Tag:David Stern
Posted on: August 1, 2011 6:54 pm
Edited on: August 1, 2011 7:17 pm
 

Stern accuses players of bad-faith bargaining

NEW YORK – The NBA labor talks took on a poisonous tone Monday, with each side lobbing rhetoric about the other not being willing to negotiate. The coup de grace came shortly before 6 p.m., from commissioner David Stern.

Standing in a midtown hotel lobby after a nearly three-hour farce of a bargaining session – the first between the two sides since owners imposed a lockout on July 1 – Stern fielded one last question in a terse and decidedly glum media session. After saying, “I don’t feel optimistic about the players’ willingness to engage in a serious way,” Stern was asked if he believes the players are bargaining in good faith, or not.

The grim-faced commissioner thought about it for several seconds and said, “I would say not. Thank you.”

And with those comments, Stern’s most direct public assault on the players during the more than two years of bargaining, the NBA lockout took its next step toward all-out legal warfare.

The National Basketball Players Association already has filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board alleging, among other things, that the owners have failed to bargain in good faith. The players’ hope is that this charge will result in a formal complaint from the NLRB, and then, an injunction from a federal judge reinstating the terms of the previous collective bargaining agreement. Short of decertification by the union, this would be the quickest path for the players to legally pressure the owners to back down from their demands of massive salary cuts as a cure for $300 million annual losses by the league.

With Stern firing back Monday that it’s the players who are not bargaining in good faith, he set the stage for a possible counter-charge by the league with the NLRB on the subject of good-faith bargaining. Such a legal strategy, which league officials would not confirm Monday as being on the table, could blunt the impact of the players’ charge and – more importantly – drag the lockout precariously into territory where it would be impossible to save all of the 2011-12 season.

As a point of reference, the NFL owners filed a similar charge with the NLRB in February, and that sport’s lockout ended before the board even finished investigating it. NBPA attorney Larry Katz has said he is hopeful that the NLRB will rule on the union’s complaint in the next 30-60 days. Training camps are supposed to open in about 60 days.

“I think it’s fair to say that we’re in the same place as we were 30 days ago,” Stern said. “And we agreed we’d be in touch to schedule some additional meetings.”

Asked why that would be necessary, given the lack of progress, Stern said, “There’s always a reason for more meetings because that’s the only way you’ll ultimately get to a deal, at the negotiating table. You never know, but right now we haven’t seen any movement.”

Earlier, NBPA president Derek Fisher accused Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver and the owners present Monday – San Antonio’s Peter Holt and Minnesota’s Glen Taylor – of saying one thing in the negotiating sessions and publicly and delivering quite another message by refusing to alter their proposal.

“I think Peter and Glen Taylor, Mr. Stern, Adam Silver are articulating certain things in the room, expressing their desire to get a deal done,” Fisher said. “But where their proposal lies makes it hard to believe that.”

Informed of Fisher’s comments, which echo the NLRB charge about failing to bargain in good faith, stern said, “He’s entitled to draw his own conclusion. We have absolutely the opposite take on it.”

While Fisher expressed optimism about “restarting this process,” Stern was asked what may have occurred Monday that gave him encouragement.

“Nothing,” he said.

The two sides agree on one thing, if nothing else: They’ll attempt to schedule at least one bargaining session in the next couple of weeks, with the ultimate goal of engaging in talks for consecutive days before Sept. 1. At that point, the league will be entering what essentially is a two-week window when it must begin contemplating the postponement of training camps and the cancelation of preseason games.

“There was a lot of discussion, a lot of ideas being thrown around,” said Fisher, adding that one irrefutable fact is becoming “clearer and clearer” about the owners’ position.

“What the bottom line is, is what the bottom line is,” Fisher said.

Stern disagreed, saying the owners’ offer of $1.4 billion in revenues to the players – a more than 33 percent pay cut in their initial proposal -- has consistently increased, and most recently was at $2 billion.

“We’ve made several offers, but we don’t feel significant movement back,” Stern said. “As we pointed out to the players, their last offer, 30 days ago, was to take their (average) salaries from $5 million to $7 million over a six-year period. So there’s still a very wide gap between us.”

The players dispute Stern’s repeated portrayal of their proposal, which they say starts off with a reduction in the players’ percentage of revenues from 57 percent to 54.3 percent in the first year of a six-year deal that would slow the growth of salaries by about $100 million a year.

Stern went so far as to use concessions made by NFL players in ending that sport’s lockout as justification for the NBA’s demands.

“From where we sit, we’re looking at a league that was the most profitable in sports that became more profitable by virtue of concessions from their players with an average salary of $2 million,” Stern said. “Our average salary is $5 million, we’re not profitable, and we just can’t seem to get over the gap that separates us.”

What Stern missed – and perhaps Fisher, too – was a moment in the Omni Berkshire Hotel lobby that summed up the sad state of affairs better than either man could. As Fisher addressed the media, a young boy walked by and said excitedly to his father, “Dad, that’s Derek Fisher!”

As his father fumbled for his camera to capture a moment more inglorious than he knew, the boy said, “This must be about the NBA lockout.”

And it’s only going to get worse from here, for kids like that.
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 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: 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.

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