Category:NBA
Posted on: July 29, 2011 1:00 pm
Edited on: July 29, 2011 5:05 pm
 

Union backing overseas pursuits


The NBA players' association disagrees with me over the usefulness of players signing overseas during the lockout. We can differ over how much leverage the strategy provides in collective bargaining, but there's no disputing this notion: Players are pursuing deals overseas with the full backing and encouragement of the union.

The latest subplot of international intrigue came Friday, with word that Bucks guard Keyon Dooling -- a vice president of the National Basketball Players Association -- was close to a deal with the Turkish team Efes Istanbul. Earlier, we learned that none other than Kobe Bryant was scheduled to meet over the weekend with Besiktas, the Turkish team that previously signed Nets guard Deron Williams.

Seref Yalcin, head of basketball operations for Besiktas, told reporters in Turkey this week that there's a "50 percent chance" that Bryant signs with a Turkish team, according to Reuters. Despite the fact that Besiktas' assets are frozen in connection with a soccer match-fixing scandal, Yalcin said, "Money will not be a problem." He cited Turkish Airlines, with whom Bryant has a promotional agreement, and two oil companies as potential sponsors for a contract that could pay Bryant between $500,000 and $1 million a month.

Williams' deal with Besiktas reportedly is for $5 million, with an escape clause to return to the NBA when the lockout ends.

Also on Friday, FIBA -- the governing body of international basketball -- issued a statement saying it will approve the transfer of players under contract with NBA teams to play for FIBA teams during the lockout. NBA officials have been under the impression for months that one risk of imposing a lockout is seeing players find opportunities to play -- and make money -- overseas. Legally, the NBA has no way to stop them, especially now that FIBA is on board.

UPDATE: Later Friday, NBPA executive director Billy Hunter released a statement applauding FIBA's decision.

"The NBPA and our players are gratified by today's announcement by FIBA, although it comes as no surprise," Hunter said. "We have consistently advised our members that in the event of a lockout they would have the right to be compensated for playing basketball irrespective of whether they were under contract to an NBA team or not. We have encouraged all of our players to pursue such opportunities and will continue to do so. In the face of the economic pressure that the NBA has attempted to exert by imposing a lockout, our players are unified and eager to demonstrate that the NBA's tactics will be unsuccessful."

Whether or not significant stars follow Williams to FIBA clubs remains to be seen, but Bryant would be the biggest fish ensnared by the strategy and could pull others along with him. Whether signing overseas provides actual leverage to the union in showing that the NBA isn't the only game in town for locked-out players, or simply illustrates that stars are going to "get theirs" and leave the lockout to the rank and file, is a matter for debate. But there is no questioning where the NBPA stands on this issue: The union has told players it will support, and encourage their efforts to get jobs overseas.

Who will insure the players' current and future NBA earnings against injury while they're globetrotting during the lockout is an issue that every player contemplating such a move has to seriously consider.

Posted on: July 28, 2011 3:44 pm
 

Bargaining: Blink and you'll miss it


NEW YORK -- Owners and players finally will get together for a full-fledged bargaining session Monday, one month to the day since the NBA imposed a lockout.

Don't get your hopes up.

During the 1998-99 lockout, which killed the All-Star Game and nearly half the regular season schedule, NBA owners and players reconvened on Aug. 6 for a bargaining session that didn't last long and didn't go well. The owners got up and left upon receiving the players' new proposal.

I can't predict whether Monday's session -- the first including commissioner David Stern and union chief Billy Hunter since the lockout was imposed July 1 -- will be similarly dramatic and unproductive. Well, unproductive, yes. If we've learned anything over the past two years, it's that these negotiations are going nowhere fast.

Monday's session will be good for business at the Omni Berkshire Hotel, but that's about it. It'll be like Seinfeld -- a show about nothing.

For one, the pressure of losing regular season games isn't real yet for either side. Neither is the threat of losing money, especially after it was revealed last week that not only will the players get their $162 million escrow withholding back because salaries did not exceed 57 percent of BRI, but they also will receive an additional $26 million because salaries came in slightly lower. That's $188 million deposited into the players' lockout warchest, paid out according to salary.

But the real issue, which we'll explore further on Friday, is that no legal threat or leverage has emerged to force either side to move significantly off its position and bargain -- no, compromise -- for a deal. As of now, the players are waiting for the National Labor Relations Board to decide whether to issue a complaint against the NBA based on their charge of failing to bargain in good faith, among other things. Most legal experts believe the players will be waiting another 30-60 days for that decision, at least. But if it results in a complaint, the NLRB could ask a federal district court for an injuction suspending the lockout -- an outcome that wouldn't be likely if the NBPA decertified and filed an anti-trust lawsuit like the NFLPA did. Just something to keep in mind for those clamoring for the NBPA to decertify. It isn't time for that yet.

Eventually, both sides are going to have to solve this at the bargaining table. But as you'll see in Friday's column setting the stage for the next bargaining session, the pressure to do that is only going to come from a judge, a court, or the NLRB. Until then, enjoy Monday -- opening day in this summer of pointless negotiations leading nowhere.

Category: NBA
Posted on: July 28, 2011 3:42 pm
Edited on: July 28, 2011 3:46 pm
 

Bargaining: Blink and you'll miss it


NEW YORK -- Owners and players finally will get together for a full-fledged bargaining session Monday, one month to the day since the NBA imposed a lockout.

Don't get your hopes up.

During the 1998-99 lockout, which killed the All-Star Game and nearly half the regular season schedule, NBA owners and players reconvened on Aug. 6 for a bargaining session that didn't last long and didn't go well. The owners got up and left upon receiving the players' new proposal.

I can't predict whether Monday's session -- the first including commissioner David Stern and union chief Billy Hunter since the lockout was imposed July 1 -- will be similarly dramatic and unproductive. Well, unproductive, yes. If we've learned anything over the past two years, it's that these negotiations are going nowhere fast.

Monday's session will be good for business at the Omni Berkshire Hotel, but that's about it. It'll be like Seinfeld -- a show about nothing.

For one, the pressure of losing regular season games isn't real yet for either side. Neither is the threat of losing money, especially after it was revealed last week that not only will the players get their $162 million escrow withholding back because salaries did not exceed 57 percent of BRI, but they also will receive an additional $26 million because salaries came in slightly lower. That's $188 million deposited into the players' lockout warchest, paid out according to salary.

But the real issue, which we'll explore further on Friday, is that no legal threat or leverage has emerged to force either side to move significantly off its position and bargain -- no, compromise -- for a deal. As of now, the players are waiting for the National Labor Relations Board to decide whether to issue a complaint against the NBA based on their charge of failing to bargain in good faith, among other things. Most legal experts believe the players will be waiting another 30-60 days for that decision, at least. But if it results in a complaint, the NLRB could ask a federal district court for an injuction suspending the lockout -- an outcome that wouldn't be likely if the NBPA decertified and filed an anti-trust lawsuit like the NFLPA did. Just something to keep in mind for those clamoring for the NBPA to decertify. It isn't time for that yet.

Eventually, both sides are going to have to solve this at the bargaining table. But as you'll see in Friday's column setting the stage for the next bargaining session, the pressure to do that is only going to come from a judge, a court, or the NLRB. Until then, enjoy Monday -- opening day in this summer of pointless negotiations leading nowhere.

Category: NBA
Posted on: July 22, 2011 6:36 pm
Edited on: July 23, 2011 12:38 pm
 

Negotiated salaries declined $100 million


The NBA and National Basketball Players Association released their salary and revenue figures for the 2010-11 season, and the numbers were good: a 4.8 increase in basketball-related income (BRI), just one year after the league experienced essentially flat revenues in the wake of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

But we're in the summer of lockouts, and each side will use the numbers to support their own negotiating positions. The joint news release from the NBA and NBPA made the point that player salaries and benefits also increased 4.8 percent, and that player compensation increased 16 percent over the six-year collective bargaining agreement that expired July 1.

A couple of points: Of course player compensation increased 4.8 percent to $2.076 billion. The CBA had a negotiated 57 percent guarantee to the players, which as part of bargaining for a new CBA they offered to lower.

UPDATE: Second, according to people familiar with the BRI meetings that concluded Friday in New York, the players will receive all of the 8 percent of salary that was held in escrow for the first time under the six years of the previous CBA. In fact, negotiated salaries declined by about $100 million to $2.02 billion last season, their lowest level since the 2006-07 season. 

The audit also confirmed what key figures on both sides have expected for months: salaries fell short of the players' designated percentage by more than the $162 million that was held in escrow. As a result, the owners owe the players money for the first time under the previous CBA's escrow system. They'll be writing checks totaling $26 million on top of the $162 million in escrow that will be returned, sources said.

So the entire 4.8 percent increase in player salaries was due to the negotiated 57 percent guarantee -- which the players have offered to reduce in a new CBA -- and the full escrow withholding being returned to the players, and then some. 

As part of the old rules, the league withheld a certain percentage of salary (8 percent last season) and would keep a portion of it or give it back so player salaries and benefits equaled 57 percent of BRI. In every prior year of the CBA, negotiated salaries -- the contracts offered by owners and signed by players -- rose and the owners kept most or (as in the case of the 2008-09 season) all of the escrow.

What does this mean? Well, to some degree, it means that owners became more judicious in the contracts they doled out. On another level, it means that many teams -- like the Kings and Timberwolves, who hovered near the league-minimum salary, and the Pistons, who did not make a single roster transaction last season -- simply folded up the tents in anticipation of the lockout, a looming ownership change, or both.

Neither league nor union officials would address the details behind the BRI numbers released Friday, but I can already tell you what the NBA's point about this would be: 1) negotiated salaries are irrelevant when the BRI guarantee gives the money to the players anyway, and 2) the costs to generate that 4.8 percent increase in revenues are so steep that the league can't do business anymore.

That's why we're in Day 22 of the lockout. A deficit reduction compromise and debt-ceiling deal almost certainly will come out of Washington, D.C., before a resolution to the NBA's labor impasse. Come to think of it, it better.



Category: NBA
Tags: BRI, lockout, NBPA
 
Posted on: July 19, 2011 7:29 pm
 

Full labor session not likely before August

While the basketball world was obsessed Tuesday with the release of an NBA schedule that may never happen, CBSSports.com has learned that the owners and players may not convene for another full-blown collective bargaining session until August.

It is up for interpretation, however, whether that would put the two sides behind the negotiating pace set during the 1998-99 lockout. Back then, it was 37 days between the imposition of the lockout on July 1 and the next bargaining session on Aug. 6.

But this time, the two sides have met once at the staff level -- last Friday -- and are scheduled to gather again this Friday for a second meeting. In the smaller sessions, which have not included commissioner David Stern or union chief Billy Hunter, the focus has shifted from the larger economic issues that led to the labor impasse to smaller-ticket system items such as how a new salary cap would be structured, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

The highest-ranking figures involved in the smaller staff meetings have been deputy commissioner Adam Silver and Ron Klempner, associate general counsel for the National Basketball Players Association. NBPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler has not been involved, perhaps due to his obligations with hammering out the final details of a new NFL collective bargaining agreement. Kessler represents the players' associations in both locked-out sports.

It is possible that the two staffs could negotiate again next week, but sources said it does not appear likely that a full session -- including Stern, Hunter, Kessler, owners and players -- could occur until sometime in August. Though this technically would put the two sides behind the pace from 1998-99, when the lockout resulted in a shortened 50-game schedule, it is possible that the smaller meetings could create some much-needed momentum before the heavy hitters become involved in the process again.

When bargaining broke off June 30, hours before the owners officially imposed a lockout, both sides alluded to first making progress on less controversial topics when bargaining resumed, and then returning to the biggest philosophical divide -- the split of revenues.

"Both sides left the room still fully committed to getting a collective bargaining agreement done," NBPA president Derek Fisher said.
Posted on: July 14, 2011 11:43 pm
Edited on: July 15, 2011 12:35 am
 

League, union to hold first post-lockout meeting


NEW YORK -- In-house staff of the NBA and National Basketball Players Association will hold their first meeting Friday since the league imposed a lockout July 1, a person with knowledge of the plans told CBSSports.com.

The session will not include commissioner David Stern, NBPA executive director Billy Hunter, owners or players. The purpose of the session is to "get back on track" and address the timetable of future bargaining sessions, the person said.
More on NBA Lockout


Until now, there had been no contact or formal negotiation of any kind since the previous collective bargaining agreement expired July 1 and the league locked out the players.

While the meeting scheduled for Friday afternoon in Manhattan is not overly significant, it could lay the groundwork for the two sides to resume bargaining in an effort to avoid losing regular season games to a work stoppage for the second time in NBA history and the first time since the 1998-99 lockout, which resulted in a shortened, 50-game schedule.

Word of the planning session came as the league laid off 114 employees from its New York, New Jersey and international offices this week in what it described as an ongoing cost-cutting effort aimed at shedding $50 million in expenses. The layoffs represented 11 percent of the league workforce and were felt across multiple divisions. The NBA also closed its offices in Tokyo and Paris.

The job reductions were "not a direct result of the lockout but rather a response to the same underlying issue — that is, the league’s expenses far outpace our revenues,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement released to media outlets inquiring about the layoffs.



Posted on: July 12, 2011 2:28 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2011 2:39 pm
 

Comcast has deal to sell Sixers to investors

Comcast-Spectacor has a deal in place to sell the Philadelphia 76ers to an investor group led by Joshua Harris of Apollo Global Management, LLC, CBSSports.com has learned.

There was no immediate word on a sale price, which does not include the Wells Fargo Center or the NHL's Flyers, sources said Tuesday.

David Blitzer of The Blackstone Group will join Harris as lead partner, according to sources familiar with the deal. Former player agent and Sacramento Kings executive Jason Levien also is part of the proposed ownership group, sources said. Apollo, which describes itself on its web site as specializing in "contrarian" investments and "distressed" assets, and Blackstone are not involved in the transaction.

The Detroit Pistons were recently sold to Tom Gores and his Beverly Hills-based investment firm, Platinum Equity, for a reported $325 million. Gores is a native of Flint, Mich., and attended Michigan State. Harris is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia. Apollo has offices in New York City, Purchase, N.Y., Los Angeles, Europe and Asia.

The sales agreement is subject to approval by the NBA's Board of Governors.
Posted on: July 8, 2011 4:33 pm
 

What 8th Circuit ruling means for NBA lockout

What does Friday’s ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the NFL labor dispute mean to the NBA lockout?

Not a whole lot, it turns out.

The appeals court rendered a narrow ruling Friday overturning a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Nelson that briefly ended the NFL lockout. The three-judge panel, having already issued two stays of Nelson’s ruling, voted 2-1 to overturn it, saying that federal courts have no jurisdiction to end lockouts under the Norris-LaGuardia Act.

The appeals panel did not, however, rule on the broader aspects of the NFL’s appeal – namely, whether the NFL is immune from anti-trust liability during the lockout and whether the players can legally pursue damages as the result of it. Those issues were remanded to Nelson’s court for further hearings.

From the NFL’s standpoint, all of this is likely to be moot, anyway, as the owners and players have been closing in on a new labor deal for weeks. The NBA? Not so much. Other than unrelated business dealings, sources told CBSSports.com Friday that there has been no contact between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association since the lockout was imposed July 1. No bargaining sessions are scheduled, the sources said, and neither side offered a comment on the NFL ruling Friday.

Interestingly, the appeals court also left open the possibility that NFL free agents and drafted rookies who have yet to sign contracts may be permitted to market their services and enter into contracts with prospective teams. This issue also was kicked back to the district court for hearings, but it may prove to be meaningless. Since the appeals court ruled that the district court could not enjoin the lockout, any rookies or free agents who signed contracts would then be locked out anyway if no bargaining agreement has been reached.

So the NBPA will likely not be swayed one way or the other as it weighs the costs and benefits of following the NFLPA’s path of decertification and an anti-trust lawsuit. The NBPA has thus far determined that bargaining is a better path to a CBA than litigation, but the 8th Circuit’s ruling Friday did not present any legal obstacles to decertification; it only stated that a federal court does not have the authority to end a lockout once it is imposed on a decertified union.

If you have nothing to do this weekend – meaning, there is no paint to watch dry or grass to watch grow – you can read the 8th Circuit’s majority and dissenting opinions here.

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