Posted on: September 30, 2011 8:56 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 12:31 pm
NEW YORK -- Flanked by some of the biggest stars in the game, players' association president Derek Fisher stood in a ballroom at a Park Avenue hotel Friday and declared that the willingness to reach a new collective bargaining agreement is there on both sides.
Next will have to come the movement, the tipping point that pushes the negotiations to the point of compromise. And that point did not come Friday, when stars like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen got to see for themselves what the owners are asking of them as they seek a system that gives all 30 teams an opportunity to compete and be profitable.
After some initial ugliness -- a person familiar with what happened in the negotiating room told CBSSports.com that some players were initially infuriated by how little the owners' stance has changed -- the bargaining session took on a tone of cooperation that signaled to some players that a deal was within reach.
UPDATE: But not before it appeared that Friday's bargaining session would be short-lived, and that there wouldn't be any more talking this weekend.
According to a person familiar with the negotiations, the owners and players met initially at about 2 p.m. ET and broke up to discuss the situation privately among themselves. The players, furious at seeing first hand the owners' offer of 46 percent of basketball-related income (BRI) -- down from their previous level of 57 percent -- were unanimous about what to do.
"Let's go," one of the players said, according to a source. "There's no reason to go back in there."
The players decided to return to the bargaining room with a much smaller group. Among those joining Fisher for the second session were James, Wade, Anthony, Kevin Durant, Baron Davis and committee member Chris Paul. None of the players joining Fisher sat down during this portion of the talks, a person with knowledge of the meetings said.
It was at this point that Wade took exception to commissioner David Stern's tone and gesturing -- the commissioner evidently was pointing his finger while speaking to the players -- and "stood up for himself," a person with knowledge of the meeting said. According to two people familiar with the incident, Wade warned Stern not to point his finger and made reference to not being a child.
Several versions of the quote were reported. According to a witness, Wade's tone was not threatening. But the upshot was clear: This was a potentially galvanizing moment for the players, who finally got the kind of star participation -- and leadership -- that they've lacked at key moments in these talks. In Wade, the players have found their Michael Jordan circa 1999, when the Bulls star famously told the late Wizards owner Abe Pollin to sell his team if he couldn't afford to run it.
After the confrontation, union chief Billy Hunter and Stern met privately, seeking a way to calm nerves and preserve the rest of the negotiations. Hunter, according to the person with knowledge of the talks, convinced the players to go back in -- selling them on the idea that the negotiating process had to be respected and telling them that the two sides would switch from the split of basketball-related income (BRI) to system issues.
It was after session that began at 6 p.m. and ran for about an hour that the two sides agreed to return to the bargaining table Saturday. The takeaway for the players, sources said, was the definite impression that the owners want to have a season.
"I don’t think it was a sense of now or never, but I think there was definitely a sense of, 'It’s time to stop throwing ideas around and let’s actually work towards making these ideas happen,'" said the Heat's Udonis Haslem, attending his first bargaining session. "I heard enough to really believe in my heart that both sides will work tirelessly to find a middle ground. I don’t know if that will happen."
Indeed, both sides tamped down expectations that a deal had to be achieved by the end of the weekend to prevent cancellation of some -- and perhaps all -- regular season games. Deputy commissioner Adam Silver said, "There are a lot of issues on the table," and questioned whether a deal could be consummated by Sunday strictly from the standpoint of "the number of hours in the day."
The rhetoric about the entire season being in jeopardy if a deal wasn't reached this weekend was "ludicrous," Stern said Friday -- just two days after pointing out that there would be "enormous consequences" from a lack of progress and that they "won't be a question of just starting the season on time."
The two sides will meet again Saturday morning with nearly the full committee of owners and multiple players on hand in addition to the NBPA's executive committee.
Joining the big stars with Fisher, Hunter, and several committee members in the union's post-meeting news conference were Davis, Elton Brand, Ben Gordon, Andre Iguodala, and others as Fisher challenged those who've questioned the involvement of the game's biggest names in the bargaining process.
"Some of our guys have been questioned in terms of their commitment to this process, to the players' association and to the game," Fisher said. "Their presence here today, we all know for picture’s sake says a lot. These guys have always been with us."
James, Wade and Anthony abruptly left the news conference without speaking with reporters, climbing together into an idling SUV waiting for them outside the hotel.
But their presence, without question, was felt in the bargaining room. According to two people involved in the talks, several owners who typically are the most boistrous in the meetings -- including Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and Suns owner Robert Sarver -- were noticably subdued. "Much tamer," said one of the sources. "They know it's time."
The owners were represented by nine of their 11 committee members, with Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban absent. Heat owner Micky Arison, facing the potential destruction of his Big Three (two of them being in the room), was the only owner not on the committee who attended.
The only progress described by anyone Friday (other than the fact that they'll meet again Saturday) was the state of the owners' revenue sharing plans. Stern revealed for the first time that the league is prepared to triple the current revenue sharing pool in the first two years and quadruple it starting in the third year.
But even that issue is clouded in big-market, small-market politics and the issue of when the high-revenue teams will begin to substantially increase their sharing. According to two people familiar with the owners' revenue sharing plans, the Lakers and Knicks would be called upon to pay the lion's share -- with the Lakers paying roughly $50 million and the Knicks $30 million -- into the new pool. But some big-market teams are increasingly reluctant to share their growing local TV revenues; the Lakers, for example, recently signed a 20-year, $3 billion deal with Time Warner that dwarfs some teams' total revenue.
Stern said Friday the players "know precisely" what the owners' revenue sharing plan will look like.
"They know as much as we know," Stern said. "We’ve told them about generally how it’s going to work. We haven't given them a piece of paper, but that will not be the issue that separates us."
So what happens now? After the cleansing process of stars voicing their opinions, threatening to walk out and calling out Stern in front of his owners, the time comes now for smaller groups, cooler heads and compromise. It is the only thing we know at this point about these talks: Both sides want a deal. Both sides want to play.
Both sides have room to move on the economics, too. The owners will quickly lose their appetite for certain non-negotiable system changes once they realize that addressing their losses is within reach. And the players will prove to be willing to negotiate on certain key system points -- such as a modest reduction in the mid-level exception and a more punitive tax system -- once they get the anticipated economic move from the owners.
The owners having witnessed the star players' resolve, and the players having witnessed the owners' willingness to make a deal, won't hurt. Because there will have to be a deal eventually, so why not soon? Why not now? Because, as one source offered, it would be "crazy not to."
And he might as well have been speaking for both sides.
Tags: Adam Silver, Andre Iguodala, Baron Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chris Paul, Dan GIlbert, David Stern, Dwyane Wade, Elton Brand, Heat, Hornets, Kevin Durant, Knicks, LeBron James, lockout, National Basketball Players Association, NBPA, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Robert Sarver, Sixers, Suns, Thunder
Posted on: August 17, 2011 5:00 pm
Edited on: August 17, 2011 9:08 pm
During a series of meetings in which union officials are updating players on the status of collective bargaining this week, one voice stood out: that of Kobe Bryant.
Before a star-studded audience of about 75 players in Los Angeles Tuesday, Bryant was “up front” and “deliberate” in a speech in which he urged players to maintain solidarity and “stand behind the union” during the lockout, according to a person who was in attendance. Sources told CBSSports.com that another test of that solidarity could come next week, as top union officials were authorized Wednesday to contact deputy commissioner Adam Silver in the hopes of scheduling a bargaining session in New York before the end of the month.
Bryant and Paul Pierce told players Tuesday it was important for them to “remain united” in the face of a lockout that has dragged well into its second month with only one full-scale bargaining session, the person who attended the meeting said. Among the players in attendance were Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon of the Clippers, Elton Brand of the 76ers, Tyson Chandler of the Mavericks, Russell Westbrook and James Harden of the Thunder and Corey Maggette of the Bobcats.
Contacted for comment on the player meetings, union chief Billy Hunter said he also briefed a contingent of about 20 agents on the status of negotiations Tuesday before traveling to Las Vegas, where he was meeting with about 35 players Wednesday. Hunter also will meet with players next week in Houston, Chicago and New York.
“Our message is that there’ve been several proposals back and forth, and the last proposal by the NBA would be a giveback of $8 billion over 10 years,” Hunter told CBSSports.com. “The players understand and they’re supportive.”
Hunter said there was a “divergence of opinion” among the agents about the National Basketball Players Association’s decision not to disclaim interest in representing the players – and the players’ decision not to decertify. Some high-profile agents have clamored for decertification, which would send the dispute to the federal court system under antitrust law. Hunter has so far resisted, preferring to explore the possibly more expeditious path to an injunction lifting the lockout, which could result if the union is successful in getting the National Labor Relations Board to issue an unfair labor practices complaint against the NBA.
Sources said NLRB investigators are expected to wrap up the evidence-gathering phase as early as next week and would then have all the information they need to render a decision on the players’ charge.
Though NBA commissioner David Stern is expected to be away on vacation, sources also told CBSSports.com that the two sides are trying to reconvene for a high-level bargaining session next week in New York. If league and union officials can agree on the scheduling details, it would be the first full-scale bargaining session since Aug. 1 – and the first since the NBA filed a federal lawsuit and an NLRB charge accusing the players of failing to bargain in good faith. Both legal actions were filed on Aug. 2, one day after Stern said the players were not bargaining in good faith.
It remains to be seen whether the players’ desire to meet next week will result in a productive negotiating session or more mudslinging. Stern accused the players of canceling a bargaining session last week while Hunter was involved with four days of appearances before the NLRB. Sources said an offer by the union to hold a staff-level bargaining session was rejected by the league, and that Hunter was told Stern would be away on vacation this week and next.
Clearly, Stern could easily return to New York for a bargaining session regardless of his vacation plans. So it’s a matter of will on both sides – and a question of whether anything has changed since the fruitless session on Aug. 1. Answer: Probably not. Not yet.
Posted on: February 5, 2009 6:48 pm
But if I'm Ed Stefanski and Tony DiLeo, I'd be relieved.
The Sixers never adapted to playing with a true post scorer, and Elton clearly never fully recovered from last season's Achilles injury.
Better to pack it in, play the rest of the season with the athletic, up-and-down style that has been successful, and take a long, hard look at how Brand fits in over the summer.
I mean no disrespect to Elton. He's a hell of a guy and a great, great player. But this wasn't working out, and he'll be better off getting healthy and regrouping for next season.
So will the Sixers.
Posted on: December 15, 2008 10:44 am
* Most intriguing game on the slate by far Monday night is the Knicks at the Suns -- Mike D'Antoni returning to the team he nurtured to 58 wins a year the past four seasons. Turns out D'Antoni is missed in the Valley of the Sun. Phoenix continues to struggle under the defensive-oriented, halfcourt approach favored by new coach Terry Porter. What's astonishing is not so much the record (14-10) -- all teams have their peaks and valleys -- but the discontent that is boiling in the locker room. The Suns are so unrecognizable to Steve Nash that he feels like he's been traded. The subplots are thick. D'Antoni had some choice words for Suns owner Robert Sarver over the weekend, but D'Antoni doth protest too much. Everybody should know that he came out of Phoenix smelling like roses, given that Sarver and Steve Kerr conspired to force a style on him he didn't want to play. Who was the coach, anyway? If things keep going downhill, eventually the coach could be Kerr, who keeps coming up with these harebrained ideas.
* It's Money Back Guarantee Day in the NBA; Monday is the first day players who signed contracts this past offseason become trade-eligible (as long as 90 days have passed since they signed their deals). Among the players in that category are Baron Davis, Corey Maggette, Elton Brand, and Monta Ellis. A person familiar with Golden State's situation said the Warriors are, indeed, fielding offers for Maggette -- as difficult as it will be to trade a player in the first year of a five-year, $50 million contract.
* The Lakers (20-3) joined the Celtics (22-2) and Cavs (20-4) on the 20-win plateau, easing past Minnesota 98-86. The best part about Kevin McHale coaching the T-Wolves is that, like Isiah Thomas the past two years in New York, he'll now have to meet with the media three times a day and explain, for example, why he traded O.J. Mayo for Kevin Love. Thanks to TrueHoop for linking us to McHale's comments in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "Kevin's a 20-year-old rookie," McHale said Sunday. "He really brings a lot of stuff: great energy, a nice basketball feel. He's learning all the time. With all these kids, there's a learning curve that goes into it and you've got to be patient while he learns."
* Which segues nicely into the Grizzlies' fourth straight win, 102-86 over Miami, fueled by Mayo's 28 points. With five coaches sent packing already, it's nice to see Marc Iavaroni climb off the canvas and turn things around. Rudy Gay (18 points) was back in the starting lineup as Iavaroni played small Sunday night. The Grizz are expected to take another step toward the future with a buyout of Antoine Walker. (Or at least Antoine has that impression.) Also, let not your hearts be troubled, Grizzlie fans, by the team's decision to sign troubled former No. 3 overall pick Darius Miles to a non-guaranteed contract. It's basically being handled as a short-term tryout, a person with knowledge of Memphis' plans told me. The Grizzlies also will be looking to the D-League to bolster the back end of the roster.
* The Hornets showed why they lead the league in 3-point shooting, hitting 12 from beyond the arc in a 99-91 victory over Toronto. James Posey accounted for half of them. To borrow a phrase from the great Clyde Frazier, New Orleans is beginning to percolate with eight wins in its last 10 games.
* Gotta love the media biz. Columnist gets scoop on former coach ripping previous employers. Not to be outdone, previous employers circle wagon and feed aforementioned columnist material for follow-up column asserting that previously ripped team is on the right track. Welcome to my world!
Posted on: December 13, 2008 5:40 pm
Moments ago, 76ers president Ed Stefanski announced the firing of coach Maurice Cheeks after a 9-14 start.
Having worked in Philadelphia, I could have predicted that it was going to be a contentious news conference. That's the way the cookie crumbles down there. But my theory -- supported by a person familiar with the Sixers' situation -- that Stefanski wasn't alone in deciding to dump Cheeks, was immediately buffeted by Stefanski himself in his opening remarks to the media.
"We made the decision -- or excuse me, I made the decision -- because I felt we were not progressing the way we wanted to progress," Stefanski said.
The degree to which Stefanski had been disappointed with Cheeks' execution of the running style he wanted isn't 100 percent clear. But as recently as several games ago, Stefanski was said to be solidly behind Cheeks and wanted to give him a chance to turn the season around. What changed? Either Cheeks was reluctant to commit to the up-tempo style given the offseason addition of power forward Elton Brand, or Stefanski was given orders from above to change coaches.
Stefanski revealed that he met with Peter Luukko, president of Comcast-Spectacor, the Sixers' parent company, and company chairman Ed Snider after a 101-93 home loss to Cleveland Wednesday night. He'd been speaking with Luukko on a daily basis about the team's poor performance. Company man Tony DiLeo was appointed to replace Cheeks for the rest of the season.
"I believe in this team," Stefanski said. "We're better than this. And we will continue to work to make our team better."