Tag:2011 NBA lockout
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 7, 2011 10:19 am
Edited on: September 7, 2011 10:36 am

Report: Draft options being explored in CBA talks

By Matt Moore

There has been talk of a revised draft being discussed in the CBA negotiations for some time. Months ago, reports surfaced from multiple outlets about the union offering a solution for increased competitiveness through granting lottery teams multiple first-round picks. That idea sparked quite a bit of debate. Now Chris Sheridan, formerly of ESPN and hot on the heels of his report of how the two sides aren't that far apart, dropped this little bombshell Wednesday: the owners want a third round of the draft. From SheridanHoops.com:
SheridanHoops.com has learned that NBA owners have proposed adding a third round to the annual draft, a proposal that the players’ union has countered by offering an array of changes to the draft that would help address the owners’ desire for more competitive balance.
via Exclusive: NBA wants 3rd round in draft | SheridanHoops

Sheridan also lays out multiple options being offered from the union's side, including two variations on the multiple-first-round-pick scenario. One such scenario eliminates playoff teams from the first-round altogether (outside of the last team in), giving teams 1-15 picks 16-30. That's going to set off calls of alarm from everyone from people who think it's basketball socialism (gasp) to fans of teams who traditionally finish top five and don't want to lose a competitive edge for being good. 

But there's a lot of interesting elements at work with both proposals.

A third round is going to create a cacophony of "What's the point?!" debate. In short, the second round of the draft this year was an abject joke, with teams taking guys with red flags who clearly will not play a second in the NBA.  (At least that's the widely-held projection; remember, this is the NBA draft, the greatest crapshoot you can find outside of Vegas.) So if they're not getting value from the second round, why add a third? Here's an alternative question asked by Scott Schroeder of RidiculousUpside.com on Twitter:  Why not?

After all, if the contracts aren't guaranteed, then there's no harm, no foul adding a third round. It's only going to force teams to work harder, create a larger spectacle of the draft, and give teams more chances to get a good solid look at a player. The best thing about a third round is what it likely comes in conjunction with, a revamped NBA D-League.  The D-League's current structure is still in the exploratory phase. Teams are adding their own affiliates quickly, but it's taken years to get the league to a point where teams will commit, and even then, they're still wary. A renovation to the D-League's structure would create extra roster spots (on an assignment level) for the players drafted late 2nd-early 3rd. It means that those players who teams really like and would like to take a longer look at would get a chance to play under a team's system, versus having to go pursue a career overseas far from the eye of the team. Additionally, it removes some of the danger in reaches. If you draft a player based solely on his athletic ability in the 2nd, or his size, perhaps, and discover in camp that he's a nightmare in terms of conditioning or, well, ability, that third-rounder gives you another player you have rights to with which to hit a home run. Is it going to happen very often? Of course not. It's also worth the minimal level of investment necessary. The additional work and subsequent job creation for scouts and draft personnel in such a situation is a nice added benefit as well. 

It also means another hour of NBA draft coverage, which could just be really long for everyone involved.

Then there are the union's options, including two different variations of assigning multiple first-round picks to struggling teams as cited by Sheridan. The elimination of playoff teams from the first-round will surely cause panic among those who think bad teams should be punished into oblivion, but in reality, it's a win-win situation for everyone. Most often those draft picks wind up getting no playing time, as they're stuck on good teams who don't have roster spots, but want to keep the talent anyway. Players languish when they're not used, and don't even get practice time because of the NBA schedule. Being assigned to the D-League can be the best thing for them development wise, but that's such an undeveloped part of the league at this point, it comes with its own risks.

Conversely, granting teams in the lottery or the top eight, depending on the variation of the proposed rule change, gives teams wanting to recover from rebuilding a faster out. For starters, it covers the liability of a bad draft. Whiff on that 10th overall forward you really needed to make a difference for you? You've still got the 20th. It will be argued that teams that draft well won't have this problem. The issue with that is that you're just not going to find a team that has hit a home run with its draft every year for even the past five years, let alone ten. The draft is random, full of chaos and confusion, and locks wind up as busts and reaches turn out to be golden. Granting teams in the lottery that second chance is a good thing.

And for those who do draft well, it's an immediate reach up out of the gutter. Teams can become contenders in one year with two talented rookies, it gives them a base of the future and lowers the incentive to go out and get a veteran player to overpay just to fill a roster spot. Instead of panicking and throwing money at a low-efficiency, high-salary chucker, teams can simply get their pick of the fourth or fifth best wing in the draft. If they don't need a rookie, if they truly need that veteran? It gives them an extra trade chip. How many more deals would get done, how many more unhappy veterans would get moved if the trading teams knew they could get a first-rounder out of it? If you're drafting for need for a power forward but there's an All-Star wing available, you could trade your top first-rounder and still fill that power forward need with the second pick. Meanwhile, what are the contending teams missing? The ability to draft a bellboy to carry the bags? Someone to get the donuts, per Delonte? 

For the teams truly in need of those picks in the playoffs, picks 14-18, this is a bad thing. But that's the good thing. Rebuilding happens to everyone. Punishing teams trying to rebuild is ridiculous because it's a hard job inherently. But worse than rebuilding is purgatory, those 8th-seed, one-and-done, year after year appearances that inspire no fan excitement, don't generate much playoff revenue and don't really show the team anything. Depriving teams of that draft pick gives them two choices. Improve or fall off, which is what should happen. Teams should never be stuck in purgatory. It should be contention or rebuilding, and this idea provides that.

There's certainly going to be a lot of talk about the proposed ideas, but these are still on the periphery. What matters is the BRI split, because that determines the money, which is what everyone cares about. The rest of this is just window dressing. But it's interesting that the window dressing could determine the contour of the league for years to come, and provides the most interesting facets of the lockout debates.
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.  
Posted on: July 25, 2011 8:00 am
Edited on: July 25, 2011 3:08 pm

Warriors' Law plays the 'feed our families' card

By Matt Moore

It was going to happen eventually. Despite the NBPA's understanding of how it plays with the public, despite the advice from the NBPA to its members not to say it, someone, multiple "someones" actually, was inevitably going to drop it. A player will always wind up saying "we have to feed our families" in a lockout, as if they are barely getting by paycheck to paycheck. It doesn't look good on anyone. And it doesn't look good on Acie Law, a fringe player who spoke to ESPN over the weekend:
"I understand why a lot of guys are considering overseas," Law said. "I'm considering some options overseas. These are our livelihoods. This is how we feed our families, and guys want to play. If they're not going to negotiate a deal, life goes on. Bills still coming in, we still have to provide for our families, so hopefully they get something worked out."
via NBA players Jarrett Jack and Acie Law play in Dallas Fed X Pro-Am Basketball Classic - ESPN Dallas. 

Law's probably not the first to drop the line during the lockout, but he's as good a case as any to showcase why players should never say it. Law is as likely a candidate to have a right to say it as any NBA player. Law is a young player who hasn't gotten the big second contract, and was cut by the Grizzlies in December before signing with the Warriors for the rest of the year. 

But Law has made nearly $7.1 million dollars playing basketball over the past four seasons. It's certainly true that Law has financial obligations he arranged when he had a regular paycheck and that once those paychecks stop completely in the lockout this fall, he'll feel a significant pinch that may be severe depending on how he managed it leading up to the lockout. But the reality is this: he's part of a group of people whose every public statement is being considered in the light of the lockout, and that approach is never going to play with the general public. The owners have been the ones who have locked out the players, they're the ones who want more money, they're the ones asking for huge concessions. But still people reference the "greedy" players as if the players were the ones asking for a raise, as if this were a strike. Every PR mistake costs the union.

You're just not going to win any friends with the general working class by saying you're going to struggle to feed your family after making over $800,000 in a bad year. Not going to happen.
Posted on: July 22, 2011 8:59 am
Edited on: July 22, 2011 9:38 am

The players may have enough loopholes to survive

By Matt Moore

When this lockout started to be discussed in real terms, there were more than enough questions about whether the players could handle it. There continue to be those questions.

NBA players are known to live extravagantly. A large portion of the league fit the same profile: men who come from low-income situations suddenly thrust not only into a situation where they are paid millions of dollars (and a million is still quite a bit of money today), but operate in a luxury atmosphere. The stark plummet off that cliff could crush the union, as could players complaining about it and then getting bombarded by the media for sounding wholly disconnected from the general public (which they are).

How would the players react if those paychecks stopped?

That's the whole argument for why the owners will win. Eventually, the players will cave because they'll need the money. 

Except, what if they don't?

There have been enough reports now to indicate that the union is as well prepared for this thing to go the distance as it can be. You've no doubt tired of a new report each day on a different player discussing going abroad. If you haven't, let me clue you in. Here's the formula.

"(Player X) is 'very interested' in playing overseas and plans to pursue opportunities there, though nothing is formal yet. The player is widely reported to be looking at (insert team who likely literally cannot afford to pay him)."

You've read about those other opportunities, like the Manila exhibition being planned this week.  There are endorsement and media opportunities, every manner of one-off chance for the players to pad their wallets while the lockout tries to starve them.

But what about a simpler approach? What about good old fashioned money management? 

The NBPA has been active in preparing its players for this lockout, much more so than 1999. The union distributed a handbook (which I keep imagining looks like the one in "Beetlejuice") that has information on everything from handling the media with their message, to how to conduct themselves around the owners. Most importantly, it talks about saving money. 

Now, that's not exactly penetrating advice. When you were 21 or 22, and your mother kept harping on you to open a savings account, did you do that, or did you go to that bar or buy that video game? If you did listen, congratulations, you're a momma's boy/girl. If you didn't, you're a normal person. But in the NBA, there are enough veterans that were around 12 years ago, and the NBPA has been proactive enough that it's likely made a difference. Players have been stashing cash away for this oh-so-rainy day. They have reserves to rely on if the lockout isn't resolved, some all the way through the season. 

But what about going farther than that? What about simply managing your paychecks for last season to last through the current one? It turns out, from a report from USA Today, that's exactly what some players have done.
Players normally receive bi-weekly paychecks from Nov. 15 to May 1, although some opt for a November to November schedule. But Aminu will receive payments from last season until Nov. 1, 2012. Randolph will be paid through May 1, 2012.
via Some NBA players planned ahead for lengthy lockout - USATODAY.com.

The owners can't lock the players out of money owed before the last CBA expires. Players that set up their paychecks this way will still be receiving paychecks, albeit smaller ones, throughout the course of the year. In short, they're fine. More than fine.

So let's just review here.

The owners have installed a lockout based on their debated losses stemming from an economic model they agreed to and the poor decisions they elected to enact as well as a flawed revenue system. Their entire plan is to starve the players into submission, but not only did they leave the door open for a possible mass exodus to Europe and other potential revenue sources, but they actually agreed to pay some players throughout the terms of their lockout. 

How could this plan possibly go wrong?

So the question has to be asked. Is a two-year lockout what it's going to take for the owners to get their petulant little way? What's next in the never-ending stream of ways that the owners threw this situation together, and at what point is someone with a little reason going to grab the reins? Until people start to understand that the players aren't asking for more, just not that much less, and that they are more than prepared to go the distance here, it's hard to see that day in sight. 

This is a Cold War, and both sides are waving their flags strongly. The only question is whose wall will collapse first.
Posted on: July 21, 2011 12:24 pm
Edited on: July 21, 2011 12:36 pm

Vince Carter wants a 'couple more years' in NBA

By Matt Moore

Vince Carter is 34 years old. There's only so much time left in his NBA career. So to watch the end of it spent in a lockout has to be pretty frustrating. But Carter's definitely not through. Carter told the Daytona Beach News-Journal that he's got some time left in the NBA: 
"You may not know where, but you have to be ready to play. I still want to play a couple more years," said Carter, who shows no interest of playing overseas during the lockout, as others have talked about. "I'd rather just wait and see what happens."
via With future uncertain, Vince anxious for lockout to end - Columns.

 Carter's effectiveness has been slipping considerably over the past few years, though his decline has been exaggerated somewhat due to his unpopularity surrounding perceived minor injuries holding him out and his unceremonius exit from Toronto. He's going to receive a $4 million buyout from the Suns once the lockout ends. It's a good decision to stay at home instead of pursuing a job overseas, due to his injury situation. He needs to be in prime condition when the season resumes. 

Carter's going to want to look for a contender, most likely, but it's hard to see most contenders looking to add him. Even if Carter is willing to take a reserve role, Carter still comes with ego and a very specific skill set which doesn't fit well to a certain type of role player.  It'll be interesting to see who takes a shot on Carter in the twilight of his career.
Posted on: July 20, 2011 10:05 am
Edited on: July 20, 2011 10:23 am

Could compartmentalizing help end the lockout?

By Matt Moore

As the lockout rounds into its true form now that we're about to start missing dedicated training sessions with players and the rhetoric ramps up with every passing interview, the new reality has sunk in for most. Those hopeful of a 2011-2012 season that starts on time are losing hope as the sinking realization of just how dedicated the two sides are to gaining/protecting ground sets in.

With Ken Berger of CBSSports.com's recent report that a full labor meeting featuring the key figures on both sides is unlikely to happen until August, there's definitely cause for doom and gloom.

But wrapped in the information that neither Billy Hunter nor David Stern would be deigning to meet with the other side until August is this little known fact. These staff meetings, which were dismissed because of their lack of star power, have a substantive subject matter. They're focused on the smaller issues. From KB:
But this time, the two sides have met once at the staff level -- last Friday -- and are scheduled to gather again this Friday for a second meeting. In the smaller sessions, which have not included commissioner David Stern or union chief Billy Hunter, the focus has shifted from the larger economic issues that led to the labor impasse to smaller-ticket system items such as how a new salary cap would be structured, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.
via Full labor session not likely before August - CBSSports.com

Wait a tick. So the lower staffs are meeting to discuss things like the salary cap, which is a huge impediment between the two sides? And we're supposed to feel bad about this because the big guns aren't in there to overcomplicate matters with politics and a media presence? 

NBA lockout
The reality is that this is a genius way to approach the lockout. Both sides are so far apart, there's got to be something done to bring the two sides to a closer chasm. Breaking out the issues into smaller groups and hammering those consistently to get the framework of a deal done is best for both parties and the fans. Get an agreement on everything but BRI, then hammer home the rest.

The question is whether there can be any substantive work done on the salary cap with the owners still pushing for that hard cap. If there's wiggle room there, that could get the players out of the corner, brandishing a chair against the lions. The players know they're not "winning" this negotiation, they've already conceded that there will have to be compromises based on the global economy and the economic model of the league. It's a matter of degrees. If these smaller meetings can just get some movement by both sides toward compromise, it could open the door for things to be settled outside of the BRI split.

And that's just money, which is what this lockout should be about, as opposed to the ideological split it's become. You can solve a disagreement over cash, even if it'll take awhile. It's trying to initiate a protocol revolution that puts both sides at Defcon 1.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com