Tag:Billy Hunter
Posted on: September 19, 2011 2:43 pm

Bartelstein says there is no agent conspiracy

By Matt Moore

When word started flooding out of the gutters last week that NBA agents were upset enough with the leadership of union head Billy Hunter during the lockout to consider enacting an "involuntary decertification" by having 30 percent of the union sign a petition to do so, the reaction was swift. It looked like a power play to the media, it looked like a power play to the fans, and it looked like an attempted coup to the players. Derek Fisher spoke of it in a letter union membership last week. Now the agents have responded, and in their opinion, the truth is not out there, so to speak. 

Sports Illustrated spoke with one of the alleged rebel leaders, Mark Bartelstein who says that the discussions are totally off-base.
On whether working together with the union is still possible, or if there are now separate tracks:

"My goal has never been to have two separate tracks. My goal from Day 1 was to be unison with the union. We're all in this together. We all have the same goal, which is coming up with what's best for the players and what's best for the game. I reach out to Billy all the time. I haven't talked to him in two days. I want to strategize with Billy. I've been doing this for 25 years. I feel like I have a really good feel for the business, and I want to work with him to come to a resolution. I'm hoping to talk to Billy [on Monday] maybe."

On reports (SI.com included) of the agent power play:

"The way this thing reads, it's like there's all this plotting going on. That's just not true. The idea has never been to blow up the union. This idea that there's a secret agents to blow the union up is completely wrong. The idea that there's this diabolical plan going on is wrong."
via Mark Bartelstein clears up top agents' view of NBA union - Sam Amick - SI.com

Now, to a certain degree, this seems like "Do not run, we are your friends" kind of talk. If the agents are realy in support and in unison with Hunter and union leadership, it wouldn't talk to reporters about the negotiations and would keep quietly in the background. That's where fans want the agents. In the background. They have a responsibility to the players to look out for their interests (something else Bartelstein discusses in the post), but it's important that they don't do it in a way that suggests they're creating disharmony. Bartelstein's claim is that they haven't done that, but the media that's reported on it got it from somewhere. They didn't just invent this bogeyman, the information was presented to multiple sources.

The media chases a good story, but there's got to be some responsibility on the agents' part. Bartelstein's doing that by clearing the air and supporting the union. And that's pivotal, because the more the union fractures, the longer the lockout will go on, and the longer the lockout goes on, the worse the deal will be for the players, their agents, and the fans. 
Posted on: September 19, 2011 1:04 pm

Your quality lockout solution of the week

By Matt Moore

There have been a lot of proposed plans from media and fans for a new CBA during the lockout. Ken Berger's plan from June had a strong set of balanced compromises on both sides. But with the negotiations progressing (kind of - baby steps), we get a clearer idea of what the new CBA will look like, barring a dramatic sequence of events. And with it, the proposals for an end to the lockout, which the two sides seem at times diametrically opposed to, become more refined as well. 

Tim Donahue is a writer for the Pacers blog 8 Points, 9 Seconds. He's written some of the most comprehensive works in regards to the CBA negotiations and the issues involved. On Monday, Donahue posted a revised proposal on 8 Points, 9 Seconds which factors in comments from both sides of the negotiation in pursuing what appears to be a decent compromise for both sides. The proposal includes a reduction in the players' split of the BRI to 53 percent (which the players have already agreed to, according to Jared Dudley), but more interesting, it provides a solution to the "blood issue" of a hard cap, while giving the players a measure of flexibility, and without the "flex cap."
The Cap System

The system will include both a soft cap – more accurately described as a “threshold” – and a hard cap. Structurally, it is similar to the “flex” cap system previously proposed by the owners, but it is not the same. The mechanics would be:

The “soft cap” or “threshold” would be set by reducing BRI by $100 million to cover benefits, then taking 47 percent of the remainder and dividing by 30 (or total number of teams). Teams may spend above the threshold using an exception system that will be largely the same as the previous system – with changes to be outlined below.

A hard cap – which no team will be allowed to exceed at any point during the season – will be established by reducing the BRI by $100 million, then taking 65 percent of the remainder and dividing by 30 (or total number of teams).

A salary “floor” will be established at 75 percent of the soft cap. Any team who fails to meet or exceed this baseline in payroll will be ineligible for participation in the supplemental revenue sharing program.*  (* This is assumed to be the new program, which is expected deal with currently unshared revenue streams. The team will still receive their share of the national revenues – including television – as they do now.)

The luxury tax will be abolished. It will be unnecessary with the hard cap, and it’s revenue sharing function will be replaced in any new revenue sharing program the league implements.
via CBA Talk: Splitting the Baby

The 65 percent the hard cap is set at under Donahue's proposal is actually taken from a Billy Hunter statement on what the players' BRI cut would need to be in order for the players to accept a hard cap. But the key to Donahue's proposal is this. The players' biggest (but not sole) complaint with a hard cap is the loss of guaranteed contracts. Players fought hard to obtain the ability (not the right- teams are welcome to sign players to either guaranteed or non-guaranteed contracts, the CBA simply allows for guaranteed contracts to exist) to sign guaranteed contracts, and to abandon it puts career earnings in jeopardy. But Donahue's proposal sets the hard cap so high, guaranteed contracts will most likely be held through at least the first four years of a contract. While the fifth and sixth years may become non-guaranteed, that isn't dramatically different from the current system in which many of the later years are only partially guaranteed.

Furthermore, players have acknowledged the need for owners to be able to get out of contracts. This system prevents the owners from making terrible deal upon terrible deal, while also managing the impact on flexibility for the players. In short, it's not perfect for either side. It presents the players compromising on a hard cap and their cut of the BRI. It's not a favorable deal to the players. But it's a deal that would get the season to start on time, salvage most of their goals, and work within the confines of the owners' demands to present a solution. On only a six-year (or seven-year, depending on when the system is implemented) deal, it allows for them to make another swing at adjustments once the economy recovers. The large market owners get some room to spend a significant amount as their current market allows, but only in the form of exceptions as to keep costs down for the small-market owners. 

It's not the last proposal that will come from the gallery, but it is one that satisfies the demands of both sides. As such, it's considerably better than what either side in the actual negotiation has to offer.  
Posted on: September 19, 2011 9:40 am
Edited on: September 19, 2011 10:19 am

Hunter: Stars ready to loan union lockout money

By Matt Moore

The whole point of the actual lockout is to pressure the players into submitting to the owners' demands, or at least to gain as much leverage as possible for the owners in the dispute. And as much as the players will talk about just wanting to play, the money is what matters here.

A phrase that's been used a lot in discussions is "the lockout doesn't start until the players miss a paycheck." The idea is that once the players start missing regular paychecks, no matter how much they say they've prepared for a long lockout, they'll start to get anxious, apply pressure to their union, and the result will be a deal even more amicable to the owners than what is expected (which is a pretty pro-owner deal to begin with).

But in an interview with the L.A. Times last week in Las Vegas, union head Billy Hunter mentioned something that could have a big impact on the players' ability to hold out through the financial siege. From the Times:
What role will NBA superstars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James play as this moves forward?"

"They've been deeply involved in the meetings we've had. I know Kobe is intimately involved in interfacing with colleagues and sharing in a pool of revenue to help the others get through this. Kobe has volunteered to do that in the event others need, he and others are prepared to loan money if necessary."
via Monday Q&A: NBA players union executive director Billy Hunter - latimes.com

There's been talk of a potential pool for a whle, but this is concrete talk from a union head on the matter. It's a sign of how deeply, at least on the surface, the players are in surviving this lockout to get at least some of what they want from the negotiations. Think of it this way. If you were involved in a labor dispute at your job, would you offer to give money so that workers who aren't as good at their job as you are can continue to live comfortably?

At the same time, Bryant has more than enough career earnings to survive the lockout, as most of the stars do. It's also a two-way street. In helping the lower-paid players, the stars decrease the chances that those players will circumvent what the star players want in order to get a deal. The role players watch the stars' backs in negotiations, the stars help out with the roleplayers' finances. It sounds pretty noble until you start to factor just how much moeny we're talking about in terms of "living comfortably." 

The players have also started receiving their escrow checks from multiple sources, and that's just icing on the cake. But this is still September. The union will have to show this resolve into November and potentially beyond in order to force the owners off the hard line, if the owners don't get their house in order and put the moderates back in charge of talks first. 

Posted on: September 16, 2011 11:48 am

Friday 5 with KB: Just how bad are things?

By Matt Moore

In this week's edition of 
the Friday 5, we look at just how bad things are, how idiotic the Palin-Rice story is, and how much power Adelman will have. You can follow Ken Berger on Twitter @KBergCBS.  

1. What was more idiotic this week, the Glen Rice-Sarah Palin story or the way the negotiations broke down?

KB: The Rice-Palin story was silly, salacious, unnecessary and typical of our current blogissism environment. So, hands down, that was more idiotic than the talks breaking down. You know why? Because I refuse to believe that the talks have broken down. I'm clearly in the minority on this, but I still see the possibility of a deal. First, there is agreement -- or at least an acknowledgement of common ground -- on the econonics. That's huge. Now, the players will not make their proposed economic move -- believed to be 52-53 percent of BRI -- unless the owners give up their insistence on a hard cap. I was told by multiple people involved in the negotiations that what happened Tuesday was nothing like the manner in which talks have broken off in past CBA talks. There was no enmity, no name-calling, no storming out of the room. There was disappointment on both sides that the discussion had stalled on the system issues. But it doesn't have to stall forever. Stern stated Thursday in Dallas what ownership sources have told me over the past few days -- that there is room for negotiation from the league's standpoint on the cap and system issues. I have been told that the players are willing to negotiate certain specific system issues as well. So once cooler heads prevail and the posturing subsides, that is what they'll do. I wouldn't expect the players to move another inch until they at least give the NLRB a chance to rule on their unfair labor practices charge. But there is too much at stake and enough open-mindedness in the process for things to stop on Sept. 15 and never evolve from there.

2. You're urging for the plebeians to keep calm and carry on in the face of the breakdown this week, with there being actual movement with the union offering a lowered BRI. Here's a hypothetical. What would be the owners' reaction if the players did in fact offer a 50/50 split?

KB: I don't have any evidence that the players are willing to move that much, particularly if the words "hard cap" are ever uttered again. But I think while the players wait for the NLRB to rule, you will begin to see an evolution of the owners' bargaining position. I'm not here to do anyone's negotiating for them -- and lord knows, they wouldn't want me to -- but if I were the owners, the next logical step would be to say, "OK, how about 50-50 with a system that addresses competitive balance isssues to a degree, but not through a full-fledged, 100 percent hard cap?" For example, as in the NHL system, guarantees could be limited and tied to age or years of service. The players would have a chance to preserve some of the exceptions and security they're anchored to while making back much of the money they're giving up with a gradually more favorable split as revenues increase throughout the deal -- especially when the new broadast contracts take effect in 2016. Throw in a significant overhaul of the revenue-sharing mechanism, and youv'e got yourself a deal that doesn't give either side what it wants, but delivers most of what both sides need. Honestly, it ain't that hard, folks.

3. It's division week, as civil war rages on both sides. Agents fighting with union leadership, and Sarver-Gilbert undercutting the hopes of a season. Rank the four various factions by power: agents, union, Stern, hawk owners.

KB: Tough question. The outcome of the talks hinges on the answer. I'm going to say 1) Stern, 2) hawk owners, 3) union and 4) rebellious agents. Despite the outside pressures and the appearance that only a handful of mid-level players are invested in the negotiations, this could be construed as a good week for the union, which came across publicly as the side willing to negotiate and compromise and demonstrated calm, strong leadership from Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher. At such time when the union passes the hawk owners for No. 2, a deal will soon follow.

4. The Wolves of course got out in front by laughing at the idea that Adelman has any clash with Kahn. Do you see this becoming a power struggle over their time together?

KB: The man with the power in Minnesota clearly is Adelman. Just follow the money and the resume. It's hard to imagine it becoming a power struggle. For there to be a power struggle, you have to have two people with equal power -- or at least two people with the perception of equal power. Not the case here. Adelman is the man.

5. What is with the players' union and their fascination with clothing coordination? Are they a glee club? Do they think they'll do well at the junior high band competition?

KB: The T-shirts weren't a terrible idea, but I'll put it this way: Clothing is all about who's wearing it. No disrespect to Paroxi-Wife, but if the Victoria's Secret stuff you ordered for her birthday came with Scarlett Johansson inside, it would be a whole different story. So the T-shirts would've looked a lot better, and would've sent an entirely more powerful message, if the were worn by LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul. Or Scarlett Johansson. 

(NOTE: Paroxi-Wife got books. Lots of books.
Posted on: September 15, 2011 5:39 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2011 7:58 pm

NBPA preaches resolve, patience in Vegas meeting

Posted by Ben Gollivernbpa-stand

LAS VEGAS -- Yards away from the Vdara Hotel's lobby, where an endless line of tourists stood patiently waiting to check into their hotel room, a large group of NBA players sat in a conference room on Thursday morning, getting briefed on the latest news from ongoing collective bargaining agreement negotiations by National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter, NBPA president Derek Fisher and other NBPA executive committee members.

The immediate message from the NBPA executive committee after the meeting closed approximated the sentiment expressed in a letter sent Wednesday from Fisher to every NBA player: Player solidarity is important, there is a fundamental split among the owners, and decertification of the union is not imminent. 

To underscore that solidarity, the NBPA distributed gray t-shirts, featuring a silhouette image of basketball players above the word "STAND" in yellow block letters. More than 30 players wore the t-shirts and stood behind Hunter and Fisher as they addressed reporters in an adjacent press conference room.

"We had a very colorful and engaging meeting today," Fisher began. "We are together. We are unified. There is not a fracture and a separation amongst our group that in some ways has been reported. We want to continue to reiterate that point."

Despite some players expressing frustration at the lack of progress in the ongoing negotiations between the NBA and NBPA, Hunter said that frustration didn't rear its head in Thursday's meeting.

"I don't get the kind of negative feedback that I get from some of the articles that you guys write," Hunter said.

Roughly 35 NBA players attended the meeting, which was scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. and was expected to last at least 75 minutes, adjourned around 1:30 p.m. Attendance estimates presented earlier in the week were nearly double the number of players who actually showed up.

"There's no disappointment in the number," Fisher said, noting that 90 percent of the players who are competing in the Impact Basketball Competitive Training Series attended Thursday's meeting.

Those who did attend were greeted by a presentation from National Football League Players Association negotiator DeMaurice Smith, who was reportedly invited by Fisher. Smith hurriedly left the meeting at 11:30 a.m. and refused to comment to the media assembled, citing another engagement. Hunter said Smith provided some thoughts on his experience handling the NFL's labor dispute and noted that he cautioned the NBA players that decertification of the union is not a "silver bullet" and that the "real key is solidarity." 

Hunter also wanted to make one point crystal clear: "We did not talk about decertification as a strategy." He did say the NBPA presented "a full disclosure" of the facts and circumstances surrounding a potential decertification but that it was simply a part of the education process and not a tactic or plan.

Fisher maintained that any player agents who were hoping to push the decertification issue or undermine the union's executive committee will not succeed.

"Any statements or agendas that are being pushed by groups, they don't have a way in as long as we stand shoulder to shoulder," Fisher said.

With decertification apparently tabled, at best, the so-called "blood issues" for the players remain unchanged.

"We've been clear on a few main points which are, in a sense, nonnegotiable," Fisher told reporters after the main press conference adjourned. "We're not going to sign a deal if they include a hard salary cap, if they include a limitation on exceptions and guaranteed contracts, those are things we just cannot and will not sign off on."

Asked whether he thought the 30 NBA owners were united in a willingness to sacrifice a season in general and to sacrifice a season over the institution of a hard cap, Fisher was clear.

"No. Not even close. Nowhere near 30 teams and 30 owners. [Less than half], in my opinion. Obviously, I'm not in the room when they take votes but in my opinion there are not as many teams and owners as people would think that are interested in throwing away a season over a hard cap issue. I think [deputy commissioner] Adam Silver and commissioner [David] Stern have even said it themselves. If we can find a way to find some common ground on economics, they don't see throwing away a season over the system. And so that's the way we've attacked the matter. If we can get into a range where the economics are acceptable for both sides, the system will stay where it is."

As far as a timeline, Fisher would not confirm specific next step plans but said he hoped talks with the owners would begin next week, noting that the players are ready to continue the process. Hunter also noted that he expects to hear back from the National Labor Relations Board regarding the union's complaint that the NBA is not negotiating in good faith "within the next three weeks or so." 

Until then, the message is simple: keep negotiating whenever possible, and wait.

"The resolve is strong," Hunter concluded. "This is still early in the game, nobody has lost any paychecks. That doesn't happen until November 16. There's still time to get a deal."

Posted on: September 15, 2011 12:03 pm

Lakers are in line with revenue sharing, hard cap

By Matt Moore

If you've been paying attention, it should be no surprise that the Lakers organization is fine with revenue sharing. While no team has better reaped the benefits of the NBA's abysmal revenue sharing system than the Lakers, with the expensive seats, massive merchandising, and absurd television deals it creats out of its market advantage, they've been on the front line of saying how a revamp of the distribution is vital for the health of the league. Maybe that's because they understand that there's no incentive for innovative, deep-pocketed people to invest in the league without a chance to compete. Maybe it's because they want to support the rest of the owners so they will in turn protect the Lakers from things like another team moving into their market. Whatever the reason, revenue sharing has been part of the Lakers' long-term plan for a while. 

But the hard cap? That's a whole different deal.

The Lakers have been in 31 of 63 Finals for a number of reasons. They drafted well. They have had good management. Their ownership is committed to winning. They have lovely beaches, a stylish lifestyle and great weather. But the biggest reason is that due to their market economics, they can spend exorbitant amounts on those players they target with all that brainpower. Lots of teams try to buy their way into championships. It took Mark Cuban ten years. The Lakers win because they find the absolute best players and they pay for them, however much it takes. That creates a winning atmosphere which then allows them to get deals (like Ron Artest for the Mid-Level Exception and Lamar Odom at a discount). The soft cap system works for them, as evidenced by five titles in ten years. So one could reasonably assume they would fight a hard cap to the death. Not so, says the Orange County Register. It reports Thursday that the Lakers are lock-step with the other owners in regards to the hard cap and revenue sharing. Why? Becaue owner Jerry Buss is such a sweetheart, supposedly.
As much as Buss loves his rum and Coke, he has held a Molotov cocktail with the NBA’s limited revenue sharing and soft salary cap. It has allowed Buss and his minority investors to make a lot of money and feel comfortable spending a ton of it on great players others can’t afford.

But dramatically increased revenue sharing will inhibit the Lakers’ spending. A hard cap will flat-out prevent the Lakers from spending. It’s lose-lose when Buss is 77 years old and determined to come from behind the Boston Celtics in total championships, 17-16.

Yet the Lakers have accepted it. Why?

For the greater good.
via Lakers accept hard salary cap, revenue sharing | lakers, buss, nba - Sports - The Orange County Register

The article goes on to say that the move is more in line with Buss protecting his own interests. He knows that the other owners are so united in wanting these changes that he stands more to gain by agreeing to the changes and championing them in order to make sure they favor the Lakers in as many ways as possible rather than fight for the old system and risk not having that pull. Plus, he's loyal to David Stern, which makes sense, again, considering the success of the Lakers under Stern's tenure. 

Buss' presence at the most recent negotiations was thought to be a possible source of the nearly three-hour huddle that took place with the owners during the meeting. It's possible that perception itself was the impetus for the leak of this stance to the Register. The Lakers clearly want to get the word out. They're sticking with the owners, the're not a dissenting party, and they welcome their new revenue sharing overlords. Now we'll just have to see how many games they're willing to lose with this still-championship-contending core to stand by the hard line rogues. 

Posted on: September 15, 2011 11:17 am

Turns out this isn't entirely about the money

By Matt Moore

Back in July when the lockout began, there were a number of standard phrases being tossed around. Chief among them is "this is all about the money." The idea was that the players and owners weren't really unmovable, it was just a matter of dollars and cents. Basically, if the BRI could be figured out, compromised on, all the rest of this would just work itself out. 

Not so much.

I was on a radio call shortly after the lockout began and expressed my concerns for everything I'd heard and read. Because what I'd gathered was that the dispute went far beyond both sides scrapping over dollars. It had turned ideological. The NBA and its owners wanted to reverse decades of precedence in guaranteed contracts, implement a hard cap, eliminate exceptions, limit player flexibility and control, and they wanted the increase in their cut of the BRI to a 50/50 split. Most people thought that was ridiculous. There was no way the owners expected all that. The thought was that while there may be games missed, if there are, it will be because the players refuse to give up enough in BRI. 

Again, not so much.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported earlier this week:
Neither side would say how far the players moved economically, but a person with knowledge of the negotiations said they expressed a willingness to move lower than the 54.3 percent of basketball-related income they last proposed on June 30 as a starting point in a six-year deal. Stern disputed the players' contention that the owners haven't made an economic move since the day before the lockout was imposed. Nobody outside the room knows how many millions the two sides shaved off the gap, but it hardly matters since everyone seemed willing to concede that they've at least dipped their toes on common ground when it comes to dollars.
via Despite posturing, owners and players near resolving money issue - NBA - CBSSports.com Basketball.

That's extended by these comments from Jared Dudley to the Salt Lake City Tribune Wednesday:
How much was the NBPA willing to concede in basketball-related income during a collective bargaining agreement meeting Tuesday in New York: I think they offered 53, 54 [percent]. We're at 57. They're looking more in the 40s. That's a huge jump — that's over 10 percent. That's where $800 million becomes a big gap. I think we have offered $300 million and they wanted more than that.
via Suns' Jared Dudley says ball's in Billy Hunter's court as NBPA returns to square one during NBA lockout | Utah Jazz Notes | The Salt Lake Tribune.

More from Dudley:
I think [the NBPA] even went down, to be honest with you, to 53 [percent]. I talked to Roger Mason -- 53 percent. And you know what, let's say they went down to 52, 51. If that gets the season done, I guarantee you we would have the season if that's what it takes. But it's not just that, it's a lot. And right now, the owners want a lot and they're willing to sit out. Some are losing money, some are making money.

53 percent down from 57, and that's a starting point. Where the owners to respond with 51 or 52 percent, they could likely get somewhere within baby's breath of the 50/50 split. Probably not right at it, but no one gets everything that they want, right?

Not so much. The owners, understanding their considerable leverage, do want everything they want and expect to get it. Except that goes far beyond the 50/50 cut. This hasn't been offered, but the new standing feeling from multiple media sources is that the players could offer up the 50/50 and the owners would likely still be pursuing the hard cap.  If anything, the owners seem more entrenched the more the players seem to surrrender. It's only getting worse. 

If the concern is over the yearly losses the owners are taking in, and the players are offering to give back up to 4 percent of their take right now before negotiations even get serious, what is it that the owners do want? What's the target of all this hard-line insistence? What's the end point?

In short, it boils down to toddlers baby-proofing the house. The league's owners are looking to be able to remove themselves from the burden of bad contracts which they themselves provide. A bad contract sinks a franchise like nothing else. It's an albatross, an anchor, and a curse at the same time. It stands as a mark of their own impudence. There are exceptions of bad luck, where no one could have foreseen the injuries that would come. But for each of those there is a player who the franchise could not bear to see go, and paid despite reservations. The Blazers knew about Brandon Roy's knee condition when they offered him his extension. The Hawks were aware that Joe Johnson would be in his early-to-mid-30's when his final year of his contract is paying him over $20 million. It goes on and on, and even the smaller deals are ones they want to be able to remove themselves from.  Much of this is dictated by the market, and almost all of it is dictated not by the players, but by their agents. Consider what Rashard Lewis, one of the players under a contract that is considered dead weight, told ESPN earlier this week, and a point made by ESPN's J.A. Adande:
Just keep in mind how we got to this point: After the players agreed to a salary cap, a rookie wage scale, a maximum player salary and a luxury tax designed to slow the escalating contracts, can they really be expected to just say no to whatever money the owners kept offering?

Or, as Lewis puts it, "You sign me to a deal, you think I'm going to say, 'No, I deserve $50 [million] instead of $80 [million]?' I'm like, 'Hell, yeah.' I'm not going to turn it down. You can't blame the players. If anything, we don't negotiate the deal. We've got agents that negotiate the deals with the team. Y'all need to go talk to the teams and the agents."
via Rashard Lewis is what this lockout is all about - ESPN.

But the owners simply want to cut the agents' power off at the knees. Instead of bargaining better, they want to remove that hold. Now, in many ways, this is actually a very reasonable request. Even the players will tell you that. Dudley, once more (you really should read the entire interview with the Tribune, it's quite extensive, particularly regarding decertification):
I understand that the common thing is they don't want players that make a lot of money not playing. Look, if you were a business or you were a restaurant, you don't pay someone that you think's not [working]. We're not going to put it all on the owners. We're going to take some of the blame. But, hey, we're willing to work on it. We're just not willing to give up guaranteed contracts and $800 million.
 And yet that's what the owners are asking for. Both. Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe reported Thursday morning that the players have said that if the owners were to theoretically turn the conversation to how much BRI the players would want to accept a hard cap, the players would want 65 percent, an eight percentage points increase from their current number of 57. That's a lot of dough. That's what it would take to get a deal for the season to start. Unfortunately, the owners would never accept that because while the systemic changes they want are extremely important to their belief in what is necessary for the league to profitable and to increase competitiveness (despite any number of challenges to the idea that a hard cap would result in such competitive balance), they still do want the money. It's not that they want one more than the other, it's that they want their cake, to eat it, too, and to have the players bring them as many slices as they want until they are full. And if that means it takes until January, or an entire season to force the players to accept both conditions, that's what they're willing to do at this moment. 

There's been a lot of talk since Tuesday's "sky is falling" meeting reaction about how things are actually progressing. And there's a certain element of that. The players gave ground, and still didn't get what they want, a resolution. So now the standard for negotiations has shifted. The new status quo is working off the assumption the players will surrender that percentage of the BRI, and the owners are now working to see what else they can get. If the hard liners on the owners' side of the table maintain control, it will be until they squeeze every drop they can from the players that we get a season. If the moderates manage to reclaim the gavel, a reasonable shift with a harder while not "hard" cap and the salary rollbacks could be agreed upon in time to start the season or shortly thereafter. 

And that's where we return to the fundamental psychology involved here. If this is a business negotiation, there's progress to be made, a system to create, a season to save. If this remains ideological from the owners' side, the only reasonable prediction is for an equally extremist reaction from the players. Talks broke down because the owners have kept to that ideological divide. And the only way this whole God forsaken thing ends is if the two sides are talking. 

Meanwhile, the agents wait in the forest like wolves waiting for the right time to attack, and if that happens and decertification is the plan, everything is thrown into the air as this enters the courts. Things only get worse from there. There's definitely a chance talks could resume and the two sides could find enough common ground to spearhead things into a blossoming agreement that gets things started in time for the season without a single game lost. But in reality?

Not so much. 
Posted on: September 14, 2011 9:52 am
Edited on: September 15, 2011 1:23 pm

Are agents organizing a decertification coup?

By Matt Moore

An ESPN report early Wednesday morning indicates that some of the NBA's most powerful agents are aggressively pushing their clients toward the nuclear option of decertification in the face of a lack of progress in the CBA talks. 
Arn Tellem, Bill Duffy, Mark Bartelstein, Jeff Schwartz and Dan Fegan -- who collectively represent nearly one-third of the league's players -- spoke Monday about the process of decertifying the union, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

The agents' view is that the owners currently have most, if not all, of the leverage in these talks and that something needs to be done to turn the tide. They believe decertification will do the trick, creating uncertainty and wresting control away from the owners.

The union has been negotiating with the league for a year and a half and the owners haven't changed their stance, so the conversation the agents had was about how to work with the union to enhance its strategy," a person close to the situation said on condition of anonymity. "The feeling is that decertification is the weapon that has to be pulled out of the arsenal, that it's the most effective way to change the dynamics of the negotiations."The agents have spoken with Billy Hunter, the executive director of the players association, about the need for decertification, but he has thus far resisted their plan. He said Tuesday that the players are not yet considering decertifying.
via Sources: NBA player agents angling to get players union to decertify - ESPN.

The more interesting element regarding those specific agents is their representation makes up the exact percentage necessary to force what's called an involuntary decertification, in which 30 percent of the union signs a petition saying it supports decertification. If that's the path they take, it's a contentious power move that could have serious implications for the union and the talks.

Union head Billy Hunter has been adamant about avoiding decertification. There are conflicting theories as to the reason why Hunter hasn't pursued the aggressive legal action. Hunter claims that the objective is to avoid a prolonged legal battle which will do nothing but embitter both sides to the cause. The longer a lockout is extended, it's believed the union loses more leverage. The alternative theory is that Hunter is concerned about the possible impact on his standing with the players, and the chance that when the decertification ends and the union reforms, Hunter would not be placed back at executive director. 

Multiple reports have placed players' representatives as frustrated with Hunter's approach, believing there isn't a cohesive strategy to "bust" the union.  The ESPN report also states that a signficant number of agents are against decertification, including Happy Walters and Rob Pelinka (who represents Kobe Bryant). The result could be an internal fracture within the players' union over whether to dissolve the union. This on the heels of a five-hour negotiation Tuesday in which the owners huddled amongst themselves for three hours, in what was believed to be a sign of internal strife in the owners contingent fully forms this as a four-sided issue. Players who want decertification (or at least players whose agents want to decertify) versus those who stand with Hunter versus owners who want a resolution to the lockout versus those who want to lose the season to get every single thing they want. 

David Stern said yesterday after the talks that the internal ownership conversation centered around revenue sharing

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that yesterday's talks actually represent a move towards ending the lockout with the players agreeing to a lowered BRI split to 54.3 percent.  So now the question becomes whether the "dove" owners will be able to wrestle control from the "hawk" owners to broker a deal before the agent insurgency in the union moves towards involuntary decertification, or Hunter is forced to move there himself to consolidate his power. 

The lockout is complicated enough, with the issues and conflicting facts. And every day it becomes even more so as both sides divide amongst themselves.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com