NEW YORK – The orderly and extended transition from David Stern to Adam Silver as NBA commissioner over the next 15 months rightly dominated the news coming out of the league’s Board of Governors meeting Thursday. But that wasn’t the only topic discussed and dealt with by the owners.
They also unanimously approved the sale of the Memphis Grizzlies to an ownership group headed by investor Robert Pera and including widely known minority partners such as Peyton and Ashley Manning, entertainer Justin Timberlake and former NBA players Penny Hardaway and Elliot Perry. The group has a number of people with Memphis roots.
“I actually know that someone that lives in Memphis is called a Memphian,” Stern said, “and I am looking forward to this Memphian who is going to connect this team in an even stronger way to the community.”
San Antonio Spurs CEO Peter Holt is the new BOG chairman, taking over for Minnesota owner Glen Taylor, who had served in that role since 2008. “We are being nice to David, but I want to be extra nice to Glen,” Holt said. “This has gone really smoothly. Glen has stayed in the chairmanship much longer than normal to allow the continuity to be smooth from obviously David to Adam, but also throughout the ownership group. So I want to thank Glen for that.”
A discussion on accepting ads in the form of jersey patches as another revenue stream was pushed to the BOG’s next meeting.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Merry Christmas NBA fans. Our 149-day lockout nightmare, and the NBA’s “Nuclear Winter” is over.
It’s a little early, but most appropriate now that there is a tentative settlement agreement on lawsuits that will pave the way for a collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players, reached after a marathon, 15-hour Black Friday-early Saturday negotiating session in New York.
That means the shortened 2011-12 season starts on Christmas Day, a 66-game season with training camp and free agency starting simultaneously on Dec. 9 and season-opening slate of games – Boston Celtics at the New York Knicks; Miami Heat at the Dallas Mavericks; and Chicago Bulls at the Los Angeles Lakers — that should serve as a fitting return our beloved game for fans around the globe.
All that said, a multitude of issues remain. But the framework of the new deal is done — we’ve been telling folks for months now, this thing wasn’t officially over until we had NBA Commissioner David Stern and (former) union executive director Billy Hunter sitting next to each other smiling … “Yahtzee!”
As NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner reported before the sun rose over the hideout, “players are to receive a “band” share of basketball-related income ranging from 49 percent to 51 percent depending on the league’s growth (with a more reasonable shot at 51 than in previous offers). A laundry list of system issues, meanwhile, are intended to make the NBA more competitive across its 30 teams.”
Opinions will vary in the coming days and weeks about winners and losers. We will leave that for others to decide (more on that below). But I think it’s clear that the owners returned to the table ready to compromise in ways (the players already had) to ensure that we see NBA basketball before in time for the 2011 on that 2011-12 season to mean something.
In that respect, it’s a win-win for all sides (players/owners and most importantly the fans). Now, back to the news at hand (with a special HT hat tip to the dogged Ken Berger of CBSSports.com for breaking the story) …
Howard Beck of The New York Times: As a frantic Black Friday gave way to a sleepy Saturday morning in Midtown Manhattan, the biggest deal of all was consummated in a law office tucked between FAO Schwartz and the Apple Store. With handshakes, sighs and weary smiles, the N.B.A. and its players resolved a crippling labor dispute, allowing them to reopen their $4 billion-a-year business in time for the holidays. A 66-game season will start on Christmas Day, ending the second-longest lockout in league history. The deal was reached at about 3 a.m. Saturday, on the 149th day of the lockout, after a final 15-hour bargaining session at the law offices of Weil, Gotshal and Manges. “We’ve reached a tentative understanding that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations,” the league’s commissioner, David Stern, said at 3:40 a.m., “but we’re optimistic that that will all come to pass, and that the N.B.A. season will begin on Dec. 25, Christmas Day, with a tripleheader.” Training camps and free agency will open, simultaneously, on Dec. 9, giving teams two weeks to prepare. The three Christmas games are likely to be the ones that were already on the schedule: Boston at the Knicks, followed by Miami at Dallas and Chicago at the Los Angeles Lakers. The rest of the schedule will be reconstructed and released in the coming days. “We’re really excited,” said Peter Holt, the San Antonio Spurs owner and chairman of the league’s labor-relations committee. “We’re excited for the fans. We’re excited to start playing basketball, for players, for everybody involved.”
Brian C. Mahoney of the Associated Press (via The Washington Post): After a secret meeting earlier this week that got the broken process back on track, the sides met for more than 15 hours Friday, working to save the season. Stern said the agreement was “subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations, but we’re optimistic that will all come to pass and that the NBA season will begin Dec. 25. The league plans a 66-game season and aims to open training camps Dec. 9, with free agency opening at the same time. Stern has said it would take about 30 days from an agreement to playing the first game. “All I feel right now is ‘finally,’” Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade told The Associated Press. Just 12 days after talks broke down and Stern declared the NBA could be headed to a “nuclear winter,” he sat next to Hunter to announce the 10-year deal, with either side able to opt out after the sixth year. “For myself, it’s great to be a part of this particular moment in terms of giving our fans what they wanted and wanted to see,” said Derek Fisher, the president of the players’ association. A majority on each side is needed to approve the agreement, first reported by CBSSports.com. The NBA needs votes from 15 of 29 owners. (The league owns the New Orleans Hornets.) Stern said the labor committee plans to discuss the agreement later Saturday and expects them to endorse it and recommend to the full board. The union needs a simple majority of its 430-plus members. That process is a bit more complicated after the players dissolved the union Nov. 14. Now, they must drop their antitrust lawsuit in Minnesota and reform the union before voting on the deal.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: The owners made “significant moves” toward the players on several important system issues that long separated the two sides, a union source told Yahoo! Sports Saturday morning. “There’s still some tweaking to those that needs to be done,” the source said. After the tentative agreement was announced, some players privately said they would not vote for the deal, believing they had conceded too much to the owners. Still, there is not believed to be enough support to block ratification. “We’re optimistic that the [agreement] will hold and we’ll have ourselves an NBA season,” NBA commissioner David Stern said at a brief news conference held in New York with Players Association executive director Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher. Free agency and training camps will start on Dec. 9, Stern said. Under the current agreement, the regular season would have a 66-game schedule that begins on Christmas Day with three games: Boston Celtics at the New York Knicks; Miami Heat at the Dallas Mavericks; and Chicago Bulls at the Los Angeles Lakers. Players are not expected to be permitted to start working out at their team facilities – or with coaching staffs – until camps open on Dec. 9. “It’s finally great to wake up to this kind of news,” Houston Rockets guard Kevin Martin said.
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated: • Jeffrey Kessler nearly killed the deal. Again. Sort of. Kessler, the union’s outside counsel, has been a lightning rod for criticism during this process and a frequent target of Stern for what the NBA believes has been a disruptive influence in the negotiations. On Friday, Kessler nearly torpedoed the negotiations again when he, via speakerphone, asked the NBA for a 51 percent of the basketball-related income. Stern and Holt, who have been vehemently opposed to giving the players any more than 50 percent, rejected the proposal. While Kessler was merely the vessel delivering the union’s message, his offer infuriated representatives from the league and, according to a source close to the NBA’s Labor Relations Committee, nearly ended the negotiations. The two sides stayed at the table, however, and, according to the source, eventually agreed on a band that will give the players between 49 and 51 percent of the BRI. • The NBA is happy with this deal. The players are OK with it. Complete details of the new CBA won’t be disclosed for a few days, at least, but it’s clear the NBA got much of what it wanted. It reduced the players’ share of BRI by at least six percent (or $240 million per season) and will ultimately put significant restrictions on player movement, through the luxury tax, that will prevent big or more attractive markets from luring top players away from their incumbent teams. ”I think it will largely prevent the high-spending teams from competing in the free-agency market in the way they [have] in the past,” [NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam] Silver said. “It’s a compromise. It’s not the system we sought out to get in terms of the harder cap, but the luxury tax is harsher than it was in the past deal and we hope it’s effective. You never can be sure, but we feel, ultimately, it will give fans in every community hope that their team will be able to compete for championships and that their basis for believing in their team will be a function of management rather than how deep the owners’ pockets are or how large the market is.” The players? It seems they got a deal they can live with. While many players will likely be unhappy with the concessions made by the union, the majority will vote to approve the deal, in part because they believe it’s the best deal they can get and in part because they are not willing to sacrifice an entire season’s salary.
Henry Abbott of ESPN.com: Common sense suggests players – many of whom have not followed all that closely, and almost all of whom love playing NBA basketball – will approve the deal. But Hunter’s caution is not without reason. Compared to Stern, Hunter has a bigger, less predictable group that has surprised him more than once in this process with stridence. There are more than 400 players, for one thing. For another, many of them are incredibly competitive and are sensitive to the idea Stern and the owners have walked on them. And the players not only have real power — some of them are plaintiffs in a case that must be dropped for the NBA to operate – but they also have some bitter pills to swallow, including spending cuts that will affect several free agents in the years to come, a smaller mid-level exception, and less job security for many rank-and-file players. There may be some salesmanship in how Hunter, Derek Fisher and the Players Association handle the next few days. If I were doing the selling, these are some of the points I’d make: *NBA free agency – the bedrock of every players’ market value — is not everything it once was, but it’s alive and well. There is no hard cap, and every team will have at least some kind of mid-level exception every year. * The Bird exception has led to some of the league’s best-paid, winningest, happiest players, and is essentially untouched. *Minimum team payrolls will be climbing. The league instituted this in the name of competitive balance. But it will be in effect whether or not better players are available for stingy teams to sign, and whether or not owners know how to spend that money wisely. That’s a win for free agents. The Grizzlies reportedly signed Zach Randolph in part because they had to get their salaries up to the league minimum. There will be more deals like this in the future. * The best way to really make a lot of money as a non-superstar NBA player is to touch off a free-agent bidding war. Revenue sharing will help even the most tight-fisted teams to join these once in a while. If $3 million or so sounds like a decent salary to you, right now, for the first time have as many as 30 teams that both want you and can afford you.
Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com: Here are some of the key details of those moves, according to a league source who was privy to the details of the tentative agreement and shared those details with SheridanHoops.com. _ On the financial split, the players will receive between 49 and 51 percent of revenues, depending on annual growth. The players had complained prior to Saturday that the owners’ previous offer effectively limited them to 50.2 percent of revenues, but the source said 51 percent was now reasonably achievable with robust growth. _Owners dropped their insistence on what would have been known as the Carmelo Anthony rule, preventing teams from executing extend-and-trade deals similar to the one that sent Anthony from the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks last season. This means that if Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Chris Paul want to leverage their way out of Orlando, New Jersey and New Orleans, they will still be eligible to sign four-year extensions with their current teams before being immediately traded elsewhere. _ Teams above the salary cap will be able to offer four-year mid-level exception contracts to free agents each season. Previously, owners were asking that teams be limited to offering a four-year deal one year, a three-year deal the next, then four, then three, etc. _ The rookie salary scale and veteran minimum salaries will stay the same as they were last season. Owners had been seeking 12 percent cuts. _ Qualifying offers to restricted free agents will become “significantly” improved. The sides had already agreed to reduce the time for a team to match an offer to a restricted free agent from 7 days to 3. _ A new $2.5 million exception will be available to teams that go blow the salary cap, then use all of their cap room to sign free agents. Once they are back above the cap, they will be able to use the new exception instead of being limited to filling out their rosters with players on minimum contracts. _ The prohibition on luxury tax-paying teams from executing sign-and-trade deals was loosened, although the freedom to execute those types of deals will still be limited.
After 15 hours of negotiations Friday-into-Saturday –- and 149 days of lockout start to finish -– representatives of the NBA owners and players reached a tentative deal on settling their various lawsuits that should lead to a new collective bargaining agreement that will salvage a shortened 2011-12 season beginning on Christmas Day.
Details of what will become a new labor contract still were vague when the meeting ended after 3 a.m. ET at a New York law office. But the bones of a deal reportedly call for the players to receive a “band” share of basketball-related income ranging from 49 percent to 51 percent depending on the league’s growth (with a more reasonable shot at 51 than in previous offers). A laundry list of system issues, meanwhile, are intended to make the NBA more competitive across its 30 teams.
NBA commissioner David Stern and Billy Hunter, the former executive director of the players’ former union, met with reporters in an impromptu joint news conference shortly after the meeting.
“We’ve reached a tentative understanding,” Stern said, “that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations. But we’re optimistic that will all come to pass and that the NBA season will begin on December 25th, Christmas Day, with a triple-header.
“We’re very pleased that we’ve come this far. There’s still a lot of work to be done in a lot of places, with a lot of committees and player groups and the like. But we’re optimistic that it will hold and we’ll have ourselves an NBA season.
Stern said the owners’ labor relations committee would be briefed Saturday, with the agreement passing then to the overall Board of Governors. The commissioner said he expects both bodies to endorse the deal.
Said Hunter: “We’re going to turn it all over to the lawyers here and have them work out all the details. We’ll be able to then talk with you further as that process proceeds.” It could take a week to 10 days for the players to re-form their union and ratify a formal CBA.
Stern and Hunter did share a few details on the shortened season. A 66-game regular-season schedule, first reported by the New York Times Wednesday, is likely, pushing the start of a full playoff bracket a week or so later into spring. The plan is for training camps and free agency to both begin on Dec. 9, though details remained sketchy. All-Star Weekend in Orlando, initially set for Feb. 24-26, is expected to be preserved.
Technically, the talks that stretched from noon Friday into the wee hours Saturday were aimed at settling the antitrust lawsuit filed last week by the players when they dissolved their union. But the essence of that settlement will serve as the new CBA, assuming remaining “B-list” issues are worked out, lawsuits by both the players and the league (anticipating the union’s disclaimer of interest) get dismissed, the union gets re-formed with the league’s approval and the deal is ratified by both the NBA’s 30 owners and its 430-plus players.
The “A-list” issues, though, were the ones that had hung up the season, forcing what will be an opening night delayed by 55 days. They’re the ones that caused bargaining to break down Nov. 14 and they’re the ones that needed to be addressed to both sides’ satisfaction –- or tolerable dissatisfaction -– for the tentative agreement to get struck.
Finding middle ground on those was key. Among them:
– The mid-level exception for non-taxpaying teams will have a maximum length of four years every season (instead of alternating at four years, then three years). Starting salary can be as much as $5 million.
– There apparently will be a “mini” MLE for taxpaying teams, restricting the amount they can offer to free agents.
– A 10 percent maximum escrow tax will be withheld without the unlimited “true up” amount requested by the owners in their previous offer.
– Extend-and-trade deals –- as used by Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks last season –- will be modified but not eliminated in a new CBA. That could impact players such as Orlando’s Dwight Howard and New Jersey’s Deron Williams.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If you thought October was filled with empty rhetoric from both sides and nastiness that prevents progress in the NBA’s lockout saga, wait until you get a load of the new narrative.
The only thing worse than yet another breakdown in lockout negotiations is the incessant finger-pointing that kicked off in earnest on what should have been the opening night of the season.
And it’s open season on any and everyone connected.
But everyone’s tone has changed dramatically since last week, when NBA Commissioner David Stern‘s absence from federally-mediated talks (the doctors sent him home) coincided with what was the most dramatic detour to date in the progression of these negotiations.
Union executive director Billy Hunter spoke of a potential deal being ready within the next five or six days and Stern even floated the notion of an 82-game season being worked out, provided the sides come to a consensus on a new deal in rapid fashion.
That sets up this afternoon’s bargaining session in New York as perhaps the (latest) most critical day in the process. Another positive day of talks could provide us with more than just a glimmer of hope — (although, the Prime Minister warns that we shouldn’t go dreaming about unicorns and rainbows until we see Stern and Hunter shaking hands at one of these post-session pressers) …
From front-office executives to player agents, optimism is rapidly rising that there’s significant momentum toward reaching an agreement and saving most, if not all, of the 82-game regular season. Union executive director Billy Hunter said he “assumes” the full schedule could be saved if a deal is reached by “Sunday or Monday.” Stern said the league will work with the union to schedule as many games as possible.
The two sides didn’t discuss the split of revenue – a contentious issue in previous negotiating sessions – instead taking Hunter’s suggestion they “park” the discussion while negotiating system issues. Stern indicated the talks likely won’t return to the split until the league and union have finished with the system. League and union officials will continue to meet in small groups Thursday. Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver and San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt will brief the owners’ labor-relations committee before talks resume.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’ve heard from most everyone that is allowed to speak in the days, weeks and months since the NBA lockout began.
From NBA Commissioner David Stern to union executive director Billy Hunter to an assortment of players with microphones in their faces and on twitter, plenty of folks have weighed in on the impasse that is holding up the 2011-12 regular season.
The only voice missing, at least around these parts, has been that of the fans. Until now, of course. We will lift the silence today, in whatever way we can, by sharing some of the correspondences we have received here at the hideout in the wake of last week’s breakdown in talks between the two sides … (these are your words):
The Voice Missing From The Equation
There is a key party with no representation at the labor negotiations between the players and owners – the fans. The fans are the ones who pay those multi-million dollar salaries on both sides and buy all those jerseys and other sports paraphernalia. I’ve been a basketball fanatic ever since I was a kid in the ’70s. When I read that 2 billion dollars isn’t enough for 400 players who are playing basketball for a living in what is a non-essential profession such as sports entertainment in an economic downturn, it gets my blood boiling.
If I were to represent the fans at those meetings, my words would be sharp and to the point:
“Players, we pay your salaries. You are not the intangible asset, we are. If the owners are in fact telling the truth and only 8 teams are profitable, and a 50/50 split is what they need to remain viable over the long-term, then tighten your belts (yeah right) and accept the 50/50 split.
If just one more game is canceled, WE are going to boycott YOU. Many of us will stop attending your games and spending money on your jerseys and other accessories. That 4 billion dollar pot is going to shrink, fast. You can have 50% of 4 billion dollars (which still sounds ridiculously high for us peasants in the stands), or hold out, cancel more games, lose more salary, enrage your true employers, and try to hold out for a bigger portion of what will surely be a smaller pot.”
– Mike Genung
What Took So Long To Get Serious?
What bothers me the most besides a deal not getting done, is the fact that players and owners have had enough time to talk about a deal since the lockout started. Why wait until the end of September to start having serious talks about the CBA.
Basketball has become a fixture in my house for over 25 years and have seen my favorite team go through some ups and downs.
Just recently my daughter (last season) was really getting into the games and I started to notice that not only was she watching our favorite team, but started to follow other teams as well, turning on the computer and watching archive games on League Pass. This brought a tear to my eyes. How much she was looking forward to the next season was exciting to watch. Marking on her calendar and coming up to me saying only so many more days ’til the season. WOW, how excited I was for her; at the same time hiding my thoughts about the lock out.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Your anger is understandable.
Mostly because the actions of so many are indefensible.
With this latest breakdown in talks between the two sides in the NBA’s labor madness comes a sobering truth about this entire process. It’s never been about saving the game or even preserving it for the fans. It’s about two sides fighting over a billion dollar pie and each one wanting the biggest piece. Someone has to win and someone has to lose, compromise be damned!
We knew as much when this thing started, but we seemed to lose sight of that in the past few months with all the details tossed into the fray to deflect our attention from the fundamentals of this dispute. Our confidence has been betrayed by the men who have asked for that very thing from us, the basketball loving public,. And here we stand, just days away from what should have been the start of a season, staring at a potential season on the brink.
When the federal mediator both sides agreed to let dive into the middle of this battle packs up his stuff and heads for the door after three days of listening to everyone talk, it’s clear the “gulf” between the positions NBA Commissioner David Stern spoke of last week is greater than most of us imagined.
Unlike many of my less cynical colleagues here at the hideout and beyond, I wasn’t expecting a resolution to this process this week. I did (foolishly) assume that some tangible progress this week could lead to a deal sometime in the very near future.
But not after reading these words from NBPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler after the Board of Governors meeting:
“This meeting was hijacked. Something happened at their [owners] meeting. This is not the move where the owners were yesterday. We were making progress, as you heard.
“They came back, they came without the commissioner. They came with Paul Allen. We were told Paul Allen was here to express the views of the other members of the Board of Governors. And that view was: ‘Our way or the highway.’
“That’s what we were told. We were shocked. We went in there trying to negotiate, and they came in and said, ‘You either accept 50-50 or we’re done. And we won’t discuss anything else.’ “
Point fingers in whatever direction you like. Both sides are doing the same now without hesitation.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Perhaps “no comment,” officially, is the best thing anyone could say at this late stage of the NBA lockout.
After more than five hours of closed-door negotiations in New York Sunday night, the two sides agreed to stay quiet about what was said and resume negotiations Monday at 2 p.m. ET.
“We don’t have any comment at all, other than we are breaking for the night and reconvening tomorrow afternoon,” NBA Commissioner David Stern told reporters after emerging from the meeting, which was scrapped as of late Friday night only to be revived over the weekend.
The continuation of talk is better than the alternative. Stern issued a Monday deadline for a new labor agreement to be reached before the first two weeks of the regular season were canceled. Union executive director Billy Hunter was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles this morning for a previously scheduled regional meeting with players, but will instead be back in the meeting room alongside union president Derek Fisher and the rest of their negotiating team.
“We’re not necessarily any closer than we were [going into] tonight,” Fisher told reporters when he hit the New York sidewalk shortly before midnight.
Stern, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, owners Peter Holt of San Antonio and Glen Taylor of Minnesota, and senior vice president and deputy general counsel Dan Rube met with Hunter, Fisher and union vice president Mo Evans. Attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and Ron Klempner were also present.
Getting all of them in a room together just two days after both sides agreed that they would not meet without the precondition that the players accept a 50-50 split of BRI was a victory in itself. The introduction of the 50-50 split is what shut down talks Tuesday, when the players rejected the notion outright. According to Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix the subject was not discussed at all during Sunday’s session, which focused solely on … .
We won’t find out exactly where things stand until someone speaks about it in-depth, and preferably on the record. (Both sides agreed not to do so, according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.) But the clock continues to tick on Stern’s deadline.
The key negotiators from each side: NBA commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver for the owners, with union president Derek Fisher and executive director Billy Hunter representing the players, along with San Antonio owner Peter Holt, head of the league’s labor relations committee and Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, who is chairman of the NBA Board of Governors. Attorneys for both sides are also reportedly in attendance, per Berger.
Berger also reported via Twitter that players union vice president Mo Evans is in the meeting room as well. The negotiating session began roughly three hours ago, according to reports, with no timetable set for how long it might last.
Perhaps the most significant nugget unearthed tonight is that the reported precondition that the players had to agree to a 50-50 split of BRI in order for the meeting to take place was (obviously) dropped before the sides entered the room.
Even more chilling for those of us in the basketball public is that the prospect of another negotiating session is nowhere on the horizon. Everyone involved, it seems, needs a break after 10 intense sessions over the past month.
We’re left with more theories than real solutions in the meantime. But if you thought the weeks and months since July 1 were trying, the coming days and perhaps weeks will test us even more …
Despite the intransigence of the owners in their goal of achieving profitability and a level playing field … despite the players’ almost religious zeal for guaranteed contracts and other perks achieved over the years … and despite formidable external forces that threatened to implode the negotiations … the NBA and the players association are only about $80 million a year apart on the economics of a new collective bargaining agreement, multiple people with knowledge of the deal told CBSSports.com.
So even though all parties left a Times Square hotel looking grim-faced and feeling disappointed, the two sides in theory have moved so close to a deal that it is almost incomprehensible they would choose hundreds of millions in losses — or billions from a completely lost season — instead.
According to sources, here is how the two sides closed the gap, which stood at about $320 million in the first year of a new deal — the difference between the players’ standing offer that they get 54 percent of revenues and the owners’ 46 percent offer — when they walked into the room Tuesday.
After the owners offered the players a 50-50 split of revenues that effectively was a 47-percent share with about $350 million in expenses deducted first, the two sides met in small groups in the hallway while each side’s larger group caucused in separate rooms. As the hour grew late, the tension was rising and becoming palpable. Both sides recognized it was time to try everything possible to make a deal.
In the group for the league side were commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver and Spurs owner Peter Holt, the chairman of the labor relations committee. For the players, it was union president Derek Fisher, outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler and two of the brightest stars who attended Tuesday’s crucial bargaining session – Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, according to one of the people with knowledge of the side meeting.
In that group, the league — sensing the opportunity for a deal was there — proposed essentially a 50-50 split with no additional expense reductions over a seven-year proposal, with each side having the ability to opt out after the sixth year, two of the people said. This was the offer Stern described in his news conference Tuesday evening, one he and Silver thought would be enough to finally close the enormous gap between the two sides.
Union Angered By 50/50 Disclosure
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated: Union officials were furious that Stern publicly disclosed the offer. Some believe it was put out to drive a wedge between the union, which thus far has been largely represented by veteran players making mid-seven- or eight-figure salaries. And in some ways, it had that effect. Three role players told SI.com via text message that, while needing further details, a 50-50 split sounded fair.
Most perplexing is that with the gap starting to close — at one point the two sides were $8 billion apart over a 10-year deal — they are walking away from the bargaining table. The NBA canceled the remainder of the preseason on Tuesday (at a cost, according to Stern, of $200 million) and on Monday plan to wipe out the first two weeks of the regular season if no deal is reached. While both sides have publicly and privately expressed a willingness to keep negotiating (“We had a large group of owners who had flown in and were prepared to negotiate around the clock,” Silver said) and a union source said there will likely be at least a phone call between Stern and Hunter before Monday, no meetings have been scheduled. While addressing the media, Hunter speculated that it could be months before the two sides sit down again.
“We’re playing hardball now?” one veteran player not in the room told SI.com. “You have got to be kidding me.”
Hunter now faces battles on multiple fronts. Several high-powered agents are pushing for the union to decertify and make the labor negotiations a court fight. These agents are adamantly opposed to the union cutting any kind of deal that guarantees them anything below 52 percent of the split with most pushing for at least 54. And, whether Hunter admits it or not, there is genuine unrest among the league’s role players to make a deal before an entire season is lost.