HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – What happened to all those good vibrations emanating from the New York Knicks a couple of weeks back, when Linsanity was in full effect, Gotham was on fire with hoops fever and the Knicks were a healthy star or two from assaulting the top of the Eastern Conference standings?
How did they go from rocking the basketball world to dropping like a rock in their last eight games — in which they’re just 3-5 — and sinking to the ugly depths of what we’ve seen from them the past three days?
If you watched them Sunday in that overtime loss against Boston, you saw a stumbling Jeremy Lin trying to navigate his space on the floor with Carmelo Anthony and fail miserably for most of the game. Lin made some plays late, but neither he nor Anthony made enough of them to overcome Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and the Celtics.
Then came last night’s debacle in Dallas in the Fan Night matchup on NBA TV, where Anthony’s game flatlined into a 2-for-12 shooting effort and the reigning world champs took the Knicks apart before a late rally made things interesting score-wise.
“I think anytime you go from the early part of the season, just having the ball and me just having the ball and being the distributor, and now just running the wings and waiting for the ball to come to me, that’s quite an adjustment for myself.”
It is an adjustment that Anthony and the Knicks (18-20) will have to make soon, before they lose their hold on a playoff spot. They are 0-2 on this trip, with another difficult game ahead Wednesday in San Antonio and a late-season schedule packed with playoff-bound teams. They have 28 games to reestablish an identity and get Anthony back in the fold.
“I think we all are adjusting, we all are sacrificing for the betterment of the team,” said Amar’e Stoudemire, who had a resurgent game with 26 points and 7 rebounds. “That’s what it takes to win a championship. You got to sacrifice in order to get to that point.”
It’s not Lin’s fault and it’s not entirely on Anthony, either. The Knicks are currently experiencing an offensive system error that can only be fixed by its administrator, coach Mike D’Antoni. His hot seat cooled considerably during the height of Linsanity, but it will warm back up if his team continues on its current course.
Negotiations aimed at ending the N.B.A. lockout quietly resumed Tuesday, with a goal of resolving the dispute in time play games on Christmas, two people close to the talks confirmed Wednesday afternoon.
The exact participants are not yet known, but it is presumed that the talks are being conducted through lawyers for both sides, because of pending litigation. The talks, which began Tuesday and were continuing Wednesday, were first reported by Yahoo! Sports.
There are some necessary constraints on the talks because of the moves made last week by the players to disband their union and file an antitrust lawsuit. Negotiations are now considered part of settlement talks relating to the litigation. As such, the lawyers for the N.B.A. and the players must lead the way on an agreement.
Billy Hunter, the former executive director of the players union, is technically part of the legal team representing the players and could be part of the settlement discussions. Derek Fisher, who was the president of the union until it disbanded, is not involved in the talks. It is unclear whether Commissioner David Stern is involved at this stage.
If the parties can agree to the framework of a deal, the union will have to be reconstituted to negotiate certain items and to adopt a new collective bargaining agreement.
The parties need at least a handshake agreement in the next few days if the N.B.A. hopes to have games on Dec. 25 — the day that traditionally kicks off its national television schedule. It will take about four weeks to get a season started, given the time required to complete a labor deal, sign free agents and hold training camps.
There might be something to give thanks about (NBA related, that is) after all!
– 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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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!
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.
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.
– 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.
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.
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?
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.)
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.
If the union agrees to the league’s latest proposal (or “ultimatum” as union president Derek Fisher termed it), it’s time to get down to the business of basketball.
But if not, the “reset” proposal signals a serious rollback in concessions previously made, including a shift from the 50-50 split of BRI to 47 percent for the players, a roll back of current contracts, the implementation of a hard salary cap and the reduction of contract lengths..
The salary rollback, which was part of the N.B.A.’s first controversial proposal in 2010, had not been included in any league proposal for many months, and it was not publicly mentioned by Stern when he announced the ultimatum Saturday night.
But the rollback was included in the letter Stern sent to Billy Hunter, the union’s executive director. A copy of the letter was obtained by The New York Times.
The union has until 5 p.m. Wednesday to accept the N.B.A.’s last proposal or have it replaced by the reset proposal, Stern wrote.
“Rather than simply proceeding, as we could have, to offer a less favorable proposal at this time, the N.B.A. is providing an additional period of time for the players association to consider our 50/50 proposal,” Stern wrote. “We are hopeful that the prospect of a less favorable outcome for the players will prompt the players association to realize that the best deal that can be reached is the one the N.B.A. is prepared to make right now.”
Stern closes, “Billy, I sincerely hope that we can reach an agreement over the next few days.”
With the union representatives from each team set for a Tuesday meeting in New York, you can bet Stern’s letter will be a hot topic on an already packed agenda. The itemized differences in each proposal detailed in Beck’s story are startling but clear. One is obviously much better than the other. That’s why the reports of the union seeking additional meetings with the league before the deadline shouldn’t surprise you. We’re down to crunch time.
In a lockout filled with hollow deadlines, Wednesday’s is shaping up as the most serious one yet.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Forget about Saturday’s scheduled resumption of talks between the warring factions in the NBA labor dispute. There are apparently bigger issues looming right now, particularly for the players and their union.
Both the New York Times and Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday night that a group of 50 players are pushing for the dissolution of the union if things don’t go the way they want this weekend. Whether they are serious about such a drastic move or simply using this as a tactic as a show of power, it presents yet another twist in a tumultuous affair that is clearly grating on all involved.
A group of 50 N.B.A. players intend to push for the dissolution of their union if a new round of labor negotiations fails this weekend, or if the talks produce an unpalatable deal, according to a person who has spoken to the players.
The movement was said to be entirely player-driven, and borne of a frustration with the pace of talks between the league and union leaders. The players have been locked out since July 1, and a month of games have been canceled.
Two conference calls were held this week between the players and an antitrust lawyer — once on Tuesday and again on Thursday. It is not clear whether union leaders have been directly informed of the effort.
“And the players are seriously considering decertification if a deal is not reached where the players’ proposals are in the final elements of the deal,” said the person connected to the players.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We knew better than to believe there was any substance behind those Thursday night smiles that had us all believing that this thing was anywhere close to over.
From the moment the NBA lockout began July 1, one of our most trusted sources has been reminding us that we would not have NBA basketball to be thankful for at Thanksgiving. And we foolishly ignored that warning. The jovial back and forth between NBA Commissioner David Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter after Thursday night’s session threw us off just long enough for us to dream a little.
Well, we’re done dreaming here at the hideout.
The game face is back and there will be no more sugar-coating the smoldering hot mess that this labor impasse has become. No one has to worry about our hopes getting too high that a deal will be done in due time because we’re done with hope. The time has passed. The first month of the season went up in smoke officially Friday night, along with any chance the two sides had of preserving whatever ounce of goodwill remained amongst the basketball loving masses.
We know now that being “close” on system issues means nothing if the BRI gulf remains the same, that a smile for the cameras one night could easily be a frown for the same cameras the next.
No doubt, someone will reach out over this weekend or early next week and rekindle the talks and eventually everyone will come back to the table ready to play this game again. Just leave us out of this time. Save us the posturing, public sparring and those hollow smiles that make the best cliffhangers in the latest episode of As The Lockout Turns …
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: Just when this was starting to get fun, just when it was starting to get done, we all got snookered. That was the word Billy Hunter used Friday after negotiations to end the 120-day lockout went kablooey for the second time in a week and third time this month. That was what Hunter said David Stern did to him when the commissioner said Thursday night he was going into Friday’s seemingly promising bargaining session “ready to negotiate everything.” Only he wasn’t. Neither was Hunter. The two men who were supposed to be in position to finally close this deal did not have the authority to do so. That’s the only logical explanation when failing to get a deal this weekend results in approximately $800 million of economic carnage — the total cost to both sides of a month of lost games — when the distance between the two sides is $80 million. ”Absurdity,” one person on the management side of the NBA business said Friday night. Oh, no. It’s worse than that. Altogether now: It’s ass-hattery. But you knew that already. I’d brought two bananas to Friday’s bargaining session — mostly for sustenance during these mentally debilitating hours spent waiting for grown men to finish staring at each other, but also as props. You may recall the banana-in-the-tailpipe column in which I detailed the blowout victory the owners were seeking in these negotiations. On Friday, we all fell for the banana in the tailpipe again. And we didn’t even have a late supper — shrimp salad sandwiches, say — to show for it. On top of that, I left my grocery bag with the bananas in the lobby, and by the time the predictable, double-talk-laden news conferences were over, two perfectly good bananas were gone. The latest casualties of the dumbest lockout ever.
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.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Faced with the latest drop-dead date to save the on-time start to the regular season, we’ve arrived here to this afternoon’s scheduled meeting between the league and players’ union in New York.
But there is a growing sense among most of the people observing these proceedings that it might only be a matter of time before someone utters those magic words (“we have a deal”). And the basketball loving public surely won’t haggle over where it comes from, be it NBA Commissioner David Stern or union executive director Billy Hunter.
After all, during the last lockout there was just one meeting between the two sides before regular season games were canceled. This afternoon’s session will mark the sixth meeting in the past 11 days between the two sides …
Not only was that true, Stern wound up extending his drop-dead date for opening on time to Oct. 10.
Overheated as this thing has been, with owners who sensed their last great opportunity threatening to burn their village to save it, the last three weeks saw the parties whittle their “irreconcilable” differences down to three percentage points.
The meeting will involve the primary negotiators for each side — Commissioner David Stern and the deputy commissioner Adam Silver for the league, with the union represented by its president, Derek Fisher, and its executive director, Billy Hunter.
Stern said last week that he would be forced to cancel the first two weeks of regular-season games on Monday if the sides did not have a breakthrough at the bargaining table. They have not met since then, with the N.B.A. insisting it will not move beyond the 50-50 split in league revenues that Stern proposed last Tuesday. The union rejected that stance, saying it would not resume talks with any preconditions.
It is not clear whether the league has moved off of its 50-50 proposal, or whether the union has softened its insistence on receiving 53 percent of league revenues in a new collective bargaining agreement. It is also possible that the sides are negotiating other, structural issues in an attempt to move forward.
TNT analysis David Aldridge confirms an 11th-hour meeting will be held but says players have not accepted the 50-50 proposal as a precondition to meeting. As of late Friday night, the sides were believed to be standing their ground, per Aldridge. But with the looming deadline on tap Monday and the pressure on both sides bubbling, something must have changed.
Since the details of the meeting are sketchy at best, it’s probably foolish to read any more into this latest development. But any meeting, any significant contact, is better than the alternative.
A source told NBA.com’s David Aldridge that at one point, NBA commissioner David Stern was emphatically directing a comment — and pointing his finger — at [Dwyane] Wade, the Miami Heat’s All-Star guard. Wade objected and interrupted Stern, reportedly saying: “Don’t point your finger at me. I’m a grown man. I have children.”
The meeting broke at that point. A few minutes later, Stern sought out Billy Hunter, NBPA executive director, to briefly talk privately. Soon thereafter, the session resumed.
While no one sounds ready to declare that a deal is imminent or even in the works, there is no doubt that everyone involved understands that it is time to get down to the business of solving their differences before it’s too late …
Stars Step Into the Spotlight
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: Before a stunning confrontation between Dwyane Wade and NBA commissioner David Stern in Friday’s labor meeting, Wade, LeBron James and Chris Paul told their Players Association peers that they’re willing to sit out the season rather than make further concessions to the owners, sources told Yahoo! Sports.
Wade, James and Paul were at the forefront of a strong players presence at a Park Avenue hotel for Friday’s contentious bargaining session. In a private union meeting prior to the bargaining session with owners, James kept reiterating to the group of elite players that they shouldn’t give back a greater share of the league’s basketball-related income (BRI) than what they’d already conceded in previous negotiations.
“We’re all together on 53 [percent], right?” James said. “All together on 53 right?”
“LeBron, Wade and Paul want to fight this so hard, they don’t seem scared about missing the season,” one source in the negotiating room told Yahoo! Sports.
James, Wade and Paul believe the owners are bluffing in threatening to ultimately cancel the season to get the changes they want in the collective bargaining agreement, a source in the meeting said. In the meeting with union peers, the three stars declared their willingness to miss games rather than drop down from the 53 percent of BRI the union has proposed to the NBA.
Despite the bold talk out of the sport’s biggest stars, the union privately has expressed a willingness to move further toward ownership this weekend with an understanding that Stern wants desperately to cut a deal with the players and avoid a prolonged work stoppage.
If nothing else, the owners did see the star players’ resolve on Friday. Once the players entered the room with the owners, Wade reacted harshly to what he perceived as Stern’s condescending way of lecturing him on the issue.
Union Holding The Line
Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: There was widespread speculation entering the weekend that the union might be willing to make compromises in order to salvage the income from a full 82-game season. But two union sources said the players agreed to hold firm during an emotional private meeting Friday before the afternoon negotiations, with crucial leadership provided by [Paul] Pierce, the 2008 NBA Finals MVP of the Celtics.
The union leadership reviewed the recent give-and-take of the negotiations amid repeated questioning by Pierce and heated talk from James. Others spoke up as well, but when Pierce was told that the union had already offered to cut its revenue-share from 57 percent to 54 percent of Basketball Related Income (BRI) in order to help the owners deal with their operating losses, he urged his fellow players to unite behind Fisher and union chief Billy Hunter in not yielding further.