Blog Entry

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

Posted on: October 10, 2011 11:49 am
NEW YORK – We have reached the point of few words and fewer clues as to how and when the NBA lockout will end. One of three things will happen Monday, in no particular order of likelihood:

1) The two sides emerge, say nothing again, and announce that they’re going to continue meeting. A short time later, the first two weeks of the regular season are postponed, rather than canceled, with the possibility that the games could be squeezed in or the season compressed if a deal is reached by Friday.

2) David Stern appears on the sidewalk – in the daylight hours this time – and announces that, unfortunately, the league was unable to reach an agreement with the players and he has no choice but to cancel the first two weeks of the regular season.

3) Stern and union director Billy Hunter emerge together and announce a deal in principle on a new collective bargaining agreement, starting a race against time to get the details ironed out and deal ratified so the season can start on time.

The list of agenda items that stand between here and any of those outcomes is longer than Kevin Durant’s wingspan.

For the second time in recent weeks, the two sides dropped all discussion of the elephant in the room – the BRI split – and focused on system issues only Sunday in a hastily called bargaining session. The last time this happened, the league and union negotiators made little tangible progress on the system issues, and when they returned to the BRI split this past Tuesday, they could not close the gap from the 53 percent the players were offering to the 50 percent where owners had dug in.

Now, while sources say agreement is within reach on adjustments to spending exceptions like the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions, a major sticking point is a punitive, laddered luxury tax that players fear will effectively serve as a hard salary cap. When the two sides reconvene at 2 p.m. ET in Manhattan, the job at hand will be monumental: somehow marrying the system issues that remain hotly contested with the BRI split, which is contested at something akin to inferno levels.

What’s most puzzling about how the negotiators got to this point – with no deal and regular season games scheduled to be scrapped by the end of the day – is that in mid-September, Stern acknowledged that the two sides were “on the road” to an agreement on the economics. At that point, the players were believed to have been offering to receive a 54 percent share of BRI – already a $1 billion concession over six years in an effort to address the owners’ stated annual losses of $300 million – while signaling a willingness to make another economic move conditioned on key system aspects remaining intact.

Days later, the owners on Sept. 22 increased their proposed players’ share of BRI from 44 percent to 46 percent on average over the life of a 10-year proposal. The owners inched upward from there in subsequent negotiations – to 48 percent and finally to 50 percent this past Tuesday – while the players made another move to 53 percent, marking roughly equivalent $1.3 billion concessions for each side.

As we learned after Tuesday’s crucial bargaining session, the two sides weren’t exactly stuck at 53 and 50, respectively, for the players. In a small side conference as the talks entered crunch time Tuesday, the owners offered a 49-51 percent range for the players’ share, while the players countered with 51-53. That’s where it ended, and no further negotiations on the BRI split occurred Sunday night.

The impasse leaves open the maddening question: If the two sides were “on the road” to an agreement on the economics in mid-September when the spread was 46-54, how could they be so far apart after the gap was shaved by $1.6 billion this past Tuesday – with the difference between the midpoint of each side’s BRI band being reduced to a mere 2 percentage points (52-50)?

The answer can likely be found in a couple of crucial areas. For one, small-market owners may have dug in hard on the BRI split, insisting they cannot accept a deal in which the teams receive less than 50 percent of revenues without substantially addressing system issues they believe put them at a competitive disadvantage compared to high-revenue, big-spending teams. Second, to the extent that the division of revenues is inexorably linked to the system that determines how the players’ share is delivered, the players could find themselves in a quid-pro-quo position: If they want the system mostly intact, then 50 percent is the best offer they’re going to see. For room to exist for further negotiation on the split, the owners need system adjustments they believe will enhance competitive balance and give teams the flexibility they need to get out from under bad contracts and keep star players from bolting for bigger markets.

All of these moving parts must somehow be tied together Monday – or realistically, by Friday, as long as enough progress and momentum exist. If not, the NBA faces the slippery, dangerous slope of canceled games – which would lead to economic losses each side would then try to recoup in further negotiations, which would lead to more canceled games and, essentially, the Armageddon both sides recognized would be a possibility when the lockout was imposed July.

As Stern said that day, these things tend to take on a life of their own.

Stern was a man of exasperated expressions and few words Sunday night. Though the real 11th hour could be weeks or even months away – the deadline to cancel the entire 1998-99 season wasn’t until Jan. 7, and a deal was reached with hours to spare – Stern may sense that the public tolerance for this lockout is waning and waning fast.

There was no Twitter, no 60-second news cycle, no All-Star charity games streaming online in ’99. Collective bargaining negotiations in sports are excruciating -- not nearly as conducive to the way fans connect and follow the sport as the sport itself is. People want answers, a resolution, and their tolerance in the 60-second news cycle for the glacial, painful manner in which billions are divided is running out – and will be on empty soon.

People were ready to move on from the NBA in ’99, and the damage from the lockout was incalculable. To the contrary, people now want to embrace the NBA and the product and storylines it offers in the ever-more crowded landscape and crackling news cycle of sports.

But this stuff? This bickering over billions? People are ready to move on from it, go find the next story, the new trending topic, something – anything – more interesting and satisfying. And Stern knows they will find it, thus transforming his sidewalk statements into trees falling in the forest with no one around to hear.

Stern and his players have reached the point of few words, all right. If they don’t find the point of many solutions soon, those words and the whole sport will fall on deaf ears.

Since: Jun 25, 2009
Posted on: October 10, 2011 10:11 pm

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

What makes me laugh about this fight between the NBA and the player is if it wasn't for an unrealistic and greedy union, there wouldn't be a work stoppage because an agreement wouldn't be difficult to reach.  Last season, based on a 43 percent cut and BRI of 3.8 billion dollars the owners lost a total of approximately 300 million dollars. Based on the numbers I just mentioned the owners cut came to approx. 1.6 billion dollars.  The owners have to gross at least 1.9 billion dollars to at the very least break even.  Do the math and make it happen, the framework for an agreement shouldn't be too difficult to come up with.   Based on projections the league would have grossed 4 billion dollars this year, a 50-50 split was the answer. 2 billion for the owners and about a 100 million dollar profit as a league and 2 billion dollars for the players, more then enough money for all the bling they'll need the rest of their lives.

But no.... the union doesn't beleve the owners have a right to guaranteed profits.... the only people guaranteed to profit are the players and that's how the union likes to do business..... the problem is NBA players just lost 2 weeks pay when Stern cancelled the first 2 weeks of the season.  I haven't done the math but that's probably already about 5 percent of their pay down the toilet..... not good.   The players REFUSE to take a 15 percent paycut, but what's really funny is they are willing to play overseas for half or even less then half of what they gross in the NBA.  And even funnier is if the league cancels the season, they lose EVERYTHING.... in other words a player making 10 million per season could have lost 1.5 million dollars as a paycut but instead gave up 10 million bucks they'll never see again.  Weird, no?  

Since: Feb 8, 2008
Posted on: October 10, 2011 10:10 pm

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

Who care???  The season is way too long for these guys anyway. They don't play basketball until the playoffs anyway.  

Since: Oct 8, 2006
Posted on: October 10, 2011 9:14 pm

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

Wow, lot of assumptions on your part. Never said I didn't like the NBA, Never said blacks weren't Americans, Never said foreigners shouldn't be allowed to play, Never said there aren't any black NBA legends. Never even made a derogatory remark about black people. Never said there wern't black kids playing college hoops. I just don't think people care. Come off your soapbox and talk about what I said and not what you think I said. Your KKK comment is childish. Grow up

Since: Apr 15, 2008
Posted on: October 10, 2011 8:51 pm

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

Not even going to read the moronic comments that follow each and every NBA article. I will say, and always say it makes me laugh people hop on the net, go to CBS Sports, go to the NBA an article, comment on it..but claim to hate the NBA. Usually when a person dislikes something, they don't pay it any mind. 

I'm a huge NBA fan. I watch every game that I possibly can. Know all of the players, coaches, GMs..just about anything there is to know. But, I am already starting to not care. Right now I am looking forward to under a month from now around Nov 7 when the College season kicks off. If they can fix the game then I will be back, but for now there are too many real things going on in the sports world. NFL, College Football, MLB Playoffs, NHL Season & even the CFL here in Canada. Those are the thing's I will pay attention to.Damn, I would rather go watch a QMJHL game live then sit on here reading articles about these guys bickering and whining with one another.

 I am not a huge basketball fan,  but in kind of a sick way, white america would love to see the NBA suffer. The NBA has become a foreign and black athelete league. Most peolpe I talk to are excited to see more coverage of college hoops and the NHL.
So in your mind, the black players are not Americans? Europeans should not be allowed to play? I don't care where anyone is from, if they can play, they can play. Baseball is filled with players from foreign countries, who happen to be black as well. Hockey is filled with Europeans. So what????? What is your point??? Some of the greatest NBA players of all time are black. Last time I checked there were a lot of black players in college ball as well, so I guess you don't support the NHL,NCAA,MLB to name a few?

Most people you talk to? Where at? your weekly KKK meetings? 

Your "white america" comment is moronic. 

Since: Oct 8, 2006
Posted on: October 10, 2011 8:26 pm

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

I am not a huge basketball fan,  but in kind of a sick way, white america would love to see the NBA suffer. The NBA has become a foreign and black athelete league. Most peolpe I talk to are excited to see more coverage of college hoops and the NHL.

Since: Mar 6, 2009
Posted on: October 10, 2011 8:24 pm

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

Why do all you people that hate the NBA take the time to read about it and make comments?

Since: Feb 29, 2008
Posted on: October 10, 2011 8:06 pm

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

Who cares?  I hope they never play again and let all those uneducated unmotivated players get a job a t mcdonalds.  The league stinks, the players are babies and i hope the owners and players both lose.  The game is terrible  to watch.  i would rather watch college games.  more fun at the stadium and 10% of the price.  Players go away.  Turkey and China awaits. I can only hope the NBA folds.  what will you do Berger? 

Since: Jan 15, 2008
Posted on: October 10, 2011 7:44 pm

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

So once again we have millionaries fighting with billionaires, over the money from the middle class!!! I am not giving any more of my money to grease that machine!!!

Since: Dec 5, 2006
Posted on: October 10, 2011 6:47 pm

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

Theu story = This story

Since: Dec 5, 2006
Posted on: October 10, 2011 6:46 pm

Without deal, apathy is right around the corner

Ken, a responsible journalist fact checks his stories. Theu story seems to contain several errors that mislead readers. For example you talk about players giving up $1B in going from 57% to 54%. Perhaps you are using OMB type projections for the economy in the coming years but using current revenues leads us to $720M not $1B. At the same time you say the owners moved $1.3B from 44% to 50%. Using the same constant base that would be $1.44B.

The real issue is the financial statements for the NBA. They absolutely show the losses the owners are taking. Ever since the owners provided those audited (and therefor certified) financial statements the players union clammed up completely. That is because the owners are tired of losing money ($1.8B in the last six years). Players are not willing to play the game for the love of the game and living expenses but they expect the owners to invest $356M in a franchise with its inherent business risks without any possibility of a return on their investments. Pretty much the same thing.

The players are tweeting "Let us play". But the holdup is the players refusal to structure system issues for profits as well as BRI split to allow for profits. The issue is not bickering over billions. It is survival of the league. The players would already be through training camp is they were receptive to these losses last month or the months and years prior. It is the players who are keeping the fans from seeing the games and the owners who are saying "Let us survive". People I know are not ready for apathy - they want the players to wise up and play.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or