Tag:Billy Hunter
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: June 28, 2011 6:43 pm
Edited on: June 28, 2011 10:20 pm
 

Next (and last?) CBA session Thursday


NEW YORK -- NBA owners and players will meet Thursday in Manhattan for perhaps their final bargaining session before a lockout is imposed, leaving little hope that an agreement can be reached before the 12:01 a.m. ET Friday expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.

The bargaining session will be smaller than the full-blown negotiation that was attended by more than 30 players last Friday. The owners' full Board of Governors met in Dallas Tuesday, and commissioner David Stern told reporters there that it was the union that asked to scheduled bargaining for Thursday as opposed to Wednesday.

A formal procedural vote authorizing the owners' labor relations committee to impose a lockout was not conducted. However, the board authorized the committee to "act in whatever way they deem appropriate," deputy commissioner Adam Silver told reporters in Dallas -- which, effectively, is the same thing. It's a moot point anyway; Stern said last week that such a vote was a mere formality, and owners clearly are galvanized to use a work stoppage as a means to achieve their goals of creating a new economic system that guarantees them profitability.

The owners and players remain hundreds of millions of dollars a year apart in their most recent proposals, with the players choosing last Friday not to counter the owners' most recent proposal in which league negotiators offered to guarantee players $2 billion a year in salary and benefits over the life of a 10-year deal.

The players want a much shorter CBA, proposing a five-year deal with $100 million per year in salary concessions. Aside from disagreeing over the most critical issue -- the split of the league's revenues (or basketball-related income, known as BRI) -- owners and players have taken irreconcilable positions on how the money will be distributed to the players. Owners have proposed what they called a "flex cap," with a midpoint of $62 million per team and an undetermined maximum and minimum payroll. The players have rejected the idea, calling it a hard cap in disguise.

While the key players in the negotiation continue plotting their end-game strategy with Thursday night's deadline looming, legal forces on both sides also were busy Tuesday weighing their options. If owners imposed a lockout, attorneys for the National Basketball Players Association would have to decide whether to follow the NFL players' strategy by decertifying the union and filing an antitrust lawsuit. This would be the nuclear option, and one both sides seem to want to avoid since it would turn the dispute over to the federal courts and waste valuable time. With a far longer season than the NFL, choosing the courts over bargaining would all but assure that games would be missed in the 2011-12 season.

Also, if the union decertified, owners and players would no longer be able to continue negotiating after the expiration of the CBA. If both sides decided Thursday that there was enough will to reach a deal, they could extend the deadline or continue negotiating even after the lockout was imposed. The latter would not be an option if there were no union.

It was not clear whether the players' tipped their hand regarding a reluctance to decertify by having more than 30 players show up at Friday's bargaining session with matching T-shirts with the word "STAND" printed on them. In any event, it is clear that each side has a legal option in its briefcase that it appears reluctant to use.

For the players, the union has thus far decided not to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board seeking a ruling on whether revenue sharing should be a "mandatory subject" of collective bargaining. While the league continues to assert that its $300 million in annual losses cannot be addressed through revenue sharing alone, union negotiators have been frustrated by owners' refusal to provide details of the league's revenue-sharing plans -- a position that has put the uncomfortable onus on players to accept significant salary concessions before the NBA addresses the competitive inadequacies created by the massive gap among high- and low-revenue teams.

Using league salary data obtained by CBSSports.com for the 2010-11 season and accounting for luxury-tax payments estimated to be paid and received, the gap between the highest-paying team (the Lakers, at more than $112 million) and the lowest (the Kings, at just under $42 million) amounted to $70 million -- more than the average payroll in the league.

For the owners, sources say the NBA's legal team does not seem inclined to file a pre-emptive lawsuit -- known as a declaratory judgment -- asking a federal court to rule that the work rules it has proposed do not violate antitrust law. Such a move would strictly be made to assure the NBA a home-court advantage by putting the case in a court that historically has been pro-management in labor disputes. If the players decertify and file an antitrust lawsuit first, they could do so in any jurisdiction where the NBA does business or has a team -- thus strengthening their chances of getting a pro-labor court.

Given all that, the court of appears to be heavily tilted away from the possibility of a deal by Thursday night. So if you like lockouts, pull up a chair and get your popcorn. 
Posted on: June 27, 2011 11:55 am
Edited on: June 27, 2011 12:12 pm
 

Labor update as NBA heads for 'ugly' lockout

NEW YORK -- The NBA owners' planning committee is meeting by conference call Monday to tackle one of the most significant sticking points that have kept the league's imperiled labor negotiations from progressing toward any chance of a deal: revenue sharing.

The committee, led by chairman Wyc Grousbeck of the Celtics, had been scheduled to meet last Friday in conjunction with a full-blown bargaining session with players, but the session was rescheduled.

The status of owners' work on a revamped revenue sharing program -- and the sharing of that information with the National Basketball Players Association -- is viewed as paramount to any slim chances the two sides have of progressing toward a new collective bargaining agreement by midnight Thursday, the expiration of the current deal. Commissioner David Stern last week disputed the union's assertion that owners have not shared "one iota" of their revenue sharing plan, and the upshot was this: not only can owners and players not agree on the league's financial losses, they cannot even agree whether revenue-sharing information has been shared with the players.

The owners' full Board of Governors is scheduled to meet Tuesday in Dallas in preparation for either one last push toward a deal or the lockout that executives on both sides have viewed as all but inevitable for the better part of two years. The owners and players are tentatively scheduled to convene in New York Wednesday and/or Thursday to take one final stab at making a deal. If enough progress is not made to at least prompt an extension of the negotiating deadline, owners are prepared to impose a lockout at 12:01 a.m. ET Friday. The Board of Governors could conduct a procedural vote Tuesday in Dallas to authorize the labor relations committee to lock the players out, although Stern said such a vote could be taken at any time and wouldn't have to be done in person.

At the Tuesday meeting, the labor relations committee -- led by Spurs owner Peter Holt -- will update the full board on the progress in collective bargaining talk with the players. That presentation should take about as long as it takes Tony Parker to get to the basket from the foul line. Despite bargaining sessions in Dallas and Miami during the NBA Finals, and three sessions last week in New York, the two sides appear no closer to a deal than they were in January 2010 -- when owners first presented a draconian proposal calling for a $45 million hard salary cap, the elimination of fully guaranteed contracts, and a more than 33 percent rollback of player salaries.

Owners have since moved about $650 million annually on their salary demands, offering to guarantee players no less than $2 billion in salary and benefits over the life of a 10-year CBA. They also have relaxed their insistence on banning fully guaranteed deals -- though contracts would be for a maximum of three or four years under their proposal, as opposed to the five- and six-year deals free agents can sign under the current CBA, with the extra year in both cases going to a player re-signing with his current team.

Owners also made what they portrayed as a significant concession in offering a "flex cap" concept with a $62 million target for all teams and a top and bottom range to be negotiated with the players. The NBPA rejected this proposal during a week filled with incendiary rhetoric, with union president Derek Fisher of the Lakers calling it a hard cap in disguise and saying it was a "total distortion of reality."

The players have made two significant economic moves during the recent talks, first offering to take a $318 million pay cut over a five-year deal and then raising that offer to $500 million. Stern referred to the latter move as "modest," infuriating union officials and galvanizing the players to the point where more than 30 of them showed up at Friday's bargaining session at the Omni Berkshire Hotel wearing NBPA T-shirts with the word "STAND" printed on the front.

The players also were rankled by the league's offer of a flat $2 billion in annual compensation in the owners' 10-year proposal. Not only do the players oppose a CBA of that length, they also allege that they would not regain their 2010-11 mark of $2.17 billion in salary and benefits until the final year of the owners' 10-year plan. The owners' offer to phase in their salary reductions -- first for two years, and then for three -- was viewed by the players as a non-starter because they would receive less than 50 percent of basketball-related income (BRI) by the midpoint of the deal and would be below 40 percent in the final years. The players currently are guaranteed 57 percent of the league revenues, which are expected to come in at $3.8 billion for the '10-'11 season.

Players also viewed the owners' request to keep the approximately $160 million in salary collected by the league in an escrow fund for the '10-'11 season as part of their most recent proposal. Money earned by players under the existing CBA should be "off the table," according to Fisher, who said this request by the owners "speaks to their arrogance." League officials were dismayed by Fisher's comments and believe it would've been more productive for the players to reject the idea during negotiations rather than air it publicly.

But a key tipping point in bargaining could be what revenue-sharing details the owners come forward with this week. Owners have long rejected the players' request that revenue-sharing be collectively bargained, but the players believe many of the issues owners have addressed with regard to improving competitive balance could be satisfied by redistributing revenues from successful to struggling teams. In Friday's bargaining session, the Celtics' Paul Pierce crystallized the players' perception that owners have cloaked their determination to slash salaries behind the more benign concept of competitive balance.

"If it’s about being competitive, let’s come up with a system we can all be competitive in," Pierce told the owners, according to Suns player representative Jared Dudley. "If it’s about money, that’s a different story that we’re talking about."

Although NBA owners have enhanced their revenue-sharing plan in recent years, the league continues to have one of the most inequitable systems in professional sports, with big-market teams holding enormous advantages because local gate and broadcast revenues are not included in the revenue-sharing pie. Owners view the current luxury-tax system as akin to revenue sharing, but it is not enough to address the disparity between teams like the Knicks and Lakers, who make more than five times what teams like Memphis and Minnesota bring in through ticket sales. Those glamour-market teams also enjoy local broadcast deals that exceed some small-market teams' total revenues, according to a person familiar with league finances.

It has been difficult for the NBPA to justify the massive salary reductions the league is seeking without knowing how owners plan to address this enormous disparity among teams. One option at the NBPA's disposal would have been to file a request with the National Labor Relations Board seeking a ruling that revenue sharing should be a "mandatory subject" of collective bargaining. Sources say union officials have opted not to go this route and instead have trusted the owners to come forth with an effective and transparent approach to getting their own financial house in order before getting further salary concessions from the players.

After declining to make a counter offer to the owners' latest proposal Friday, the players have put the onus on owners and league negotiators to reveal their revenue-sharing plans as part of the next scheduled bargaining session in New York. As of Monday, sources said NBPA officials had no plans to travel to Dallas for an additional bargaining session.

In any event, it may already be too late to get a deal in place and avert a lockout. Even if the two sides unexpectedly made significant progress Wednesday and Thursday, there would not be enough time for lawyers to craft a new agreement before the deadline. In that case, the league would impose a moratorium on business while final details were hammered out and the contract was drafted.

But far more likely is that both sides will be unwilling to move off their most recent positions until the pain of a work stoppage is experienced.

"They've got to go through the process," said a person who has been heavily involved in past labor negotiations. "It's going to be ugly."
Posted on: June 24, 2011 6:21 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2011 8:10 pm
 

No counter from players; 'one more shot' at deal

NEW YORK – NBA owners and players ended a contentious week of negotiations and rhetoric Friday without a counter-offer from the players, leaving a slim chance that a deal can be reached by the June 30 expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement.

Despite reaching a stalemate on economic issues and the split of the league’s $4 billion in annual revenues, the two sides agreed to meet again Wednesday in Manhattan for one, or possibly two more days of bargaining before the current CBA expires at 12:01 a.m. ET Friday.

"We think we’ll have one more shot at it," National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter said. "Obviously, we’ll have some idea as to where they are in terms of owners -- whether there’s a chance to make a deal or whether there isn't."

Practically speaking, sources said it would be nearly impossible to write a new CBA in that time frame, leaving only two likely scenarios – a lockout imposed by the owners that would shut the sport down for the first time since the 1998-99 season, or an extension of the deadline to negotiate, which neither side has ruled out. But the latter option would require progress on narrowing the gap between the two sides’ bargaining positions, which remains hundreds of millions of dollars a year – and billions over the length of a new deal.

“There's still such a large gap,” said NBPA president Derek Fisher of the Lakers. “We feel that any move for us is real dollars we'd be giving back from where we currently stand, as opposed to where our owners have proposed numbers that in our estimation don’t exist right now. They're asking us to go to the place where they want us to go. We've expressed our reasons why we don't want to continue to move economically.”

In a display of unity and force that commissioner David Stern said he welcomed, more than 30 players arrived for meetings at the Omni Berkshire Hotel wearing tan NBPA T-shirts with the word, “STAND” printed on the front. The bargaining session included various player representatives who previously had only been briefed by union officials and executive committee members on the progress – or lack thereof – in negotiations.

The players streamed out onto 52nd Street around 3:30 p.m. after a four-hour bargaining session, many of them boarding a luxury touring bus and declining to comment. Several stopped to sign autographs. The scene – including a throng of media camped out on the sidewalk – caused such a spectacle that at one point, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo cut a swath through the crowd and was noticed by only a couple of reporters.

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett of the Celtics, among the most vocal players in the room Friday and the players who devised the T-shirt idea, were driven away in a black SUV with executive committee member Theo Ratliff. In the meeting, Pierce accused the owners of taking a disingenuous stance by disguising their insistence on slashing salaries under the cloak of creating a new system that would allow more teams to be competitive.

“Is it more about money or being competitive?” Pierce said to the owners, according to Suns player rep Jared Dudley. “What does this have to do with? If it’s about being competitive, let’s come up with a system we can all be competitive in. If it’s about money, that’s a different story that we’re talking about.”

Hunter reiterated that he expects the owners to vote on imposing a lockout during the meeting of their full Board of Governors Tuesday in Dallas, but sources said there were no plans for such a vote – which would be procedural, anyway, and no surprise to anyone given that the threat of a lockout has loomed over the negotiations for more than two years. But with the attendance and engagement of a large group of players Friday, Hunter said owners “may find it difficult to pull the trigger” on a lockout vote.

“Even though we didn’t make an progress, I think they felt that the energy and attitude within the room was such that it might necessitate further discussion,” Hunter said.

In a softening of the rhetoric that marked the week of labor meetings -- the tone of which Stern said became "incendiary" at times -- Stern declined to discuss details of Friday's bargaining points. It was his public revelation of a $62 million "flex cap" system proposed by owners, along with a guarantee of no less than $2 billion in salary and benefits during the league's 10-year CBA proposal, that infuriated union officials who felt blindsided -- and subsequently conducted one small and one large media briefing to go on the attack.

Stern also sidestepped the possibility of a lockout vote, which typically would be taken by the Board of Governors to authorize the owners’ labor relations committee to impose one upon expiration of the current CBA.

“We can do whatever we need to do, whenever we need to do it, however we need to do it,” Stern said. “It's not about the formality of a meeting. … For us, the best time we're going to spend next week hopefully is on a meeting with the players on Wednesday that with any luck goes over to Thursday. And that’s where we are.”

The primary purpose of the owners’ meetings in Dallas Tuesday is for the labor relations committee – featuring such big-market representatives as the Knicks’ James Dolan and Lakers’ Jeanie Buss and small-market owners such as the Thunder’s Clay Bennett and Spurs’ Peter Holt, the committee chairman – to update representatives from all 30 teams about the state of negotiations. The owners’ planning committee also will brief the board on the status of a new revenue sharing plan, the lack of inclusion of which in the bargaining process has been an irritant for union officials.

Hunter told reporters this week that owners have not divulged “one iota” of their plans to enhance the sharing of revenue as a way to help small-market teams compete, and that rancor among high- and low-revenue teams continues to divide the owners. Stern disputed that notion Friday, saying, “We’ve had a full discussion with the players about everything, and we're prepared to discuss everything with them.”

The players and union officials have tried to get the owners to include their revenue-sharing plan as part of the new CBA, saying competitive balance could be improved through sharing more revenue – such as gate receipts and local broadcast revenues – without trying to solve the league’s stated annual losses of at least $300 million strictly through salary reductions.

“As we've said repeatedly, if we lose money on an aggregate basis, we can’t possibly revenue-share our way to profitability,” deputy commissioner Adam Silver said.

Stern would not divulge whether owners would reveal to the players the substance of their revenue-sharing plan that will be discussed among owners in Dallas. And sources told CBSSports.com that the union seems disinclined to use a legal tool at their disposal – asking a court to rule on whether revenue-sharing should be included as a “mandatory subject” in collective bargaining.

“We can’t make the final sort of push on revenue sharing until we know what the yield or not of the labor deal is,” Stern said. “… The revenue sharing is moving as well. We're setting things up, I would hope, on both fronts.”

Setting things up for a deal or a lockout? After two years of negotiations with no results, you be the judge.

Posted on: June 22, 2011 7:57 pm
Edited on: June 23, 2011 6:05 pm
 

Hunter: Owners' demands can't be met

NEW YORK – NBA players association chief Billy Hunter on Wednesday assailed the owners’ latest collective bargaining proposal and said he is prepared for owners to vote on a lockout at next Tuesday’s Board of Governors meeting in Dallas.

“Their demand is gargantuan and we just can’t meet it,” Hunter told reporters at the Manhattan hotel where players are staying for crucial meetings and draft-related activities this week.

A day after commissioner David Stern seized control of the message by disclosing details of the owners’ latest proposal, Hunter gathered reporters in an effort to respond and “set the record straight,” he said. At the meeting, also attended by union president Derek Fisher of the Lakers, executive committee member Maurice Evans of the Wizards and union staff, Hunter said the owners’ latest proposal would cost the players $8.2 billion over 10 years compared to the current system and $7 billion compared to the players’ standing offer.

“Under their proposal, over five or six years, they would reap a profit of over $1.8 billion after expenses – after their alleged expenses,” Hunter said.

Hunter and Fisher also clarified a point that was lost after Tuesday’s bargaining session: As part of their proposal to guarantee the players $2 billion in salary and benefits per year during their 10-year proposal, owners are seeking to keep the $160 million in escrow money withheld from players’ paychecks for the 2010-11 season. Eight percent of player salaries is withheld under the current agreement and returned each August to ensure that players ultimately wind up with 57 percent of basketball-related income (BRI).

“That’s money that players have already earned, worked for this past season,” Fisher said. “That’s off the table, as far as we’re concerned. To me, it speaks to the arrogance that they feel in approaching us with their proposal, to be able to go back and reach for those dollars.”

Fisher also assailed Stern’s characterization of a new cap system verbally proposed by owners as a “flex cap,” with a $62 million target per team and an undetermined maximum and minimum.

“We view that as just a total distortion of reality,” Fisher said. “It’s not a flexible cap, it’s a hard cap. … It’s flexible as long as you’re below what the hard level is.”

The so-called flex-cap concept disclosed by Stern Tuesday “has not been in a written proposal, with any teeth or any details,” Fisher said.

In response to the union's complaints, Stern said Wednesday night: "Players have benefited from the current system more than the teams. For them it has been a much better partnership. We are sorry that the players' union feels that way since it doesn't seem designed to get us to the agreement that is so important to the teams, and we had hoped, the players."

In briefing players around the league on the state of negotiations, including teammate Kobe Bryant, Fisher said players “are in total disbelief. They have asked us point-blank why we are even talking.”

Despite the grim turn these talks have taken in the past 48 hours, there's no need to panic. There is a blueprint for getting sports labor deals done when the sides are far apart, and the NBA talks are following it to a tee. I'll let the sports labor veteran I spoke with Wednesday take it from there.

"You curse each other out, go to marriage counseling, then blow the house up and stay away from each other for a while," the person said. "And you bring everybody back together when the bills come due. There's a deal to be made in there, but not now. No way."

With eight days before the current labor agreement expires, union officials will meet Thursday with player representatives of all 30 teams and as many as 20 other players who have elected to attend. Hunter said union officials will then determine what, if any, counterproposal to make in Friday’s scheduled bargaining session – likely the last one before the owners’ full Board of Governors convenes Tuesday in Dallas, where Hunter said he expects a lockout vote to occur.

“I’m sure that there’s going to be a vote,” Hunter said. “Whether or not they lock out, that’s going to be up to them. We’ve been threatened with that for the last two years … so I’m assuming that, from their perspective, (June 30) is the drop-dead date.”

Hunter and Fisher explained how they arrived at their offer of a more than $100 million-a-year salary reduction in their five-year proposal, saying it amounts to 57 percent of what Fisher described as the owners’ “true losses” – the same share of BRI they currently receive. By the players’ estimation, the owners’ $300 million annual loss figure is actually less than $200 million when interest expenses are deducted. Hunter stopped short of calling it an ambush, but he and the players clearly were blindsided when Stern characterized this offer as “modest.”

“I guess at this stage, the question is to what extent are they willing to kill this thing,” Hunter said of the owners.

Hunter also said owners have proposed adding $900 million to the $600 million that currently is deducted from gross revenues before the money is shared with the players, bringing the total to $1.5 billion under the owners’ proposal.

And a key sticking point remains the fact that owners have refused to collectively bargain a revamped revenue-sharing plan, an area the owners believe should be kept separate from the negotiations. Hunter referred to a group of small-market owners who wrote a memo to Stern in 2007 asking for enhanced revenue sharing, saying the fight is between small- and big-market owners as much as it is between owners and players.

“They have not disclosed to us one iota of what their proposed revenue-sharing plan would look like,” Hunter said. “… We want the assurance that it’s not all coming off the backs of the players.”

Hunter again derided the owners’ offer of a flat $2 billion pay scale for 10 years, saying the players would not regain the $2.17 billion level of salary and benefits they received for the 2010-11 season until the 10th year of the owners’ proposal. The union is projecting 4-5 percent annual revenue growth for the league over the next decade, a figure that is expected to rise after the current broadcast and digital rights agreements with ABC/ESPN and TNT expire in 2016.

Hunter was careful to stop short of saying the negotiations are at an “impasse,” a legal term that would signal that talks have irretrievably broken down – paving the way for a lockout, possible decertification of the union, and an antitrust lawsuit similar to the case filed by the NFL Players Association.

“We’re not at an impasse because there’s so many issues that we haven’t discussed,” Hunter said. “We’ve gotten stuck on economics.”

Asked if he trusts Stern to negotiate a fair deal, Hunter said, “We’re engaged in hard-knuckle negotiations. It ain’t about trust.”

“We have an idea what we’re willing to do and what he’s willing to do,” Hunter said. “And what we’ve indicated to them is that the perception is that it’s really becoming a game of power vs. power. And right now, I think that they feel as though they have the leverage or the upper hand.”
Posted on: June 21, 2011 5:55 pm
Edited on: June 21, 2011 11:29 pm
 

NBA relaxes stance on hard cap



NEW YORK – Negotiations between NBA owners and players reached a critical juncture Tuesday when commissioner David Stern went public with the league’s offer to relax its stance on a hard salary cap and guarantee the players $2 billion a year in compensation as part of a 10-year collective bargaining proposal.

“We think this is virtually the best shot we think we have to both demonstrate to the players our good faith (and) our desire to go as far as we can to avoid a lockout,” Stern said after a 3 1-2 hour bargaining session among members of the owners’ labor relations committee and the players’ executive committee.

Stern stopped short of saying this was the owners’ final offer, but added, "The cupboard is getting barer and barer." The two sides agreed to meet again Friday in Manhattan.

“We wanted to make sure that we laid it all out there,” Stern said. “It’s all out there. The owners, to a person, feel that this is what we have to give and since we’re getting very close to June 30 – the last time I looked, it was about eight days away – that it was time.”

Billy Hunter, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, union president Derek Fisher of the Lakers, and executive committee member Chris Paul of the Hornets, however, minimized the owners’ gesture as simply another version of a hard cap – which Hunter reiterated was a “blood issue” for the union.

“We agreed that we would come back on Friday and present them with a response to what they presented us with,” Hunter said. “We want to go back, crunch some numbers, look at the system, and then we’ll respond on Friday. … We have an obligation to respond to what they gave us today.”

The essence of the system described by Stern was an NHL-style cap system with a targeted salary of $62 million per team and a to-be-negotiated range from a minimum to an amount above $62 million that teams could spend up to through various exceptions currently in place – such as the Larry Bird exception and mid-level exception. An escrow-like system would be used to adjust for teams coming in below and above the $62 million target. Unlike the current escrow system, through which 8 percent of players’ salaries is withheld and paid back if negotiated salaries fall short of 57 percent of revenues, Stern said owners would keep the escrow under the new system – making this, in effect, an 8 percent pay cut for the players in Year One.

In terms of the owners’ initial proposal of a $45 million hard cap, the latest offer from the league amounts to a $650 million move from their initial position. The basic structure of a 50-50 split of revenues – based on a modified formula with about $900 million in expenses deducted before sharing with the players – remains intact. The luxury tax would be eliminated under the owners' proposal.


NBA Labor
UPDATE: In another fire-and-brimstone analogy, Hunter dismissed the owners’ offer last Friday to relax their insistence on banning fully guaranteed contracts, essentially accusing them of burglary.

“We’ve had guaranteed contracts for almost 40 years,” Hunter said. “It’s almost like somebody walks into your house and they take something that belongs to you and then they want to sell it back. And you say, ‘Well, hell, it was mine from the get-go, so why the hell should I pay for it? And I didn’t authorize you to take it. And I never said it was available for you to take or use or abuse.”

A day that Stern had billed as an important moment in these labor negotiations began with the “modest” $500 million salary reduction proposal from the players. In addition to reducing their share of BRI from from 57 percent to 54.3, the players also enhanced their proposed formula for the revenue split on future revenue increases. The players previously proposed giving the owners more than 50 percent of revenues beyond the 2010-11 level of approximately $3.8 billion, and on Tuesday raised the ante and agreed to a more owner-favorable split on additional revenues.

Upon receiving that offer, the owners convened for a lengthy private meeting during which Stern said they agreed to put forth “what we think is a very significant offer to the players in order to avoid a work stoppage.” The new system, Stern said, would result in an average salary in the NBA of $5 million.

“Since we had one more move to make, we thought we would make it and let them know where we were prepared to go,” Stern said. “… I think that the players know where we are. The owners have decided to give what they possibly could.”

The committee was unanimous, Stern said, including members who were not present but gave their approval – Glen Taylor (Timberwolves), Mark Cuban (Mavericks), Clay Bennett (Thunder), and Wyc Grousbeck (Celtics). The members present were Robert Sarver (Suns), Dan Gilbert (Cavaliers), James Dolan (Knicks), Jeanie Buss (Lakers), Larry Miller (Trail Blazers), Bob Vander Weide (Magic), and committee chairman Peter Holt (Spurs).

In addition to the players’ executive committee members in attendance, also on hand were Tony Parker (Spurs), Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia (Hawks), and Sebastian Telfair (Timberwolves).

Deputy commissioner Adam Silver denied a CBSSports.com report that there were different agendas and priorities among owners based on market size and revenue. But the flex cap offer made by the owners Tuesday seemed to be a victory for high-revenue owners and the trend of forming superteams. Both would’ve been reined in by the original (and highly unrealistic) $45 million hard-cap system that owners initially proposed in January 2010.

The sliding salary band for teams, which essentially sets a league-wide cap with flexibility to deviate on a team-by-team basis above and below the $62 million target, also would put the onus on teams that have been reluctant to spend much above the current minimum payroll to spend in the hopes of enhancing their ability to compete.

“We believe as a league that there’s no question the data shows a correlation between salaries and success on the court,” Silver said. “And what we’ve said to them is we want a league in which all 30 teams can compete for championships. As another byproduct of that, it will raise more revenue, because greater competition will mean better business, for us and the players.”

But the players clearly view the owners’ latest proposal as little more than nuanced hard cap, which they adamantly oppose.

“It’s been characterized in different ways, but essentially they want to create a hard salary cap in our game, and we just don’t see it,” Fisher said.

Asked if there can be a deal with a hard cap, Fisher said, “No.”

It will be interesting to see if the players come back with a counterproposal within the flex-cap framework. Don’t bet on it. But for the sake of argument, while it may be intuitive to think the players would want a wide salary range, a smaller range actually would be better for players – because more teams would be willing to exceed the target than exceed the minimum. That’s the part of the problem that changing the cap formula won’t address without more revenue sharing, which owners have thus far refused to collectively bargain.

In order for there to be a deal by June 30, Hunter said, “Someone someone has to make a big move.”

Otherwise, the room will go dark again and the next move will be a lockout.
Posted on: June 17, 2011 8:02 pm
Edited on: June 18, 2011 12:28 am
 

Stern: Tuesday is turning point in labor talks

NEW YORK – NBA commissioner David Stern declared Friday that an unofficial drop-dead date is looming next week in the accelerating negotiations to prevent a lockout.

“Tuesday is a very important day in these negotiations,” Stern said after emerging from a 4 1-2 hour bargaining session in which progress was in the eyes of the proposer.

Stern touted what he described as a “very significant” concession that was proposed Friday in which owners backed off their insistence on eliminating fully guaranteed contracts. The players, however, did not view this as a major step forward in the negotiations, saying the owners remain entrenched in their position to slash player salaries by as much as $700 million annually – and that owners have the ability under the current system to offer contracts that are less than fully guaranteed.

“They moved to giving us back guaranteed contracts, which we already had,” said Wizards guard Maurice Evans, a member of the players’ executive committee. “That’s not a move. How can you call that a move?”

However the latest twists and turns are viewed by either side, Stern left no doubt that an expanded bargaining session scheduled for Tuesday in New York – featuring a larger contingent of owners and players, and also player agents, who will be key to signing off on any deal – would be crucial to determining whether there is enough momentum to complete a new labor deal before the current one expires on June 30.

“I really think that the time to have an optimistic or pessimistic view is at the close of the day on Tuesday,” Stern said.

At the end of a nearly 20-minute briefing with reporters Tuesday night in a conference room of the Omni Berkshire Hotel, Stern answered “yes” when asked if a breakthrough was needed Tuesday to assure there would be enough time to get a deal done. The key sticking points remain the negotiated split of revenues that would be paid to the players and the system by which the money would be delivered – a hard cap, which the owners remain insistent upon, or a soft-cap system that more closely resembles the rules already in place.

“If we made a big breakthrough on one or the other, we would have such positive momentum that we could, I think, look forward to a faster track than we’ve been dealing with,” Stern said.

In addition to Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter and legal staff from both sides, Friday’s bargaining session included nine members of the owners’ labor relations committee, the players’ executive committee (including Hornets star Chris Paul), as well as Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, Bucks guard John Salmons, and Timberwolves guard Sebastian Telfair.

“I would say we’re not on the same page right now, but there’s some good conversation going on,” Anthony said. “Both sides are trying to come to an agreement.”

The logistics surrounding Tuesday’s bargaining session in New York leaves little doubt that it will be a turning point in a process that formally began with the owners’ initial proposal in January 2010, just prior to All-Star weekend in Dallas. League executives will be in New York for Thursday night’s draft, and dozens of players will be in the city for the NBPA’s annual meeting. Stern hinted that if enough progress were made Tuesday, the session could be extended by several days – perhaps even into the weekend – as the clock continues to wind down toward the June 30 deadline to avoid a lockout.

“Even though the clock is ticking and the runway is shortening, we think that it’s worth our time and effort to go back to our individual offices and do a lot of crunching of numbers and ideas and to return on Tuesday,” Stern said. “… We're hoping that we will receive from them a proposal directed to the economics.”

As a matter of timing and logistics, Silver announced that the league would be canceling Las Vegas Summer League this weekend – though the move is not meant to send any signals to the players.

“It was purely a function of the calendar and drop-dead dates with hotels and the arena,” Silver said.

Stern said the owners’ decision to back off their insistence on eliminating fully guaranteed contracts as part of the 10-year deal they’ve proposed was in response to a presentation from the players and their attorney, Jeffrey Kessler, about their insistence on protecting such guarantees.

“Of all the issues, the guarantee is one that is very, very important to individual players,” Stern said, describing what was conveyed to the owners and their lead negotiators during the presentation.

This must have been music to the owners’ ears, because their priority from the beginning has been to reduce player salaries by at least one-third. The method of delivery – via a hard cap with shorter and less guaranteed contracts – would seem to be a secondary issue to the overall dollars. Based on the players’ current 57 percent share of revenues, they would go from $2.1 billion to $1.35 billion under the owners’ original proposal – the basic structure of which remains in place, according to multiple sources familiar with the negotiations. That’s a reduction of about $750 million annually, regardless of whether the money is guaranteed or not.

“It’s not as big a move as it would have been if the hard cap was not linked to it,” Kessler said of the owners’ revised stance on guarantees. “That really undermines, from the players’ standpoint, what it means. … They didn’t move on hard cap, that’s for sure.”

Said Evans: "We’re far apart. They’re still negotiating from their proposal from two years ago, and we’re negotiating from the current system we have."

But Stern disputed the notion that the owners have not moved from their original demands on salary reductions, though he declined to get into specifics. And sources said the owners expressed for the first time Friday a willingness to discuss with the players how they would be paid in the “out years” of their proposal – meaning the seven years after a three-year transition period owners have proposed to soften the blow of these drastic cuts.

“There’s been considerably more movement from our first proposal than you understand,” Stern told reporters.

In addition, Silver said the players made a move in their position Friday in terms of how much of basketball-related income (BRI) they would be paid under a new agreement. But he added, “Even they would characterize (the move) as having been very small.”

Part of the problem for the players, aside from how much of a pay cut they are willing to accept, is computing how the new structure would work out for them if revenues rise, as the NBA is predicting they will. When the two sides reconvene next week, the apparent willingness on the owners’ part to negotiate how rising revenues would affect player salaries in the final years of the deal could represent a far more significant development than their decision to back off on the idea of eliminating guarantees.

For example, owners could incentivize the players to accept a revised computation of BRI that increases the players’ share as revenues increase. But the owners’ projections of rising revenues are based on rules that have never been in place, making it difficult for the players to trust the projections.

“We can’t talk about one part in a vacuum because it impacts the entire system,” NBPA president Derek Fisher said of the owners’ reversal on banning fully guaranteed contracts. “We haven’t been, or at this point are inclined to say whether that’s a huge thing. Because without other things, it doesn’t mean much.”

How much is at stake next week? If you liken the negotiation to a million-piece jigsaw puzzle, all parties involved admitted that two or three key pieces need to be in place by the end of the day Tuesday.

“One piece controls several hundred thousand pieces,” Fisher said. “So essentially, we could put together a million-piece puzzle in a very short time if we can get two or three pieces in the right place. And that’s what we're focused on doing.”
Posted on: June 14, 2011 9:49 pm
 

Owners, players still hundreds of millions apart


NEW YORK -- Top executives from the NBA and National Basketball Players Association convened for a small meeting with their top staff Tuesday to discuss collective bargaining proposals that were made in Miami and Dallas during the NBA Finals.

According to league spokesman Michael Bass, the meeting included commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, NBPA executive director Billy Hunter and the union's "in-house staff."

"We're not disclosing what was discussed in the meeting," Bass said.

A larger meeting including the owners' full labor relations committee and the players' executive committee is scheduled for Friday in Manhattan.

With the countdown under way to the expiration of the league's collective bargaining agreement on June 30, the two sides remain hundreds of millions of dollars apart, sources told CBSSports.com. The owners have twice offered to delay their vision of at least a 33 percent pay cut for the players, delivered through a hard salary cap with shorter and non-guaranteed contracts -- first through a two-year phase-in and then, in a verbal offer during the Finals, by adding at least one more year to "soften the landing," one of the people with knowledge of the talks said Tuesday. But once the phase-in period ends, the owners are still insistent on their original plan -- proposed in January 2010 -- to deduct approximately $900 million in expenses from the league's basketball-related income (BRI) and reduce the players' share of that from 57 percent to a 50-50 split, multiple sources told CBSSports.com.

Given that league revenues in 2009-10 -- the last season for which final numbers are available -- totaled about $3.6 billion, the players would get half of the $2.7 billion left after expenses, or $1.35 billion. That's $700 million less than the players' share under the current system, or a reduction of more than one-third.

Coming out of last week's full-scale bargaining session in Dallas, verbal proposals from both sides needed to be formalized in writing, and the union requested more extensive revenue projections from the league since the owners have proposed a 10-year CBA. After Stern expressed optimism following one of the bargaining sessions during the Finals, he said last week it would be a "challenge" to avoid a lockout. NBPA president Derek Fisher revealed the same day that there was "no change at all" in the owners' demands.

 
 
 
 
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