Blog Entry

Stern cancels two weeks over labor impasse

Posted on: October 10, 2011 11:08 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2011 1:15 am
NEW YORK -- Citing an impasse with the players' association over matters that seemed trivial entering the home stretch of negotiations, David Stern announced Monday night the cancellation of regular season games for the second time in his more than a quarter century as commissioner.

Stern canceled the first two weeks of the regular season after more than 13 hours of bargaining over two days with the National Basketball Players Association left the two sides "very, very far apart on virtually all issues."

"I'm sorry to report, particularly for the thousands of people that depend on our industry for their livlihood, that the first two weeks of the season have been canceled," Stern said.

Asked if there was no chance of having an 82-game season, Stern said, "Yes, I think that's right. And every day that goes by, we need to look at further reductions in what's left in the season."

The biggest issue that separated the parties in negotiations that began in earnest with the owners' initial proposal in January 2010 -- the split of revenues -- was not the tipping point that led to the cancellation. It was system issues -- luxury tax, contract length, length of the CBA, annual raises, and the like -- meaning that both sides will miss games over details neither imagined they would.

"I'm convinced this was all just part of the plan," said Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association.

Indeed, a person involved in the negotiations told that the cancellation seemed "pre-ordained."

"This could have been solved so easily, with any amount of effort," the person said.

Indeed, the two sides engaged in a flurry of lengthy talks over the past two weeks, culminating with six hours Sunday night and seven hours on Monday -- all dealing with system issues with no sunstantive discussion of the split of basketball-related income. Speaking on the sidewalk outside the Upper East Side hotel where negotiations took place, Stern delivered a laundry list of items that league negotiators found most objectionable about the players' proposals: contract length, length of the CBA, use of exceptions by tax-paying teams, the tax levels and what deputy commissioner Adam Silver described as the "frequency of the tax."

The latter point, according to a union source, apparently was in reference to the owners desire to punish teams that repeatedly spend over new luxury-tax thresholds in order to prevent "runaway teams" in big markets from maintaining an unfair competitive advantage over small-market teams.

Such negotiating points seemed minor heading into the final push to save regular season games, given that last Tuesday, the two sides had shaved about $1.6 billion off the economic gap that separated them. Few observers or participants in the talks expected games to be lost over technical deal points -- the likes of which could've been agreed upon and written up by low-level attorneys working at home on the weekend while players reported for training camps.

But Stern characterized the distance between the sides as "a gulf," and added, "We just can't get over the system hurdles."

"It makes no sense for us to operate under the current model, where taxpayers ... have a huge advantage over other teams," Silver said.

Unsurprisingly, each side had a different view of the others' vision of the system they were negotiating to achieve. According to a union source, the players agreed to concessions on contract length -- reducing them from five- and six-year deals in the previous CBA to five- and four-year deals -- and offered to lower the mid-level exception from its previous level of about $5.8 million to $5 million. The source said league negotiators were insisting on a reduction in the mid-level to $3 million a year.

Not mundane enough for you? Other aspects of the impasse included annual raises. The players offered to reduce them from 10.5 percent and 8 percent for "Larry Bird" free agents under the previous deal to 10.5 percent and 9 percent for Bird free agents and 8 percent and 7 percent for other players. Hunter said owners wanted to forbid tax-paying teams from using the Bird exception, meaning they would need to have cap space to retain one of their Bird free agents.

The totality of the owners' system offers -- including a more punitive luxury-tax model that would increase to as much as 4-1 and beyond for repeat offenders -- would have the same effects as a hard salary cap, Hunter said.

"My attitude is, if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck and it looks like a duck, it's a duck," Hunter said. "... We came up with proposals to stiffen the tax, but we do not want a hard cap. You can't say, 'OK, we agree we're going to move away from a hard cap,' but then do everything else that brings about the same result."

Stern maintained that the owners' latest proposals did not include a hard team salary cap, and also would allow players to retain guaranteed contracts and would not roll back existing contracts.

"We tried awfully hard," Stern said. "We made, in our view, concession after concession."

Stern predicted that the economic loss from canceling games would cause the league's negotiating position to harden because "we have to account for the losses that we are incurring." He stopped short of saying the entire season is in jeopardy, but added that further cancellations would be dealt with in two-week increments.

"I don't know that the season is in jeopardy," Hunter said. "I think it would be foolish for them to kill the season. We're coming off the best season in the history of the NBA, and I'm not so sure in this kind of economy if there is a protracted lockout whether the league will recover."


Since: Aug 20, 2006
Posted on: October 11, 2011 12:07 pm

Stern cancels two weeks over labor impasse

Agree - Cancel the whole season... this sport has become nothing but wannabe gangsta fan participation... I was in Philly on business arriving after the All Star game that year and the hotel I checked in was full of hoods and their ho's from out of state leaving to return home via their gansta vehicles... the room I got was a complete mess and stunk the high heaven... gold chains galore...

Since: Feb 29, 2008
Posted on: October 11, 2011 11:59 am

Stern cancels two weeks over labor impasse

Cancel the whole season

Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: October 11, 2011 11:58 am

Stern cancels two weeks over labor impasse

Dwayne Wade needs to have a Coke and a smile and stfu. Why is he even in there? That said, the season is too long anyway.

Since: Sep 20, 2007
Posted on: October 11, 2011 11:35 am

Nobody cares about outside of blacks/NBA cities

Most of us could care less if the NBA ever came back.

Since: Mar 21, 2010
Posted on: October 11, 2011 11:31 am

The NFL and NHL says thank you to the NBA.

We're coming off the best season in the history of the NBA, and I'm not so sure in this kind of economy if there is a protracted lockout whether the league will recover."
Good job by the NBA (both the union and the owners) on gift wrapping and sending fans of their product over to the NFL and NHL. Obviously the geniuses on both sides still have not learned anything from Major League Baseball's 1994 debacle that was really the starting point of the National Football League becoming the American Pasttime. It is a distinction Major League Baseball still has not reclaimed. Now that the NBA is sending a portion of their fan base for at least the next two weeks over to the National Football League and the National Hockey League the NBA is well on its way to becoming the American Afterthought. 

Since: Aug 9, 2008
Posted on: October 11, 2011 11:22 am

Stern cancels two weeks over labor impasse

$1,000,000 a year is to much money. Make these brats live on $250,000  a year.

Since: Aug 17, 2011
Posted on: October 11, 2011 10:58 am

Just a bargaining tool used by stern.

 Key point which many of you have missed is that NBA almost half of NBA players are still getting paid till October.  Wait until there are no more cheques coming in, and that car note and mortgage payment comen in for that million dollar home.  Now is when the real fun begins.

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: October 11, 2011 10:53 am

Stern cancels two weeks over labor impasse

"Welcome to McDonalds.  Can I take your order"

Since: Oct 6, 2010
Posted on: October 11, 2011 10:51 am

Stern cancels two weeks over labor impasse

just cancel the season u already ruined it

Since: Dec 18, 2006
Posted on: October 11, 2011 10:50 am

Stern cancels two weeks over labor impasse

Can anyone tell me why people who aren't fans of the NBA, are even reading this article and to top that off, POSTING on this article?  

I don't get it.  I'm not a baseball or hockey fan, and that means I hardly pay attention to those sections of sportsline.  I would definitely never post a response to anything I read about either of those sports.  

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