emerged as a new sticking point, three people briefed on the labor talks told CBSSports.com.

One of the people said league negotiators signaled a willingness to raise the so-called “mini mid-level” to three years starting at $3 million for teams above the luxury-tax level, to be available every other year. The previous offer was a two-year deal starting at $2.5 million, available every other year to tax teams. There was no indication union negotiators were ready to agree to this slight improvement in the owners’ proposal, as it would reduce the mid-level exception for tax teams from last year’s five-year, $37 million total to three years and $9 million for teams above the tax line.

Also Thursday, a new hurdle emerged in the discussion over when teams would face the new restrictions owners are proposing for teams above the luxury tax threshold. Two of the people briefed on the talks said owners were pushing for teams under the tax at the time of the transaction to be restricted from using the full mid-level — four-year deals starting at $5 million — if the signing put the team over the tax. In that case, the team would be restricted to use of the mini mid-level. Union negotiators want the new restrictions to be based on where a team’s payroll sits in relation to the tax prior to the use of the exception — not where it stands afterward.

After a 12-hour session Wednesday produced minimal progress, the two sides pushed past the eight-hour mark Thursday with the threat looming that league negotiators would pull their existing offer off the table and replace it with a worse one. The new offer, originally scheduled to be furnished to the players at 5 p.m. Wednesday but delayed due to the ongoing talks, would feature a 53-47 economic split in favor of the owners and also would include a hard team salary cap and rollbacks of existing contracts. The two sides currently are negotiating off a league proposal that would give the players a 50 percent share of revenue and maintain a soft-cap system — albeit with a vastly more onerous luxury tax system, more restrictions on exceptions, shorter contracts and smaller annual raises.

That’s just fantastic.

All that talk of progress and now this.

There have to be evil spirits at work to do this to us after all this time. Whenever things appear to be close to some sort of resolution we go right back to the point where both sides need a break from each other before things go haywire.

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CRICKETS SINCE CHECKETTS …

7:07 p.m: From Ken Berger‘s Twitter feed to all of our ears!

“Remember that time, when Dave Checketts said the lockout was over? That was awesome…”

Check the post below for more on the empty claim delivered by Checketts earlier, the one proclaiming the premature end to the lockout, the one that set off alarms all around the Twitterverse.

And nearly two hours later … crickets!

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LISTEN TO YOUR ELDERS

5:21 p.m.: First it was Bill Russell (below).

Now it’s another group of former NBA living legends weighing in on all things lockout with the talks reportedly headed into the stretch run, if you believe what former exec Dave Checketts said on a Utah radio station this afternoon (and you need to listen for yourself to see exactly what he said about there being a deal in place).

No offense to Mr. Checketts, who spent almost as much time talking about the lockout as he did Penn State and his Real Salt Lake soccer team, but we’ll spend our time listening to our own in-house experts (check the video above and below). And for the record, everyone from DA to the Dalai Lama has refuted the report from Checketts as being not only wildly premature but mostly just false (for now).

The folks at TNT were kind enough to round up the likes of Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Reggie Miller, Steve Kerr, Steve Smith, Chris Webber and the newest member of the family, Shaquille O’Neal, to discuss the lockout’s current state of affairs with the venerable Ernie Johnson serving as moderator. It’s worth your time:

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LEGEND BLASTS HARD-LINERS ON BOTH SIDES

4:42 p.m.: We know it’s not necessarily the chic thing to do in today’s NBA, but the players and owners might want to take a minute to listen to the “old heads.”

When the great Bill Russell busts the hardliners on both sides for doing major damage to the game, as he did to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, there might just be something to what he says:

“As a very interested bystander, I just hope they get a deal,” Russell told CBSSports.com in a phone interview. “And it will not come from the hard-liners on either side. I think they all know that. I have this theory that hard-liners are like true believers. And true believers think that any compromise is a retreat. And moving forward, that doesn’t cut it.”

Russell’s words carry weight – and not just because he is the most decorated champion in NBA history. The former Celtics’ star was among a group of 20 All-Stars who threatened to boycott the 1964 All-Star Game in Boston unless the NBA recognized the newly formed players’ union.

“Basically I was one of those guys that helped get the players’ association started,” Russell said. “And they’ve done wonderful things. I knew David Stern before he was commissioner, when he was associate attorney for the NBA. And if I remember correctly, he said, ‘I do not consider the players’ association my adversaries. They’re my business partners.’

“That’s where, a lot of the things that David has done — and I’ve known him up close — have been beneficial for both sides,” Russell said.

Russell, 77, winner of 11 NBA titles, wanted to speak with CBSSports.com after he learned of union attorney Jeffrey Kessler’s comments in which he referred to NBA players being treated like “plantation workers.” Kessler, who made the comments to The Washington Post Monday night, apologized to several outlets Wednesday.

“I think that’s an invalid accusation,” Kessler said. “I think the whole deal is not about black and white. It’s about money, OK? I don’t see any signs of being greedy. It’s a typical negotiation and that’s all it is. And there are a couple of reasons it’s difficult, because there are hard-liners on both sides.

“But to me, the name-calling or vilifying the other side is a non-issue,” Russell said. “All that is is a distraction — a distraction from the task at hand, which is reaching an agreement that neither side will probably be completely happy with. But that’s the art of compromise.”

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TAKING STOCK OF THE NBA LOCKOUT

3:45 p.m.: The intrepid and incredibly dedicated group of reporters staking out the labor negotiations in Manhattan are doing more than just playing with that solitaire app on their iPads!

They are working while they wait. What they are working on, however, well …

Asch sent this memo from the scene:

NBA labor tote board through 11/9

Courtesy of the accounting firm of Howard & Beck, NYT: 

– Total NBA labor negotiations meeting time: 

22 sessions, 148 hours … since lockout imposed July 1 THRU the 12-hour Wednesday session Nov. 9. 

– Since they “got serious” (Sept. 27 THRU Nov. 9): 

16 sessions, 118 hours. 
Today (11/10) is session No. 23 in honor of the great alleged turncoat Michael Jordan

This is quality accounting work!

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THREE HOURS AND COUNTING …

3:02 p.m.: All is quiet on the meeting front as things push past the three-hour mark. But progress is being made, according to DA (check the video above). That works for us.

The news cycle of the past few days could use a positive spin. And the end of the lockout would certainly qualify. Just being on the cusp of a deal would go a long way around here.

The tone of things has certainly improved from earlier in the week, when both sides were obviously a bit perturbed with each other. There was the business of that ultimatum the owners issued. And then there was that union/unity press conference Tuesday.

ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard suggested that we almost didn’t get to this point (via Twitter):

owners were so upset by Tuesday’s player press conference that they nearly refused to meet b4 Wed’s deadline. Stern must’ve calmed them down

Now if they could just get a deal done!

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IDENTIFICATION PLEASE …

1:51 p.m.: More Twitter fun for us all, courtesy of DA:

TO: Members of the News Media

FROM: The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service

As you know, FMCS Director George H. Cohen has been involved in mediating the ongoing NBA and NBA Players Association negotiation.

It has come to our attention that a Twitter user identified as @TheMediatorGC has been impersonating Mr. Cohen, using his photo, and has impersonated him in contacts with various members of the media via Twitter. The impersonator has made false, defaming and inflammatory comments regarding the parties in the negotiation and the Director of the FMCS.  Please be aware that this is an impersonation. Director Cohen does not have a Twitter account. Please do not attribute comments or information found on Twitter to Mr. Cohen or to the FMCS without first checking with the FMCS Office of Public Affairs …

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MISSING YOU

1:33 p.m.: One Metta World Peace (the artist formerly known as Ron Artest) is busy on Twitter this afternoon reflecting on all the things he misses during the lockout. You need to see for yourself. A sampling of some of his work:

– I miss the LA times telling me how sucky I am. That’s the best. End the lock out. I miss jeff van gundy. The Malcolm x of announcers

– I miss the unhealthy plane food. I miss staples low music in the arena . Lebron misses Cleveland. I miss locking down people.

– I miss zen phil not giving Luke and Adam morrison playing time! I miss the bald headed Espn announcers. I miss the going bald TNT announcers

– I miss the dance teams cheering because they have too not necessarily because they want to. I miss Kobe taking shot after shot. Lmafo

– I miss Philly , Detroit and Boston fans. They craziest fans in the NBA . I be scared man! I miss going to Philly n Kobe buying Philly steaks

– I miss the refs running down the court like they have hot tomales in their pants.. I miss Charles Barkley commentating

– I miss Clyde fraziers lime green pig skin suites with orange slices throughout the linen and pitbull skit chin-klet-tas

– I miss the supersonics

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SYSTEM ISSUES TO BE RESOLVED

1:15 p.m.: TNT’s David Aldridge checked in with some informative information from New York that should help us prepare for today’s session:

Assuming no delays in the pre-meeting caucus each sides conducts with itself, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association should be underway in their pivotal meeting in New York.

Sources have indicated that the sides made progress Wednesday on three of the five significant system issues that separate them. Those are believed to be the escrow account that the league has implemented since 2006 where a portion of player salaries are withheld and placed in escrow in case the players’ overall share exceeds their agreed-upon percentage (the league is looking for a 10 percent escrow commitment from players in the next collective bargaining agreement), the league’s “repeater tax” proposal that would add additional financial penalties for luxury tax paying teams that do so three or more times in a five-year period, and the so-called “cliff” issue, with the union concerned that teams that are marginally and infrequently tax payers get punished financially under the league’s proposals just as badly as teams that are tax paying recidivists.

It is not known how much progress was made on those issues, though a source indicated Thursday morning that the moves were incremental rather than substantial, a view also expressed by the union’s executive director, Billy Hunter, in his post-meeting remarks early Thursday.

That would leave mid-level exception use for taxpayers and the ability of tax payers to execute sign-and-trade deals as the two significant issues that still aren’t close to being solved.

The NBA wants to limit tax paying teams to a “mini mid-level” exception that would only run two years and start at $2.5 million in the first year. The union has countered with a four-year mid-level starting at $5 million. Both sides have agreed that whatever mid-level is adopted for tax payers, it will only be available to them every other year.

The league argues that teams that go into the tax shouldn’t be able to add to their rosters by using the full mid-level, as the Lakers did with Ron Artest in 2009 and the Celtics did with Jermaine O’Neal last season. The idea is both to reduce the payrolls of tax paying teams to bring them closer to those of non-payers, which the league thinks will help competitive balance, and to get more players into the system for non-tax payers. The union believes that such restrictions will chill the market for free agents–in essence, taking the top five or six paying teams out of play–and will also affect players who don’t sign with the top teams, because the teams that bid for them will be able to sign them to smaller contracts than they would have to if the bigger payroll teams were able to pursue those players.

The NBA has similar concerns about allowing tax paying teams to execute sign-and-trade deals, where a free agent is allowed to add an additional year to his contract by signing a deal with his old team, which then immediately trades him to another team. Free agents got a seventh year if they re-signed with their old teams under the previous CBA, but only six years if they signed with another team. This was the method used, for example, by LeBron James when he went from Cleveland to Miami last summer–though the Heat was not over the tax threshold when it made the deal.

The union has pointed out that tax payers have only been involved in sign-and-trade deals five times over the past several years, making it an issue hardly likely to impact competitive balance.

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A PICTURE IS WORTH … ?

1:02 p.m.: Using recent negotiation sessions as a guide, the men (below, pic courtesy of Steve Aschburner) setting up this room for the post-session media briefings probably don’t need to rush.

Asch has ordered us not to read anything into their being just one room used for the pressers. Apparently there are certain factors at work within the hotel that prevent the use of more than one room. And by no means are we assuming anything with the union backdrop going up first.

Shared Space?

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READY FOR ANOTHER ROUND …

12:24 p.m.: It’s time. It’s time for the owners and players to go back into that negotiating room in Manhattan and time for them to get back to the business of bringing our beloved game back to the masses.

So what if we’ve said that before every single meeting throughout this lockout. But that 12-hour session that ended early this morning was hopefully just the appetizer for today’s pow-wow, which kicked off minutes ago.

If, as our Steve Aschburner reported, there was only slight progress made on several key issues yesterday, today’s session should hopefully give way to much more substantive talks on the core issues dividing the two sides.

ESPN.com‘s salary cap specialist Larry Coon tossed another interesting twist into the mix with his latest piece, which explains how the value of franchises could rise in concert with the owners’ split of revenues:

The league’s assertions that they are losing upwards of $300 million per season have been met with skepticism from the players association and fans alike. After being given the opportunity to examine the league’s books, the union admitted the league was losing money, but said the losses were closer to $100 million than $300 million.

The union also believes the league has up its sleeve a few extra ways of squeezing out a profit. One of these is an ancillary benefit associated with negotiating a more favorable split of basketball related income (BRI) with the players. Business valuations are tied to revenues and expenses. By negotiating the players down from 57 percent of revenues to 50 percent (and counting), the league is ensuring the teams a decrease in expenses – and therefore an increase in projected profits. This will drive up franchise values.

How much will franchise values increase? It’s hard to say. There are a lot of factors that go into determining the value of a business, and a number of ways to do the calculation. A conservative estimate might be a $3 million to $12 million average increase in franchise values for each percentage point in revenues the league wrests from the players. Decreasing the players’ split of BRI from 57 percent to 50 percent therefore might be worth $21 million to $84 million per team.

The owners will only see this money when they sell their teams. But when they do sell, none of it is shared with the players.

Labor Talks: Positive Signs

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

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — At least they are still talking, the “they” being both sides of the NBA’s labor dispute.

That 5 p.m. deadline for taking the owners deal passed some four hours into what turned into a 12-hour bargaining session that didn’t produce a deal but spurred the sides to return to the negotiating table today at noon in Manhattan.

How much progress was made last night is also up for debate, as NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner explains in detail with his eyewitness account of the action. More significant progress today would certainly be welcomed by the masses, but we know better than to skip any steps in this process.

The sides are still talking.

(more…)

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?

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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Update: Meeting Time (Over!) NO DEAL

 

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

 

UPDATE 5:22 p.m. ET – No deal. No decertification. No vote on the latest proposal. And no love for Michael Jordan.

The news conference held by the players after some four-plus hours of meeting between union brass and 43 players produced a litany of interesting comments from union executive director Billy Hunter and union president Derek Fisher.

The major points, highlighted in the first line above, are the ones that stuck out. And Hunter’s zinger at Jordan, the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats and believed to be one of the hardliners among the owners, was a direct hit.

“I would give him the advice he gave Abe Pollin,” Hunter said when asked about Jordan’s current stance. Jordan famously barked at the late Pollin, then the owner of the Washington Wizards, that he should sell his team if he can’t afford to make a profit without concessions from the players. “He [Jordan] should take his own advice,” Hunter said.

Fisher said his marching orders after the meeting couldn’t be more clear. The league’s “50-50″ proposal presented Saturday, the one with the 5 p.m. ET Wednesday deadline, remains unacceptable. And both Fisher and Hunter shrugged off the notion that the league’s stance after the deadline will be considerably worse than the current proposal on the table.

They did make clear that they are willing to head back to the bargaining table and would reach out to NBA Commissioner David Stern in an effort to do so, before Wednesday’s deadline.

But as they vowed Saturday night, they refused to even present the current proposal to the players for a vote, saying that they would not take a bad deal just for the sake of getting a deal done before the deadline.

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UPDATE 4:40 p.m. ET – Apparently the players’ meeting is already over (don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing just yet), per Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.

Someone should be headed to the podium to address the media any minute now. Tune in to NBA TV – or the live stream on NBA.com – to catch it all as it’s unfolding. Some 43 players, with 29 of the 30 teams represented, are standing behind Fisher and Hunter.

Get your popcorn ready!

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UPDATE 3:32 p.m. E.T. – Forget basketball players. A global player was apparently spotted in the midtown Manhattan hotel lobby where the union is holding its meeting.

None other than Former President Bill Clinton, according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, was seen in the lobby. No joke:

Add another name to the lockout-celebrity-sighting list. Bill Clinton just sauntered through the hotel lobby.

Someone ought to let him sit in on the meeting and see if he can’t help solve this mess!

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UPDATE 2:53 p.m. ET — We could use some of those reality show hidden cameras in that meeting room in midtown Manhattan right now. It would make keeping up with the action in the union’s player rep meeting a whole lot easier.

They’ve been in there for a little over an hour now (TNT’s David Aldridge reported that things didn’t get started until 1:45 p.m. ET, some 45 minutes later than scheduled) and we can only imagine the depths of that discussion. With guys like Mo Williams, Russell Westbrook, Evan Turner, Mike Conley, Raja Bell, Matt Carroll, Theo Ratliff (all seen above) and so many others in the mix, the back and forth has to be dramatic.

We don’t have to use our imaginations with at least one former player.

Derek Harper, who toiled memorably for the Knicks and Mavericks (among others) during his playing career, told Dwain Price of the Star-Telegram that he believes a deal is imminent:

 “I think tomorrow we’re going to have a deal. I think guys want to play.”

“You talk about guys missing $300,000-$400,000 checks. That’s a lot of money to miss.”

The only problem is that Harper isn’t in that meeting room either. Like most, he is simply speculating on what he thinks might happen. And in a lockout that has seen its fair share of twists and turns, no amount of speculation can ease the minds of the masses.

While we wait, you’d be wise to read up on the ramifications of decertification, just in case that becomes our word of the day in the wake of this meeting. Gabriel A. Feldman, a professor in the Tulane University Sports Law program, provides all the details in this Huffington Post article.

We’ll cheat here and provide the final question and answer from Feldman’s article, a must-read, by the way:

If we end up with an antitrust lawsuit between the players and the owners, who is likely to win?
Given the complex and novel nature of the legal issues involved– regardless of one’s views on the merits of decertification and disclaimer– it is simply impossible to predict the outcome of an antitrust suit filed by the NBA players. Remember, even in the Brady case, two federal judges sided with the NFL players, and two federal judges sided (in part) with the owners. Granted, the NFL got the two judges it needed, but there’s no guarantee that a different set of judges in a different court will rule the same way. So, neither side should be particularly comfortable with the strength of their legal positions.

From a fan’s perspective, the hope is that the uncertainty and risk to both sides involved with decertification and an antitrust suit are enough to push the two sides to make a deal at the bargaining table. If not, I might be back later this year with an antitrust litigation primer…

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UPDATE 1:19 p.m. ET – Was divide and conquer the plan all along? Even if it wasn’t, the owners might reap the rewards of that strategy in their lockout fight with the NBA players’ union. With the 30 team representatives gathering at this hour in New York for a meeting, it remains unclear what their stance will be on the league’s latest proposal.

But if the rumblings percolating around the basketball universe are correct, a divided union will have to mend fences within its ranks before it can consider its options in regards to the end-of-business ultimatum handed down by NBA Commissioner David Stern over the weekend.

Today we find out all we need to know about union executive director Billy Hunter and union president Derek Fisher. What happens after today will be a direct result of their stewardship of this process for the players. When you have players dead set against accepting the deal on the table and willing to sign a petition authorizing decertification, even when it goes against their core beliefs, as Orlando’s J.J. Redick insists …

“I am not in favor of taking the deal as it CURRENTLY stands,” told the Orlando Sentinel in an e-mail message early Tuesday morning. “The luxury tax is too onerous and has essentially created a hard cap that will make it incredibly difficult for the vast majority of players to get their fair value in free agency. We also need to have a strong mid-level, and luxury-paying teams need to be able to use it every year.

“As far as decertification, I am not necessarily in favor of decertification but I will be signing the petition to organize a decertification vote if a deal is not worked out in the next couple of days. Then the sides would have 45 days to get a fair deal done before we would officially vote on decertification.  IF it gets to that point every player will have to make a decision on whether to decertify or take whatever deal is on the table.”

… you know you are in need of strong leadership.

Stay tuned for updates throughout the day on the goings on in New York, where our very own Steve Aschburner is entrenched for however long it takes. And Asch is already reporting, via Twitter, that players like Carmelo Anthony (who is not a player rep) are attending the festivities today.

This is going to get very interesting.

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