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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: Apr 28, 2011
Posted on: October 11, 2011 10:32 am
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Since: Jan 10, 2010
Posted on: October 11, 2011 10:32 am

Stern cancels two weeks over labor impasse

so what about the people who's livelyhood depend on these games? what about the fans who are paying their hard earned money to buy over-priced tickets that ultimately wright your checks? this a real black-eye for the NBA. im ashamed for all involved.

Since: Mar 15, 2011
Posted on: October 11, 2011 10:24 am

Stern cancels two weeks over labor impasse

I am with you, the NBA product sucks anyway!  They need a league that is competitive from top to bottom.  Not just three teams.  They need a league with officials that have integrity.

Since: Mar 22, 2009
Posted on: October 11, 2011 10:14 am

Stern cancels two weeks over labor impasse

The players and owners know the fans are just pawns. When they settle their battle all of us we still be fans and consume all they sell us. 

Since: Dec 21, 2007
Posted on: October 11, 2011 9:57 am
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Jun 16, 2009
Posted on: October 11, 2011 9:50 am

Stern cancels two weeks over labor impasse

Good. Hopefully the whole season is next. Sorry to all you NBA fans but I would be just fine if I never saw another NBA game on tv ever again. Do yourselves a favor and watch college instead where the "amatuers" are hustling and giving effort on every play and actually playing defense.

Since: Nov 17, 2009
Posted on: October 11, 2011 9:46 am

Stern cancels two weeks over labor impasse

Sounds like your a hater..... there are so many good guys that play in the NBA and its guys like you that give fans a bad name.

Since: Jan 10, 2010
Posted on: October 11, 2011 9:40 am

Stern cancels two weeks over labor impasse

im cool w/ just watching hockey and college basketball from february-april. if u think the NBA fans are gonna come running back after this is over, think again. if i were a NBA owner i would fire all these insubordinate employees and simply go to rucker park and find new ones.

Since: Aug 31, 2011
Posted on: October 11, 2011 9:31 am

Stern cancels two weeks over labor impasse

Neither side is right, they are both wrong.  Both sides do not know what it means to compromise and negotiate.  Bring on college basketball.  If the NBA comes back this year for a 60 game season, I will watch and cheer for the Thunder, but I am quickly losing interest in the rest of the league. 

Since: Jun 25, 2009
Posted on: October 11, 2011 9:25 am

Stern cancels two weeks over labor impasse

The next generation of talent could have a fresh start if you, the FANS, were willing to go through growing pains, and the owners were willing to take some lumps along the way.
I completely agree with this statement.  NBA teams without marquee talent have lots of empty seats until the Lakers, Heat and Celtics come to town.  As much of a long time NBA fan I have been I'm quite frankly irritated with this entire thing.  What's bad is when the first two weeks was cut I didn't feel at a lost, and that's big for me.  That's because my heart left the NBA a long time ago when Latrell Sprewell said he didn't have enough money to take care of his family...........when he was on his way to his yacht called "Milwaukee's Best."  I know I may be having a Nick Nolte moment (from the movie Blue Chips) but I enjoy watching a high school game where the not-so-talk, not-quite as fast, and the tweeners (too short to be a forward, too slow to be a guard) and the guys who work their butt off all game long.  I enjoy college basketball where although some of the games/teams have a bit more of a corportate feel to them still have hungrier teams with hungrier individuals knowing they only have at least 2 years to prove they can play.  NCAA has teams like Butler who recruit kids from the farms in the Midwest to the urban cities who all want a chance to play big time college ball.  Is there problems in the NCAA?  Sure there is.  However, the hunger is there.  For some of these kids this is their only chance at stardom and they play that way.  I get so tired of watching the NBAs Mid-level exception guys make $5.8 million a year to ride the pine and become a career journeyman who can bounce from one championship team to the next.

So, NBA, you may have canceled the first two weeks of the season but canceling the first two weeks means it will take you at least two years to get some of the fans back.  You cancel the season and it will be 2020 before you will recover.  Maybe by then son will be able to play for the midlevel exception and make $5 million; heck, everyone else does!

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