Tag:David Stern
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 8, 2011 8:08 pm
Edited on: June 8, 2011 10:13 pm
 

Players: 'No change at all' in owners' demands

DALLAS – Doom and gloom descended on the NBA’s labor negotiations Wednesday, with union officials revealing that the owners’ original insistence on a hard-cap system with shorter and non-guaranteed contracts has not changed during the 18 months since the bombshell proposal was made.

“There’s no hiding the fact that the main components of what we originally received in their proposal has not changed at all,” said Lakers guard Derek Fisher, the president of the National Basketball Players Association.

That proposal, submitted to the players in January 2010, called for nearly a 40 percent salary rollback derived from a hard-cap system that would eliminate guaranteed contracts, shorten contract length and cut annual raises by as much as two thirds. Despite counterproposals by each side since then and three bargaining sessions during the Finals – including nine hours in the past two days – there has been “little or no movement on the part of the owners,” said Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBPA.

Asked if the owners or their negotiators have directly informed players that they will be locked out July 1 if they do not accept these changes, Fisher said, “Yes they have. That’s the best way I can put it. It’s very clear that if we don’t agree to what we’ve been offered so far, we’re probably facing a lockout.”

The gloomy comments from union officials came a day after NBA commissioner David Stern stated that he was “optimistic” a deal could be achieved before the current agreement expires June 30. But given the negotiating details revealed by the players, it would appear clear that this optimism relates to Stern’s belief that the players will cave – not that a compromise will be reached.

So apparently, Stern misspoke when he said Tuesday the owners and players were continuing to negotiate in hopes of achieving a "breakthrough" in the talks. What he really meant was a breakdown in the players' insistence on keeping the system largely the way it is.

"Our owners are thoroughly united in the need for change and also completely behind our various proposals as we seek to compromise with the players," Stern said Wednesday.

But compromise on what? The date and time of the players' surrender?

Given that the players have filed an unfair labor practices charge against the owners, accusing them of not negotiating in good faith, NBPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler openly questioned whether the owners simply repeating their demands amounts to negotiation.

“We just are discouraged because there’s been so little movement from their side, which makes us wonder what their real intentions are,” Kessler said.

Stern tempered his optimism Wednesday, saying the two sides remain “very far apart. … Both sides have moved, but we’re not anywhere close to a deal.”

At the conclusion of Wednesday’s bargaining session, Hunter said one owner stated that he was pessimistic that a deal would be reached by the end of the month – a possibility that would result in a lockout, and presumably an anti-trust lawsuit from the players seeking to adopt the strategy implemented by NFL players, which is pending on appeal with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“I’m forced to share that sentiment,” Hunter said. “It’s going to be a difficult struggle.”

A formal counterproposal made by the players last week in Miami was countered by the owners this week – though each side agreed to put these verbal proposals in writing before meeting twice more next week. The first meeting will be Tuesday, in Miami if the NBA Finals requires seven games, or in New York if it doesn’t. Another session is scheduled for Friday in New York.

“As long as there’s negotiation, I’m optimistic,” Stern said. “If we were at a point where it didn’t pay to have negotiations, we wouldn’t be planning meetings for Tuesday and Friday of next week. Neither side is posturing.”

Knicks guard Roger Mason, a member of the players’ executive committee, emerged from Wednesday’s four-hour session and said, “This is going to be a scenario where the players are going to have to sacrifice. I think at the end of the day, owners are probably going to have to sacrifice as well.”

It hasn’t happened yet, and the clock is ticking toward labor Armageddon for a sport that is enjoying a new zenith of popularity and international interest. Shortly after union officials finished addressing the media at the Hilton Anatole hotel in Dallas, the NBA distributed a news release with the latest astronomical TV ratings for the NBA Finals – which through four games are averaging 15.5 million viewers, the most-watched Finals since 2004.

“The owners say that they don’t want their own game if the players won’t agree to radically change the system,” said Kessler, who also is litigating the NFL labor dispute, which is bogged down in the federal courts. “It’s an odd position when the game is the best it’s ever been, when the ratings are the highest they’ve ever been, when the excitement is the greatest it’s ever been. It’s sort of odd to see the owners say, ‘We’re going to destroy this game unless you change this whole system.’”

Since their initial proposal, the owners have proposed phasing in their draconian changes, a concession that was not viewed as such by the players, since a hard-cap system would by definition require grandfathering in existing contracts that do not fit under the $45 million hard cap proposed by the owners. Stern's negotiators have proposed a two-year phase-in of their new system on a 10-year CBA. The players are not only adamantly opposed to a hard cap and 10-year deal, but also reluctant to accept what sources described as an 8 percent giveback in Year 1, a 13 percent giveback in Year 2, and a 39 percent reduction in salaries thereafter under the phase-in compromise.

While sources say owners have yet to clearly explain their insistence on using a hard cap to bridge the approximately $750-$800 million gap between the two sides, the players have proposed what appear to be little more than incremental changes that would leave most of the existing soft-cap/luxury tax system in place. The players' most recent proposal to accept a reduction in their 57 percent share of basketball-related income as revenues rise was described this week by Stern as "tiny" and insufficient to get a deal done.

 
Posted on: June 7, 2011 8:01 pm
Edited on: June 8, 2011 2:35 am
 

Stern: No agreement, but seeking 'breakthrough'

DALLAS – With both sides determined to reach what commissioner David Stern described as a “breakthrough” in labor talks, NBA owners and players negotiated for more than five hours Tuesday in the second of three scheduled sessions during the Finals.

Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver both said they were optimistic that the negotiations have continued, with a second full-day session featuring nearly the full negotiating committees on both sides scheduled for Wednesday. National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter did not address reporters after the meeting at the Dallas Hilton Anatole, and players leaving the session said they would speak Wednesday.

“We haven’t reached agreement on anything and we have a deal that there will never be an agreement to be spoken about until we have an agreement on everything,” Stern said.

UPDATE: Why is there so much to talk about? Sources told CBSSports.com that the players made a formal counterproposal last week in Miami -- the first such proposal since the owners made their second proposal in April. Sources were reluctant to discuss details of the players' plan, since much of the time in bargaining sessions during the Finals has been spent explaining the details and responding to the owners' questions about it. But one detail, CBSSports.com has learned, is a sliding-scale model for the players' share of basketball-related income (BRI), where the players would take a reduced share of the pie if revenues went up.

In view of the NFL labor talks getting bogged down in the courts and mediation, Stern said there was “expressed determination on both sides to reach a compromise and accommodation with each other.” The language suggested a further softening of the public rhetoric, though Stern described the tone of the negotiations as “in the language of diplomacy, open and frank.”

“I just take it as a real positive that we’re continuing to meet,” Stern said. “When you have parties like this, it’s just as easy if you don’t think that there’s a possibility of a breakthrough to say, ‘All right, let’s pack it in and let’s go home.’ But nobody on either side wanted to go home.”

Echoing Hunter’s comment from last week’s bargaining session in Miami, Silver said a third day of meetings in Dallas could be scheduled for Thursday depending on how Wednesday’s session goes.

Attorney Jeffrey Kessler, who represents players in both the NFL and NBA bargaining talks, opted to attend Tuesday's NBA session in Dallas rather than an unmediated NFL meeting at an undisclosed location. 

Stern said the meeting consisted of a “wide-ranging discussion” of the biggest issues separating the two sides: the system under which the league operates, with owners wanting a hard or harder cap with reductions in salaries and guarantees, and the split of revenues between owners and players. Players currently receive 57 percent of basketball-related income (BRI) after certain expenses are deducted. Owners want more expenses deducted and have thus far scoffed at the players’ offer to negotiate a reduction in their share of revenues.

“There were a lot of questions asked today,” Silver said. “There were questions – owners to players trying to understand what their concerns are and help us prioritize what their issues are, and players to owners as well. The owners and players did a lot of talking today.”

Approximately eight players attended the bargaining session, including union president Derek Fisher of the Lakers, who had a prior commitment and could not attend last week’s session in Miami. In attendance for the owners’ labor relations committee were were chairman Peter Holt (Spurs), Mickey Arison (Heat), Mark Cuban (Mavericks), Glen Taylor (Timberwolves), Jeanie Buss (Lakers), James Dolan (Knicks), Robert Sarver (Suns), Clay Bennett (Thunder), Bob Vander Weide (Magic), and Larry Miller (Trail Blazers).

Tempering the optimism and momentum that has been built with 23 days before the current collective bargaining agreement expires was Stern’s dismissal of an idea first floated by the players two weeks ago at a small bargaining session in New York: the revised BRI split based on an increase in revenues. Stern called the proposal “a tiny part” of the negotiation.

“There needs to be a very significant restructuring in order for the owners to have a sustainable investment here, hopefully approaching $5 billion of revenue,” Stern said. “So incremental stuff isn’t going to do the deal.”
Posted on: June 1, 2011 8:18 pm
Edited on: June 1, 2011 8:43 pm
 

Hunter: 'Hopeful' new CBA deal can be reached

MIAMI – Billy Hunter emerged from a four-hour bargaining session among NBA players and owners Wednesday and proclaimed that he was “hopeful” that a deal could be reached to avert a lockout before the collective bargaining agreement expires on June 30.

This from the same executive director of the National Basketball Players Association who only weeks ago stated that, if given the choice between the owners’ revised proposal and a lockout, “We’d welcome a lockout.”

So why the reason for hope? Two subtle, but potentially important things. First, the bargaining session added to the schedule Wednesday during the Finals was in addition to two meetings previously scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday in Dallas. After a smaller session in New York last week in which the players proposed some new “concepts” for bridging the enormous gap between the two sides, the dialogue was deemed positive enough to accelerate the talks. Hunter even hinted Wednesday that another session could be added next week if the progress continues.

“If necessary, we’ll stay a third day (in Dallas),” Hunter said. “And we’re going to put in as much time as we have just to see if we can make any progress.”

Second, the substance of what the players proposed – though closely guarded by the two sides – may have opened the door for a breakthrough in the talks. Only vague details of the players’ new proposed ideas have been revealed, but sources say their approach was designed as a two-pronged solution: 1) an alternative to a hard-cap system that would give the owners another path to reach their goals while maintaining some elements of the current soft-cap system; and 2) a revised split of basketball-related income that would do the same.

The players currently receive 57 percent of BRI after certain expenses are deducted. The owners want more expenses deducted, while the players have signaled they are willing to negotiate a reduced guarantee of their portion of revenues.

Is this progress? Both sides agree the time is now – before the CBA expires in less than 30 days – to find out. Next week’s bargaining sessions in Dallas could very well provide the tipping point in negotiations that will either result in the NBA continuing its rapid and upward ascent of doing what commissioner David Stern described as “falling into the abyss.”

“The question is, what kind of compromise is each side prepared to make,” Stern said. “It may not be enough on either side, but we’re going to give it a shot.”

Said Hunter: “We know that the pressure’s building and if anything’s going to happen, it’s going to happen between now and (June) 30. We’re going to make every effort to see if we can reach a deal. If we don’t, we don’t. But it’s not going to be for a lack of trying.”

Stern said the players’ revised concept “gave us some ideas,” but did not result in any discussion about whether owners were willing to move off their insistence on a $45 million hard cap. There remains a “very substantial gap” between the two negotiation positions, Stern said.

“It’s still our hope that there may be a deal here to be done,” Stern said. “We’re going to test it to the limits. If we’re wrong, we’re wrong. But I think Billy feels the same way.”

Knicks guard Roger Mason, one of three vice president of the players’ executive committee in attendance, said revenue sharing among owners was a significant part of the discussion Wednesday.

“It’s encouraging to see the Dolans and the bigger-market teams receptive to that idea,” Mason said. “So without going into detail, that’s obviously the case and it’s a good sign. … Obviously we’re still apart on key issues, but we want to get a deal done as players. We don’t want to get locked out and I think the owners don’t want to lock us out as well. Those are two positives and we have a lot of work to do over the next month.”

Bucks guard Keyon Dooling called the bargaining session “constructive.” Union president Derek Fisher of the Lakers was on a previously scheduled family vacation and did not attend the bargaining session, which included most members of the owners' labor relations committee.

“Both sides will have to work together,” Dooling said. “It’s not going to be a situation where one side triumphs (over) the other one and just destroys everything. A lot of people worked hard on both sides – Mr. Stern to grow the game and the players being a product of the game. We need each other. They’re the platform, we’re the product. We’ve got to find that balance.”

And they have less than 30 days to do it.
Posted on: May 31, 2011 9:42 pm
Edited on: May 31, 2011 10:15 pm
 

Stern: Will be 'challenge' to avoid lockout

MIAMI – NBA owners and players will meet Wednesday for a “full-blown bargaining session” in the hopes of gaining momentum toward a new collective bargaining agreement before a lockout is imposed July 1, commissioner David Stern said Tuesday night.

In his annual pre-Finals media address, Stern said it will be a “challenge” for both sides to move off their current positions in time to avert a work stoppage, the threat of which already has begun damaging the business.

“The question is whether the owners and the players will be bold enough to do what has to be done here to keep this sport on the tack that it is on now, which is straight up,” Stern said.

Two bargaining sessions already had been scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday in Dallas during the Finals, but Wednesday’s session in Miami was added after the National Basketball Players Association introduced what Stern described after his media address as a new “concept” last week. Stern described the status of negotiations as a “give and take,” and said the players haven’t submitted a formal counterproposal to the owners’ revised proposal, which was handed over in April.

"We told the players and the owners to bring their negotiating talents to South Beach," Stern said.

Stern said the players’ new proposed concept addressed one of the key issues the owners are trying to resolve in their efforts to vastly change the financial landscape of the sport in favor of the owners. Asked after his media address if the players’ new concept moved the negotiating needle, Stern said, “We have a deal that nothing moves the needle until the moved the needle is moved. We have no agreement on anything until there’s agreement on everything.”

During a Q&A with assembled media before Game 1 between the Heat and Mavericks, Stern declined to offer a percentage chance of a lengthy lockout. He also was asked to compare his feelings on that topic to how he felt during All-Star weekend in February.

“I can’t answer that,” Stern said. “I don’t even want to make guesses, because I know that both sides will make their best offers before the lockout – because if they don’t, then there’s going to be a lockout that would be destructive to our business from the owners’ perspective and the players’ perspective.”

Progress made last week in a small negotiation session in New York was “encouraging enough that we think tomorrow is time well spent and we think the two days next week will be well spent," Stern said.

Asked after his media address why he’s so confident a worse deal would be struck after July 1, Stern said, “Because the damage gets to be intense from our perspective. We know the deal can get worse.”

Asked for whom it would become worse, Stern said, “For the players. And to us, the deal will get worse for the owners. So we’ve got to decide to focus fully on how bad it will be after July 1. So June 30 is a really important date.”

Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver were asked several times about whether a new CBA would require a team like Miami – with three stars on the books for $46 million next season – to be broken up. The owners have proposed a $45 million hard cap to replace the current soft-cap/luxury tax system. Their revised proposal offered to phase in those changes over a two-year period, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told CBSSports.com. But the union viewed that offer as not much of an offer, since such drastic changes would have to be phased in by definition without across-the-board salary cuts, which the players will never accept.

Pressed on the issue of what happens to the Heat in a new CBA, Stern said after his address, “That hasn’t really been addressed. But I would expect (the team) to be together. I hope so.”

But at one point, Silver made a comment that is expected to rankle the Heat stars and other top-tier players in an attempt to explain the economics of why owners believe the current system is broken.

“Costs have risen much faster than revenues over the course of this deal,” Silver said. “… At the same time, non-player costs are growing at a much higher percentage, and the built-in increases of our contracts are much higher than inflation and the growth of our business. For example, the three key players on the Heat all have 10.5 percent per year increases built into their deals for next year, at a point when revenues in our business are growing somewhere around 3 percent. It’s a broken system.”

When LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh get wind of that comment, they could become as emboldened about fighting the owners as they were at All-Star weekend in Dallas in 2010. At that time, 10 All-Stars – including James and Wade – attended a bargaining session and were incensed that an NBA team executive had made derisive comments about them in telling CBSSports.com that owners had the upper hand in the negotiations.

“If they don’t like the new max contracts, LeBron can play football, where he will make less than the new max,” the team executive said at the time.“Wade can be a fashion model or whatever. They won’t make squat and no one will remember who they are in a few years.”

In decrying the collectively bargained contracts Miami’s Big Three signed, Silver was taking aim at the team – and the three players – who were most responsible for the NBA’s astronomical increases in TV ratings and worldwide fan interest that is culminating with the Finals that tipped off Tuesday night.

The countdown to a real and important deadline to keep that momentum going is very much under way.
Posted on: May 31, 2011 7:43 pm
Edited on: May 31, 2011 9:48 pm
 

Source: No tampering complaint from Cavs yet


MIAMI -- In addressing the media 45 minutes before tipoff of LeBron James' first NBA Finals game with the Heat Tuesday night, commissioner David Stern is prepared for an abundance of labor questions and also, an inquiry that has particular relevance to this series: What happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers' plans to investigate possible tampering charges related to James' decision to sign with Miami?

There isn't much to address yet, according to a person with detailed knowledge of league operations who told CBSSports.com that no formal complaint has been filed.

"The answer is no," the person said.

In his annual pre-Finals media address Tuesday night, Stern said he has not received any correspondence from the Cavs or their legal representatives. Asked after his Q&A with reporters before Game 1 if he considers the matter closed, Stern said, "It was never open."

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert declined to comment Tuesday night on his team's ongoing legal probe.

In December, Yahoo! Sports reported that Gilbert had hired a law firm to build a possible tampering case against Miami, which signed James and Chris Bosh as free agents to pair with Dwyane Wade last July. The fruits of LeBron's decision are on full display, with the Heat advancing to the Finals against the Mavericks after running through the Eastern Conference playoffs by beating the 76ers, Celtics and Bulls.

At the time, Gilbert was incensed by meetings that involved high-level representatives of James and Wade in Chicago last June, when they were still under contract with their teams. Also, published reports indicated that James was involved in a meeting with Heat president Pat Riley and Hall of Famer Michael Jordan last November during a Cavs trip to Miami. That report came from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which also reported in July that Wade and Bosh flew to Akron to meet with James at his home a month earlier -- before the beginning of free agency July 1.

Stern has previously defended players' rights to discuss future plans among themselves, but stated during a playoff appearance in Philadelphia last month, "If there was tampering that someone could prove, that would make my blood boil.”  
 
The NBA does not investigate possible instances of tampering without a formal complaint from a team.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com