Tag:CBA lockout
Posted on: July 2, 2011 1:24 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2011 2:36 pm
 

Lockout Timeline: How we got here

Posted by Matt Moore

How did we get here? How could things have gotten this badly this quickly? Didn't we just have a CBA agreement in 2005? Why didn't talks start sooner?

These are the questions we ask ourselves as the NBA begins its second lockout in 12 years this weekend. To help us understand how we got here, in contrast to Ken Berger's work on where we're headed, we present this timeline of relevant CBA dates. This is not a complete listing of every development, but hopefully provides some context of how we got from a stable and happy NBA, to one which may not play another game until fall of 2012.

January 20th, 1999: The NBA lockout ends after nearly seven months of non-talks. The two sides had been locked in bitter negotiations and went 36 days before engaging in the first bargaining session after the lockout. In a negotiation considered a win for the owners, the rookie scale was introduced along with the mid-level and veteran exceptions.

June 2nd, 2005: The NBA and NBPA come to an agreement on a new CBA, avoiding a lockout for the second time in six years. Under the new agreement, max contracts are shortened and raises curtailed.

July 22, 2005: The NHL owners' contingent secures a monumental victory over the NHLPA after a year-long lockout, securing a hard cap and keeping revenue sharing off the table. This has two effects on the NBA ownership. One, they see that a league can implement a hard cap in the modern era if its willing to go the distance. Two, NBA team owners who also own stakes in NHL franchises are convinced that a lockout, regardless of how long it takes, is worth it if they are able to secure changes for guaranteed profitability.

February 15th, 2009: In light of an ever-worsening economic downturn, Billy Hunter and David Stern appear at a joint press conference during All-Star Weekend in Phoenix and reveal they are in talks to reopen the collective bargaining agreement. At the press conference, both sides make it clear they are looking to get out in front of the expiration of the current deal in 2011.

Hunter: "We all understand that we live and benefit from the success of the NBA. The last thing we want to do is see it lose its vitality. We will do everything possible to reach a deal.

Whether or not that means we will reopen before the expiration of the current contract's conclusion is another question. But I can say to you that we are anxious to reach a deal."

Stern: "Just to talk about frameworks and understandings and say when we get to the last day and then it is either one side or the other, it leads to bad things."

The two sides were aware, even at that point, of how far apart they were, and vowed to work to start negotiations, substantitive negotiations, to avoid the question of a labor stoppage coming down to right before the expiration of the CBA in 2011. This is more than two years before the expiration date.

Substantive negotiations do not begin until May of 2011.

More on NBA Lockout
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February 19th, 2009: The New York Times speaks with former agent David Falk in advance of his book release, who makes bold and severe statements about the upcoming talks. Falk becomes one of the first to publicly forcast the owners' push for a hard cap.

“I think it’s going to be very, very extreme,” Falk said, “because I think that the times are extreme.”

February 27th, 2009: The AP reports that the NBA has lined up $200 million in loans to teams facing financial hardship during the economic crisis.

March 8th, 2009: ESPN and the Star-Tribune report that Glen Taylor, owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves, along with then-head-coach Kevin McHale were "rebuked" by the league office for comments made about the labor agreement. Most notably, McHale provided the first look at just how severe of changes to the existing agreement the owners would be looking for in negotiations, saying how the players should prepare for "major changes."

The league then authored a memo, according to reports, instructing teams not to make "any unauthorized statements" regarding the CBA, nor to speak with any player regarding the CBA or relevant discussions thereof.

March 20th 2009: Stern tells ESPN that he and Hunter have agreed to begin "substantive discussions, perhaps as early as May" in advance of the CBA's 2011 expiration. Notably, Stern says that when the current deal expires, it will not be "owners taking a hard line, it's going to be [both sides] dealing with new financial realities.

The owners will not offer a formal proposal until January of 2010, nearly 11 months later.

September 18th, 2009: The NBA officials' representative in the midst of a lockout of referees claims that NBA management received raises during the financial crisis the league has used to illustrate the need for overhauls of both the officials' and players' CBA. The referees' lockout is later resolved in what is considered another win for the owners.

December 18th, 2009: Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that the league and players will meet over All-Star Weekend in Dallas with the first official proposals to be exchanged. It will have been a year since the Hunter-Stern presser vowing to proceed with negotiations early. Both sides continue to say the last thing they want is a lockout.

January 29th, 2010: The first substantive signs that the negotiations will become bitter and that the owners plan to take a hard line come to light as Berger reports that the owners' position is one of "(the players) need us more than we need them." Berger reports that the owners are "unified" and "determined to crush the union."

February 12th, 2010: Both sides realize after the first exchange of proposals just how far apart they are. Billy Hunter says afterwards that the owners actually pulled their proposal because it was so extreme. The terms "heated" and "contentious" are used,  Berger reports. It is the first indication how nasty this will become.

February 13th, 2010: Stern speaks at All-Star Weekend. Stern ridicules the assertion that the owners' proposal was "taken off the table." Later reports reveal how severe the owners' initial proposal was. Instead of considering this the extreme measure as an opening to a negotiation, the league represents this as the cold hard truth of what to expect in negotiations. The word lockout starts being bandied about.

July 2nd, 2010: Berger reports that the players provide their first counter-proposal to ownership, five months after the owners' proposal at All-Star Weekend. The players' proposal not only lacks the substantive changes suggested by the owners in their initial proposal, but in fact seeks to provide more flexibility and earning potential for players. Even as an opening offer to set the marks for the negotiation, it's unrealistic at best.

We are inside of a year remaining in the CBA. The owners will not respond to the proposal in kind for over nine months.

August 12th, 2010: Star players become involved in the talks for the first time since All-Star Weekend, but while the tenor of the conversation is improved, there is still a "gulf, not a gap" an executive tells Berger.

Notably, the players' association makes its first concession in regards to the total money spent on salaries. This is important as it sets the tone for the players being more willing to compromise, while the owners remain solid in their initial positions. This will later seemingly provide ammunition for the owners to believe they can eventually get the union to cave, if drastic measures are implemented.

October 21st, 2010: The league makes it known how severe their desired changes are, giving the estimate of $750 to $800 million in reduced salaries for the players. Everything is on the table for them, from contraction to revenue sharing, but the league makes its expectations crystal clear.

November 14th, 2010: Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports of upcoming meetings scheduled for November 18th, described as "two-on-two" sessions with the heaviest hitters, involving Stern, Adam Silver, Hunter, and Derek Fisher. The hope is that smaller meetings will create more substantive progress.

March 30th, 2011: Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that the NBA has sent financial data from the teams for the 2009-2010 season to the NBPA. The disclosures reveal substantial losses in how they are calculated. The players' association will later deny the accuracy of the data and the conclusions gathered from it.

April, 2011: Ownership finally provides another formal proposal. It has been nine months since the players' last proposal.

June 8th, 2011: Players say there have been no changes at all in the owners' demands. 

June 21st, 2011: The owners' latest proposal seems like a compromise, moving away from a hard-cap to a "flex-cap" and softening their position on the BRI split, slightly. Players feel these measures are red herrings. 

June 22nd, 2011: Hunter tells reporters that the owners demands "can't be met."

June 28th, 2011: The owners and players agree to one final meeting, hours before a lockout. It will have been two and a half years since talks began at All-Star 20009.

June 30th, 2011: Owners notify players that the two sides are too far apart. The lockout begins at 12:01 a.m. EST, Friday, July 1st, 2011.
Posted on: July 1, 2011 3:33 pm
Edited on: July 1, 2011 3:56 pm
 

The lockout and the damage done



Posted by Matt Moore

In a turn of events that should surprise absolutely no one, the owners got what they wanted. They've locked the players out and are now digging in for the long wait until the union cracks and they can get what they want: more money. I'm not going to go off the deep end on some proletariat hop, but either side in this should stay away from any sort of moral plea in the press.

But nonetheless, here we are, with what is rapidly becoming an ideological dispute instead of a business negotiation. And the damage as this lockout extends will go way beyond just the gross number of luxury vehicles owned. Here's a look at the lockout and the damage done:

The League: Well, so much for all that momentum. Riding high off of the best season in years, the league now faces a monumental setback. Baseball took a hit. The NBA took a hit, last time.

David Stern is nearing the end of his tenure. Is this going to be the last big thing he's known for? Is this the note he's going out on, being the carriage driver that allowed the ownership to drive the league off the cliff? Stern has a legacy to watch over, and while his constant and long-time devotion to the owners, taking very much an "I work for the owners, I'm not bigger than them" attitude, he is responsible as a caretaker of this sport. It's his job to watch out for its legacy, for the "good of the game." And if this lockout winds up as a complete disaster, the sports version of "Judgment Day" from the "Terminator" series, that's going to go on his permanent record. The league faces a responsibility to make sure that the backbone they stick up for so much, the owners, doesn't destroy the whole body.

Owners: Well, for starters, their public perception is going to plummet. A tip? People think billionaires arguing with millionaires are stupid. And the owners' cute little "We're going to take a hard line" thing isn't going to go over great, either. Will it affect their daily life? No. They can just stay inside the mansions while the rest of the world hates them a bit more every day. But it does get tiresome having people contantly ask you when you're going to end the lockout. Public perception is clearly not something the owners care about, as you can tell from their actions. But it gets tiresome being the bad guys, and they're going to be so for a while.

There are financial ramifications here. Once you start losing out on the season, the owners aren't just losing ticket sales. It's sponsorships, and community events, and merchandise, and everything else. That's actual lost revenue, just potential revenue. For men who have built their lives around growing the black ink, the red marks are going to be distressing.

This concludes how this lockout will damage the owners. Don't cry for them, Argentina.

Players: They'll deal with the scrutiny a lot more. Yes, educated fans will understand that the owners have been ridiculous in their negotiation approach and that the players didn't strike. Sadly, far too many people will simply question why they're not playing. And the result is a hit to something that does count, their public image. Getting product and event endorsements, invitations to elite functions, media opportunities to highlight their public profiles, all of that depends on the public image. And in a lockout, that will be harmed not just from negative reaction to the fact they're not playing, but from the fact they won't be seen.

The biggest stars will maintain. But the effect will be there. How about the actual money? Most NBA players haven't divested their income. They don't have multiple outlets of revenue. Many of them have probably saved very little. So when November rolls around and the checks don't come, that lifestyle adjustment will be real. The minimum players will obviously feel it first and most. But even some mid-level veterans live their lives according to their means. Think of it as if you made middle-class money in this country, and then all of a sudden you were put on indefinite furlough. Could you live on less if you'd planned well? Sure. But you've still built your life around the level of income you're making now. That adjustment can be difficult. Well, maybe not difficult, but inconvenient.

Charities: There will still be charity events. But the players don't have the disposable income to splurge as they usually do. The owners are in "baton the hatches" mode. Which means that a ton of money and resources that normally go to charity will likely be impacted. Even if the wealthiest players still devote their funds, things will be scaled back a bit. Media attention on these events will be less, knowing that the players won't be able to talk about the lockout as both sides duck the issue in the press. And there will be cut backs. Teams will be tightening their belts to save their owners money, not to save jobs in most instances, but to save the owners dough that they're losing in a lockout they created. Non-profits have already taken serious hits throughout the recession, and now those that have benefited so much from team and player involvement will have cuts.

Employees: Some teams have been wise enough to set aside funds to continue to pay their staff, at least for the most part, throughout the summer and into however how much of the season is impacted by the lockout. Others, not so fortunate. Multiple team employees have told me that their management groups are using this as an opportunity to cut the chaff from their organizations, laying off people that they feel they can do without. While some trimming may be necessary, that's still job loss. These are people who do not make hundreds of thousands of dollars, who just happen to be employed by an NBA team.

You have the impact when games are missed. Concession workers, arena staffs, security crews, etc. Most of these are part-time positions, so primary sources of income won't be affected, but who can afford to lose a gig like that if you're working multiple jobs? What about the extra crewmen hired by television production, both locally and nationally? What about writers, bloggers, editors, developers in the media? Okay, no one cares about those, but still.

Again, some teams have planned for this. Maybe the damage will be minimal. But there will be damage, and the longer this goes, the worse it's going to get.

The reality is, we won't know the damage this lockout will cause until it's over.
Posted on: June 30, 2011 2:11 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 2:13 pm
 

NBA LOCKOUT: Countdown to nuclear winter

Posted by Matt Moore

Our eve of destruction is upon us. Now is the summer of our discontent. Other cliches and references. The owners are about to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of "letting the players run out of money because most of them are not used to having to manage their time, let alone their finances in any rational fashion." The lockout is a coming. So we thought we'd give you the opportunity to enjoy these last few precious hours with a nice countdown to keep you company. We'll be providing updates from the fruitless labor session throughout the day and more analysis. In the meantime, check out the Berger Plan for what should, but won't, happen.

Hold us, we're afraid.

 
Posted on: June 30, 2011 12:22 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 1:56 pm
 

Report: Shane Battier asked Hunter to take paycut

Posted by Matt Moore

You have to lead by example. That's always been pretty clear. You can't expect people to follow what you say unless you walk the walk. So now that the NBA has entered into the deep dark lockout landscape, things are about to get real. No more t-shirts, no more slogans, no more parading. This is the real thing, and the money will stop... well, in November, since that's when most of the players contracts under the last CBA run through. But still! The money chokehold is about to get serious, and some players have some questions for their leadership.

Yahoo! Sports reports that after Kevin Garnett did his usual over-dramatic rabble-rousing last week, Shane Battier asked a question of the union president, Billy Hunter. Would he take a paycut, just as NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith did?  Hunter sidestepped the question, then the rest of the executive board came to his defense, according to the report. But Hunter's evasiveness of the issue calls into question his commitment to the cause, and exactly how much he's "in the trenches" with the rest of the players for what Hunter has set up to be a very long lockout. Yahoo! also reports Hunter was granted over $1 million last year for unpaid vacation. Which is categorically insane independently, considering his job structure and responsibilities, but whatever. 

Perhaps most concerning from the players' perspective is this quote from Yahoo!, from a player regarding how Hunter conducts himself in response to union representatives voicing questions or concerns:
“Billy isn’t afraid to embarrass you in front of other players, if he doesn’t like your line of questioning,” an Eastern Conference player said. “He’s done a good job keeping us informed and fighting [NBA commissioner David] Stern, but I don’t need to be lectured by the guy. I’m allowed to ask a question.”
via Hunter sidesteps question on pay - NBA - Yahoo! Sports.

That's bad leadership right there. As is declining a pay cut. Even if you structure it differently to ensure you get the same money eventually, you need to in order to be side-by-side with the players who pay you to represent them. Otherwise, you have a system wherein someone who isn't taking responsibility allows months and months to go by without negotiations, waiting until the last minute to enter into serious conversations and only then taking a stand against progressively stronger tactics from the owners.

Oh, right, that's exactly what happened.

The players' side has been considerably more willing to compromise during this entire process, and up until the last few weeks have conducted themselves in a much more professional manner. But the fact remains that Hunter has been out-flanked badly in this process, and now he's stepping into snares from his own players, even as the trap-setters say "Don't step there!"

Whether the center can hold will determine if the players can avoid getting routed in this process over the coming months.  

Final note: Is there anything more perfectly exemplary of the discrepancy among the players? Kevin Garnett brings t-shirts with "STAND" on them and does his dramatic yelling trick, and Shane Battier asks a relevant, important question. One is celebrated, the other shut down. Does not inspire confidence for the players' side in this.
Posted on: June 30, 2011 10:47 am
Edited on: June 30, 2011 11:35 am
 

The NBA Lockout: Idiocy in design



Posted by Matt Moore

It's just about over now. The respiration machines are slowing, the room has gone still, and everyone's trying to make peace with it. NBA momentum is almost dead. And the players and ownership are still haggling with one another over its possessions. 

It's grotesque how everything has happened that has led to this point. From the owners' scorched earth policy to avoiding any move toward real compromise or negotiation, their refusal to offer counterproposals over a period that lasted longer than six months, the players' desperate moves to maintain their footing, and most of all to the fact that both sides only really started negotiating within the last month. They knew this was coming. They knew what was at stake. And their pride kept them out of the board room. This is not how business should be conducted, not how men should decide the fate of the league at its most important time. 

There should have been dialogue the whole way through. It should have started last year and continued as often as possible. Both sides should have offered alternatives outside the box (the players have provided some ideas, but they were mostly regarding tertiary issues and didn't address the primary concerns). Both sides should have recognized that total victory is not obtained through negotiation. But maybe the owners knew that. Perhaps they understood the only way they were going to get their way was to force a siege and then choke off the supply lines. Maybe this was the plan from the start. If so, they're even dumber than the contracts they gave that put themselves into this position would show. But either way, there should have been efforts made to avoid this at all costs. This should have been the absolute last option, not the starting point to try and avoid. That would have been reasonable, that would have been intelligent, that would have been good business. 

Instead, we've got this, the height of success for the league since Michael Jordan left being set aflame because of principled stances and juvenile dramatic positioning.

We've got a lockout.

The NBA and ownership meets Thursday for the final time at noon eastern (high noon, as the drama continues) to try and resolve this. Or at least to look as if they're trying to resolve this. If you have a key negotiation that's being done to avoid shutting down your business entirely, do you wait until the absolute last minute? Is that how things are done? Absolutely not, but that's what's going on here. Instead we have one more chance for each side to try and position themselves as the compromisers, as the ones trying to get a deal, to try and create a crack in the other side. It won't work, of course. What would work is a group of smart people in a room trying to find solutions to the problems both sides face. Instead, we get two sides providing lip service by showing up for a meeting neither of them expect to actually do anything. 

If ownership is largely responsible for the injuries sustained to NBA momentum with its refusal to offer counterproposals, ridiculously hard line, constant scare tactics, and unrealistic expectations to completely revolutionize the sport in one renegotiation versus aiming to make changes over several, the players pulled the plug by refusing to offer a counterproposal to the owners' last effort. Was the owners' last design a series of false admissions of compromise wrapped in a deceptively hard stance? Absolutely. But there was no reason to cut off the talks, to stop the process of offering alternatives. That's negotiation. Instead, as the players elected for at All-Star Weekend in 2010, they pulled off dramatics that seem more like the work of dress-code-protesting teenagers than an organized collection of professionals. T-shirts that read "STAND," the brainchild of the ultimate NBA drama queen, Kevin Garnett along with Paul Pierce (you thought I was going to say LeBron, didn't you?). Walkouts of practice at All-Star Weekend. The players are one-step shy of stomping and screaming "It's not fair!"

Meanwhile, the owners are harboring delusions of grandeur of their own, wanting to "win" a negotiation outright. The CBA is an agreement. It takes two sides to tango. And while their money is what creates the backbone of the league, and it is their teams that form its foundation, they cannot exist without the players, without these players, without the best players. Yet the owners think it better to create nuclear winter and then wait for their opponent to buckle. 

You know why neither the United States nor the Soviet Union elected to use nuclear weaponry in the cold war? Because killing all of the citizens you're fighting for in an effort to protect them doesn't make any sense. Putting the league into a lockout, killing all the momentum and shutting off revenue streams in order to make more money isn't just cutting your nose to spite your face, it's drowning yourself to make sure you don't run out of air. It's madness. 

The league is at its best point since Jordan left. Ratings are up, league interest is sky-high. The internet has allowed fans to follow their teams in a way they have never been able to. All the games are broadcast on League Pass. Trades provide constant speculation and fans huddled around screens waiting to see what happens next (and will become remarkably difficult in a hard cap, hope the owners are remembering). The draft got crazy ratings, for crying out loud, and it was a horribly weak draft! China is a still-emerging market, the game has never been more globally recognized,  revenues have come back up, and yet here we are. Wasting all this is borderline criminal. Depriving the fans, who, if we're being totally honest, are the ones who actually drive revenue, of this sport wastes everything that has been built over the past five years. We're talking about incredible amounts of money, in the billions. The money is there. We're just going to shut everything down over how we're going to split it up? Really? This is the big strategic design?

Getting hurt by your long-term contracts to wasteful players? Don't offer them. Don't think you should lose money in the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression? Grow up, everyone's tightening his belts, even the owners. Want to guarantee profitability? Open up conversations about revenue sharing and we'll believe you. Want to protect future players' earning potential? Give them a league to play in.

There are alternatives being looked at. Ken Berger's got a plan. Other smart people have a plan. The players and owners? They've just got the body of NBA momentum, dying in front of them while they fight over the silverware. 

The NBA lockout is upon us. And every inch of it should be something both sides should recognize is wholly and entirely stupid.
Posted on: June 24, 2011 3:15 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2011 4:24 pm
 

Players decline to offer owners counter-proposal

Posted by EOB Staff.

The situation, as Ken Berger put it so eloquently, is thus: "In other words, as Kurt Vonnegut would say, the excrement has hit the air conditioning."

The owners and players met Friday in an effort to make progress off of the owners' seemingly concilliatory last offer. The natural step in a negotiation is for the players to respond with another counter-proposal as the two move closer together. But after everyone thought the owners' proposal was a great step forward, the union went ballistic over it.

 The result? Beger reports that Jared Dudley told media Friday after the meeting that the players elected to not offer a counter-proposal, saying the two sides were "too far apart." With a Board of Governor's meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Berger reports that he players expect the owners to vote for the lockout at that meeting. 

It's been a long time coming, and we have a week to go with NBA players and owners agreeing to a "smaller bargaining session" on next Wednesday or Thursday, but the reality is here.

We're headed for an NBA lockout, without question.

If you're looking for subtext here, imagine that the goal is to get a plank balanced on a post. Both sides want as much weight added to their side of the plank while keeping it balanced up in the air. They add things the players want (and have) like guaranteed contracts and things the owners want (like restrictions) to try and get things balanced. After the owners' very Cold-War approach to negotiations for the last, really two years, their last proposal seemed like a move towards progress. But the players feel that the owners have simply moved the post far enough and counter-weighted their side to make it look like it's balanced. In reality, the players feel they's simply moved the post and gotten  more of what they want, by managing the story. 

The players' abrasive and ultimately toxic approach Friday represents the line in the sand. They're not going any further, and they're not going to let the ownership dictate terms any more. The players have been concilliatory about BRI, exceptions, revenue sharing, the works throughout this process. Now that the owners have tossed them what they feel are bread crumbs and called it progress,  the players have elected to throw the bread back in their face and walk out the door.

Berger reports Stern characterized his reaction to the decision as "disappointed."  I characterize his chracterization as "the work of Captain Obvious." 

Perhaps you're wondering why it's taken until a week before the end date of the current CBA to reach this point, why they couldn't have negotiated seriously earlier, to reach this point and then push through it instead of running up against the cliff. 

Welcome to the club.

There's almost no escaping it now. Barring a miracle or a significant coup among the owners by the voices of reason, it's game over.

Professional basketball stops on a dime at midnight Thursday night.
Posted on: March 4, 2011 11:33 am
Edited on: March 4, 2011 11:46 am
 

Pau Gasol has already picked out a Euro team

Pau Gasol says his first option would be familiar FC Barcelona.
Posted by Matt Moore

There's a flood of confirmations coming from players that in the event of a lockout (which is a near-certainty at this point) that they'll be playing overseas, but none have singled out a team. Pau Gasol's the first in that event and it's no shocker. Gasol told Spanish radio that were he to head overseas, he'd be looking to go somewhere familiar. 
 "It's an option, no doubt... If it happens, you're going to play to another place, and if I have to play in Europe my first option would be Barcelona, of course," Gasol said.

Gasol's referring to FC Barcelona, which he played for when he was a youngster from 1999-2001. His brother Marc played there, as well as his close friend Juan Carlos Navarro, who still plays there, and his Spanish national teammate Ricky Rubio. He's familiar with all the players, is a god among men in Spain, a national hero, and would get to play with close friends. So it's pretty much like LeBron going to Miami in a lot of ways. This is pretty much a no-brainer, and something he might even genuinely enjoy. Marc Gasol's also expressed interest in going overseas, and you'd have to think he'd also look to join Barcelona.  The result would be a seismic shift in Europe as Barcelona would be as strong as it's ever been, essentially having the national team in place. They'd also be one of the most fun teams to watch online when you're desperate for basketball next year. 

(HT: Sport.es via Hoopsyhpe)
Posted on: February 19, 2011 12:01 am
Edited on: February 19, 2011 12:24 am
 

Despite pleasant tone, NBA CBA talks are nowhere

Posted by Matt Moore

Players and owners meet as issues are discussed, but no negotiations undertaken. Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher represent the players' position in a post-meeting press conference after the NBA labor talks in regards to the CBA. A lockout still looks certain.


The talks were described as "progress." The tone was described by sources as "pleasant" and "constructive."  NBA Player's Association Executive Director Billy Hunter said that everyone felt better when they left the meeting than when they entered it. But the talks between the NBPA and owners group, if the NBPA presser afterward was any indication, were full of dark signs that a lockout is as inevitable as it ever has been. 

Hunter began by revealing that the owners had still yet to respond to the players' last proposal. Essentially, the owners are refusing to even respond to the offer, even after months. That's a significant sign of where these negotiations are. Perhaps the situation was put into context most clearly by Hunter when he said, "If it takes losing a whole season to get what we (want), we're willing to do that." Both sides are still very much apart and are very much working under that threat. As Hunter said, "They showed up with their forces, we showed up with our forces." NBPA President Derek Fisher was clear in pointing out where the onus is in regards to the lockout. "If there is a lockout, it is because the owners have imposed one... (the players) want to play basketball." Hunter did admit a lockout would be "devastating" and that the higher percentage of ownership in attendance, by putting a humanizing factor into play, may create some movement on both sides. But in general, both sides are holding the line. 

The NBPA's post-meeting press conference did provide context to where these talks are at on several issues:

  • Revenue sharing continues to be a central issue in the talks. Hunter said "many of the problems (the owners) articulate can in fact be rectified through revenue sharing." Hunter stated that the NBPA's contention is that a stronger revenue plan which was submitted to the league by eight owners several years prior, had it been implemented, would have prevented many of the issues the owners are bringing to the table now.
  • Fisher stated that the issue of a possible franchise tag has not been raised. "It is not something that has been presented." He did say that this discussion did not involve the particulars of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but made it clear that had not been brought to the owners. That's good news as its inclusion represents the equivalent of an option for nuclear winter by the owners.
  • There was apparently a major gaffe on the part of an owners' representative. Hunters stated that Kevin Murphy, an economic expert from the University of Chicago, asked the representative if the owners would be making the same demands of the players if they had not suffered losses, the representative answered in the affirmitive. That goes against the core argument the owners have been trumpeting since the start of the economic downturn, which is that the current environment necessitates these dramatic shifts in revenue structuring.
  • Perhaps the most interesting element revealed in the presser was that in response to questions of parity by smaller market owners struggling to compete with the Lakers' payroll (as an example), that the NBPA has brought a recommendation for an alternative solution. The union has suggested a restructuring of the draft process, which would provide two first-round picks to the teams "at the bottom" according to Hunter. It represents a bold and innovative solution to the problems faced by the NBA in regards to parity, but Hunter noted that the owners haven't even opened up to such discussions because of their "intractable" position.
  • The players will not get sucked into a war of words about contraction. That's not the hill they're choosing to die on. Hunter said "We are not at all concerned about contraction. We're not at all afraid, intimidated, not suffering any chagrin when someone raises the issue of contraction." However, Hunter did hint that the union is not rising to fight for that above other issues. "It is what it is. And if they choose to play that hand, we'll have to live with it."
  • One of the popular debates in these negotiations is where the onus lies for the massive overpayment contracts.  The owners state that they need help in limiting those contracts, and the players believe the owners should simply take responsibility for their decisions. Fisher stated that they've heard some owners say verbatim "We need to be protected from ourselves." Fisher acknowledged that the owners were simply trying to be competitive, but that the players' position is that that weight does not all fall on them.
  • Fisher also spoke about the nature of guaranteed contracts, and that the current agreement does not prevent unguaranteed contracts, is simply allows for the possibility to negotiate for a guaranteed contract. "There's a sense that we feel entitled to guaranteed money, to guaranteed income. That's not who we are. The principle basic level, we should have the right to earn guaranteed income because of our special skills... but when I sit down to negotiate my contract with the Los Angeles Lakers on my contract, we have every opportunity to go back and forth over what's guaranteed and what's not."

Hunter said that further negotiations would be scheduled when Hunter and commissioner David Stern meet next week in New York. From there, further discussions are expected to continue. But there was no rapid movement taken in this session, and it does not appear that either side is itching to be the one to move things forward. 

Small steps were made. The tone of the discussions have shifted to a more "human" approach as Fisher described them.  But the key issues remain, and haven't been really touched. Negotiations, in fact, have not begun, simply discussions, and those mostly consist of both sides continuing their refutations of the other's position. And a lockout looks as inevitable as it did on Friday morning.



 
 
 
 
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