Tag:lockout
Posted on: September 27, 2011 10:11 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 11:10 pm
 

Sources: Owners drop insistence on hard cap

NEW YORK -- Owners have indicated a willingness to drop their insistence on a hard team salary cap in exchange for adjustments to the luxury tax system and key spending exceptions, two people with knowledge of the negotiations told CBSSports.com Tuesday night.

The offer by league negotiators came Tuesday in a brief, two-hour bargaining session that set the stage for what one source described as "an important day" on Wednesday.

"It's put up or shut up time," said the person, who is connected to the talks but spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the negotiations.

The flexibility in the owners' longstanding insistence on a hard team-by-team cap, first reported by Yahoo Sports, comes with significant strings attached. Among the many concepts league negotiators proposed Tuesday were a more punitive luxury tax and adjustments to two key spending exceptions that teams had under previous agreements: the Larry Bird exception and the mid-level exception. Both would have been eliminated under the owners' original proposal from two years ago, with many of those dramatic systemic changes living on in subsequent proposals until Tuesday.

There is a feeling among two people who have been briefed on the talks that the owners will come forward Wednesday with an enhanced version of the concepts proposed Tuesday. According to the sources, among the additions could be a proposed 50-50 revenue split, which to this point the league has not reached in terms of the players' average share over the life of a new CBA in its previous proposals.

As for the system changes the owners proposed Tuesday in exchange for relaxing their stance on the hard team salary cap, one of the people briefed on the talks said union officials regarded them as "alarming."

Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, has often referred to a hard team salary cap as a "blood issue." Union president Derek Fisher scoffed at the owners' June proposal of a "flex cap" with a spending midpoint and a range as being, for all intents and purposes, a hard cap. Paramount in the players' opposition to a hard team cap is that the NBA already has a spending cap in the aggregate; under the previous CBA, the players were limited to 57 percent of basketball-related income (BRI), with an escrow system in place to guarantee they'd get no more and no less.

Even if the owners improved their economic proposal to 50-50 on Wednesday -- up from the 46 percent average share sources said they offered last week -- it seems unlikely that union officials would accept that without significant pushback on the system adjustments that are tied to it. And it is even less likely that Hunter and Fisher, under pressure from powerful agents pushing to dissolve the union through decertification or a disclaimer of interest, would be able to garner support for such a deal in the face of such opposition.

"We already have a hard salary cap," one person connected to the talks told CBSSports.com Tuesday night. "That train left the station in the last collective bargaining. If you accept that as an important victory point, then we've been bamboozled."

Whether viewed as a meaningful concession or not, the revelation from the owners Tuesday set the stage for an absolutely critical day of negotiating on Wednesday. With more preseason games on the chopping block next week and with an on-time start to the regular season unlikely if there's no deal, this is the moment of truth these negotiations began inching toward last week when league negotiators made a specific proposal on the BRI split for the first time since they offered a flat $2 billion-a-year over the first eight years of a 10-year deal back in June.

Though a person with knowledge of the talks said the union deemed the owners' 46 percent offer "unacceptable," Hunter and Fisher believed it was the starting point in the real negotiations to save the season. 

In another wrinkle that could be key to the talks, the NBPA's unfair labor practices charge against the league has been transferred from the National Labor Relations Board's regional office in New York to the general counsel in Washington, D.C., a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com. The case file includes the regional director's recommendation about whether a complaint should be issued against the NBA, but the file is sealed, the person said.

After what is expected to be an exhaustive review of the case by the NLRB's Washington-based legal staff, a decision will be rendered on whether a complaint should be filed. Though Hunter is feeling pressure from agents who are pushing for the union to decertify -- a tactic that the NFLPA used, to little effect, in its bargaining talks with the NFL -- a person with knowledge of his thinking said Hunter is determined to keep the union together until the NLRB rules. A favorable ruling for the NBPA could result in a federal injunction lifting the lockout, thus shifting significant leverage to the players.

The NBA subsequently filed its own unfair labor practices charge against the NBPA, and it is possible that the NLRB may not rule on either case in time for the two sides to negotiate a settlement that would save the season.

Amid the divided opinions on decertification, Fisher sent a second letter to union members this week in which he again urged unity and tried to reassure players that he and Hunter would not sell them out just to get a deal. Fisher reiterated the union's resistance to a hard team salary cap and promised to fight for players to share fairly in the league's revenue growth -- which is expected to continue rising at a 4 percent-a-year clip, plus the possibility of massive gains in the NBA's broadcast rights deals when they expire after the 2015-16 season.

"We’ve been clear from Day 1 of this process that we cannot sign off on a deal that attempts in any way to include a hard salary cap for our teams. That has not changed,” Fisher said in the letter. “Unless you, the group we represent, tell us otherwise, we are prepared to hold the line for as long as it takes to preserve the system we’ve worked so hard to build.”

After Tuesday's meeting, Fisher emerged in a far more upbeat mood than he and commissioner David Stern had exhibited following last week's meeting. The two sides broke off talks about three hours shy of a typical session and said they needed to retreat to their own offices for private meetings before reconvening on Wednesday.

"We’ve talked extensively about ideas and concepts," Fisher said. "These are things that, if we could get into the range or get into the zone, maybe we can put a deal together."

Time, and new ideas, are running short.
Posted on: September 27, 2011 6:13 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 7:07 pm
 

Fisher: 'Maybe we can put a deal together'

NEW YORK -- Negotiators from the NBA and its players' union ended bargaining talks after about two hours Tuesday, retreating to separate meetings at their offices with both sides acknowledging that there was something to think about.

Whether it was enough to propel the negotiations toward the possible foundation of a new collective bargaining agreement, commissioner David Stern said, "We will know more after (Wednesday's) session."

Derek Fisher, president of the National Basketball Players Association, said the two sides "talked extensively about ideas and concepts. These are things that if we could get into the range or get into the zone, maybe we can put a deal together."

The league and union will reconvene Wednesday morning with one eye on the religious calendar -- Thursday and Friday will be off limits for several key negotiators due to Rosh Hashanah -- and one eye on the basketball calendar. About four weeks remain before the scheduled start of the regular season, or approximately the amount of time that would be needed to finalize details of any deal points agreed upon and crank up free agency and a truncated preseason schedule.

Optimism? It's almost impossible to read tea leaves and body language in these talks, but Wednesday seems like a turning point -- one way or another.

"Sometimes when you discuss concepts, you want to go back and think about it," Stern said.

What is there to think about? That is the $1.9 billion question. At last check, that's how far apart the two sides appeared to be on the economics as they prepared to tread on the hallowed ground of system issues -- the hard salary cap vs. the existing system with a plethora of exceptions and a luxury tax. Sources have told CBSSports.com that both sides have signaled a willingness to negotiate system issues, with one person connected to the talks saying that a deal is "there for the taking."

Asked whether Tuesday's session was dedicated to the economic split or the system, Fisher and Stern said they discussed both.

"We’re not holding anybody accountable to ideas being thrown out in the room," Fisher said. "It’s really just a process that we’re trying to go through."

After the dour disposition he exhibited after last week's meeting, Stern was all smiles Tuesday -- but cautioned reporters not to read anything into it. He described the meeting, about three hours shorter than the sessions typically have run, as "quality time."

"When I didn’t smile the last time, I was described as something between dour and surly, so this is my smiling face," Stern said. "And we had a … we’re looking forward to reconvening tomorrow."

Or, maybe it was the cake that I had delivered to the negotiating room (see pic below), which resulted in the requisite laughs on the sidewalk outside the Upper East Side hotel where the bargaining took place.

"Most important," Stern said outside the hotel, "we've saved the cake for breakfast."

ken-berger-cakeAll kidding aside, the split -- how much of the league's $4 billion in annual revenues each side should get -- remains the crux of the negotiations. According to sources, the owners made the last economic move, increasing the proposed players' share of basketball-related income (BRI) from about 44 percent in their late June proposal to 46 percent. The players' most recent proposal called for a salary freeze in 2011-12 (the same $2.17 billion they made last season) followed by a 54 percent share of BRI as a starting point for the rest of the deal.

The key economic sticking point is that the owners have failed to offer the players what they consider to be a fair share of future revenue increases, which union economist Kevin Murphy and others have estimated at 4 percent a year. In fact, under the owners' June proposal of a flat $2 billion annually for eight years, the players' share would decline from about 51 percent in the first year to 39 percent in the eighth. 

One important point to consider about the early ending to Tuesday's meeting: Murphy was traveling from the West Coast and unable to attend the session -- which was hastily scheduled after NBPA executive director Billy Hunter postponed a regional meeting in Miami to hold two days of bargaining sessions instead. It is believed that Hunter agreed to Tuesday's meeting with the understanding that he would not be prepared to move forward with economic proposals without Murphy there to examine them -- especially if the numbers involved the players' share of future revenue increases.

The owners have pushed from the beginning for a 10-year deal, while the players have offered no more than six. A person with knowledge of the talks told CBSSports.com that Hunter also is hesitant to agree to a deal that extends beyond the expiration of the NBA's TV contract, which runs through the 2015-16 season, without assurances that the players will get a fair share of what is expected to be a sizeable increase in rights fees. Without such assurances, Hunter would push for an opt-out after the 2015-16 season, which would be the fifth year of a new CBA.

Fisher said no formal proposals were exchanged Tuesday, in keeping with the linguistic gymnastics the two sides have used with regard to what constitutes a concept vs. a proposal. At some point, concepts will become a proposal, and sometime soon, those proposals had better become the foundation of an agreement -- or more preseason games are likely to be canceled by next week and an on-time start to the regular season will be in serious jeopardy.

Asked if the two sides would continue to meet if the negotiations weren't moving forward, Stern said, "We won’t really be able to answer that question fully until after (Wednesday's) session."

Looking like a big day. How u.
Posted on: September 26, 2011 1:32 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2011 1:59 pm
 

NBA, union to meet Tuesday

NEW YORK -- Officials from the NBA and its players' union are finalizing details of a bargaining session that will take place Tuesday in New York and possibly extend to Wednesday, a person familiar with the details told CBSSports.com.

With the prospect of two days of negotiations as the calendar marches toward the eventual canceling of regular season games in less than three weeks,  National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter has postponed a regional meeting that had been scheduled for Tuesday in Miami and will stay in New York for talks with the league, the person with knowledge of the meeting said.

On Friday, the league indefinitely postponed the start of training camps and canceled preseason games scheduled for Oct. 9-15. Deputy commissioner Adam Silver said the schedule will be further evaluated on Oct. 1. It is likely that the league would have to begin canceling regular season games by Oct. 14 if it is unable to reach an agreement with the union on a new collective bargaining ageement.

The precise composition and format for the negotiations is still being determined due to a scheduling conflict of at least one key member of the parties that have made progress in small-group settings since Aug. 31. Once that is resolved, the goal is to continue with the small-group sessions with commissioner David Stern, Silver, deputy general counsel Dan Rube and Spurs owner Peter Holt representing the league and Hunter, NBPA president Derek Fisher, general counsel Ron Klempner and economist Kevin Murphy representing the players.

Tuesday and Wednesday represent the last opportunities to bargain this week with several key members of both sides' negotiating teams observing Rosh Hashanah on Thursday and Friday.

Negotiations resume after the league made a slight but significant revision last week to its most recent proposal on how to divide the sport's approximately $4 billion in basketball-related income (BRI). Sources say the owners' latest economic proposal amounted to an average 46 percent of BRI for the players over the life of the deal, which the union deemed "unacceptable." But the revised proposal represented a 2 percent increase from the owners' June proposal of a flat $2.01 billion annual guarantee for the players in the first eight years of a 10-year deal. That proposal started at about a 50-50 split of BRI in the 2011-12 season, but with revenues projected to increase about 4 percent a year, the players' share would shrink over time -- to about 39 percent in the eighth year of the deal.

The latest proposal from the owners called for the players' share to decline at a slower rate, sources said. According to one of the people familiar with the negotiations, the players most recently proposed a six-year CBA that would begin with a salary freeze in the first year ($2.17 billion, same as they made last season) and then go to 54 percent -- a 3 percent decline from the players' guarantee of 57 percent in the six-year deal that expired July 1.

Hunter also has signaled a willingness to negotiate below the 54 percent offer, with the caveat that it not include the implementation of a hard salary cap. Sources say both sides have expressed a willingness to negotiate on system and cap issues once they agree on the economic aspects of the deal.




Posted on: September 23, 2011 11:45 am
Edited on: September 23, 2011 12:28 pm
 

Sources: Owners' offer still below 50 percent

NEW YORK -- More details emerged Friday of a revised proposal from the owners on the split of revenues with the players, with two sources telling CBSSports.com that the aggregate share offered by the league remains below 49 percent.

The number offered Thursday by commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver was deemed "unacceptable" by representatives of the National Basketball Players Association, according to one of the sources familiar with the proposal. The two sides emerged from a five-hour negotiation with no deal and with full recognition that training camps would be postponed and preseason games would be canceled.

That inevitable and widely expected announcement came Friday, when the league postponed indefinitely the start of camps -- which were supposed to open Oct. 3 -- and scrapped 43 preseason games scheduled from Oct. 9-15.

The two sides are communicating Friday to schedule another bargaining session for next week, when the owners' gesture -- however small -- to move off the $2 billion-a-year players' share for the first eight years of a 10-year proposal is expected to accelerate negotiations on the economic portion of the agreement.

This is the first time the league has formally offered a number in terms of the BRI split since they proposed an annual guarantee of $2.01 billion as part of a 10-year proposal in late June.

It is both curious and an inevitable function of the calendar -- the league is still three weeks away from having to cancel regular season games -- that the owners emerged from a series of productive bargaining sessions and a full Board of Governors meeting to present a BRI split that still has the players receiving less than half of the league's approximately $4 billion in revenues. After NBPA executive director Billy Hunter stated his intention to go below the union's previous offer of a 54.3 percent share for the players, Stern and Silver acknowledged that an agreement on the economics was within reach.

Stern told reporters last Tuesday that the players' gesture -- which was preconditioned on the owners dropping their insistence on a hard salary cap -- was "on the road" to a compromise on the overall dollars.

"The question is, how long is that road?" one person connected to the talks said Friday. "Is it the Road to Hana?"

Under the six-year CBA that expired July 1, the players were guaranteed 57 percent of basketball-related income.

Examining the owners' June proposal of $2.01 billion for eight years, the numbers work out to an average of 44 percent of BRI for the players. (Estimating 4 percent annual revenue growth, total revenues in the first eight years of the deal would be approximately $36.4 billion, reaching $5 billion for the first time in league history in the seventh year.)

So even though the players would get an estimated 51 percent of BRI in the first year of the deal ($2.01 billion out of $3.95 billion), with revenues increasing and salaries remaining flat, their share would decline to 39 percent in the eighth year.

The numbers offered by league negotiators Thursday amounted to an average share for the players that was still less than 49 percent and provided what one person familiar with the numbers described as a lesser decline in their percentage over the years.

So in estimating how far apart the owners and players are economically, my presumption that the league must have offered more than 50 percent on Thursday -- since that's what they'd offered in the first year of the June proposal -- did not take into account the declining percentage over time. Since the previous offer was 44 percent in the aggregate over eight years, what the owners came forward with Thursday had to have been in the the 45-48 percent range on average over the life of a new CBA.

So how far apart are they? It's hard to say for sure since so many of the proposals have been hypothetical and they haven't gotten around to negotiating what system they'd be tied to. But if you look at a six-year horizon -- the longest proposal the players have offered -- the difference between 53 percent for the players and a possible owners' proposal of, say, 46 percent, would be about $2 billion.

What's a couple of billion among friends? It's a lot of ground to cover in three weeks, but vastly less than the $8 billion over 10 years that separated the two sides three months ago.







Posted on: September 23, 2011 11:23 am
Edited on: September 23, 2011 11:30 am
 

NBA postpones camps, cancels preseason games


NEW YORK -- As expected, the NBA on Friday indefinitely postponed the start of training camps and canceled preseason games scheduled from Oct. 9-15 -- a total of 43 games -- because it has yet to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the players.

"We have regretfully reached the point on the calendar where we are not able to open training camps on time and need to cancel the first week of preseason games," deputy commissioner Adam Silver said. "We will make further decisions as warranted."

Camps were scheduled to open Oct. 3.

Although the owners on Thursday moved off their previously proposed split of revenues, the two sides were unable to reach an agreement. They remain apart on dollars andr continue to have opposing views on what kind of cap system the new CBA will have -- with owners wanting a hard cap and players calling it a "blood issue" they will not accept.

Commissioner David Stern was briefing the full labor relations committee by phone today and then the two sides will discuss scheduling details for another bargaining session early next week -- prior to the Jewish holidays, which begin Wednesday night and run through Friday.

 
Posted on: September 22, 2011 5:18 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2011 6:56 pm
 

Silence on labor talks; preseason to be delayed

NEW YORK -- Amid outsized expectations for progress, top negotiators for the NBA and players' union met for five hours Thursday with both sides refusing to charaterize the talks.

"We're not going to draw any conclusions or say anything other than we had a full day and we hope to meet again next week," commissioner David Stern said on his 69th birthday. 

Stern intimated that he and deputy commissioner Adam Silver will brief the full labor relations committee Friday, presumably by phone, on the status of talks. It is widely anticipated that, without a deal, the league will announce in the coming days -- perhaps as early as Friday -- that it is postponing the start of training camps and preseason. Camps were supposed to open on Oct. 3. Management sources told CBSSports.com they've been advised to expect an announcement of the cancellations on Friday after Stern briefs the owners on the talks.

"I have no announcement to make today, but the calendar is not our friend. Derek Fisher, the president of the National Basketball Players Association, also used that phrase about the calendar and was equally protective of details from Thursday's talks, which included the smaller group of negotiators who'd made progress in a series of three meetings that began Aug. 31. Fisher and Stern emerged from the Upper East Side hotel with an equally flatlined demeanor and monotoned speech -- evidence, perhaps, that there was agreement on at least one aspect of the negotiations: that neither side would put on a public show or negotiate in the media.

In declining to answer a string of specific questions about the bargaining session, Stern at one point interjected, "I'm sorry, but the most important thing is to see whether we can't have negotiations conducive to ultimately getting a deal, which is what our committee and our board will like. And having these conversations with you doesn't add anything to that. And that's the dilemma."

The talks involving the heavy hitters -- Stern, Silver, Spurs owner Peter Holt and deputy general counsel Dan Rube for the league and union chief Billy Hunter, Fisher, general counsel Ron Klempner and economist Kevin Murphy for the players -- followed a full day of what Silver described as "more intensive discussions" among lawyers and staff for both sides at the NBPA's Harlem office. Stern wouldn't say if the league brought anything new to the table coming out of Wednesday's meetings and a gathering of the full Board of Governors las week in Dallas.

"I'm not going to say," Stern said when asked if any proposals were exchanged.

Fisher said no new topics were discussed Thursday and said the league provided no details of its revenue sharing plan.

"We're trying to figure out ways to come together," Fisher said. "We couldn't do it today, and hopefully we'll get another opportunity next week to continue to try and figure this thing out."
Posted on: September 22, 2011 8:34 am
Edited on: September 22, 2011 8:48 am
 

'Blood issue' time for both sides

NEW YORK -- Is it time for a deal to go down in the NBA labor talks Thursday?

Maybe.

But probably not.

After Wednesday's meeting among lawyers and staff for both sides at the National Basketbal Players Association offices in Harlem, the top negotiators and power brokers for both sides will reconvene in Manhattan Thursday for a critical bargaining session amid the threat of imminent canceling of training camps and preseason games.

It will be the same group of negotiators that had made significant progress in a series of three high-level meetings that began Aug. 31, only to have the talks break down last Tuesday when the full bargaining committees could not move the dialogue past the players' resistance to a hard salary cap and the owners' insistence on one. Commissioner David Stern, deputy commisssioner Adam Silver, Spurs owner Peter Holt and deputy general counsel Dan Rube -- the league's top authority on contracts, the cap and system issues -- will represent the league while union executive director Billy Hunter, president Derek Fisher, general counsel Ron Klempner and economist Kevin Murphy will represent the players.

While the small groups seemed to have been on the verge of a compromise after the three meetings leading up to last week's setback, intransigence on both sides scuttled the progress. Hunter's refusal to move ahead with an economic concession unless the owners agreed to the pre-condition that the soft-cap system remain intact caused league negotiators to retrench and reject the ultimatum. From the owners' standpoint, the full bargaining committee that convened last Tuesday in New York did not signal the same willingness to compromise as the small group led by Stern, Silver and Holt had previously expressed, according to a person directly linked to the talks.

The key issues Thursday are two-fold, and most certainly are intertwined. For the players, did union leadership emerge from a meeting last week in Las Vegas with enough clout to resist the owners' push for a hard cap while at the same time being willing to negotiate enough system changes to move the dialogue forward? Did league negotiators return from a Board of Governors meeting in Dallas with the authority to divulge to the union details of their revenue sharing plans while achieving enough unanimity among owners to move forward with the framework of a compromise?

To borrow a phrase from Hunter, it is "blood issue" time for both sides.
Posted on: September 20, 2011 10:26 am
Edited on: September 20, 2011 12:48 pm
 

More NBA talks with on-time start at stake

NEW YORK -- With time running short on efforts to preserve an on-time start to the NBA season, the league and players' association will have a staff-level meeting Wednesday with the hopes that it will set the stage for the next round of bargaining, multiple sources told CBSSports.com.

The meeting Wednesday in Manhattan will not feature the heavy hitters for either side -- no Billy Hunter or Derek Fisher for the union, and no David Stern for the league, sources said. Some key figures involved in the talks requested this format, which will consist mostly of lawyers and staff for both sides.

UPDATE: It is unclear what items will be on the agenda, but the staff meeting is expected to set the stage for a possible meeting of top negotiators on Thursday, one of the sources familiar with the plans said. The two sides have been discussing the possibility of another high-level bargaining session this week after talks featuring the full committees broke down last week. Although the Thursday meeting is not yet confirmed, it is expected to include the same rosters as three small sessions that preceded last week's talks -- Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, Spurs owner Peter Holt and deputy general counsel Dan Rube for the league with Hunter, Fisher, economist Kevin Murphy and lead attorneys representing the union.

After the full session last Tuesday left the two sides stalled on system issues and the owners' desire for (and players' resistance to) a hard cap, the players met Thursday in Las Vegas to reassure membership and urge players to stick together. The owners' full Board of Governors met the same day in Dallas, where the planning committee chaired by Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck was expected to update the board on enhanced revenue sharing plans.

The fact that the two sides are willing to reconvene so soon after large-group talks stalled is neither a positive nor a negative sign until we learn what each side is bringing to the table. Sources familiar with the negotiations said the players want details about the owners' revenue sharing plans and a firm commitment from owners on how and when they plan to implement them. The two sides also remain entrenched in their respective positions on a hard salary cap, although Stern said last week that everything was negotiable and sources familiar with the league's stance say the owners have always been open to negotiating the changes to the system they are seeking.

After the large group session last week -- in which each side spent more time in separate rooms than actually bargaining face-to-face -- the dynamics are shifting back to the smaller sessions that prevailed in three meetings over the two weeks prior. With hopes of starting the season on time expected to dim significantly after this week, now would be the time for movement from both sides.



 
 
 
 
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