Tag:CBA lockout
Posted on: September 15, 2011 11:17 am

Turns out this isn't entirely about the money

By Matt Moore

Back in July when the lockout began, there were a number of standard phrases being tossed around. Chief among them is "this is all about the money." The idea was that the players and owners weren't really unmovable, it was just a matter of dollars and cents. Basically, if the BRI could be figured out, compromised on, all the rest of this would just work itself out. 

Not so much.

I was on a radio call shortly after the lockout began and expressed my concerns for everything I'd heard and read. Because what I'd gathered was that the dispute went far beyond both sides scrapping over dollars. It had turned ideological. The NBA and its owners wanted to reverse decades of precedence in guaranteed contracts, implement a hard cap, eliminate exceptions, limit player flexibility and control, and they wanted the increase in their cut of the BRI to a 50/50 split. Most people thought that was ridiculous. There was no way the owners expected all that. The thought was that while there may be games missed, if there are, it will be because the players refuse to give up enough in BRI. 

Again, not so much.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported earlier this week:
Neither side would say how far the players moved economically, but a person with knowledge of the negotiations said they expressed a willingness to move lower than the 54.3 percent of basketball-related income they last proposed on June 30 as a starting point in a six-year deal. Stern disputed the players' contention that the owners haven't made an economic move since the day before the lockout was imposed. Nobody outside the room knows how many millions the two sides shaved off the gap, but it hardly matters since everyone seemed willing to concede that they've at least dipped their toes on common ground when it comes to dollars.
via Despite posturing, owners and players near resolving money issue - NBA - CBSSports.com Basketball.

That's extended by these comments from Jared Dudley to the Salt Lake City Tribune Wednesday:
How much was the NBPA willing to concede in basketball-related income during a collective bargaining agreement meeting Tuesday in New York: I think they offered 53, 54 [percent]. We're at 57. They're looking more in the 40s. That's a huge jump — that's over 10 percent. That's where $800 million becomes a big gap. I think we have offered $300 million and they wanted more than that.
via Suns' Jared Dudley says ball's in Billy Hunter's court as NBPA returns to square one during NBA lockout | Utah Jazz Notes | The Salt Lake Tribune.

More from Dudley:
I think [the NBPA] even went down, to be honest with you, to 53 [percent]. I talked to Roger Mason -- 53 percent. And you know what, let's say they went down to 52, 51. If that gets the season done, I guarantee you we would have the season if that's what it takes. But it's not just that, it's a lot. And right now, the owners want a lot and they're willing to sit out. Some are losing money, some are making money.

53 percent down from 57, and that's a starting point. Where the owners to respond with 51 or 52 percent, they could likely get somewhere within baby's breath of the 50/50 split. Probably not right at it, but no one gets everything that they want, right?

Not so much. The owners, understanding their considerable leverage, do want everything they want and expect to get it. Except that goes far beyond the 50/50 cut. This hasn't been offered, but the new standing feeling from multiple media sources is that the players could offer up the 50/50 and the owners would likely still be pursuing the hard cap.  If anything, the owners seem more entrenched the more the players seem to surrrender. It's only getting worse. 

If the concern is over the yearly losses the owners are taking in, and the players are offering to give back up to 4 percent of their take right now before negotiations even get serious, what is it that the owners do want? What's the target of all this hard-line insistence? What's the end point?

In short, it boils down to toddlers baby-proofing the house. The league's owners are looking to be able to remove themselves from the burden of bad contracts which they themselves provide. A bad contract sinks a franchise like nothing else. It's an albatross, an anchor, and a curse at the same time. It stands as a mark of their own impudence. There are exceptions of bad luck, where no one could have foreseen the injuries that would come. But for each of those there is a player who the franchise could not bear to see go, and paid despite reservations. The Blazers knew about Brandon Roy's knee condition when they offered him his extension. The Hawks were aware that Joe Johnson would be in his early-to-mid-30's when his final year of his contract is paying him over $20 million. It goes on and on, and even the smaller deals are ones they want to be able to remove themselves from.  Much of this is dictated by the market, and almost all of it is dictated not by the players, but by their agents. Consider what Rashard Lewis, one of the players under a contract that is considered dead weight, told ESPN earlier this week, and a point made by ESPN's J.A. Adande:
Just keep in mind how we got to this point: After the players agreed to a salary cap, a rookie wage scale, a maximum player salary and a luxury tax designed to slow the escalating contracts, can they really be expected to just say no to whatever money the owners kept offering?

Or, as Lewis puts it, "You sign me to a deal, you think I'm going to say, 'No, I deserve $50 [million] instead of $80 [million]?' I'm like, 'Hell, yeah.' I'm not going to turn it down. You can't blame the players. If anything, we don't negotiate the deal. We've got agents that negotiate the deals with the team. Y'all need to go talk to the teams and the agents."
via Rashard Lewis is what this lockout is all about - ESPN.

But the owners simply want to cut the agents' power off at the knees. Instead of bargaining better, they want to remove that hold. Now, in many ways, this is actually a very reasonable request. Even the players will tell you that. Dudley, once more (you really should read the entire interview with the Tribune, it's quite extensive, particularly regarding decertification):
I understand that the common thing is they don't want players that make a lot of money not playing. Look, if you were a business or you were a restaurant, you don't pay someone that you think's not [working]. We're not going to put it all on the owners. We're going to take some of the blame. But, hey, we're willing to work on it. We're just not willing to give up guaranteed contracts and $800 million.
 And yet that's what the owners are asking for. Both. Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe reported Thursday morning that the players have said that if the owners were to theoretically turn the conversation to how much BRI the players would want to accept a hard cap, the players would want 65 percent, an eight percentage points increase from their current number of 57. That's a lot of dough. That's what it would take to get a deal for the season to start. Unfortunately, the owners would never accept that because while the systemic changes they want are extremely important to their belief in what is necessary for the league to profitable and to increase competitiveness (despite any number of challenges to the idea that a hard cap would result in such competitive balance), they still do want the money. It's not that they want one more than the other, it's that they want their cake, to eat it, too, and to have the players bring them as many slices as they want until they are full. And if that means it takes until January, or an entire season to force the players to accept both conditions, that's what they're willing to do at this moment. 

There's been a lot of talk since Tuesday's "sky is falling" meeting reaction about how things are actually progressing. And there's a certain element of that. The players gave ground, and still didn't get what they want, a resolution. So now the standard for negotiations has shifted. The new status quo is working off the assumption the players will surrender that percentage of the BRI, and the owners are now working to see what else they can get. If the hard liners on the owners' side of the table maintain control, it will be until they squeeze every drop they can from the players that we get a season. If the moderates manage to reclaim the gavel, a reasonable shift with a harder while not "hard" cap and the salary rollbacks could be agreed upon in time to start the season or shortly thereafter. 

And that's where we return to the fundamental psychology involved here. If this is a business negotiation, there's progress to be made, a system to create, a season to save. If this remains ideological from the owners' side, the only reasonable prediction is for an equally extremist reaction from the players. Talks broke down because the owners have kept to that ideological divide. And the only way this whole God forsaken thing ends is if the two sides are talking. 

Meanwhile, the agents wait in the forest like wolves waiting for the right time to attack, and if that happens and decertification is the plan, everything is thrown into the air as this enters the courts. Things only get worse from there. There's definitely a chance talks could resume and the two sides could find enough common ground to spearhead things into a blossoming agreement that gets things started in time for the season without a single game lost. But in reality?

Not so much. 
Posted on: September 14, 2011 9:52 am
Edited on: September 15, 2011 1:23 pm

Are agents organizing a decertification coup?

By Matt Moore

An ESPN report early Wednesday morning indicates that some of the NBA's most powerful agents are aggressively pushing their clients toward the nuclear option of decertification in the face of a lack of progress in the CBA talks. 
Arn Tellem, Bill Duffy, Mark Bartelstein, Jeff Schwartz and Dan Fegan -- who collectively represent nearly one-third of the league's players -- spoke Monday about the process of decertifying the union, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

The agents' view is that the owners currently have most, if not all, of the leverage in these talks and that something needs to be done to turn the tide. They believe decertification will do the trick, creating uncertainty and wresting control away from the owners.

The union has been negotiating with the league for a year and a half and the owners haven't changed their stance, so the conversation the agents had was about how to work with the union to enhance its strategy," a person close to the situation said on condition of anonymity. "The feeling is that decertification is the weapon that has to be pulled out of the arsenal, that it's the most effective way to change the dynamics of the negotiations."The agents have spoken with Billy Hunter, the executive director of the players association, about the need for decertification, but he has thus far resisted their plan. He said Tuesday that the players are not yet considering decertifying.
via Sources: NBA player agents angling to get players union to decertify - ESPN.

The more interesting element regarding those specific agents is their representation makes up the exact percentage necessary to force what's called an involuntary decertification, in which 30 percent of the union signs a petition saying it supports decertification. If that's the path they take, it's a contentious power move that could have serious implications for the union and the talks.

Union head Billy Hunter has been adamant about avoiding decertification. There are conflicting theories as to the reason why Hunter hasn't pursued the aggressive legal action. Hunter claims that the objective is to avoid a prolonged legal battle which will do nothing but embitter both sides to the cause. The longer a lockout is extended, it's believed the union loses more leverage. The alternative theory is that Hunter is concerned about the possible impact on his standing with the players, and the chance that when the decertification ends and the union reforms, Hunter would not be placed back at executive director. 

Multiple reports have placed players' representatives as frustrated with Hunter's approach, believing there isn't a cohesive strategy to "bust" the union.  The ESPN report also states that a signficant number of agents are against decertification, including Happy Walters and Rob Pelinka (who represents Kobe Bryant). The result could be an internal fracture within the players' union over whether to dissolve the union. This on the heels of a five-hour negotiation Tuesday in which the owners huddled amongst themselves for three hours, in what was believed to be a sign of internal strife in the owners contingent fully forms this as a four-sided issue. Players who want decertification (or at least players whose agents want to decertify) versus those who stand with Hunter versus owners who want a resolution to the lockout versus those who want to lose the season to get every single thing they want. 

David Stern said yesterday after the talks that the internal ownership conversation centered around revenue sharing

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that yesterday's talks actually represent a move towards ending the lockout with the players agreeing to a lowered BRI split to 54.3 percent.  So now the question becomes whether the "dove" owners will be able to wrestle control from the "hawk" owners to broker a deal before the agent insurgency in the union moves towards involuntary decertification, or Hunter is forced to move there himself to consolidate his power. 

The lockout is complicated enough, with the issues and conflicting facts. And every day it becomes even more so as both sides divide amongst themselves.
Posted on: September 13, 2011 12:10 pm

Lockout talks not headed for progress, but nicer

This NBA Lockout has been an ugly affair as we would have expected. Both sides have taken extreme views, both sides have lobbed oil balloons at each other in the press, both sides have resorted to at times juvenile approaches in an ongoing effort to claim as much yardage as possible. But last week signaled a change in that process as both sides decided to cool it on the rhetoric. That led to a swell of optimism for a possible move towards compromise and a potential end in the foreseeable future. But that optimism faces reality this week. The next three days will essentially decide whether or not there is professional basketball before January. The process:

1. Owners are expected to provide the latest in a series of proposals based off of last week's talks to the players Tuesday. Reports vary on whether this will be a formal proposal or an outline.

2. Players, most of whom are in Vegas for the Impact Basketball Competitive Training Series, meet Thursday for an NBPA meeting. The owners meet in Dallas for an owners meeting.

3. If the owners have made any move towards compromise, the players could respond with a similar move towards progress. If the owners throw the same proposal they've tossed out in various forms for month, outside of the flex cap proposal (which the players think is the same proposal with window dressing), the players will stomp and spit and curse and we're right back where we started. Nowhere.

If there's any good news to be gleamed, it's that things aren't as bad as they could be. Howard Beck of the New York Times reports that people in the know are saying things aren't nearly as bad as they were in the last lockout:
As one person monitoring the talks said, “They’re not just sticking to one side and saying, ‘We’re not moving.’ ”

That is a vast improvement from August and puts these talks light-years ahead of where they were during the 1998 lockout. While the circumstances may differ, the comparison is worth noting.
via N.B.A. Players and Owners Are Talking, but That’s All - NYTimes.com.

But Beck also notes that the tone is what is different, not the actual negotiations. If the owners proposal Tuesday doesn't show any legitimate signs of advancement or give the players a reason to similarly soften their stance, all this niceness has been is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. 

Both sides have raised the hopes of media and fans in the last week. All of that can get wiped out if things don't fall exactly right in the next 72 hours. 

Posted on: September 12, 2011 1:01 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 1:02 pm

Fisher denies text regarding possible season

By Matt Moore

On Sunday, reports surfaced that Derek Fisher had texted certain players to advise them to be in shape for a possible season, signaling optimism regarding a resolution to the lockout talks. It wasn't a monumentous development but it was something positive. 

So much for that.

On Monday, Fisher took to Twitter to deny the reports regarding his texts. The you from ten years ago has no idea what we're talking about here. From Fisher's Twitter account:
While the reports of my texts are false, I will say that I have & will continue to urge our players to stay ready for a season.
via Twitter / @derekfisher: While the reports of my te ....

Fisher followed up by Tweeting that the players "want to go back to work." Which is true but missing a caveat. A more accurate statement might have been "We want to go back to work (provided we don't have to surrender any more money than we feel we should have to)." Perhaps an even better one would be "We want to go back to work (for the exact same percentage of total BRI we had under the last deal before the global economic collapse," or "We are willing to go back to work if the deal works out for us." 

It's no surprise that Fisher denied the report. Standing by it gives the owners more leverage and each side is scraping for every inch they can control at this point. It's a denial and should be treated as such. If the report was false, Fisher would deny it and if the report were accurate, Fisher would deny it. For now, pay attention to how much Fisher in particular is trying to slow the roll on the upswing of optimism in the past week. Every public indication is that Fisher does not believe the two sides are any closer to a deal. The only real indication of that trend will come on Tuesday, should the owners elect to provide the players with a proposal. A decision not to provide a counter-proposal indicates no movement from the owners' original position, a steadfast maintenance of the hard line that lead to the lockout. Likewise, a proposal that moves at all towards compromise likely means a move towards the inevitable conclusion of this saga, in which the owners get a massive retrieval in terms of revenue and the players avoid getting completely routed. 

The fact that so much of this is occurring on Twitter is kind of amusing, if admittedly also a sign of the times.
Posted on: September 9, 2011 2:28 pm

EOB Roundtable: Lockout Blues

By EOB Staff

The EOB Roundtable seeks to discuss the relevant issues of the day and entertain you. It's like a fountain of knowledge... with the water turned off. 

Matt Moore: Does anyone else keep feeling worn down by the lockout, only to remember we haven't missed anything? Not a game, not a practice, not a training session, not a media day? We've missed Summer League and some informal workouts. That's it. And yet it feels like pro basketball is this gigantic gaping hole in the good starship sports. I'm struggling to reconcile the fact that it feels like we're in such a no man's land only because we've lost free agency and whatever bad trade someone would have come up with by now.

In the same vein, I'm not able to come to any sort of optimistic approach about the meetings this week. Every time we've had a chance for some progress, for some optimism, for some good news, it turns back again and both sides dig their trench deeper. Am I caught in an August malaise or do you guys think this thing's still going nowhere?

Ben Golliver: First things first, let's clear one thing up. Free agency is better than any media day, training session, practice and most games. On the pecking order, it trails Finals, Draft, Playoffs and the All-Star game, but it's definitely in the top-5 best times of the NBA calendar, particularly for those of us who spend most of our lives online. Free agency and the trade deadline are like taking a syringe to the chest Pulp Fiction style for die-hards. I would say missing out on that rush is a totally reasonable explanation for why you're feeling worn down. Sure, we'll get a cut down version of free agency squashed together at some point -- and it could be even more insane depending on how the logistics play out -- but the natural rhythm has definitely been disrupted.

But it's not just the lack of free agency; it's the cloud of uncertainty that hangs over so many rosters. That uncertainty that prevents meaningful pre-preseason-analysis, which is usually the other half of the fun of the NBA summer. The Denver Nuggets are the perfect example. Do you have any idea how many wins they'll have next year? Can you really offer a prediction the win total number with any accuracy (within 10?) without knowing the future of Nene, J.R. Smith and the rest of their free agents? The result is killed hope for up-and-coming teams, a malaise for contenders and increased anxiety for the teams whose rosters need a lot of work.

As for the meetings? i have a sliver of cautious optimism because the two sides finally seem committed to meeting regularly. My frustration since the All-Star break was tied, first and foremost, to a lack of regularly scheduled meetings. That's a slap in the face to fans, a giant waste of time and just generally inefficient. That bugged me. As long as they're meeting, my spirits are buoyed, at least to a degree. I'm definitely still skeptical that things will get resolved in a clean manner but I will take any measure of progress I can get at this point.

Royce Young: Lucky for us though Ben, this year's free agency wasn't anywhere near as fascinating as the 2010's palooza of big names. If free agency were like that every year, it'd probably No. 3 or 4 in your pecking order.

And like you said, it's the fact that we KNOW that we're missing something. That's my only guess as to why we've all had a major case of the sads this summer. Because Matt's right: We haven't really missed anything that should upset us any. But with each day that ticks off the calendar, we get a whole lot closer to actually missing good stuff. Which is terrifying.

I'm an optimist though with not just the upcoming negotiations, but pretty much in everything. I'm that guy when his team is down 0-3 in a series that still thinks there's a good chance. So I don't know how much you should value my optimism. But right now, there's one thing -- and it's the most important thing, mind you -- working in everyone's favor: time. There has to be a sense of urgency now because it's September and training camps are set to start in three weeks. Now we're finally up against the timetable where media days, training camps, preseason games or even actual games could be missed. Which means money could be lost. Which means it's time to get serious.

But as quickly as we're all getting excited at the seemingly increasing momentum, it can be squashed immediately Wednesday if both sides don't make any progress.

MM: Part of it is I don't know what compromise could be had. Anything that could kickstart legitimate progress is a huge concession. Take Sheridan's report, for example. The owners moving off of a ten-year deal, cutting that down to four, is a huge deal. That's a ton of money that they're leaving up to chance if they don't secure the deal they want, even if the six-year deal is heavily in their favor. Furthermore, something that's been overlooked in terms of the length of the deal? This is David Stern's last CBA rodeo, and while we focus on his side of it, consider it from the owners. A softer commissioner, whoever that might be, could revert the deal in 2017. Are they willing to risk it in a shorter deal?

For the players, are they willing to cave on stuff that's going to give them more freedom of movement in order to get more in the BRI discussion, when they're assured to lose billions? It's just hard to see anyone moving here.

What are your percentage odds for starting the season on time? January 1st? February 15th?

BG: I look at the CBA negotiations like anything else in life. There's value in a favorable deal for the owners but there's also value in flexibility if they succeed in creating a new financial structure for the league. It wouldn't surprise me at all to find out that the easiest way to reach an agreement is to make it a medium-length deal because unforeseen byproducts of rule changes and as-yet-undiscovered loopholes are the name of the game any time you re-write the CBA. Locking your franchises into that unknown for a decade, at a time of record revenue and popularity for the league, is an indirect risk the owners simply don't need to take. Getting a great deal for five years and being able to negotiate again when it's up would be better than getting a good deal over 10 years if I was an owner, especially if the players were much more dug in against the longer deal.

I still definitely expect both sides to move from their current public positions. If neither planned to move they wouldn't be meeting. What will be interesting is to find out how much of the discussed movement leaks. Given the steps taken to keep negotiations quiet recently, I would imagine that there will be a growing disconnect between what's actually being discussed and what's being reported. 
  I would put the odds at a delayed start (before Jan.1) at 60 percent, starting on time at 20 percent and a delayed start after Jan. 1 or a cancelled season at 20 percent.

RY: Your point about the length of the deal might be one of the most underrated aspects of it. Nobody is talking about it, but you can be damn sure Stern has thought of it. And that the owners know it. The point on the players is true too.

Here's the thing though: At some point, someone has to move. It's not like the NBA is going to be locked out forever. It's not like the league is over. So whether the compromise happens next Wednesday, Thursday, January 1 or May of 2012, somebody's got to give in. So the question is -- and I think this is why there's some growing optimism -- why continue to posture and spit the rhetoric when we know that at some point, both sides are going to have to concede a little? At some point, both sides are going to have to take a step away from their ideal CBA and take one that covers the bullet points they feel like they need to check.

The million dollar question is just how hard each side is going to push for those checkmarks and if it's worth missing games and therefore, missing out on money to get it. Both sides will have to get to the brass tacks of it at some point because the NBA isn't going to sit in a state of limbo forever. So it's just a matter of finally getting past all the negotiating tactics and strong-arming and finally start seeing some legitimate offers. Which is supposedly what we're looking at now.

I'd say my odds of starting on time are at 40 percent. That's assuming next week's meeting(s) goes as everyone is projecting. Before January 1? That's a guarantee. I refuse to believe the league's going to miss out on that much money, momentum and everything else. Compromise will be had by then. That might be the eternal optimist in me talking, but I just don't buy all the talk of missing an entire season. 
Posted on: September 8, 2011 9:48 am
Edited on: September 8, 2011 9:51 am

Multiple signs of progress in NBA lockout talks

By Matt Moore

This thing has turned so quickly I'm getting motion sickness. In the past 24 hours we've gone from "Well, see you in 2013!" to a complete and total 180 degree turn as everyone rushes to be as optimistic as possible. It's one thing for there to be signs of progress from the meetings. It's another for everyone outside the core group to start lining up movement towards not only a resolution, but an end to the NBA Lockout on time

Let's begin with word from Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:
Among the small circle of figures speaking publicly on the talks, all have adopted the talking point first espoused by commissioner David Stern back in June -- that nothing has been agreed on until everything has been agreed on. To the optimistic mind, this would suggest that some things have been agreed on and nobody's saying so. When queried on whether the Aug. 31 meeting and this week's sudden flurry of talks indicate momentum, NBPA president Derek Fisher admitted, "I guess that would be a fair assumption. But like I said, until we get this deal done, it's tough to try to characterize it or put a read on what means what in terms of on a daily basis."

Until we get this deal done? That shift away from emphasizing the distance between the parties and the efforts to "get this deal done" would seem to indicate that there is a deal to get done. Fisher, whose speech patterns are at once precise and difficult to interpret, also spoke of getting the deal done as though it were a matter of when, not if..
via Hush-hush labor meeting means there might be progress - NBA - CBSSports.com Basketball.

There's loads of good news in there, including talk of not talking, which is the best kind of talk. I understand that makes no sense, so let me break it down. Both sides are much more likely to torch the other if things are going badly. There's no fragile progress to harm. On the flip side, this move to not talk about how the meetings are going indicates that there's something they either don't want to harm with criticism or don't want to jeopardize by weakening their respective positions just as things are starting to move forward. If the owners hadn't moved at all, or the players hadn't moved at all, you'd be seeing lots of negative comments from anyone you could find. As of yet, there's nothing but "We've agreed not to talk about it." In this instance, no news is good news. 

A good litmus test for how this is actually going will be the reaction of agents. In the past few days there have been multiple stories alleging a critical stance of Billy Hunter on the part of agents, which means that agents are freely talking to media about how angry they are Hunter didn't come out firing with decertification and a full-blown legal assault. The players' representatives have been volatile throughout this process, either out of a concern for their clients' well-being and looking to be aggressive or out of a sense of self-preservation, wanting to fight and scrap and claw for every penny, particularly every future penny as opposed to next year's rake. If you begin to read tales of agents talking about how none of this matters, Hunter's still going to have vipers in the den. If all's quiet or if agents start to leak talk ofa season starting, that means the players may have nailed down a concession or two. 

But even in the fresh morning dew of Wednesday's talk of progress, we're getting indications that things are headed in a positive direction. Consider the words of Amar'e Stoudemire in the New York Post:
Stoudemire said the lockout will end "sooner than later." He has arranged a mid-October informal training camp for his mates in Bradenton, Fla., but now isnt sure theyll need it. Training camps are scheduled for Oct. 2."I'm hearing good things about the lockout, that wed be starting sooner than later," Stoudemire said.

"So that [Florida camp] would be offset. Im not sure the change [in negotiating stance], but I do feel better about the fact we may start sooner than later. Thats a positive for us."
via Knicks Stoudemire says NBA lockout will end sooner than later - NYPOST.com. 

Well, then. Way to keep things close to the vest, there, STAT. Stoudemire being a star who's plugged into the talks (as he stays in close contact with Roger Mason, players' union executive and alleged accidental tweeter) talking positively could indicate substantial progress, since he's a player who stands to lose quite a bit in a rollback of the contract he earned last summer. Then again, it's unlikely he'd be notified of anything concrete about proposals being exchanged, if indeed they are. 

Then there's Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sentinel, who was asked in a mailbag if he thought an agreement would come this week. While he, along with everyone else, thinks that's going too far, his answer was certainly interesting.
That might be a bit premature. Everything in this process has come down to urgency and deadline. But I do sense that teams, behind the scenes, are putting more energy into organizing camps for a timely start.
via ASK IRA: Could the lockout be drawing to a close? – Miami Heat – Sun-Sentinel. 

Teams starting to show any sort of indication that camp could start on time is signficant for several reasons. It would mean that someone is telling them to start making plans in the event the dispute is resolved in time for the season to start. It would mean that they have cause to put effort into such an idea. And it would mean there's more than just talk involved in the progress, that there's actionable progress being made. 

All of these things are good things for the league, for the players, for the fans.

To quote "Death Becomes Her," "And now, a warning."

 These meetings take on the shape of the last meeting. There are meetings scheduled Thursday and potentially Friday for the tiny group that's made all this progress. If both sides are operating under an assumption regarding something from the other side that comes to light as inaccurate during talks this week, everything hits the breaks and you'll hear the same negativity we've been hearing. All it takes is one snag and we're going to be reading a line in an NBA-less November story about how "talks in early September broke down because..." There's a fragile peace that's allowing this to go forward. If the NLRB levies a pro-players decision, if the insurgent ownership pushing to lose the season to win everything they want regain control of the reins, if someone sneezes in an offensive way, everything goes back. More pressingly, if the agents make another surge towards toppling Hunter, players could follow along and then you've got chaos, which would prevent a deal. I just don't want anyone getting their hopes up. There's no indication of how far apart the two sides are, or if they've even touched the BRI divide. This could be nothing more than media shenanigans. We can only wait and see.

But a depressing trend that has lasted since January and began in earnest last July has suddenly shifted course. We're facing a horizon with the sun for the first time. Now we just have to see if both sides can shock the world and wind up with not even a preseason game lost.

Free agency. Training camp. Preseason. Games. It's within sight. Now we wait to see how much the principles want to get this done and save professional basketball.
Posted on: September 6, 2011 9:44 am

Is there hope for a lockout compromise?

By Matt Moore

Chris Sheridan has written for ESPN the past six years and has since left the WWL and started his own site. In his first post, he comes out guns blazing with a pretty unpopular opinion: the labor dispute is not as rancorous as it has been made out to be, the two sides are within a horizon's distance of a deal, and no games will be missed this season. 

That's right. No games. So Chris isn't exactly spouting off the same stuff you hear, which can be considered a good and a bad thing. Sheridan lays out his reasons for believing in a thing called the 2011-2012 season in considerable detail, including all the pertinent financial elements. But nothing is more key than this: the length of the deal. From SheridanHoops.com:
The gap in what each side is seeking financially in Years 4, 5 and 6 is more significant, and what the owners are asking for in Years 7, 8, 9 and 10 is not completely germane to the equation right now because the players have not indicated they would be willing to do a deal for longer than six years, and history shows the sides traditionally have negotiated six-year labor agreements.

Owners and players are scheduled to reconvene Wednesday or Thursday to set in motion a series of meetings that will determine whether the lockout is settled in time to save a full 82-game season. If the owners come to the table with an offer that promises more money than the flatlined $2 billion in Years 1-7 that they have been proposing, they’ll be getting somewhere. So that’s the first thing to watch for.
via SheridanHoops | The Website of former ESPN and AP basketball writer Chris Sheridan.

Now, this kind of glosses over a significant element, which is that much of what the owners are asking for goes against what has been SOP for labor disputes. They want a revision to a hard cap from a soft cap. They want a significant realignment of revenue splits in a drastic departure from a pre-existing agreement. They want the elimination of exceptions. All of these things have happened in other sports labor negotiations, but to say that they're common place is wrong. So while it's true that ten-year agreements seldom happen and six-year terms are much more common, that doesn't alter the fact that the owners are looking for wholesale changes to the existing structure, and a ten-year term is just as likely as anything else to be part of their unwielding position. 

But if the owners were to give up on years 7-10, there's wiggle room. There's room for the owners to get massive concessions financially, which has been their short-term and long-term goal, while also setting a new precedent for the next round of CBA talks in 2017. There's enough of a foothold for the players to stay on the mountain financially while surrendering a reasonable compromise in terms of compensation, and it gives them six years to re-establish a position of strength in order to try and regain ground. Live to fight another CBA, if you will. 

Still, even with the advance knowledge that most of what both sides have said is nothing but empty rhetoric, and even with both sides meeting this week for the second time in as many weeks, it's hard to see all the doomsday talk as nothing but bluster. There are hard-liners on both sides, and eventually, even if the intimate circles meeting now are able to find compromises, the BRI Hawks in the owners' contingent and the principled compensation defenders in the union will have to be brought in. And that's where we wind up the same place we've been for two months...


Posted on: July 27, 2011 6:54 pm

Report: Owners, players to meet next week

By Matt Moore

There have been "staff meetings" between representatives of the NBPA and the NBA owners in the past two weeks. Naturally, no substantive progress has been met, but hey, it's something. Now comes word that next week may mark an actualy, honest to God meeting between relevant personnel. From Sports Illustrated:
On Tuesday, Tom Ziller of SB Nation reported the NBA players’ union and league officials were planning the first official post-lockout collective bargaining talks for some time in the first two weeks of August. That meeting will take place next week, barring some unforeseen scheduling issue, according to two sources familiar with the matter. It could take place as early as Monday, depending on how the schedules of a few key figures shake out, according to one of the sources.
via The Point Forward » Posts NBA owners, players likely to meet next week «

This isn't a significant move. This isn't going to usher in some sort of sudden agreement. No breakthrough will be made. But it's a start. It's getting both parties in the same room, at the table, talking. And that's the only way we're going to get any sort of momentum, is with constant conversations that lead to a concession which leads to the other side offering their own concession and back and forth until a breakthrough is made. That's the only way we're going to get a deal before the start of the season, before Christmas, before we lose the entire year. 

Expect to hear the same doom and gloom out of this meeting as all the rest. The owners aren't going to move off the hard cap, or drastic salary reductions, the players aren't going to suddenly concede everything they've drawn a line against. But the fact remains, this is the only way to a solution and to an end to the lockout, by getting both sides in a room with some coffee and having conversations about what and why and how. 

It's nothing big. But it's a start.  
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com