Tag:David Stern
Posted on: October 26, 2011 11:19 am
Edited on: October 26, 2011 11:40 am
 

Report: Owners are back off 50/50 precondition

By Matt Moore

When NBA talks broke down last Thursday, the sticking point was the owners' refusal to even hear proposals from the union without a precondition that the union accept a 50/50 Basketball Related Income split. It's like trying to negotiate for a car when the dealer says "we can negotiate anything you want as long as you accept full price first." If that doesn't sound much like a negotiation, then I'd like to welcome you to the 2011 NBA lockout circus. Please check your hats at the door, and be careful, someone will probably steal it by the night's end. 

But with talks resuming Wednesday in New York around noon eastern, it looks like, and I'm going to bold this for its importance, for the moment, the league has backed off the 50/50 precondition. Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com reports:
A source close to the talks tells SheridanHoops.com that the owners have dropped their insistance that players agree to a 50/50 split of revenues.

That precondition is what brought about last Thursday’s contentious breakup after the sides had met for more than 30 hours over three days.
via NBA TALKS TO RESUME WITHOUT PRECONDITIONS.

This opens the way for "outside-the-box" solutions to be offered. The players want to get concessions on either revenue or system. The owner want wins on both. If they can find a middle ground that manages to let both sides believe that, that is to say the league feels like the changes are enough to justify the split they gave up, or the union believes the changes are minimal enough to justify their BRI sacrifice, something could get done today. 

It won't, but it's a nice thought. Sorry, we're all out of hope here. Try the corner store down the street.

It should also be noted that the league could also be dancing with the conditions set about in the union's complaint to the NLRB concerning "good faith bargaining." (For more on the elements in play for the union and league in the NLRB process, check out our podcast this week with an expert in the matter.) By backing off the 50/50 precondition, then returning to it sporadically, the league can delay the process, forcing the players to miss checks, while keeping the appearance of good faith negotiations. But with the strength of the legal precedent on their side, there's no real need for that. Both sides have expressed a willingness to get a deal done. 

Now we'll just see if the moderates can keep everyone else out long enough for progress to be made. 

That sound you hear is us not holding our breath.
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 1:58 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 2:00 pm
 

NBA could cancel games 'indefinitely'?

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

National Basketball Players Association president Derek Fisher said the NBA's owners were lying on Friday, and we spent all weekend waiting around anxiously for the other shoe to drop.

NBA commissioner David Stern, who called in sick that day, needs to do something, right? He can't just watch his league's labor negotiations blow up in his absence and not make some attempt at regaining order.

The question: What will he do?

Some think he could still have an 82-game schedule up his sleeve, but it's still not clear when the two sides will meet next in their negotiations.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that Stern could opt for an open-ended approach rather than a definitive one.
"Pretty widely expected that NBA's next announcement will be that start of season postponed "indefinitely" or "until further notice."
When Stern announced that the NBA would cancel the first two weeks of its regular season, the announcement came three weeks prior to Nov. 1, the season's start date. We now stand pretty much exactly three weeks prior to the season's new start date -- Nov. 15 -- so an announcement of some kind should be coming shortly.

Why would Stern opt for an indefinite postponement? Well, it would save him the hassle of making a new cancellation announcement every two weeks. Surely, the outcry from fans and media members will accompany every new announcement. If he makes just one indefinite announcement, everyone hangs in limbo, uncertain when to rage. It would also give him the flexibility of getting the season started at whatever time is convenient if negotiations are successful. No need to wait an extra day or week to get things going if an agreement is actually reached.

A potential downside to an indefinite postponement would be the elimination of clear "deadlines" that are sometimes said to help the negotiation process. If the two sides don't feel clear pressure to work things through by a certain date to save a set amount of game checks, will that impact the motivation to set up meetings and/or stick to them for hours on end?

For now, we just wait and see for the answers to those questions.
Posted on: October 24, 2011 12:26 pm
 

Does the league care about competitive balance?

Posted by Royce Young



The NBA wants you to believe something. We’re fighting for the little man. We’re sticking up for the small market team that can’t fend for itself.

That’s what Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver hammered home this week while basically announcing that the league is screwed right now.

“I know we’ve had lots of back and forth with people in this room, but we think that a team that spends $100 million on its payroll versus a team that spends $50 million is at a huge competitive advantage. It’s not a perfect one-to-one correlation, but there’s a huge competitive advantage that comes from the ability to spend more time. And there’s a reason we believe why the NFL has been so successful from a competitive standpoint with a hard cap and a reason that the NHL has been so successful from a competitive standpoint with their flex cap type system which has a hard, absolute cap at the top of the band.”

Before that, David Stern went on and on during his media blitz about how the Sacramento Kings are trying to live in a world where they spend $45 million to the Lakers $100 million. It isn’t fair. No way around it. It’s not. Historically, the trophies live in the big markets. Chicago, New York, Boston, Los Angeles — over the past 60 years, 36 championships were won by those cities (40 if you count the four won by the Minneapolis Lakers). Four cities accounted for 60 percent of the NBA’s champions since 1950. There’s never, ever been a precedent for competitive balance in the NBA. Never has the playing field been level.

And has the league grown? Has it succeeded? Yes and yes. Most would say the top of the mountain for the NBA was the 1990s with Michael Jordan and the Bulls. Or if not that, the 1980s with Magic’s Lakers battling Bird’s Celtics. Or if not that, maybe right now with the plethora of talent littered throughout the league.

This isn’t to say small markets haven’t ever won. There’s the Spurs, who have served as the beacon of hope for little guys. Except remember: When those boring Spurs were winning, that was kind of a dark time for the league. Scoring was down, ratings slipped and interest waned. That could’ve been because of a post-Jordan hangover, but the 2000s weren’t great for the league.

LaMarcus Aldridge, who plays in a small market, wouldn't speculate on what the league's real intentions are.

"If they're saying it, then hopefully they're trying to do it," he said after Sunday's charity game in Oklahoma City.

Which is kind of what you have to think with it. If they're saying it, then hopefully they really mean it.

But even with the league preaching that, I get the feeling it’s a red herring to divert attention away from the fact the owners are trying to squeeze the players out of a 20 percent (or so) paycut. It’s the owners’ version of “Let us play!” Preach fairness and tug at the heartstrings of small market fans to win support. All while reaching in the back pocket of the players. Preach parity and win public support. It’s a brilliant move. Maybe they mean it this time, but the league’s never really cared much for competitive balance, so why now? With proper revenue sharing, big market success often leads to more small market money. Or at least, more money and more success for the NBA. Which is what it’s really all about, right?

"I just want the fans to trust us and know that we're far from greedy," Chris Paul said following the charity game. "We just want a fair deal. We want to get out there and play more than anybody. But we understand that at the end of the day, we're the product. We're the reason the fans come and we just want a fair deal.”

The league though, says it wants to make life fair for a team like Paul's Hornets (which it happens to own, but nevermind that). The league wants to give equal opportunity to everybody not in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or Boston. Last season's champion Mavericks? They had a payroll upwards of $90 million. That would never happen in Sacramento, Minnesota or Oklahoma City, where all the stars gathered Sunday.

The Thunder have become a poster child for parity, the beacon of hope to every struggling small market franchise. Before them were the Spurs. Even playing against the system, both teams built a perennial contenders. Why? Brilliant management, shrewd financial discipline and a good amount of luck.

Luck? Yeah, don’t deny it. OKC's general manager Sam Presti’s done wonderful work in the draft, but let’s face it: He drafted No. 2, 4 and 3 in 2007, 2008 and 2009. In 2007, he snagged the fifth pick in Jeff Green. Kevin Durant fell in his lap after Portland whiffed on Greg Oden. Now to Presti’s credit — and you won’t find anyone that sings his praises louder and more often than me — he’s three-for-three. Where other general managers pick duds — Hasheem Thabeet, Oden, Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo — Presti has taken players that not only fit well into his roster structure, but have develop-able talent.

The Thunder thrive on rookie contracts and high-value veteran. Why? Because it’s the cheapest labor there is. There’s no coincidence that on every “underpaid NBA stars” list the Thunder register three or four players. The question is though: What happens with Serge Ibaka and James Harden? After Durant and Westbrook see their paydays, will Clay Bennett have the pockets to keep Ibaka and Harden too? If the Thunder were in Los Angeles or New York, it would happen. Will it in OKC?

Once upon a time, Geoff Petrie was Mr. Genius in Sacramento when he was rolling with Chris Webber. Kevin McHale drafted Kevin Garnett in for the Wolves and built a playoff contender. Eventually the well runs dry. At some point, Tim Duncan’s going to retire. And the Spurs will either reload or have to go through some small market pains.

(The opposite example has been the Knicks over the past decade though. Tons of money, tons of spending and tons of futility. Money doesn’t always equal wins. Management does. The league is cyclical. Sometimes your team is good, sometimes it’s not. Do the big markets have an advantage? Sure. But does it always matter? Nope. Do I like asking myself questions? Sometimes.)

But it’s worked so far in Oklahoma City. It worked in San Antonio. Which is why some are quick to wonder why it can’t work in Sacramento, Minnesota or Milwaukee. Why? Because there aren’t 10 Tim Duncans. There aren’t 10 Kevin Durants. And there sure as hell aren’t 10 Sam Prestis or R.C. Bufords. It’s the world we live in — some people are better at things than others. And when you’re better, you see success. Are organizations like the Thunder, Spurs, Wolves and Bucks at a competitive disadvantage? Sure they are. But is it a death sentence for mediocrity? Absolutely not. History says it’s harder to win, but it’s not impossible.

History also says the league doesn't really care. The league always has and always will look to do what's best for it, and its owners as a collective whole. Henry Abbott of TrueHoop put it well: “Instead, the league asks us all to celebrate competitive balance—so long as the pain of creating it is felt primarily by the players. When owners could do something real to make the league more competitive, like change the playoff format or pay Chris Paul far more on the open market, they lose interest.”

What does the league want this upcoming season? An NBA Finals featuring the Celtics and Lakers or a competitively balanced Finals with the Bucks and Kings. I think we all know the answer to that. Don't sell me on looking on for the little man, because we all know what you're really after -- getting your checkbooks competitively balanced.

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 22, 2011 7:00 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2011 7:18 pm
 

Report: NBA, players to meet next week?

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

Pro-tip: Any time a negotiation ends with one party standing up on national television to call the other party a liar and the federal mediator apppointed to oversee things issues a "hands in the air" press release as he sneaks out the side door, that's a failed negotiation.

The NBA's labor negotiations reached rock bottom when National Basketball Players Association president Derek Fisher didn't mince words, accusing representatives of the NBA's owners of lying in their depiction of labor talks that broke down on Thursday.

The New York Times reported Friday that, although everything looks terribly bleak, the two sides could re-engage communication as early as this weekend.
“It could be tougher than it has been in the past to get back together,” Peter Holt, the chairman of the league’s labor-relations committee, said Thursday night.

Yet on Friday, people on both sides of the divide, speaking off the record, predicted there would be a phone call or two over the weekend and probably another meeting next week. That has been the pattern all month: every dramatic breakdown followed by a brief silence and then a surprising resumption of talks.

In many respects, the parties are exactly where they were two weeks ago, when union officials angrily accused the league of “setting preconditions” — i.e. acceptance of a 50-50 split — for any further talks. Two days later, they were back at the bargaining table.
The big question here: Can we get an injury report on NBA commissioner David Stern? Stern, who called in sick to Thursday's negotiations that eventually went up in flames, hasn't emerged yet emerged to put the pieces back together. The possibility of further regular season game cancellations looms, so perhaps we'll be hearing from him soon?

Certainly, the vast majority of NBA observers have to be hoping that Stern's return comes with news of negotiation reconciliation, and not solely the bad news of a further delay to the start of the 2011-2012 season.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com