Tag:Billy Hunter
Posted on: October 25, 2011 1:21 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 1:28 pm
 

Billy Hunter: David Stern is 'not racist at all'

Posted by Ben Golliverbilly-hunter

They might stare each other down across the negotiating table, but National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter has NBA commissioner David Stern's back when it comes to allegations of racism.

Last week, Emmy-winning commentator Bryant Gumbel referred to Stern as a "modern plantation overseer" and evoked slavery in describing the ongoing NBA lockout in a nationally-televised editorial.

Hunter came to the defense of commissioner Stern on Monday in a podcast interview with ESPN.com.

"David is a hard-charger," Hunter said. "David pretty much treats everyone the same. Obviously when you've got the set up that you have, a league that is predominantly black and a group of white owners, it may take on a different color or appearance, but I don't think David is racist at all."

Hunter joined other prominent voices in the NBA community who have stood up for Stern. NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver recently called Gumbel's editorial "outrageous" while television commentator Charles Barkley said the remarks were "stupid."

He also expressed surprise that Gumbel's commentary received so much attention. "I didn't think it was going to get any traction," Hunter said. "It was Bryant Gumbel's opinion." 

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said that Gumbel's "exposed a subtext of tension" and that he "pulled the cover off a very sensitive issue." Hunter, though, made an effort to distance himself from that opinion, stating that Gumbel's accusations didn't advance the discussion. 

"It's not healthy," Hunter said. "It's not healthy. It's just the nature of life in America, that's all. People make those assumptions every day. The difference is that we are on Front Street because we're very visible with professional sports, etc. People will make comments and render opinions that move their own agendas."

Asked if he considered Stern a friend, Hunter responded: "We don't socialize. We have a professional relationship, a respectful relationship. I like David. I don't dislike him as a person... The irony is, let me let you in on a secret: David and I are fraternity brothers. I was at Syracuse, he was at Rutgers but we were both members of Sammy -- Sigma Alpha Mu."
Posted on: October 25, 2011 12:21 pm
 

Report: NBA talking, but not meeting, with NBPA

By Matt Moore

The NBA is very busy doing everything except actually meeting with the union to resolve the NBA lockout. With the next two weeks of the NBA schedule expected to be canceled later on Tuesday, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that ownership is expected to be on a conference call today to discuss revenue sharing. Reports over the weekend suggested that Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck's proposal last week was confusing, so clearly the issue is still being worked out by the league. 

Meawhile, ESPN is reporting that while the NBA and NBPA had "lengthy talks" via the phone on Monday, no further talks are scheduled.  So just to be clear, the next two weeks of the regular season are being canceled today, the two sides spoke all day by phone, and yet they won't agree to get in a room and meet. 

It's almost hard to believe this process has failed so badly.

The union has been extremely forthcoming about its stance regarding negotiations, saying after the breakdown in talks last Thursday that they were ready to continue talking that day, and each day since. The league on the other hand seems very much committed to dragging its heels, which is bizarre considering the state of things, and at the same time completely predictable based on what appears to be a very real not just willingness, but desire to miss most of if not all of the season by the owners.

If this thing is going to get saved before it get substantially worse, something has to move soon. They're talking, which is great. They're not meeting, which is not.

Tuesday is day 117 of the NBA Lockout.  
Posted on: October 25, 2011 9:07 am
Edited on: October 25, 2011 2:11 pm
 

Report: NBA has laid off 400 since lockout start

By Matt Moore

You can't make a golden omelette without breaking a few eggs that just want to do their jobs and have nothing to do with your cooking.

The NBA obviously is in a bit of a bind with the lockout putting a clamp down on revenues since it's a sports league that doesn't actually have a sport. And on the whole, the league and its teams are managing the downturn in creative ways. For instance, not only are they not paying the players, they're also laying off lots and lots of people. From Sports Business Journal:  
The NBA has lost about 400 jobs as part of the collateral damage inflicted on the league and its teams during the four-month-old lockout.The job losses are estimated to number roughly 200 at the NBA’s headquarters and its international offices and about 200 across its 30 teams since last season and over the course of the lockout, said a source familiar with the league’s business dealings.
via SBJ: NBA job losses near 400 since end of season - NBA - Sporting News.

The NBA has said that most of its layoffs were not tied to the lockout, that they simply were part of a cost-saving initiative. Here's the bind. It's hard to criticize the NBA for implementing the lockout as the only viable way to cut down on costs, and then criticize them for layoffs which is another way to cut down on costs.

If the league wanted to shift the perception of victimizing labor in multiple spots, they should release a review of the other ways they've saved costs. The NBA operates in a luxury industry. As such, they've historically been generous on spending regarding meals, perks, and intiatives. The league reference in its initial release regarding the layoffs this summer that they had cut back on travel, technology, and media assets. Providing examples that those various expenses have also been curtailed would paint a more complete picture. Because the image that's been painted publicly is just that the owners think the only way to get their finances in order is to either sacrifice the game through a lockout or fire people.

And that doesn't help with the whole "cold-hearted, blood-sucking corporate monster" thing, which isn't accurate. All employers go through cutbacks in personnel, especially in this economy. You can argue that with things like a $930 million media deal and the other assorted revenue streams, they shouldn't have to enact such measures, or that if they ran their teams better, they would be more popular and drive more revenue (which are decisions from the top-down), but there's a line to walk in regards to the reality of the situation.

That will likely be of no comfort to the 400 people who have found themselves out of work in such an opulent industry.
Posted on: October 24, 2011 4:53 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 10:56 pm
 

Hunter: Players, some owners open to Cuban plan

Posted by Royce Young

Billy Hunter was on the B.S. Report to discuss the lockout, spending about an hour discussing any and everything about the current state of labor talks.

He said he sees these negotiations as similar to 1998's lockout that resulted in 32 lost games, but felt that last week's long negotiations were going to yield something positive.

"I thought we were trying to reach compromise when we were there last week," Hunter said. "I suspect it's more about an internal battle that may be brewing or that's occuring between the big and small markets over the proposals we've submitted.

"We don't want to be totally exploited."

Hunter recounted a meeting with David Stern in Cleveland a few years ago during the postseason where Stern said his owners were ready and willing to miss an entire season to force player salary rollbacks.

Hunter said that the owners have acknowledged that 53 percent covers their losses and gives them the "possibility" of making a profit, citing specifically Peter Holt. And also said that players, having come down from 57 percent to as low as 52.5 in terms of Basketball Related Income split, are starting to dig into these negotiations for more reasons than just money, implying that it has moved past just dollars and cents, but is about the principle of getting a fair deal and they're willing to take the hit in order to get it. Now it's becoming a moral issue to them.

"They're principled individuals," Hunter said. "After a while, it becomes a principle ... the players are a little bit more strident."

Hunter said that during last week's long negotiations there were multiple ideas presented, with one interesting concept coming from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Hunter said Cuban came up with a structure called the "Game-changer" that included no salary cap. Hunter said he took that back to the players and they had a version of it they liked and then Hunter said two or three owners were very excited about it. And then a couple small market owners put the kibosh on it.

"We're open to the idea Mark Cuban put on the table," he said.

Hunter also commented on NHL player Bill Guerin's statements that holding out for a deal wasn't worth it, saying that he and his staff have been "very transparent" with the players about how much they'll lose per week, per month or even for a season. But also said the players are actively pursuing every opportunity to make a deal.

"We've indicated that we're ready to sit down and negotiate with them in a minute's notice," Hunter said. "I'm prepared to do anything within reason -- within reason -- to get a deal."

Hunter relayed that he had told the owners that concessions on systems issues might make the NBA's 50-50 offer "more palatable" to players. Meaning, I think, that owners could get their desired 50-50 BRI split if they'll work on some of their systematic demands. But Hunter said the owners will only negotiate system on the precondition of a 50-50 split. Which is when Dan Gilbert evidently told Hunter to "trust his gut" on the system.

Hunter was asked about Bryant Gumbel's comments that compared Stern to a "plantation overseer," simply answering, "I don't think David is racist at all." But he did try and explain why Stern's being so hard-headed on these negotiations.

"I think the reason David's being so stubborn is he's got a new crop of owners," Hunter said. "He's got all these guys who are extremely successful, making billions of dollars and they bought these franchises. And they just have a different perspective."

It's honestly easy to hear Hunter's side of the story and lean towards the players. He presents a side that's very open to every compromise, open to every idea but is being met with a hard wall of stubborn owners looking for a blowout victory in these negotiations. Is it encouraging? Somewhat. Hunter was very straightforward with how much the players are willing to concede to get a deal done. I think they're position is out in the open. They want a deal where they can feel that the owners didn't get everything they wanted and raked them over the coals.

If it eventually comes to that, the players will be ready to deal. How long that's going to take is the question.
Category: NBA
Posted on: October 24, 2011 11:59 am
Edited on: October 24, 2011 12:00 pm
 

Breaking down the progress on the new CBA

By Matt Moore

So we know that talks crashed and burned last week, that the two sides have not met since, are not scheduled to meet at this point, and that we're facing more cancelations, as early as Monday afternoon. But over the weekend, details have started to slip about the progress that has been made regarding some of the surrounding details. These don't indicate a deal, in fact, given the gulf on the primary issues (the luxury tax that is to serve as the "hard cap" and of course, BRI, the split of the money), it's likely some of these will wind up getting revised or yanked off the table by one side or the other by the time this is through. Nevertheless, we have some interesting elements which indicate what the future of the CBA will look like. 

Let's take a look at the reports and what they mean.

Chris Sheridan has the most complete set, which covers a wide variety of topics. Everything from the length and size of the mid-level exception to the structure of raises within contracts is covered.  In the interest of brevity (for once), I'll cut this down to just the tastier bits. 

Restricted Free Agency:
Restricted free agency: The union went into these talks asking that the waiting time for a team to match an offer to a restricted free agent be reduced from 7 days. The owners have acquiesced, and the window for matching will be reduced to 3 or 4 days. The union also is asking that restricted free agency be removed for players coming off their rookie scale contracts, which would allow first-round picks to become unrestricted after four years instead of five, which is the case for second-round picks.
via NBA lockout update: Where the sides stand on financial and system issues.

The first point would lead to a lot more movement and brash decisions based off not having as much time to determine what you want to do with a player. You'd think that teams would have contingencies mapped out regarding keeping a player depending on what offer they received. You would be wrong. Teams will often go into RFA with no clear idea of what that player will receive. It's a reason why so many teams jump at the chance to re-sign players to keep them out of RFA. It's not going to lead to massive changes, but it will shift the balance somewhat.

The second point is a doozy. The players are asking for the most valuable commodity in the NBA, star young players, to be able to leave as they will sooner. The RFA is a powerful mechanism in keeping players put for the first eight years of their careers. This would shift a lot more. You'd still have the majority re-sign, due to the benefit of re-signing, for the stars. But if you have a player who is unhappy with his role, who has been mishandled by coaching or management, this would free them to head elsewhere. This isn't the bitterest pill for the league to swallow, but it's not going to go down so smooth. It also makes building a young core over more than four years very difficult. 
Trade rules: Under the old system, the salaries of players being traded had to be within 125 percent of each other (if both trading teams were over the salary cap). This rule will be loosened considerably, although a final formula has not been agreed to. The players want the percentage to rise to 225 percent (whereby, for instance, a player making $1 million could be traded for a player making $2.25 million), while the owners have indicated a willingness to allow the percentage to rise to 140 or 150 percent — although teams paying the luxury tax would have a tighter restraint.
Hello, trade deadline. This is one where you have to track the various elements inside the union. Teams with big payrolls are going to love the idea of looser structures, allowing them to add players when they're willing to pay the tax (if Isiah Thomas ever gets back in the league, this rule could make him even more of a nefarious legend than he already is). Teams with smaller payrolls won't fight it as much, since it increases the package they could get back for a star, and because the control for trading the player still lies with them. For example, the Nuggets could have pulled in even more with Melo under a similar structure.  This is a big one in terms of what it could mean for fans. 

Sheridan also confirmed this fascinating new concept discussed by the New York Times Friday night:  
There will be a “stretch” exception, available every year, allowing teams to waive players and stretch out their remaining salary over a number of seasons, thus reducing the annual salary-cap hit.
via With N.B.A. Talks Halted, Sides Predict a Meeting Next Week - NYTimes.com.

This is huge for a number of reasons. The biggest is this: One of the owners' many intentions in this lockout is to pursue changes to the system to prevent themselves from making horrific mistakes in terms of signings and overpaying for players. The stretch exception doesn't prevent them making those decisions, but it does restructure their mistakes and allow them to recover. There's the cap perspective and the salary perspective. From the salary perspective, in most cases, this is going to lower the number of buyouts we see. Players will allege that if the team wants to get rid of them , they can simply use the stretch exception. That way the player still gets his money but the team gets the cap space reconfigured. In essence, this would work a lot like an interest free credit-card for players. You don't want to pay that $20 million to get rid of the veteran who no longer contributes to your rebuilding process? Get the cap space now, pay for it later. It's more justfiable to add a few million every season to payroll rather than swallowing huge chunks at once. It allows for more space to add players through trade.

Where this would be useful? Take Rip Hamilton last season in Detroit. The Pistons want him gone, but he'll only go for the full buyout. This would allow them to waive him and pay out his salary over time. It's not known whether the two sides can work out an adjusted figure for the stretch exception (i.e. if Hamilton were agree to take half his remaining money and pay that out over three years or if it has to be the full amount).

There are other elements at play. The max contract structure reportedly will stay the same, and the base-year compensation rule (a complex rule which restricts player movement via trade) will be eliminated. But this gives us an idea of where things are headed. Or at least, where they were headed before Thursday's meltdown. For all we know at this point we're back to square one.

That's not depressing at all, is it?
Posted on: October 21, 2011 4:44 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 7:40 pm
 

What we know and don't know about the lockout



By Matt Moore


As the dust settles after the detonation following yesterday's breakdown in negotiations between the NBA and the NBPA, nothing has really changed. Further games haven't been canceled. Some things were solved but the two sides remain apart on both systematic issues and BRI. The players are still trying to hold out for some level of legitimate compromise on the part of the owners. The owners are still being lead by extremist positions inside their collective. There's still a lockout. The season is still in peril.

So why do things feel so much worse this morning? Why does everything seem so much darker and more bitter? Where did Paul Allen come from? And who in God's name is running this thing?

To try and sort things out, here's a list of what we do and don't know after Thursday's breakdown.

We know more games are going to be canceled.

The NBA declined to make any sort of announcement following talks yesterday, but that's probably more to do with the absence of David Stern than any sort of hope for a delay. Stern had previously said if a deal wasn't done by last Tuesday, Christmas would be in danger. So with it now being Friday, you can bet that Monday there will be at least some segment of games in November and possibly December scratched. Logistically, there are reasons to cancel the next two gamesweeks of the season, and from a bargaining standpoint, the owners have made it pretty clear that there's a benefit from showing the players their paychecks being burned before their eyes. One report Thursday night indicated that Peter Holt, formerly regarded as a moderate of moderates in the talk, told the union, "You haven't felt enough pain yet." That pain only comes with one thing, lost paychecks, which means pain for the fans in lost games.

We don't know what happened at the Board of Governors meeting.

Something happened. Thursday was the latest and most extreme example of a disturbing trend. Tuesday and Wednesday, the owners' and players' influence is minimal, the negotiating is done by the heads of both sides. Progress is made. Then either Kevin Garnett, Robert Sarver, Paul Allen, or Dan Gilbert decide to open their mouths and everything goes to hell in a handcart. But the players painted a pretty convincing picture given the circumstantial evidence that things were on track before the Board of Governors meeting and then the meeting happened and the train went off the rails and crashed into a mountain and now everything's on fire, oh, God, the horror, the horror. Hunter intimated that Paul Allen was brought in due to a concern from some of the owners that the league had already given up too much in the talks.

Given up too much? They didn't have anything! They barely put together a formal proposal. If you want to allege that the players' claim to 57 percent is based on a previous agreement that doesn't exist, you can't then turn around and say that your imaginary footholds on a non-existent deal are something that can be surrendered. Or maybe you can, because you're the owners and have apparently gone completely insane with power.

Whatever happened at Board of Governors lead to a dramatic change in the tone and direction of the talks.

It went from "slow and reluctant progress, but progress" to "Hey, look, the Parthenon's on fire, let's get marshmallows!" And where did that come from? That leads us to another question.

We don't know what happened with David Stern.

As Ken Berger of CBSSports.com noted
while slowly losing his mind, union advisor Jeffrey Kessler suggested without stating it that someone other than Stern was running things. Billy Hunter said at the podium that the players never heard Stern's voice on the call yesterday. Obviously he was contacted during negotiations when the owners huddled, but not even having him on the conference call during negotiating sessions just to listen in while he sipped chicken soup and recuperated?

There's no doubt Stern's ill. To suggest that this was all a ruse for benching him would be too much of a conspiracy theory. But with Stern out for the day, Dan Gilbert, Peter Holt, and Paul Allen became significantly bigger players. Is that a coincidence? Why wasn't Adam Silver, who has been primary point on these negotiations from the beginning, the one in charge, making statements and handling things? How did things get so far out of hand so quickly once Stern headed home to watch old movies and groan?

We know that the hard liners are still in control.

There was some hope with the progress that had been made that maybe cooler heads were back in the control room. James Dolan, Micky Arison, Jerry Buss, all were in attendance at this week's meetings. Mark Cuban flipped from being a hawk to helping to broker compromise on the BRI deal, according to reports. If enough of the owners with their heads on their shoulders could band together and pull in the undecideds...

Nope. Thursday's meetings made one thing clearer than anything else. The Loony Tunes are still running the show. Starring in this week's episode, Gilbert, Allen and Holt, who surprised nearly everyone after being considered a moderate. This lockout has been, and always will be about a four-way power struggle. Rich and mid-level players and moderate and extremist owners. The lines for the owners seem based on market lines, but pay close attention and you're going to see a few large market owners aligned with the hard-liners. Ted Leonsis was mentioned yesterday by Billy Hunter, and all that talk of the NHL system from yesterday? That's all tied directly back to Leonsis, owner of the Capitals.

As long as this thing is in the hands of unreasonable owners like Gilbert and Sarver, with shrewd new owners like Leonsis pulling weight, we're not headed for anything but more missed games and more rhetoric.

Trust my gut.

We don't know why the owners wouldn't listen to the players' proposal.

The union said yesterday it proposed a 50-53 band on BRI, the primary issue still left to be decided (but not the solitary one). Ken Berger of CBSSports.com has reported several times since October 4th that the owners' proposal is a 49-51 band, that's what's called the 50/50 split. It's an average of 50, with the players' average 52.5, according to a statement from Adam Silver.

But Billy Hunter said that the league wouldn't even listen to the union's proposal about the 50-53 band, that they would only hear proposals on 50/50. "Take it or leave it" was the sentiment issued. But wait a second. If the league is struggling like the league is claiming, the revenues wouldn't be high enough and they'd reach the bottom end of that 50-53 band.

Let me state this is obviously as I can.

The owners refused to hear an offer in which they could conceivably pull 50 percent of the revenue, because they will only listen to offers in which they pull 50 percent of the revenue.

There is no clearer indication of how nonsensical this thing has become, regarding the owners' position.

Let's say that the players' proposal called for thresholds in which the owners would never see 50/50 unless it was the most dire circumstances in terms of revenue. That's not the point. The point is that by putting that deal on the table, the owners would have locked the players into an offer where it was possible for them to get 50/50. All they have to do then is negotiate down on the thresholds. It gets them in the door on 50/50. Yes, they know they can wait and bust down the door to the 50/50 palace and loot it for all its charms, but this is a solution in which all the money of a lost season gets saved, they get the concessions they want, and the figure they want.

And they wouldn't even put it on the table to look at.

We don't know when they'll meet again.

It could be today, with David Stern pulling a Jordan flu-game and saving the day. It could be this weekend, in small groups now that the owners have gnashed their teeth and rabble-roused like South Park villagers screaming about jobs. It could be next week, next month, next year.

Or, the union could finally throw its hands up and say, "We did all we could. Now the agents get their way. We'll unleash the courts and let God sort them out. " If that happens, you can kiss the season goodbye. Speaking of...

The one thing we know, more than anything, is that the possibility of losing a season is more likely than ever.

How u?

We n trouble.
Posted on: October 21, 2011 9:49 am
Edited on: October 21, 2011 1:36 pm
 

NBA allowing arenas to schedule on game nights

By Matt Moore

We've only lost the first two weeks, technically. There will certainly be more cancelations Monday, but if we're going in two week increments, there's still some time between now and losing games in December. But the NBA sure seems to be pretty comfortable with losing games in December, since they're already telling arenas they can book dates on game nights. Yeah. 

From the Orange County Register:
The Lakers’ still-scheduled Dec. 13 home game against the Toronto Raptors will not happen under any circumstances then and there.

That’s because the NBA has already allowed Staples Center to vacate its commitment to the Lakers that day and schedule an extra date of the Jay-Z and Kanye West concert tour.

According to a statement from the NBA: “With the cancellation of the first two weeks of the season, the NBA schedule would have to be reworked and certain dates — including Dec. 13 for a Lakers game at Staples Center — would not be part of any revised schedule.”

Actually, it’s two additional NBA games already on the move, because the league did the same thing to accommodate another Jay-Z and Kanye show at Chicago’s United Center on Nov. 30, when the Bulls are currently scheduled to play the San Antonio Spurs.
via Dec. 13 Lakers-Raptors game already off schedule - Lakers blog : The Orange County Register.

So their plan for a revised NBA schedule to account for the games missed in the first two weeks of November... includes missing more games in December?

What?

It's plausible, absolutely. They're going to rework the entire schedule, they allegedly already have plans in place. So sure, they can just be reworking all of the dates, including moving a few around, and found room to shove things out of the way so people can Watch the Throne. But the perception to the common fan will be that the league is already preparing to lose those games outright. One thing to keep in mind, any plan to reschedule the season, whatever the number of games, would probably include measures to move all the games around. In essence, everything would be liquid in such an instance. 

For a professional basketball league, the NBA seems awfully at ease with losing the "B" part of their name. Scheduling meetings with union leadership? That seems haphazard and spur-of-the-moment. But canceling games? That feels like something they've been planning on for a very long time.  They seem better at getting rid of basketball than working to bring it back. All part of the process.

(HT: PBT)
Posted on: October 20, 2011 8:33 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2011 11:04 pm
 

NBPA blasts back at owners over breakdown

By Matt Moore

The NBPA fired back aggressively at the NBA following the breakdown of negotiations Thursday. To put it in perspective, here's how things started, via Ken Berger of CBSSports.com

 

And things only got rougher from there.

Fisher began by stating that the implication that the players were not willing to stay and talk is patently false, that they were willing to continue negotiations for as long as it takes. Fisher said that at the impasse in regards to BRI, the players suggested tabling the issue again and moving back to the systemic issues. The owners refused, Fisher said.

Then Hunter took to the podium, and things only got more serious from there.

NBA LOCKOUT

Hunter came out firing, claiming that the union offered a "band" BRI offer similar to the 49-51 offer from the owners described by Ken Berger of CBSSports.com earlier this week. The band? 50-53, effectively providing the league with the revenue split it desires, should revenues not reach a certain point. Hunter said that the owners would not even listen to any proposal unless the precondition was that of a 50/50 split. "Take it or leave it" was the phrase used. 

Then he started naming names. Hunter revealed that the owners were speaking directly, claiming that Dan Gilbert told Hunter to "trust his gut" and that Paul Allen was a new participant. Hunter said decertification is on the table, along with "everything," an option that seems more likely with every breakdown in talks. Hunter reiterated that the union remains open to any and all negotiations and they "want to talk." 

Here's video of Hunter going off about Gilber telling him to "trust his gut" on the revenue split.



Perhaps of most interest, Hunter and union attorney Jeffrey Kessler both claimed that something occurred at the Board of Governors meeting on Wednesday night and Thursday morning to change the tone of the owners' approach.  Hunter stated that there was a feeling from the owners that they had surrendered too much in previous meeetings. 

David Stern did not attend Thursdays meetings, due to what Adam Silver described as the flu.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com