We're all disappointed. We're all upset. Even maybe a little angry.
With all that positive momentum heading into Friday's labor negotiations, there was a legitimate expectation that David Stern and Billy Hunter would emerge ready to announce a deal.
That didn't happen. And with no new talks scheduled, the rest of November's games were canceled and it felt like everything reset and it's back to the drawing board.
Not so fast though. There's been movement -- lots of it, in fact -- and in reality, they aren't quite so far off from putting pen to paper on a new collective bargaining agreement. Via the New York Times:
The new N.B.A. labor deal is practically done. You wouldn’t know it from the headlines, the dour news conferences or the apocalyptic rhetoric spilling from league officials. But the deal, in practical terms, is about 95 percent complete.
The N.B.A. and the players union have agreed on contract lengths and luxury-tax rates, trade rules and cap exceptions, and a host of oddly named provisions offering “amnesty” and “stretch payments” and less onerous “base-year” rules.
All of these pieces — some favoring the players, most of them favoring the owners — have fallen into place in recent weeks, even as talks collapsed and restarted and collapsed again. The checklist has been reduced to a few items.
But it is the last 5 percent that is ruining the prospects for labor peace and gradually eroding the N.B.A. season.
Use any metaphor you like -- ball's on the two-yard line, it's the fourth quarter, bases loaded... whatever -- but the deal is right there. It's so close, but at the same time truly does feel so far away. Basketball Related Income has hung everything up once again and with both sides seeming to be completely dug in -- for now -- into their positions, it just doesn't feel like a deal is close to happening.
But consider the agreements that are tentatively in place, according to the report:
- Luxury tax: The new system will charge teams $1.50 for every dollar over the threshold, which replaces the dollar-for-dollar setup in the last CBA. But the tax even goes to $1.75 after $5 million, $2.25 after $10 million and $3 after $15 million.
- Contract lengths: Players with Bird Rights get to have a five-year max deal, while everyone else gets four-year max deals. The last CBA was six years for Bird Rights and five for everyone else.
- Raises: Annual raises get reduced by "several" percent, going as low as possibly just 5 percent for Bird players and 3.5 for everyone else. The last deal had raises as high as 10.5 for Bird players and 8 percent for other players.
- The Mid-level exception: It starts at $5 million, which is a mild decrese of $800,000. Length of contract and raises are still being discussed.
- Amnesty clause: As Ken Berger of CBSSports.com has reported, a new amnesty clause will be in the new CBA, allowing teams to waive one player at anytime during the life of the new CBA. You still have to pay the players but his salary won't count against the cap and luxury tax. But here's a catch: It can't be used on anyone signed before July 1, 2011. So all that talk about who you'd amnesty would change quite a bit because those players aren't eligible.
- Stretch exception: Teams will be allowed to extend out payments to players that have been waived to spread out the cap hit over several season.
A few issues still remain such as the league wants to punish tax-paying teams by denying them the mid-level exception and sign-and-trade deals as well as additional penalties for "repeat offenders."
By the sounds of it, at least to me, the players are bending quite a bit on this new system. It's still pretty favorable to them, especially when you consider that initially the owners wanted a hard cap, but all the concessions are coming from the players, at least compared to the last CBA. So it's understandable why they feel they need to take a stand at 53 percent BRI.
But all that wasn't there a week ago. Real, tangible progress has been made towards a deal. They're close. It's just about finishing. Time to get clutch. Someone step up and hit a big shot.