Earlier Friday, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported that the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association could not agree to meet prior to Monday, the deadline commissioner David Stern has set for cancelling the first two weeks of the 2011-2012 regular season.
Berger reported that an NBPA source said that the NBA would only agree to meet if the union agreed to accept a 50-50 split of Basketball-Related Income. The NBPA felt it could not go through with a meeting given that major pre-condition.
The New York Times reports that NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver admitted that the NBA was not willing to negotiate past the 50-50 BRI split but said the league was willing to discuss other subjects, such as system issues.
An NBA spokesperson returned the finger-pointing in a statement to CBSSports.com and other media: "We told the union today that we were willing to meet as early as Sunday. We also advised them we were unwilling to move above the 50-50 split of revenues that was discussed between the parties on Tuesday but that we wanted to meet with them to discuss the many remaining open issues. The union declined."
Adam Silver, the N.B.A.’s deputy commissioner, confirmed that the owners are standing firm at 50-50, although he disagreed with the union’s portrayal of events.
“What we told the union was that we were not prepared to negotiate over the B.R.I. split beyond the 50-50 concept that had already been discussed,” Silver said, referring to the N.B.A.’s acronym for basketball-related income.
Silver added, however, that the league was “prepared to continue negotiating over the many other issues that remain open” — such as the salary-cap system, the luxury tax and the length of contracts.
The posturing on both sides here is clear.
For the players, agreeing to meet to discuss only portions of the deal would effectively allow the owners to take the lead on setting the agenda, and that's a big no-no, because it sends a message to the average player that the union's leadership is weak and not on equal footing. To agree to take a stand, the average player has to feel he's standing on firm ground, not a sand dune.
For the league, the refusal to budge on the 50/50 split accomplishes two goals. First, it continues to perpetuate the idea that the talks are stalling because the players are refusing to accept a "fair" 50/50 split, catering to public opinion and applying pressure on the NBPA to re-think its refusal to budget on its formal desire for 53 percent of the BRI. Second, it sends a message to any rank-and-file player who might be eager to get back to work. That message is: "We'll give you 50/50 and if you're OK with that, great, just let your union leadership know."
This latest impasse wastes valuable time and will likely lead to both sides digging in deeper for the time being. Once the deadline to "save the full season" is passed, the two sides will need to regenerate an urgency factor, or we could all be waiting for awhile.