Tag:Billy Hunter
Posted on: May 14, 2010 5:21 pm
 

Union making progress on CBA proposal

It was a week of progress for the NBA Players Association as it works toward submitting a new collective bargaining proposal within the May1-July 1 window that executive director Billy Hunter offered in March, sources told CBSSports.com.

Internal staff meetings have heated up in New York, where union lawyers are said to be getting close to a framework for a proposal countering the owners' draconian contract offer, which was rejected by the players during All-Star weekend.

Asked about the progress of internal discussions at a recent playoff game, Hunter declined to give specifics of the union's counter-offer, saying details were still being finalized. In a March interview with CBSSports.com, Hunter estimated that the union would have a new proposal in the hands of owners before the free-agent negotiating period begins on July 1.

As for a potential collusion lawsuit stemming from the NBA's claims last year that the 2010-11 salary cap could be drastically reduced amid plummeting revenues, sources told CBSSports.com that such a legal option remains on the table. But without proof that the league was spreading doom-and-gloom news about revenue and cap projections with the intent to have a chilling effect on free-agent signings, a collusion suit would be unlikely. With no smoking gun, one source said, legal action would be akin to "throwing good money after bad."

Commissioner David Stern recently contradicted those previous gloomy projections by revealing that the current projection for the '10-'11 cap is $56.1 million -- about $6 million more than the worst-case scenario presented to teams in a league memo last July.

Owners and players are trying to avoid the league's first work stoppage since the 1998-99 season when the current labor agreement expires after the 2010-11 season.

Category: NBA
Posted on: April 16, 2010 2:45 pm
Edited on: April 16, 2010 3:33 pm
 

Stern: '10-'11 cap could be $56 million

NEW YORK -- At the end of a typically mundane summary of the NBA's two-day Board of Governors meeting, commissioner David Stern dropped a bombshell of sorts Friday. And it means that teams chasing 2010 free agents will have considerably more money to spend than they thought.

Based on a more optimistic revenue picture than the league was projecting as recently as All-Star weekend, Stern said the revised projection for the 2010-11 salary cap is $56.1 million. That's significantly higher than last summer's estimate of between $50.4 million and $53.6 million -- figures that were floated last summer in a doomsday memo to teams that warned of a league-wide revenue decline of between 2.5 percent and 5 percent.

Teams that have been clearing cap space to pursue marquee free agents like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade this summer -- such as the Knicks, Nets, Bulls, Heat and Clippers -- have spent much of the season budgeting on a $52 million cap in '10-'11, which would've been a nearly $6 million drop from this season's payroll limit of $57.7 million. The reason for the healthier figure was what Stern called a "Herculean effort" by teams to prop up ticket and sponsorship sales that were hit by the recession.

Stern said "it's pretty clear" that although revenue will still be down from last season, the drop will "not be as much as we feared at the beginning of the season."

One of the people most affected by the revised financial picture, Knicks president Donnie Walsh, was sitting in the second row of Stern's news conference when the announcement was made. Walsh, who already was figuring on having enough cap space to sign two max free agents for about $32 million, now has more flexibility.

Walsh, who was on hand to learn the result of a draft-pick tiebreaker, merely smiled when I dropped this line on him after Stern's news conference broke up: "Now you have enough money for two max players and Jerome James."

But the news was far more significant than that for an organization like the Knicks, which has hitched its future to the hope of landing at least one major free agent this summer when numerous NBA stars will be on the market. In addition to courting LeBron, Walsh also will be exploring sign-and-trades to revamp the roster and will be simultaneously juggling his desire to retain unrestricted free agent David Lee. For every dollar the cap exceeds Walsh's $52-$53 million projection, it helps his efforts on all fronts.

Similarly, the Heat now don't have to sweat losing Wade nearly as much, as they'll get $2-3 million more space on top of the $18-$19 million they were already projecting -- money that can be used to sign a star and a second-tier player to placate Wade and persuade him to stay. The Bulls now will have enough room to sign a max player and add another piece without doing a salary-dump trade beforehand.

So what changed?

The precipitous decline in the cap that teams were warned about last summer was based on a doomsday projection of an 11 percent collapse in gate (or ticket) revenues, a person with knowledge of league finances told CBSSports.com. As the league closes the books on the regular season, the person said gate revenue actually declined only 7 percent. Based on league-wide gate receipts of $1.1 billion last season, an 11 percent decline would've amounted to a loss of $120 million in ticket revenue. A 7 percent decline at the gate would result in a loss of only $77 million.

Whereas league officials were projecting a decline in overall league revenue of between 2.5 and 5 percent last summer, the revised figure now calls for only a 0.5 percent decline, said the person familiar with league finances, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Basketball-related income, or BRI, determines the salary cap and luxury tax threshold, which is now estimated to be $68 million next season -- down only slightly $69.9 million this season.

Stern was less specific about a controversial number related to the ongoing negotiations aimed at achieving a new collective bargaining agreement and avoiding a lockout after the '10-'11 season. Despite the rosier revenue picture he painted, Stern didn't back off much from the $400 million in league-wide losses he projected for this season during his All-Star address in Dallas two months ago. He placed the new figure at between $380 million and $400 million. Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, already has disputed the $400 million figure, telling CBSSports.com last month that it was "overstated."

On the labor front, Stern said the league continues to furnish financial data to the union and that negotiations are taking place on the "staff meeting" level. League owners and executives will meet again during Summer League in Las Vegas, but no high-level CBA talks are expected to occur until after the players submit their counterproposal to the league. Hunter told CBSSports.com last month that the players intend to do that sometime between May 1 and July 1.





Posted on: March 19, 2010 7:12 pm
 

What's a few hundred million among friends?

NEW YORK – David Stern says the NBA will lose $400 million this season. Billy Hunter has crunched the numbers and disagrees. How could the two men charged with negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement for a $4 billion industry potentially be hundreds of millions apart when it comes to the focal point of their argument? 

Well, it’s tax season, so to paraphrase Mark Twain, one way is this: Liars, damn liars, and accountants. 

Aside from the fundamental argument over whether players or owners should bear the brunt of a difficult economic environment, the two sides disagree on what figures should be included in the league’s profit-loss statements. When asked for a response to Hunter disputing Stern’s number Friday, NBA spokesman Tim Frank said, “Our financials are based on GAAP accounting.” This is important because GAAP – Generally Accepted Accounting Principles – allow for non-operating expenses such as interest and depreciation to be included when depicting the health of a business. These expenses, and how they are taxed and depreciated, allow companies more leeway in reporting earnings. (The NBA is not a public company, and thus is not required by law to disclose such things.) 

The players believe that they shouldn’t be asked to make concessions to account for expenses such as interest associated with an owner’s purchase of his team or arena. Since no major American pro sport has ever given players an ownership stake, the players never share in the upside of rising franchise values. That’s an investment risk taken by the owners, most of whom stand to reap huge returns if they ever sell their teams. 

Another tricky aspect of the NBA business that makes deciphering its health difficult is related-party transactions. At least five teams – the Knicks, 76ers, Nuggets, Raptors and Bulls – are the property of owners who also own the arena and local TV network. (The Bulls are co-owners of their arena and network.) Six more – the Kings, Pistons, Hawks, Wizards, Jazz and Lakers – are property of owners who also own the arena. (The Lakers are part-owned by AEG, which owns Staples Center.) More teams, like the Spurs and Pacers, don’t own their arena but operate it. 

This means that if the Sixers, for example, are losing money, chances are a significant portion of that money comes from arena and TV expenses, which all flow to Comcast-Spectacor, which also owns the team. It’s a dream scenario – like losing millions of dollars to yourself. 

Do these issues account for all the difference between Stern and Hunter when it comes to the financial health of the NBA? According to CBSSports.com’s analysis of the NBA’s ticket sales projections for the 2009-10 season, probably not. 

Stern’s $400 million figure appears rooted in a doomsday projection of a double-digit league-wide decline in gate receipts – the money teams bring in from all ticket sales – during the 2009-10 season. Based on ticket sales data from July 2009 obtained by CBSSports.com, the league was looking at a 17 percent decline in revenues from full- and partial-season ticket plans this season. The figures excluded three teams – the Knicks, Lakers and Thunder – because they had not reported season-ticket sales in July 2008 for comparison purposes. 

Season-ticket sales are important not only because they provide teams with revenue certainty, but also because they account for the vast majority of ticket revenues. Of the more than $1.1 billion in league-wide gate receipts during the 2008-09 season, $917 million – or 83 percent – came from full- and partial-season ticket plans, according to league data. 

At the 2009 NBA Finals – weeks before the July report obtained by CBSSports.com was produced – Stern floated the possibility that the league could see as much as a 10 percent decline in basketball-related income during the 2009-10 season. (Gate receipts are about one-third of BRI, which determines the salary cap.) That figure was later revised to a reduction of between 2.5 percent and 5 percent in a league memo to teams. In the memo, the league warned that the resulting drop in the 2010-11 cap would be $5-8 million from its previous level of $58.7 million. 

If 2009-10 gate receipts declined 17 percent – as the league’s July report suggested would be the case – it would’ve resulted in a loss of approximately $200 million in ticket revenue. Potentially, there’s the difference between Stern’s stated annual losses of $200 million in the first four years of the CBA and the $400 million he projected for 2009-10. 

But the latest data available on gate receipts showed a decline of only 7.4 percent for 2009-10, according to another league ticket sales report through Nov. 29 that was obtained by CBSSports.com. The 7.4 percent decline in revenue was associated with a 3.7 percent decline in paid attendance, the report said. No updated figures have been made public since then, but Stern said during All-Star weekend that attendance would be down about 2 percent this season. “It is doing better this season than we were actually projecting it,” he said. 

If the decline were to have held steady at 7.4 percent since Nov. 29, the resulting loss of ticket revenue would be about $80 million – not the $200 million reflected by the league’s July projections. 

Frank, the NBA spokesman, declined to discuss league financials, saying the appropriate data were being provided to the players’ union. 

Which can only mean that those damn accountants have a lot more fun ahead of them.
Category: NBA
Posted on: February 13, 2010 10:25 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2010 11:10 pm
 

Stern: Cut expenses, but only the players'

DALLAS – NBA players simply make too much money, commissioner David Stern said Saturday night, and salaries must be curtailed to keep the league afloat. 

Citing $400 million in operating losses this season – and an average of $200 million annually in previous years of the current collective bargaining agreement – Stern issued a challenge to the players’ union to come back with a proposal that would develop “a sustainable business model.” 

“At our current level of revenue devoted to players’ salaries, it's too high,” Stern said. “I can run from that, but I can't hide from that, and I don't think the players can, either.” 

In a state-of-the-league address that was alternately witty and biting, Stern ridiculed union chief Billy Hunter’s assertion that the owners’ initial proposal was taken off the table during a contentious bargaining session Friday during All-Star weekend. 

“I don't know what that means,” Stern said. “We are talking semantics, and everyone around here knows that I am not anti semantic.” 

Ba-dump-bump. 

“I don't know what to say,” Stern said. “If they don't like it, you know, that's what counters are about. Speak to me, that's all. Off the table, on the table, under the table; I don't even understand it. The answer is, it's for them to make a proposal.” 

While Stern was in rare form on those topics, he artfully dodged three of the most important issues related to avoiding a lockout if the two sides can’t reach an agreement by June 30, 2011:

1) The 2010 free-agent class: Though Stern professed no urgency to reach agreement on a framework of a new economic system by July 1 of this year, the owners need cost-certainty by then in order to plan accordingly for spending on the biggest free-agent class in NBA history. Since the players like the current system, they’re in no hurry to speed up the process. So owners will have to risk committing max money to free agents this summer and having it come back to haunt them if the cap falls as far as the union predicts under the owners’ proposal – from $57.7 million to about $43 million.

2) Revenue Sharing: Stern said he’s committed to revamping the revenue-sharing model to help low-revenue teams compete. Despite saying it would be done “in lock step” with collective bargaining, Stern also said, “We can’t do it until we complete the negotiations.” Asked to explain why, Stern said, “We are going to do it all at once. It’s going to be when we have the new collective bargaining agreement.” According to internal NBA documents obtained by CBSSports.com, 12 teams averaged more than $1 million per game in ticket revenue during the 2008-09 season, with seven of those teams making the playoffs. Six teams made less than $600,000 per game, and only one – the Hawks – made the playoffs. “When we get to where we need to get to, there will be a very robust revenue sharing where teams will not be in a position to decline to compete because of money,” Stern said.

3) Other Ways to Reduce Expenses: While there have been cutbacks at the league office and on the team side, Stern admitted that his precious expansion to international markets has been a drag on the league’s financial picture. Stern referred to investments in such countries as India and China as having “not great margins.” But he refused to concede that reducing the league’s global efforts would be another way to rein in expenses. “We think that this will be a large payoff for future players that the present players are benefiting from because of investments that were made previously,” Stern said. But it seems to me that present players aren’t benefiting if the owners are asking them to accept less money while the league plans to open offices this year India, Africa, and the Middle East, with exhibition games planned for Mexico City, Barcelona, Paris, London, Beijing, Milan, and Guangzhou.

“Other expenses squeeze us,” Stern said, when pressed on the issue, “but player expenses are too high.”

Stern relished taking shots at what he described as the union’s “theatrics” during Friday’s negotiating session, though he later said, “I would have to plead guilty to participating a bit in such negotiations as well.” He accused union attorney Jeffrey Kessler, who also is handling CBA negotiations for the NFL, of “threatening us.” One such threat, Stern revealed after his news conference, was that the union would decertify and sue the NBA for anti-trust violations. Coincidentally, the league recognized during All-Star Saturday night festivities Spencer Haywood, the first player to challenge the NBA's eligibility requirements. Haywood's anti-trust lawsuit against the NBA went to the Supreme Court in 1971, and Haywood won the right to join the league although he didn't complete four years of college.

For the second straight day, a story published by CBSSports.com was raised in a news conference on the subject of labor talks. According to sources, Stern was referring to a Jan. 29 story in which a team executive ridiculed LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, saying James could “play football” and Wade could “be a fashion model” if they didn’t like the drastically reduced maximum contracts owners were proposing. Other news outlets published similar swipes, including Yahoo! Sports, which quoted an anonymous team executive who characterized the owners’ proposal as “a photocopy of Stern’s middle finger.” 

Stern said he was “offended” by the comments, calling them “cowardly,” and he apologized to players’ negotiating committee and the 10 All-Stars who were so enraged by the stories that they showed up at the bargaining session Friday. 

“Some of our so called team executives have been quoted – as you might expect anonymously – in the media, and saying disparaging things about our players,” Stern said. “If you know me, and you know our owners, that’s not what we do. That’s not us. And the players were upset with those quotes, which I find cowardly, if they were actually said. And if I ever found out who said them, they would be dealt with; they would be former, former NBA people, not current. And we assured the stars of that.” 

Posted on: February 12, 2010 8:20 pm
Edited on: February 12, 2010 10:18 pm
 

LeBron, Wade join CBA talks; owners pull proposal

DALLAS -- In a stunning development, 10 All-Stars including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony joined the collective bargaining talks Friday, standing in defiance of commissioner David Stern and the owners' negotiating committee during what was described as a "contentious" and "heated" bargaining session. The owners, according to union chief Billy Hunter, agreed to pull their current proposal off the table, relinquishing ground after hitting the union with demands for a hard salary cap and drastically reduced salaries.

Overreaching with a hard-line initial proposal submitted to the union on Jan. 29 may have backfired on the owners, whose demands for reducing the players' share of revenue, eliminating Larry Bird exceptions, reducing the length of contracts, and virtually eliminating guarantees got the attention of the league's stars. The murderer's row joining Hunter and the players' executive committee also included Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Joe Johnson, Amar'e Stoudemire, Chauncey Billups and Al Horford. The players skipped their obligations at the NBA's annual All-Star "day of service" charity events to stand with Hunter and send a message to the owners.

"The players came in there and said, 'We don't want a fight,'" Hunter said. "'But if we're not given any other choice, we won't run from a fight.'"

Calling the owners' proposal "shock and awe" and a "non-starter," Hunter said the players would submit their own proposal in the "near future," but did not provide a date. He described the league as "eager" to get a deal in place by July 1, which marks the beginning of the biggest free-agent signing period in NBA history. The economics behind that impending bonanza are now seriously clouded with the owners and players back to square one in their negotiations.

The current deal, ratified in 2005, expires after the 2010-11 season. The owners, citing massive financial losses they have documented to the union over the past few months, already have notified the players that they will not exercise their option to extend the current deal through the 2011-12 season.

Adam Silver, the NBA's deputy commissioner, issued a statement late Friday disputing Hunter's account.

"While we do not agree with the Players' Association's characterization of today's meeting or the status of the NBA's bargaining proposal, David will address the subject of collective bargaining during his media availability prior to All-Star Saturday night," Silver said.

A year ago at All-Star weekend in Phoenix, Hunter joined Stern for a joint address as an indication of unity heading into the bargaining process. On Friday, Hunter said he had not received a similar invitation for this year and didn't believe one would be forthcoming.

In his first public comments on the owners' proposal, Hunter cited a Jan. 29 story by CBSSports.com in which a source detailed the owners' strategy to drastically reduce the length and amount of max contracts in the new CBA. The report, in which a team executive with knowledge of the bargaining process detailed the owners' belief that the players "need us more than we need them," only served to "inflame" the players, Hunter said. A particular quote from the article was read to the owners' negotiating committee and Stern during Friday's negotiating session at the Sheraton Hotel in Dallas.

“If they don’t like the new max contracts, LeBron can play football, where he will make less than the new max,” said the team executive, who spoke to CBSSports.com on condition of anonymity for the Jan. 29 article. “Wade can be a fashion model or whatever. They won’t make squat and no one will remember who they are in a few years.”

The article, and others written on the topic by other media outlets, was circulated to the players -- resulting in the 10 All-Stars going directly from All-Star media day interviews to join the bargaining session across town.

"What it really did was, it really inflamed a lot of the players," Hunter said.

The owners "sensed that this thing had gotten out of control a little bit because of the nature of the proposal that was sent, sort of like when you go for the jugular," Hunter said. "And then when we read stuff ... that they’re going to decimate the union and they’re going to do all these things, I kind of read that back to them and said, 'These are the kind of things that inflamed the players. You can't talk about how you’re going to destroy the union, you’re going to impose the same system that happened in the NHL. And the players came in and said, 'We don’t want to go that way.'"

Hunter said the owners "maybe underestimated the response, the blowback they were going to get from the proposal."

New details of the owners' proposal and their posture -- including their desire to agree to a deal before free agency begins July 1 -- emerged from Hunter's press conference, where he was joined by executive committee members Derek Fisher (president), Adonal Foyle, Theo Ratliff, Roger Mason, Maurice Evans, and Keyon Dooling. Committee member Chris Paul, on crutches as he recovers from knee surgery, attended the bargaining session but not the press conference.

The owners sought to reduce the players' current share of basketball-related income from 57 percent to a figure estimated by union sources to be 37 percent. This would be derived by deducting $1 billion of expenses from the $3.7 billion in annual revenue and then dividing it 50-50 between owners and players. The result, sources said, would be a loss of $750 million for the players in the first year of the new CBA.

The maximum length of contracts would be reduced to four years if a player re-signs with his current team and three years for other free agents from the current length of six years and five years, respectively. Annual raises would be reduced to 2-3 percent, down from 8 percent and 10.5 percent, depending on the contract.

Salary cap exceptions -- such as the Larry Bird exception, which allows teams to go over the cap to retain its own free agents -- would be eliminated. Guaranteed contracts would be dramatically curtailed, allowing only 50 percent of the first $8 million and 25 percent of the rest to be guaranteed, sources said. Contracts would be retro-fitted to conform to the new deal. On balance, the changes would cut roughly in half the maximum salary a top-shelf free agent like James or Wade would be able to receive. Hunter said such a deal would create a system where only two players per team make max money and the rest of the roster would be filled out by minimum-salary players.

"Pretty much everything that they could ever think of, at least in the 15 years I've been here, was in that proposal," Hunter said. "And so our position that it was a non-starter. That was the posture we took from the moment we arrived."
Posted on: January 6, 2010 3:59 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2010 11:45 pm
 

Arenas suspended indefinitely; 'not fit' for NBA

Citing the serious nature of firearms in the locker room and his "ongoing conduct," NBA Commissioner David Stern suspended Gilbert Arenas indefinitely without pay Wednesday pending a league investigation.

“Although it is clear that the actions of Mr. Arenas will ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse, his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game," Stern said in a statement. "Accordingly, I am suspending Mr. Arenas indefinitely, without pay, effective immediately pending the completion of the investigation by the NBA.”

The swift and potentially severe punishment came less than 24 hours after Arenas mocked the criminal and NBA investigation of his possession of firearms in the Wizards' locker room on Dec. 21 by spraying his teammates with fake gunfire in the pre-game huddle in Philadelphia Tuesday night. That brazen act, and Arenas' latest comments after the game that he didn't do anything wrong by bringing guns to work, prompted Stern to act.

"I initially thought it prudent to refrain from taking immediate action because of the pendency of a criminal investigation," said Stern, who was said to have been livid with Arenas' disregard for the matter and for the damage it has done to the league's image

As in the aftermath of the brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills in 2004, the length of the suspension will be determined by Stern once all the facts are known and the NBA Players Association has a chance to contest the penalty. But multiple sources told CBSSports.com Wednesday that even Arenas' supporters were stunned by his recent conduct and were bracing for a suspension ranging from 10 games to the rest of the season. The indefinite length of the Palace suspensions was a logistical necessity because one of the teams involved, the Pacers, had a game the next night.

Under the NBA Constitution, Stern has the latitude to fine Arenas as much as $50,000 and suspend him for any length of time or indefinitely. With his pregame antics, captured in photos that began circulating online Tuesday night, Arenas also may have jeopardized a vigorous protest from the players' association, sources said. When a smiling Arenas sprayed imaginary gunfire from his fingers as his teammates egged him on, the three-time All-Star created a snapshot of levity and utter disdain amid another serious and debilitating blow to the NBA’s public image.

Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBA Players Association, declined to comment beyond a statement released by his office that the players' association "will continue to monitor the investigation being conducted by law enforcement authorities and the Commissioner's office."

Any player fined more than $50,000 or suspended for more than 12 games for on-court conduct has the right to have his appeal heard by an independent arbitrator. Behavior in the locker room is included in the CBA's definition of the playing court.

Arenas issued a statement Wednesday through his attorney, Ken Wainstein, apologizing for his behavior and saying that he had called Stern in an attempt to apologize.

“I feel very badly that my actions have caused the NBA to suspend me, but I understand why the league took this action," Arenas said. "I put the NBA in a negative light and let down my teammates and our fans. I am very sorry for doing that."

Stern had been following his usual practice of waiting for the criminal probe to conclude before taking action, an approach that also would've given Arenas to opportunity to fulfill his obligation to cooperate with the league investigation. But the scene in Philadelphia Tuesday night, coupled with Arenas' continuous comments mocking the situation, forced Stern's hand.

There is no dispute that a suspension of some length is warranted, considering Arenas has admitted to violating Article VI, Section 9 of the collective bargaining agreement, which forbids players from possessing firearms on league property or during the course of league business. Arenas also told authorities and stated publicly that he removed four firearms from a locked container on Dec. 21 during a dispute with teammate Javaris Crittenton. The Wizards first admitted the presence of Arenas' firearms at Verizon Center on Dec. 24, hours after CBSSports.com first reported that the three-time All-Star was under investigation.

Sources familiar with the incident told CBSSports.com that Arenas and Crittenton had a disagreement over a card game on the team's flight from Phoenix to Washington on Dec. 19. Before a practice on Dec. 21, the sources said, Arenas placed the firearms on Crittenton's locker chair and indicated that he should "pick one." Crittenton became angry and knocked the weapons to the ground.

One theory circulating Wednesday among league officials gathered at the D-League Showcase in Boise, Idaho, is that Arenas intended for Crittenton to pick one of the firearms as repayment for the card-game debt. But if true, that would not diminish Arenas' guilt in the eyes of the league or prosecutors in Washington, D.C., where registered firearms are not permitted anywhere but in the home.

For their part, the Wizards issued a strong statement endorsing Stern's decision and invoking the name of late owner Abe Pollin, who had the team's name changed from Bullets to Wizards to avoid associating the franchise with gun violence.

“We fully endorse the decision of the NBA to indefinitely suspend Gilbert Arenas," the Wizards said. "Strictly legal issues aside, Gilbert’s recent behavior and statements, including his actions and statements last night in Philadelphia, are unacceptable. Some of our other players appeared to find Gilbert’s behavior in Philadelphia amusing. This is also unacceptable. Under Abe Pollin’s leadership, our organization never tolerated such behavior, and we have no intention of ever doing so.”

The Wizards’ options for terminating Arenas’ contract, which has four years and $80.1 million remaining after this season, would be an “uphill battle,” according to an attorney familiar with termination provisions in the CBA. An exception to the “one penalty rule,” which states that players cannot be punished by the league and their team for the same offense, only applies “if the egregious nature of the act or conduct is so lacking in justification as to warrant such double penalty,” according to the CBA. An example of such conduct would be a violent attack against a team official other than a player, a clause that was added after Latrell Sprewell choked then-Golden State head coach P.J. Carlesimo in 1997.
Posted on: January 1, 2010 1:11 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2010 11:13 pm
 

NBA to probe if guns involved in Arenas dispute

UPDATED THROUGHOUT

The NBA and its players' union will investigate whether a firearms possession probe of Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas stemmed from a dispute with teammate Javaris Crittenton, two sources told CBSSports.com Friday.

Once a criminal probe is completed, an investigation by league security will expand after the New York Post and Yahoo! Sports reported Friday that Arenas' possession of firearms in the Verizon Center locker room in the days before Christmas Eve was related to an argument with Crittenton, a high-level source with knowledge of the probe said. The Post reported that the players pulled guns on each other during the argument on a practice day, while Yahoo! reported that the focus of the probe was whether Arenas had accessed his firearms during the argument. 

Details of the confrontation varied widely in subsequent reports Friday. NBA.com reported that the dispute between the players stemmed from a $25,000 debt that Arenas owed Crittenton. The Washington Post, however, quoted someone who has spoken recently with Arenas about the incident who characterized it as "horseplay." The confrontation was over "who had the bigger gun," that person said. Both outlets reported that the disagreement began on the team flight from Phoenix on Dec. 19 and spilled over to a practice day at Verizon Center on Dec. 21.

Arenas denied pulling a gun on anybody, telling Washington Post reporter Michael Lee after practice Friday that he was thinking about suing the New York Post. But when asked by a TV reporter if he had a confrontation with Crittenton, Arenas said, "I don't know." In conversations with various reporters -- and on his Twitter page, which roared to life Friday after weeks of inactivity -- Arenas essentially mocked the controversy. He called the gun-play story "very compelling" and "intriguing," referring to it as "O.K. Corral stuff" and promising that the real story would come out soon. "That's not the real story," he said.

Arenas' father, Gilbert Arenas Sr., told Lee the report was "ludicrous. Gil didn't pull a gun on anybody."

But regardless of the precise details, the only thing that must have seemed ludicrous to Wizards officials was Arenas' nonchalant and borderline irresponsible reaction. Brandishing firearms, even as a joke, could carry serious penalties in the District Columbia, which has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation.

Aside from the criminal ramifications or who's at fault, Arenas has plunged his struggling team into a maelstrom from which it will have difficulty recovering. The Wizards, one of the biggest disappointments in the NBA, are 10-20 with an already fragile locker room that is in no condition to absorb this kind of scrutiny. In fact, one player who spoke to the Washington Post Friday was unnerved by the mere presence of firearms in the locker room, which he said is supposed to be "sacred." David Aldridge, writing for NBA.com, raised the possibility -- albeit remote -- that the incident could give the Wizards cause to attempt to void the rest of the $111 million, six-year contract that Arenas signed in July 2008. The deal has three years and $68 million left after this season. 
 
NBA authorities became aware of the matter in the days before CBSSports.com first reported on Dec. 24 that Arenas was under investigation for possessing firearms in the locker room. The probe initially focused on Arenas as the only team member to have possessed guns on team property, a clear violation of NBA rules.

Wizards officials scheduled a meeting with Washington, D.C., authorities for Dec. 23 to come clean about the matter, given the District's stringent gun-control laws. The meeting couldn't be arranged that day, so the team rescheduled for Dec. 24, several hours before CBSSports.com's story was published online, one of the sources said.

After that report, the Wizards issued a statement saying that Arenas had stored unloaded firearms in a locked container in his locker at Verizon Center, and that the team was cooperating with NBA and legal authorities. Arenas told the Washington Times that he'd brought the guns to the locker room after deciding he no longer wanted them in his home after the birth of his daughter on Dec. 10. He told reporters this week that he'd removed them from his locker only to have them turned over to authorities because he didn't want them anymore.

Washington, D.C., police issued a statement Wednesday saying they were investigating the presence of firearms at Verizon Center, without providing further details. Arenas said this week that authorities inquiring about the matter were mainly interested in whether he had obtained the guns legally. Arenas, 27, has a history of flirting with firearms laws; he was suspended for the 2004-05 season opener after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of failing to maintain proper registration of a firearm in California while with the Warriors in 2003.

Ben Friedman, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in D.C., told the New York Post that his office was working with D.C. police on the investigation. A call to the public information office of the Metropolitan Police Department was not returned Friday. But a D.C. police official told the Washington Post on condition of anonymity that reports of firearms being brandished in a dispute were news to the authorities and were being added to the criminal investigation. 

Commissioner David Stern, who has not commented publicly on the Arenas investigation, has a history of waiting for the legal process to run its course before issuing penalties -- for fear of compromising investigations by law enforcement. NBA spokesman Tim Frank said Friday that the league is not planning take any disciplinary action until the criminal investigation is completed.

"There is an active investigation by D.C. law enforcement authorities, which we are monitoring closely," Frank said in an emailed statement. "We are not taking any independent action at this time."

A full-fledged probe and penalties from the league office would have to wait until the criminal investigation is closed, since players would be unlikely to speak with league attorneys for fear that those records would be subpoenaed by law enforcement.

In addition to the NBA investigation, which could result in fines and/or suspensions, the NBA Players Association expects to initiate its own probe to ensure that "the facts are investigated and weighed," a second person with knowledge of the situation said Friday. Once it is determined that interviews with the players involved are necessary, the matter would be turned over to NBPA general counsel Gary Hall, a retired federal prosecutor, and director of security Robert Gadson, a retired New York City police detective, the source said.

Billy Hunter, the NBPA's executive director, said he was aware of the reports and was in the process of gathering facts. Wizards spokesman Scott Hall issued a statement reiterating that the team is cooperating with law enforcement and the NBA and will have no further comment.

Wallace Prather, listed in the NBPA directory as Crittenton's agent, said Friday he resigned from representing the player on Dec. 10 and had no knowledge of the allegations against his former client. Crittenton's current agent, Mark Bartelstein, declined to comment. Arenas, who signed a six-year, $111 million contract with the Wizards in July 2008, has no agent listed in the NBPA directory.

NBA rules collectively bargained with the players forbid the possession of firearms on league property or in the course of league business. In 2006, Sebastian Telfair was fined an undisclosed amount after a loaded handgun registered to his girlfriend was found on the team plane at Logan Airport in Boston when Telfair played for the Trail Blazers. Cavaliers guard Delonte West has been indicted on multiple weapons counts in Maryland for riding on his motorcycle Sept. 17 with two loaded handguns, a shotgun, 112 shotgun shells, and an 8.5-inch knife.

If guns are found to have been wielded during a dispute between Arenas and Crittenton, it would be reminiscent of an incident in 2002 during which Warriors player Chris Mills allegedly pulled a gun on the Trail Blazers' team bus after an argument with Bonzi Wells. That incident led to the adoption of the league's zero-tolerance policy regarding guns on team property.

However this turns out, it's time to start wondering when the Wizards' will adopt a zero-tolerance policy for Agent Zero.

Posted on: February 19, 2009 9:43 am
 

League puts warning in writing

We told you Friday that David Stern painted a grim financial picture in his meeting with league GMs during All-Star weekend, warning them them of falling projections for season-ticket and sponsorship renewals in 2009-10. Since the salary cap is set every year based on revenue in the previous season, the cap and luxury tax levels could go down in 2010-11. That's the season half the league is clearing cap space for, hoping to make a run at marquee free agents LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and others.

Chances are, they'll have to clear more space than anticipated.

The message Stern gave the GMs was a bit different than the one he gave publicly in his annual All-Star address Saturday night. In any event, just in case anyone wasn't paying attention, the league office sent out a memo to all 30 teams on the eve of the trading deadline, warning them in writing of the possiibility of drastic reductions in the salary cap and luxury tax going forward, sources told CBSSports.com. The memo was first reported by Yahoo! Sports.

Two team executives I spoke with didn't find this particularly surprising. "We all have had this pounded into our head, trust me," one of them said. "It should not come as a shock to anyone." Of course, don't underestimate the league's ability to put a scare into the players' association. Now that Stern and Billy Hunter officially have begun negotiating an extension to the CBA, all bets are off.

Teams still have plenty of time to get their books in order for '10-'11, but the league's emphasis of declining revenue could have a chilling effect on trading Thursday. Then again, if your front office has projected that you'll be comfortably under the tax in two years, what happens if you realize the tax level will be lower? Gotta get rid of more contracts ...

 

 

 

 

Category: NBA
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com