Posted on: October 1, 2011 6:07 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 7:00 pm

NBA, NBPA have 'huge gaps' after 7-hour meeting

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association met for the second straight day in New York City on Saturday, but the talks failed to produce an agreement or even much progress. 

CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reports that the talks will not continue on Sunday as expected and that the two sides will be "back at it" on Monday in smaller groups. 

Talks lasted for more than seven hours on Saturday following a lengthy negotiating session on Friday that featured some tense moments and cameos by superstars like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony.

Representatives for both sides addressed the media afterwards.

Berger reports that NBPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler said that the two sides did not discuss the most contentious issue, the division of Basketball-Related Income, and instead talked about system issues. NBPA president Derek Fisher, meanwhile, acknowledged that there were "still huge gaps" between the two sides, who decided to switch the discussion to individual system issues.

"Break down the mountain into separate pieces and tackle it one step at a time," Fisher explained. "We weren't going to be able to make major, sweeping progress on the entire economic and system at the same time. Maybe if we split them up and try to go at them one at a time ... we can at least get some momentum and some progress going."

USA Today reported that NBPA executive director Billy Hunter said the two sides were still "miles apart."

Berger reported that Hunter believes the owners are still pushing for a system that resembles a hard cap rather than the soft cap that the players prefer. "If you gave them everything they're asking for, you'd ultimately have a hard cap," Hunter said.

On the other side of the table, Berger reported that NBA commissioner David Stern said that the two days of negotiations were "long and in some ways exhausting" and that the two sides were "not near anything." However, Stern noted: "We're closer than we were before."

NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver painted the discussions as a clear exchange of ideas: "The owners certainly heard the passion from the players, and right back at them from the owners."

NBPA vice president Matt Bonner told MySanAntonio.com that both sides were "a little burned out" and only made "minor progress" on Saturday. His fellow NBPA vice president Roger Mason, Jr. tweeted: "Finished another long day of meetings. Unfortunatey nothing new to report. We are still very far from a deal."

Berger also reports that Stern acknowledged that he exchanged words with Wade on Friday. "There was a heated exchange of some kind."

The next steps for the NBA will be to announce the cancelation of the rest of the preseason schedule. On Sept. 23, the NBA announced the cancelation of the first half of the preseason. Once the entire preseason slate is wiped, a delayed start to the regular season, which is currently slated for Nov. 1, is essentially inevitable. Berger reports that Stern no announcement will be made on Monday but that the decision will be a "day to day" matter after that. 

This post will update with the latest NBA lockout news.
Posted on: September 30, 2011 11:41 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 11:42 pm

NBA Lockout: Wade becomes the man on fire

By Matt Moore

Dwyane Wade spent the week shilling for an on-court traction product. It was very Bruce-Banner-y. He did a wide range of interviews for the product, talked about the Heat, flashed that Wade smile, did the whole publicity tour. Wade had been quiet for months regarding the lockout. He hadn't appeared at any of the Pro-Ams. He hadn't been a presence at the meetings. He hadn't been aggressively supporting the union in front of or away from the cameras. In short, some were beginning to wonder where Wade was in this whole lockout landscape, the silent superstar in a league full of big moneymakers who seemed to be just looking out for themselves and enjoying their summer. Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul (who serves on the union's executive committee) and Kevin Garnett seemed to be the only leaders from the star contingent. 

Then Friday came.

And Dwyane Wade took a flamethrower to the whole damn place.

It started early when Wade gave an interview to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, and discussed, essentially, being an underpaid superstar. Wade's understanding of the earning power of superstars in the NBA wasn't off factually, even if the timing was questionable.  It was a high-impact interview with a high-impact reporter that set the tone for the day. And Wade was only getting started. 

Next up, he drops comments across the board regarding the fact that the players "may lose a season." It was an odd and seemingly out of place set of comments considering the importance of getting a deal this weekend. Wade was essentially taking a hard-line position of saying "We want to play, but don't think we're not willing to lose the year just to get a deal." This from a player who notoriously is careful to avoid controversy. He's taken on a lot of flak this year as a member of the Heat from the backlash from "The Decision" and the formation of the Triad on South Beach, but Wade has always been popular with reporters for providing sound bytes without ever getting in trouble. He rarely if ever comes under scrutiny for his comments, and here he is being up front about the realities of the talks after saying that he's not getting paid what he could. 

Then there was the meeting.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com confirmed that at one point Wade stood up to David Stern's aggressive speech to the players. ESPN reported a direct quote from Wade:
Source: David Stern pointed his finger at players while talking. Wade shouted, "You're not pointing your finger at me. I'm not your child."
via Twitter / @RicBucher: Source: David Stern pointe ....

What the...?

Where's the baby-kissing, hand-shaking, lovable Dwyane Wade we've come to know? Where's the meek and mild player that no one was loooking to for leadership? Apparently all it took was Kobe Bryant having prior commitments with Nike in Europe to bring the Warrior Wade to the front... with a blowtorch.

Consider this, from earlier this week on the New York TimesNBA blog Off the Dribble:  
Wade said he has been in regular contact with Billy Hunter, the executive director of the players union, about the state of negotiations. But he said he felt no need to join the meetings himself, and he shrugged off the criticism directed at superstar players for their lack of involvement.

“That’s a silly thought,” Wade said. “I’ve been in a few meetings — I’ve been in three or four meetings myself.”

But none of the league’s top players have been a regular presence since the lockout began July 1, with the exception of Chris Paul, who serves on the union’s executive board. It has been suggested that a greater presence by the game’s superstars could push the N.B.A. toward a deal. Wade disagreed.

“The negotiation is the negotiation,” he said, adding: “We’ve been in there. Not only have they said their shpiel, we’ve said our shpiel, we’ve listened. We’ve taken notes. We’ve done all this. And we believe in our players association.”
via Negotiations Don't Need a Star Presence, Wade Says - NYTimes.com.

In two days, we've gone from Wade saying there's no reason for the superstars to be more active, to Wade himself aiming at the commissioner of the NBA to get his finger out of their face. Something happened, and it's likely not a coincidence that Wade suddenly came off the leash. The Players' Union needed someone with a big name and a face to come out guns blazing, to pull a Jordan '99 and Wade was the man to step up. For all the flak the Heat have taken, Wade is as respected as they come, and his foot forward spoke volumes. 

The players needed someone to go rogue and play bad cop.

Dwyane Wade pulled out the billy club on the start of the most serious negotiations in the entire process and started swinging from sun up to sun down. We'll have to see if this galvanizes the union to stick together, or if this came off as empty rhetoric from a player not representative of the league's primarily roleplayer whole.

Finally, consider this report from a Miami-based reporter who spoke with a player to gauge reaction to Wade's outburst Friday.  
Just spoke to an NBA player not in today's meeting. Said "400 guys in our league have a new favorite player tonight, and it's Mr. D-Wade."
via Twitter / @ByTimReynolds: Just spoke to an NBA playe ....

To quote a popular song for NBA players, "Say hello to the bad guy."
Posted on: September 30, 2011 7:37 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 7:49 pm

EOB Roundtable: Wade's words

By EOB staff

Dwyane Wade's comments to Yahoo! Sports in an article published Friday riled everyone up. Player advocates and hardcore capitalists leapt to defend the comments since, by any and all accounts, he was correct. Meanwhile, pretty much everyone else mimicked vomiting since approximately no one wants to hear a player making $16 million per year talk about being underpaid. It should be noted that not once in the excerpted comments in the article did Wade say the word "underpaid." He was just responding honestly to a question asked of him. 

But is honesty in this instance, with the surrounding circumstances, appropriate? The league and the players' union met Friday afternoon in the midst of a lockout that threatens the entire 2011-2012 season. The players' union is desperately clinging to unity from all its members, role players and stars alike, and Wade very seriously undermined that by essentially saying "the people come to see the superstars." The problem is that means the people do not come to see the role players, who make up the vast majority of the league. 

In a poll on the CBSSports.com FaceBook page,  340 people (90+ percent) voted "no" on the question of "Is Dwyane Wade or any other NBA star worth $50 million a year?" That's a ridiculous percentage, and shows you where people stand on athletes. The players have come a long way in this lockout in terms of convincing people they're right in this dispute, but comments like Wade's threaten to wipe out that good will. So was Wade right or wrong to speak his mind on the issue, when prompted? We decided to debate it in this week's roundtable. We've inserted some tweets from the conversation Friday we thought were relevant.   

Matt Moore:  My problem is not that Wade's wrong. He's 100% on target. There's almost no way to argue with the fact that superstar players would garner more on the open market without a cap. My biggest response, though, is that that money that he thinks should go to him comes from the players who make him a superstar. Without the Udonis Haslems, without the, heck, Mario Chalmers of the world, Wade doesn't win and then isn't a superstar. Does he expect those guys to make what they make now AND for him to make $50 million? There's got to be a line somewhere, and this from a guy who has been solidly anti-owner throughout the lockout. 

The second issue is this. Could Wade's timing have been any worse? We're on the verge of Judgment Day in the negotiations, the owners are starting to bend a bit, the union is holding together a fragile peace with the extremist agents, and Wade fires out an interview that manages to upset owners saying they're worth more than they're paid and the role players who make up the majority of the union. Seriously, you couldn't have waited another three weeks to go pimp your new sponsorship court-traction thingie?
The point remains that Wade severely hurt the PR war that the players were so close to actually winning this time. Even if he was right.
via Twitter / @noamschiller: The point remains that Wad ....

Ben Golliver:The timing is terrible and the underlying message totally undercuts the whole idea of having stars in the room to show solidarity. There's no worse way to show solidarity than to point out the fact that the only thing keeping you from making 10 times your brethren is that dang annoying salary cap. I almost feel sorry for Billy Hunter. Brutal. Going back to Wade's statement, though, for a moment: he is definitely right. His point has really crystallized during this offseason for me, the idea that the real drivers of massive, widespread interest are superstar players and franchise brands. Replacement-level players have never felt so replaceable, not when their "Lockout League" draws literally dozens of fans and not when the overseas offers are coming in at a tiny fraction of what they would make in the NBA. You make a great point that stars need scrubs and vice versa but Wade is factually correct to say that the earning power of elite players like himself is massively crippled by the current NBA financial system. It probably would have been a good idea if he had paid a bit of respect to the league's machine and his fellow teammates for helping him become elite in the first place, though.
This is pretty simple, actually. If you make $15.5 million a year - before counting the T-Mobile money - you're not underpaid.
via Twitter / @charliezegers: This is pretty simple, act ....

Matt Moore: Can he honestly reasonably expect an NBA owner to be able to afford $50 million and field a team? I mean, look, I've criticized the league as much as anyone for how they've wasted their revenues outside of player salaries, and very few buy the statements from the league regarding losses. But the NBA doesn't make that much. It's the third most popular pro sport and that has consequences. I guess to me there's a difference between market value as established by their earning potential and market value based on the actual market they operate in. And their NBA market value isn't extremely overvalued. Maybe a bit. Not extremely.  It's a good thing that public perception has played zero part in these negotiations, because even though Wade never said the word "underpaid" once, the public backlash is not going to be kind 

Ben Golliver:
 Sure we (and Wade) can absolutely expect an NBA owner to afford $50 million in a system with no salary cap. Not every owner will be able to keep up but there are plenty who would secretly relish the opportunity to spend without rules getting in the way. That's why the cap exists in the first place: to restrain owners from overspending wildly in the pursuit of a title. 

To your point, though, I'm not arguing that a select group of stars is getting a totally raw deal here. We've seen this summer that the NBA market worth of a superstar is far greater than the same player's worth anywhere else in the world and it's not close. Asking superstars to give up some percentage of their total theoretical earning power to help support the entire system and ensure that the average salary for non-superstars remains healthy isn't a war crime. And that's why, to me, Wade doesn't sound like he's whining about it. I think he and other stars realize they still have it better than 99.9% percent of Americans and 99.9% of their fellow professional athletes.

Royce Young: Here's what sticks out to me most about Wade's comments: It's just really illustrates how far from reality all these players are. And rightfully so. Whether we want to accept it or not, an NBA player isn't your normal member of society. It should've started making more sense during these labor negotiations -- the world we all live in isn't the same as the one the owners and players live in. It's just the truth.
does that mean that non-superstars are worth much less than paid?
via Twitter / @crossoverdrib: @EyeOnBasketball @WojYahoo .... Which is why I don't blame Wade at all for saying what he thinks. Especially since its truth. We all gripe about billionaires arguing with millionaires about money during a time where the country has record high unemployment rates, but that's OUR world, not theirs. Once we all start accepting that a little more, the less frustrated we'll be the next time some NBA player talks about needing a new contract so he can feed his family. 

Matt Moore: Sorry, I'm not willing to excuse them as some sort of God-like beings. Dude puts his pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us. I don't dispute that what he said was accurate, but I also don't believe that saying what's accurate is always the best course of action. He was asked a question and he answered it honestly and with some degree of accuracy, but that doesn't mean it's not going to insult your average fan, who, by the way, drives his value to be worth $25 million or $50 million or whatever he makes. 

Royce Young: No, it's certainly a lack of self-awareness, which is something Wade has had issues with in the past. But let's be honest here: Do NBA playersreally cares about fans? I mean that in a sense outside of just thanking them enough so that they renew their season tickets and keep buying his jersey. I don't think he gives a crap what the average fan thinks about him. Like I said, most are fairly divorced from reality. Once they became superstars, much less just NBA players, they weren't like you and I anymore. Especially not in their own mind.  I'm definitely a person that's annoyed when professional athletes get lifted to a pedalstal, but then again, it just kind of happens by default. I mean, we pay to watch them do their job! If there were people at my door every morning lining up to buy $75 tickets to watch me type, I might get the feeling that I'm a little better, or at least a bit more valued, than your normal everyman.
This is exactly why people resent the players. There's no way in this economy we should be sympathetic to Wade's salary.
via Twitter / @demeatloaf: @HPbasketball This is exac ...

Ben Golliver:Fans are one of many things we have come to take for granted in the great, functioning NBA machine. They're a giant, amorphous blob that are talked about a lot more when they don't show up to playoff games than when they do. A few fan bases get singled out for their particular passion but that's about it. A year, or even months away, could serve as a reminder to players, media and teams alike that fans aren't a guaranteed part of this equation forever. The NBA has been setting revenue records but labor disagreements always tend to turn off a sizable chunk of people. Not to continually defend Wade here, but he's far from the only person that doesn't fully consider the totality of the fan issue.

I guess to wrap this up I would say that the time to make this statement was not now. It was back in January at All-Star Weekend, if not earlier, when labor strategies were still being discussed and there were still legit options open. At this point, on the brink of postponing the regular season, Wade managed to throw a monkey wrench into the public discourse and could well find himself and other players catching more flak than they deserve if the news out of this weekend's negotiations isn't good.
Wade could have said what he said, added "and we've accepted that for the greater good" and it would've been fine
via Twitter / @TheAkronHammer: @HPbasketball @mBunchHeat ...
Posted on: September 30, 2011 10:53 am

Lockout Day 92: Judgment Day

By Matt Moore

The NBA lockout has been filled with double-talk, as you'd expect. The league will say negative things, then leak that progress has been made. The union will make statements of promise towards a deal, then leak that a lot of agents and players think they are nowhere. Things go from being "blood issues" to "on the table" in the blink of an eye. And if I hear one more report about how this or that meeting is "key," I'm going to scream. But there's no getting around the unaninimity in reports surrounding Friday's negotiating session. 

This is Judgment Day.  

Either the union and league are going to find a way out of their issues, have a huge breakthrough, and stun everyone by announcing a handshake deal by the end of the weekend, with a process that starts Friday, or they're going to realize by the end of the day that they're simply too far apart to even be considering a resolution. The consequence of the latter could mean anything from a "go dark" end to negotiations for upwards of a month, canceling up to a month of the regular season at minimum, to the mutual assured destruction of the 2011-2012 NBA season. 

The essentials of where we're at, and how we got here, according to various reports: 

  • Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported Wednesday that the talks have reached a "key moment" due to how far they've come. Essentially, both sides feel there's a deal to be made, and if they can't work something out from the progress they've made in the past week, they're not going to get a deal done for months. It's put up or shut up time for both parties. 
  • Yahoo! Sports reports that Stern's ready to push the owners to "take the 30-point victory and leave the floor with some grace and dignity," but "the players have to blink first." You can read that in conjunction with ESPN's Thursday-night report that details the changes being offered by the owners which amount to a hard cap in mass without being an actual hard cap. This proposal offers essentially a hard cap for the owners without being a hard cap for the players. The players would keep guaranteed deals, presumably, or at least have a significant portion guaranteed. Any talk of a hard cap being opposed by the players out of flexibility should be considered a red herring. The guaranteed contracts is the key element, and if those are upheld in any significant way, that's enough to constitute a signifcant compromise on the owners part... which should necessitate an equal concession by the players in the way of the "Carmelo Rule," and the additional changes. In short, pieces of the proposal indicate a concession on both sides towards the middle. The players are still going to "lose," but that was evident from the get-go.
  • Despite the league's denial that David Stern intends to threaten to cancel the entire season, there's still a lot of people spooked, based off the "we don't know what he's going to do" factor. The lockout has been so hard to understand, with the extremist views on both sides of the aisle playing a huge part. One good reason that threat is unlikely to develop was mentioned by Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, who brought up the legal ramifications:
    One reason I don't think Stern will threaten to cancel season today: Union would use that against NBA in a "good faith" complaint to NLRB
    via Twitter / @ChrisMannixSI: One reason I don't think S ...
  • So what are those who want a season looking for today? The union to cave on the systemic changes, taking the lesser of two evils in exchange for not being burdened with a hard cap. That's probably not the hardest sell, even if the changes make the players grumble and unhappy. No one's going to be happy with this deal. On the owners' side it's all BRI. They're still pitching 46-percent-over-the-life-of-the-dea
    l offers according to Berger, and that's not going to get it done. The players dropped to 53 percent in their most extreme offer, the owners realistically want a 50/50 split. They have to at least get to 50 percent for things to even stay out of "cursing and throwing things" mode. If the owners want a deal, if Stern's going to push them into a deal, it's going to have to be with a BRI offer of plus 50 at some point during the life of the deal, with the total average not far from 50. Anything where the owners make more and the players will likely walk. The owners aren't getting a hard cap, they're going to want the BRI win. The players aren't getting the same system as before, they're going to want the BRI win. So as usual, everything comes back to money. 
You want the most awkard moment of the day? This weekend's negotiations are expected to include both Dan Gilbert and LeBron James. That should be a fun one. 

So this is it. It may not be Friday outright, it may be Saturday or even Sunday, but the next three days determine whether November 1st sees the opening tipoff of a league high on its popularity, enjoying a resurgence of relevance, of the Heat vying to redeem themselves, of the Mavericks making one last run, the Lakers trying to return to the top, the Celtics' last stand, the Bulls trying to fulfill destiny, or whether we're banished to months, and possibly a full year without professional basketball in the United States.

Close your eyes. Hold your breath. Just don't expect the best, or the worst. We're well past the point of expectations in the NBA lockout, and the courts haven't even gotten involved yet.  
Posted on: September 28, 2011 8:38 pm

Lockout Winners and Losers: September

By Matt Moore

In the busiest month since the start of the lockout, we had our hands full with palace intrigue on both sides. The conversations about who was on which side inside the NBPA and the owners deepened, talks started, stopped, then re-started. Compromise came forward, and so did threats. It was a month that usually showed conflicting sides of the conflict. Progress was followed by downturns of pessimism, and dour notes were trailed by waves of feel-good compromise. At the end of the third month, we're closer to a deal than we were on July 1st, but you'd have to look really closely in order to see it. With that, here are the winners and losers for September.


Derek Fisher

No one looked stronger throughout the month than Fisher. Fisher fired off two letters to the NBPA which naturally got leaked to the media and reprinted. Both times Fisher held the line the players want. he kept the union strong and together, working to take some of the edge off the knives of agents contemplating involuntary decertification, and reinforced the position of union leadership to stand up for the players' so-called needs at whatever cost. Hunter is the magnet for criticism, from agents, the union, media, the works. Fisher is being set up to take the reins and at the same time looks like a strong leader in his own right. Fisher came out of September looking like the one who could hold the line and get things done.

The Lakers

The Lakers were proactive in releasing the fact that they support revenue sharing and a hard cap. Both of these things cost them money and wins, so why would they be winners? Because by getting ahead of the movement, they're setting themselves up to control the process. In doing so, they'll insure the changes are made in a way that minimizes the damage to themselves. It's a nice piece of politics from the most powerful franchise in the league. Times are changing, and instead of fighting progress, the Lakers are spearheading it to make it work for them to whatever degree they can. Shrewd, those Busses.

Kobe Bryant

Commanding huge offers from Europe. Making strong statements at NBPA meetings. Leading the way for the veterans. Continuing his aura of being bigger than the game. Good month for Kobe as the overseas offers continue to climb.


Power-pushing agents

It's pretty hard to hurt the reputation of agents since public perception of them is not great to begin with, but coming off as renegade coup leaders isn't a good look. The agents were rabble-rousing all month about the leadership of Hunter, even as things tredged towards a deal and Hunter et al showed no signs of budging on the "blood issue" of the hard cap or any of the other lines in the sand for the union. Meanwhile, no one's really signing those gigantic overseas deal besides former Nuggets, and the exhibition games are getting no traction nationally. Agents usually seem greedy, it comes with the business. But this month, those that were rabble rousing look sneaky.

Players' ability to earn outside the NBA

Deron Williams began games with Besiktas and no one noticed. The European team spots are drying up. The exhibition league in Vegas was a lot of fun, and absolutely no one attended. The exhibitions around the country are getting less and less attention. The players may be prepared to dig in and wait this thing out, but they won't be doing it while collecting nice fat paychecks to cover their missing ones from the league. The players may be what drives the league, but the league structure is what allows them to become stars. This month showed that they need the league as much as the league needs them. 

"Hawk" owners

First, they were outed in an ESPN post which outlined where each owner sits in terms of the hard cap and revenue sharing. Then it was leaked that Dan Gilber and Robert Sarver were scuttling progress in the talks. The owners got the players to come down to 53 percent from 57 which is great, but their hard-line insistence on sub-50 levels makes them seem out of touch and desperate. Meanwhile, the NBA continues to hold strong as it waits for the NRLB ruling, which the owners cleary don't want to mess with. Their constant pushing of the union instead of working on compromise has fostered the discontent with the union agents, which could result in decertification and antitrust lawsuits. Stern needs to get the house in order, because in September, it seemed all over the place. They'll cave on the hard cap, but they're still seeking wild changes. All over the map for the owners in September.  
Posted on: September 28, 2011 2:34 pm

Updates from NBA-NBPA meeting in NYC

By Matt Moore

Ken Berger is at the CBA negotiations in New York. He is reporting on comments from both sides via Twitter:

Derek Fisher: Two sides agreed to meet again Friday, with full committees coming to NY.

In addition to negotiation committees for both sides, some "key players" and as many as 15 owners will be present.

Though Fisher said he could not state that common ground has been reached, the desire on both sides to get a deal is strong.

The weekend has been blocked out to continue negotiating, Fisher said.

As Hunter speaks on street, guy rolls up, pounds fist on door panel, and shouts, "We want basketball! Stop the playing and get it done!"

Union attorney Jeffrey Kessler: "We are not on the verge of a deal."

Silver: "It would be hard to characterize us as having made progress today."

Silver: Decisions we are about to make are "monumental."

Stern: "We're not near a deal."

Stern: "There are enormous consequences at play here" this weekend. "There will be a lot at risk in the absence of progress."

Stern: "Let's get the two committees in and see whether they can either have a season or not have a season. And that's what's at risk."
So there's some good and bad there. Kessler's statement obviously indicates that there's work to be done, but bringing in players and owners signals some movement. There has to be something for them to be talking about. 

But the tone of the comments reads more as the two sides being at a breaking point. They're either headed towards a breakthrough that could lead to a handshake deal to save the regular season, or on the verge of shutting it down and beginning to cancel regular season games. 

We're inside a minute and down two scores. Someone doesn't make a play soon, it's going to be time to turn out the lights. 
Posted on: September 28, 2011 9:53 am

Lockout: Which side's going to mess this up?

By Matt Moore

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports:
Owners have indicated a willingness to drop their insistence on a hard team salary cap in exchange for adjustments to the luxury tax system and key spending exceptions, two people with knowledge of the negotiations told CBSSports.com Tuesday night.

The offer by league negotiators came Tuesday in a brief, two-hour bargaining session that set the stage for what one source described as "an important day" on Wednesday.

"It's put up or shut up time," said the person, who is connected to the talks but spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the negotiations.
via Sources: Owners drop insistence on hard cap - CBSSports.com.

We're starting to see a pattern with how these negotiations are going. The smaller groups meet together, and a lot of progress is made. Both sides come out with compromise, new ideas, and a move towards a deal. Then the two sides bring their respective constituencies in to talk about it and everything falls apart. In esseence, everything goes fine in the owners-players conversation until you involve the owners and the players. It's pretty much all downhill from there.  

With talks expected to extend Wednesday before both sides break for the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah, that leaves both sides with several days to damage and deconstruct any and all progress made this week as the hard-liners break apart on the details. It's been known for a while that the only way a deal is done is if both sides can get the moderates behind the wheel and move the extremists back to the fringes. The question is which side will tear it down?

It was reported last week that Robert Sarver and Dan Gilbert were the two owners leading the charge against the progress made. Meanwhile, a contingent of the players' agents have been making it clear that while they may be behind the union's leadership as long as their priorities are in place, if they feel the deal isn't the best for their clients (and by extension, themselves), they'll pursue other options. The most likely candidate to bring things back to square one has to be the agents, since the players have given up more so far in the talks and the threat of decertification still dangles over the talks.

With the hard cap having become flexible from the owners' perspective and the BRI cut being a liquid issue for the players, there's a window open which could save the start of the season. But with both sides occupied by forces which have their own interests firmly prioritized over getting a deal done to give the fans, players, and owners a season, it's hard to see the sunshine brought out Tuesday night becoming daylight. It's a waiting game to see which side decides to screw this up first.  
Posted on: September 27, 2011 10:26 am
Edited on: September 27, 2011 11:09 am

The widening gap driven by the owners

By Matt Moore

When Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported Monday that the owners' latest proposal sought a 46 percent cut of BRI for the players averaged throughout the course of the deal, it was a sign of how far the two sides have to go, but not a doomsday prophecy. After all, that's a negotiation, right? One side high-balls, the other side low-balls, the two wind up somewhere in the middle. That the owners have come less way than the players is not a shock, they're the ones taking the more aggressive approach out of a demand from some of their representatives to solve what they consider huge problems. In short, they're driving a hard bargain. 

Bascially, the owners moved up from 39 percent to 44 percent to 46 percent while the players went from 57 percent to 54.3 percent (or as low as 53 percent according to some reports) according to reports. While the owners have moved further percentage wise, anyone that thought the split was going to wind up with the players giving back 18 percentage points of their cut was out of their minds. But there's an interesting wrinkle built into the proposal that comes from NBA.com's David Aldridge. From Aldridge:
A source says last week's latest proposal from the owners to the players started at 50 percent of Basketball Related Income in year one of the (still) 10-year offer, and dropped into the mid-40s for most of the rest of the proposed deal. Is that better than the initial 61-39 owners' split offer back in February? Yes. But it is still not anywhere close enough to get a deal with the players. Hard to imagine this isn't exactly how the owners anticipated this would go, and that there won't be anything of substance to report until the first game checks to players go unprinted in mid-November.
via Time has come for stars to speak up more at bargaining table | NBA.com

On the surface, this isn't anything super important. But the league is sticking to the same tactic it took in its June proposal. The goal of the owners is thought to range from insuring profitability to simply covering losses garnered by what they consider a combination of a broken system and the economic downturn. But if the latter is the case, why is that even with a conservative estimate for growth, the league winds up taking a bigger chunk as the revenues increase. The deal structure removes the players from the growth model. It's an employer telling a group of employees, "it doesn't matter if or how much you grow our company, you'll still make the same." It's a pay-raise freeze. Nothing puts the owners' position that the players do not represent what makes the league grow more than this. From Berger on Monday:
In its simplest form, Fisher's argument is that Steve Nash and Carmelo Anthony -- not Robert Sarver and James Dolan -- have generated record revenues, TV ratings and fan engagement for the NBA. And yet Sarver and Dolan -- not to mention Dan Gilbert and Peter Holt, labor relations committee members all -- want that pendulum to swing to the owners' side with a series of proposals that seek to shift the lion's share of revenues to them. The league's latest proposal last week, according to two people with knowledge of it, called for an average of 46 percent of basketball-related income (BRI) going to the players, who were guaranteed 57 percent under the previous deal.

The union's latest proposal, according to a person familiar with it, called for the players to agree to a salary freeze for the 2011-12 season -- no less than the $2.17 billion they earned last season -- and then reduce their share to 54 percent of BRI as a starting point in the rest of a six-year deal. Hunter has previously indicated a willingness to negotiate downward from that percentage, a gesture commissioner David Stern characterized as "on the road" to agreement on the economic terms of the deal.
via With owners split, NBPA aims to unite players, turn corner - NBA - CBSSports.com Basketball

It's an odd approach. Instead of saying "we want to recoup our losses now, and when the economy likely recovers at least to some degree and you help grow the game, your share will improve," the league is instead saying they want their cake, the increased revenue provided by the star power of the players, and to eat it too, with a higher percentage of BRI. 

The bottom line is found in-between the cracks in the story. Both sides are starting to compromise, with the owners offering up more than they had previously just as the players have. But the league is still reconfiguring their offer to gain an advantage for every concession they make. It's compromise, but only in terms of how they get what they want, not how much. So if you're starting to think the owners are moving towards a more reasonable approach, don't bet on it. Just as Derek Fisher is spitting fiery rhetoric which won't help matters, the owners aren't taking down arms, they're just moving them along the castle wall.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com