Tag:Billy Hunter
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.

Winners

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.

Losers

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 4:13 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 6:37 pm
 

How much does Billy Hunter make?

Posted by Royce Young

A couple months ago, there was quite the to-do over David Stern's salary. Initially it was reported to be in the $23 million a year range, but that has since been tamped down to somewhere in the $10-13 million area.

Why did we care? Well, because the league and it's players are in a pretty nasty dispute over money. And so how much people are making is sort of an item of interest.

So how about union head Billy Hunter? He's not in Stern territory, but how much are the players paying him to represent them? Via AM Law Daily:
In addition to listing payments to outside advisers, the Labor Department filings detail the salaries of key NBPA employees. Hunter, for instance, earned $2.4 million in the union's most recent filing ending in June 2010, well below the nearly $3.6 million in total compensation he received the year before.
So Hunter took a paycut in 2010? Obviously, you have to wonder if that's a product of the recession, the coming lockout or something else. Not that $2.4 million a year isn't a good living, but a $1.2 million paycut is pretty large.

Ben Golliver of CBSSports.com told you yesterday that lawyers were making a killing off this lockout thing, but Hunter as well is raking in major cash.

Since we've got Stern and Hunter out of the way, I'm curious as to how much Derek Fisher's getting for being the union's president. Someone get on that now.
Category: NBA
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.
Posted on: September 26, 2011 7:16 pm
 

Derek Fisher: NBA owners have 'internal issues'

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

I don't know anyone else under the age of 80 that writes more letters than Los Angeles Lakers guard and National Basketball Players Association president Derek Fisher.

In his latest missive, sent just a few weeks after he penned one attacking agents in advance of a NBPA regional meeting in Las Vegas, Fisher asserts that the players "drive this game" and repeats his earlier statements that the league's owners have a number of "internal issues" that need to be resolved before a deal can be struck.

ESPN.com obtained the letter. Here are a few excerpts.

"There are a number of team owners that will not lose the season over the hard cap system. We've been clear from Day 1 of this process that we cannot sign off on a deal that attempts in any way to include a hard salary cap for our teams. That has not changed," Fisher said. "Unless you, the group we represent, tell us otherwise, we are prepared to hold the line for as long as it takes to preserve the system we've worked so hard to build.

"We still haven't been presented with any real specifics or proposals that include what a new revenue sharing model will look like," Fisher said. "It is my belief that if they can get us to be short-sighted and agree to an unfair deal they won't have to share more revenue amongst themselves. They will have gotten what they need from us. We can't allow that to happen guys. Not under any circumstances.

"It is also my belief that once they have worked out more of their internal issues, the opportunity to negotiate and get a fair deal done is there."

Fisher's goal in raising these splinter issues is to provide an explanation for why he needs more time, potentially a lot more time, to get a new deal done and get the players back to work. Waiting just to wait doesn't do the players any good, and that will lead to restlessness. But waiting makes a lot more sense if the payoff is that the NBA owners are more willing to deal. Conventional wisdom and the size of their respective checking accounts suggest that time is on the owners' side; here, Fisher tries to flip that idea on its head to reclaim some leverage and bolster internal confidence.

The problem with this tactic is that it will continue to read like empty rhetoic until the owners make a proposal that moves anywhere in the vicinity of a deal. Up to this point, preaching patience hasn't accomplished much for Fisher and NBPA executive director Billy Hunter. Relying on the owners to set the pace of these negotiations isn't ideal. Push is coming to shove for the players before our eyes and there is a finite number of times that Fisher will be able to go back to the "patience" card. He hasn't exhausted those opportunities but I'm sure he would much rather be selling progress than patience after this week's meetings.

Be sure not to read over the phrase "unless you, the group we represent, tell us otherwise" with regard to the hard cap. That reads an awful lot like hedging. Up to this point, the idea of a hard cap has been a "blood issue" that was not suitable for negotiation. But that clause seems totally unnecessary if the players had truly agreed that the hard cap was to be a "blood issue". Therefore this almost reads like a door being cracked open or an innocent invitation to the rank and file: "Just tell us to cave and we'll cave!" Maybe that's too cynical.

Given the deliberate pace of negotiations, it's hard to be anything but too cynical.
Posted on: September 20, 2011 10:37 am
Edited on: September 20, 2011 10:39 am
 

Players, league go back to the table

By Matt Moore

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports:
Bargaining sessions would take place tomorrow and/or Thursday featuring heavy hitters: Stern/Silver/Holt vs. Hunter/Fisher/Klempner.
via Twitter / @KBergCBS: Bargaining sessions would ....

Berger notes that the schedules haven't been fully aligned and so the status is tentative at this point. Key to the negotiations, Berger reports, is revenue sharing and whether the NBA's Board of Governors bring a proposal to the table. The fact that the meetings are back to the smaller meetings of "heavy hitters" is a good sign for progress, as it was those meetings that moved things forward in the first place.

The revenue sharing element is dangerous territory. The league has maintained from the very beginning that while they embrace revenue sharing, it is not on the negotiating table in these discussions. The owners consider it a private issue for the Board of Governors. Which is a pretty reasonable position, provided you ignore or deny the "players are the product element." By that I mean that if you believe the players have an equal share in the NBA since they are both the employees and "the product," it's hard to say that the league should be able to lock out the players and renegotiate all terms on the players' end while keeping an element as big as revenue sharing off the table. 

The question now will be if the league and its owners keep revenue sharing off the table as a matter of pride and principle (or leverage), or if the moderates are willing to at least provide details on an internally-negotiated agreement as a sign of good faith. The players are looking for the owners to give something, anything. So far the league has kept the line on any and all fronts while the union continues to offer compromise on BRI. If the players keep offering compromise and the league maintains a hard-line stance, the players may decide to walk out of principle and to pursue leverage. Which could lead to decertification and a court battle.

So, you know. No pressure.

Still, this is promising news that follows a weak of reports of progress despite the dour tone of last week's talks. As long as they're talking, the hope of a season is alive. But time is running out if both sides want to avoid losing games.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com