Posted on: August 25, 2011 10:23 am
By Matt Moore
It seems weird doing a winners and losers list for a month in which nothing happened, right? I mean, the lockout's still on, no progress has been made, we're still well on track to lose games at least until January if not the whole season. If no negotiation has been made, how can anyone have won or lost? Much like the dispute itself, it's all in how you interpret the results and what your definition of "is" is.
David Stern: Stern's appearance on ESPN's B.S. Report podcast was a stirring display of his verbal tactics. Every criticism rebuffed, every accusation shook until it's rendered meaningless. He managed to come across as someone who very much wants to get a deal done, but hampered by the economic realities he and the owners are facing. He admitted contraction is an option, giving a scare to those who oppose it (and no doubt giving those in favor of more stars in bigger markets something to salivate over), while also saying New Orleans would not be a candidate. Basically, he said, our condition is bad enough to warrant amputation, but no, not that leg, it's totally fine. That one, too. It was difficult to walk away from Stern's interview feeling anything but a sense that he's on the fan's side, and while that's not true, he's on the owners' side 100 percent, that comes down as a win here. Plus, he fit a vacation in during a lockout. That's just impressive.
Kevin Durant: Won the Drew-Goodman showdown. Continues to pour it on in every street park and Pro-Am he shows up for. Talking to foreign teams. Expanding his brand. Durant's done more than enough to bolster his reputation as a cold blooded killer during the lockout and is making himself into more of a name. He's backed up every endeavor with stellar play and has yet to be scored on by an Asian amateur. So he's got that going for him.
Kobe Bryant: Nails a Drew League game winner after dropping 40+, gave back to the video guys who helped the Lakers win two titles,
Billy Hunter: Hunter managed to avoid a coup by the agents in an attempt to force the union's hand into decertification. He's held the line and has gotten through another month without the players fracturing or panicking. This was largely a defensive month for the players, and Hunter's goaltending has kept the match scoreless, at least according to some interpretations. Of course....
Billy Hunter: Hunter also has allowed for questions about the direction of the league to surface, loudly, and seemed to have gotten schooled when the league filed pre-emptively in court to cut off the union's NLRB and bad faith arguments. The problem with not overreacting to your opponent's move is you take some unavoidable flak from the extremists in your contingent who demand radical action. Hunter makes both lists for the same reason. He hasn't reacted either way to the developments of the past month. His motto right now is keep calm and look for work in Europe. Oh, but he did give us this bit of happy sunshine news, he would bet on losing the season. Which is like the Fed chair saying "I'm just saying, the whole thing's coming down."
LeBron James: James made fun of his hairline, did a world of charity work, isn't headed overseas and is instead focused on next season whenever it is, and hasn't gotten into the negotiations. Now, you may think not getting into the negotiations shows a lack of leadership, but it should also be mentioned that any attempt to do so would be seen as grandstanding by James. He's not popular with the players, not popular with the owners, not popular with the fans, he doesn't win by getting involved. So how is he a loser? Because no one's going to remember the charity works or the self-defacing attitude. They're just going to remember him getting dunked on by a Taiwanese player. Oh, and that he's scared of heights. (Note: There is no way I'm jumping off that thing and not just because I can't swim.)
LaMarcus Aldridge: LMA, you're not helping. No one wants your debbie downer act, even though you're totally on-target.
The economy: The NBA is a tiny slice of a big ol' pie going bad right now, but stuff like news that arena operators who aren't involved in the lockout directly could lose up to a billion dollars does show the depth and breadth of how this can affect every day business for thousands of people across the country.
Besiktas: The Turkish club failed to land Kobe, hasn't secured Durant, still has questions about its funds, and oh, yeah, players are talking about Turkey like it's third-world. Not a great month for the Istanbul powerhouse.
Personal assistants: Really, you guys can't get a handful of schedules to line up? Really? When you've known this was coming for months? Honestly?
Posted on: August 15, 2011 12:14 pm
By Matt Moore
Billy Hunter played football. That's not all he did, of course, far from it. He was a United States attorney for several years. He helped Latrell Sprewell defend himself from the league after Spree choked his coach. He's been the head of the NBPA since 1996, a replacement for what the players felt was weak leadership. But, as it is with any significant figure, people are divided on him. Is he too abrasive? Is he too passive? Does he have a plan? Is he too controlling? Does he communicate enough with the players? Too much? The list goes on.
The Portland Tribune features a column today quoting a former player discussing Hunter, and the words are not overly kind:
He has his own agenda,” one former player tells me. “He’s about Billy. He doesn’t have the overall well-being of all the players invia For NBA players, the clock is ticking.
Hunter does enjoy the spotlight, that's clear from both taking a position as public as this and his particular brand of firestorming. Still, he has managed to keep the players as one of the strongest unions in professional sports. The players are behind in this particular fight, but the real measure of Hunter's leadership will be measured in what happens in October and November. Until then, Hunter can posture all he wants. It's the fall that brings Hunter's real test of strength, and will reveal whether he's pushing his own image or really looking out for his clients.
In 1998, Hunter warned against the dangers of the lockout thirteen years ago, and implicated that the gap between white fans identifying with black/African-American players could severely damage the game. From a New York Times article all those years ago:
We don't want to say it, but we have a game that's predominantly black,'' Hunter said he told Stern. ''I don't know if there is the same kind of fan loyalty and commitment to the game. Just because of perceptions of people.''via PRO BASKETBALL; The Street Fighter Who Galls the N.B.A. - New York Times.
Hunter is not concerned with facing the issues head-on. The only question is whether that approach is born of devotion to his responsibility or a personal drive for acclaim.
Posted on: August 3, 2011 11:12 pm
Edited on: August 4, 2011 7:29 am
Posted by Royce Young
Are you looking for a little lockout optimism? A little good news on the bargaining front? Something to give you hope for next year actually happening?
Well then stop reading. Because here comes some serious negativity.
Via the Baltimore Sun, union chief Billy Hunter told a seminar that he doesn't see the 2011-12 NBA season as likely. In fact, he's not putting his money on it, noting that the two sides are "$800 million apart per year."
"The circumstances have changed among his constituency," said Hunter, referring to NBA commissioner David Stern. "In the last six or seven years, there is a new group of owners to come in who paid a premium for their franchises, and what they're doing is kind of holding his feet to the fire."At the seminar that also included DeMaurice Smith, the NFL Players Association executive director. Hunter told attendees to ask him tough questions, which they apparently did. Hunter was asked about the report that Stern makes somewhere in the $23 million a year range, even though that number is being disputed.
"I think it's somewhat ironic. It's inconsistent to me," he said.
But there's good reason Hunter isn't willing to bet on a 2011-12 season. He said the league's most recent proposal would keep average salaries around $5 million, which is where they are now. However, Hunter said owners initially demanded that "we give them back a billion dollars a year." That number then came down to $900 million he said, but still, that's not anywhere close to what the union is looking for.
"A month and a half ago, we gave them a proposal that we would give them back $100 million per year," the union chief said. "The gap is far between us." Yeah, I guess you could say that."
If Hunter's that pessimistic about the season, it's hard to see the light. Still, at the same time you've got to realize all of these public comments are part of the negotiations. It's posturing from one side to the other. When fans hear 2011-12 will be lost, they get cranky and immediately start pushing to try and nudge one side to cave. And the side that always ends up looking bad in that scenario is the owners. So it's to Hunter's advantage to talk doom and gloom.
But with the way all of this has gone and with the gap so wide, it might not be entirely jargon this time. Which isn't fun.
Posted on: August 2, 2011 2:03 pm
Edited on: August 2, 2011 2:11 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
On Tuesday morning, we noted that the NBA filed two legal actions against the National Basketball Players Association. These claims included an unfair labor practice charge and a federal lawsuit. The NBA claimed the Players Association was not bargaining in good faith and that the lockout does not violate federal antitrust laws. The legal actions came one day after NBA commissioner David Stern told reporters in New York City that the players were not bargaining in good faith.
Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBPA, issued the following statement in response to the legal actions on Tuesday afternoon.
"The litigation tactics of the NBA today are just another example of their bad faith bargaining and we will seek the complete dismissal of the actions as they are totally without merit. The NBA Players Association has not made any decision to disclaim its role as the collective bargaining representative of the players and has been engaged in good faith bargaining with the NBA for over two years. We urge the NBA to engage with us at the bargaining table and to use more productively the short time we have left before the 2011-12 season is seriously jeopardized.”Reading between the lines of the legal mumbo jumbo, Hunter is calling these lawsuits a waste of time. He also ties that wasting of time to the potential for missing games next season, reiterating a stance that surfaced last week in which he sounds convinced the entire 2011-2012 season is in jeopardy.
It's unclear exactly when or how the NBPA issued the "unlawful threats to commence a sham decertification" that the NBA claims in its unfair labor charge. I guess we'll just have to stay tuned to the daily machinations of this gripping legal saga to find out!
Posted on: July 27, 2011 9:43 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
Earlier Wednesday, we noted that representatives of the NBA owners and the National Basketball Players Association are scheduled to meet next week to resume negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
This is welcome news for NBA fans and observers, who have been left to wonder why the two sides haven't talked for nearly a month since a lockout was imposed on July 1.
Talking is an important first step. But compromising, ultimately, is what will prevent an extended work stoppage from disrupting, or potentially cancelling, the 2011-2012 NBA season.
Grantland.com reports that Billy Hunter, Executive Director of the NBPA, thinks that the league is headed for a worst case scenario -- the complete elimination of the upcoming season -- unless the negotiations produce a change in course from developments that date back to 2007.
Four years ago, when Hunter and Gary Hall, working on behalf of the union, met with [NBA commissioner] Stern and Adam Silver, Stern suggested phasing in a new labor deal that would help all of the league's owners turn a profit on their investment. Hunter said he left with the impression that the league would lock the players out if the requests were not fully met.If there is a positive takeaway here, it's that Hunter and Stern apparently know each other well enough that they are able to tell when the other is bluffing. Mutual respect is important, so that's something.
It's extremely ominous, though, to hear Hunter explain how long Stern's approach to the negotiations has been in the works. Formulating a strategy and approach to a negotiating session over multiple years, and showing the resolve to stick to it this long, doesn't bode well, especially because the pace of negotiations this summer has been so deliberate.
As we look ahead to next week's negotiation, the critical question becomes: Will the NBA publicly budge on anything? Will we find out that the time away from the negotiating table and the dead month of news -- without a free agency period -- made the league come to its senses about the harm it is doing to its reputation and the future of the game? Or, will the league come back even more entrenched, feeling empowered because international clubs haven't exactly been lining up to cherry-pick NBA stars?
Hunter, and the players, seem ready for the give and take. The league, at this point, just seems happy to take. Let's hope that finally changes, after all these years.
Posted on: July 27, 2011 6:54 pm
By Matt Moore
There have been "staff meetings" between representatives of the NBPA and the NBA owners in the past two weeks. Naturally, no substantive progress has been met, but hey, it's something. Now comes word that next week may mark an actualy, honest to God meeting between relevant personnel. From Sports Illustrated:
On Tuesday, Tom Ziller of SB Nation reported the NBA players’ union and league officials were planning the first official post-lockout collective bargaining talks for some time in the first two weeks of August. That meeting will take place next week, barring some unforeseen scheduling issue, according to two sources familiar with the matter. It could take place as early as Monday, depending on how the schedules of a few key figures shake out, according to one of the sources.via The Point Forward » Posts NBA owners, players likely to meet next week «.
This isn't a significant move. This isn't going to usher in some sort of sudden agreement. No breakthrough will be made. But it's a start. It's getting both parties in the same room, at the table, talking. And that's the only way we're going to get any sort of momentum, is with constant conversations that lead to a concession which leads to the other side offering their own concession and back and forth until a breakthrough is made. That's the only way we're going to get a deal before the start of the season, before Christmas, before we lose the entire year.
Expect to hear the same doom and gloom out of this meeting as all the rest. The owners aren't going to move off the hard cap, or drastic salary reductions, the players aren't going to suddenly concede everything they've drawn a line against. But the fact remains, this is the only way to a solution and to an end to the lockout, by getting both sides in a room with some coffee and having conversations about what and why and how.
It's nothing big. But it's a start.
Posted on: July 25, 2011 6:21 pm
Edited on: July 25, 2011 6:23 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Billy Hunter was pretty clear the day after the NBA lockout started: The union has no plans o decertify. But there could be a different play in the cards. According to NBA.com, even if the union doesn't want to decertify, there could be an interesting way around it.
A source with knowledge of the meeting indicated that the idea of 'involuntary' decertification did come up; basically, a decertification that woud take place over Hunter's objections. That would require 30 percent of the union's players to sign a petition requesting a vote of the full membership to decertify. That vote would take place at satellite offices of the National Labor Relations Board across the country. A simple majority of the union membership would cause the dissolution of the body.
So why would a group of agents be pushing for this? If the union were to decertify, they could sue on antitrust grounds. But what's the reasoning? Leverage. It's always about who has the upper hand. It would be a blow to the owners having a legal battle on their hands with the potential to lose a lot of money in damages.
The risk though for players is potentially voiding contracts though.
Hunter has avoided even mentioning decertification and David Stern even went as far to call it the "nuclear option." With as slow and painful as the NFL's situation went with decertification playing a part in it, it's not that attractive an option.
And don't think decertification is a good thing if you're hoping for a full 2011-12 season. It would set stuff back. That's why it's a good sign that Hunter wants to avoid it. Instead of strong-arm negotiating tactics, by all appearances Hunter just wants to get to bargaining. Decertifying would mean that another battle would begin on top of the already painful CBA negotiations.
Let's hope the option stays nuclear. But it's on the table regardless, even if it's not being approach in the traditional circumstances.
Posted on: July 20, 2011 10:05 am
Edited on: July 20, 2011 10:23 am
By Matt Moore
As the lockout rounds into its true form now that we're about to start missing dedicated training sessions with players and the rhetoric ramps up with every passing interview, the new reality has sunk in for most. Those hopeful of a 2011-2012 season that starts on time are losing hope as the sinking realization of just how dedicated the two sides are to gaining/protecting ground sets in.
With Ken Berger of CBSSports.com's recent report that a full labor meeting featuring the key figures on both sides is unlikely to happen until August, there's definitely cause for doom and gloom.
But wrapped in the information that neither Billy Hunter nor David Stern would be deigning to meet with the other side until August is this little known fact. These staff meetings, which were dismissed because of their lack of star power, have a substantive subject matter. They're focused on the smaller issues. From KB:
But this time, the two sides have met once at the staff level -- last Friday -- and are scheduled to gather again this Friday for a second meeting. In the smaller sessions, which have not included commissioner David Stern or union chief Billy Hunter, the focus has shifted from the larger economic issues that led to the labor impasse to smaller-ticket system items such as how a new salary cap would be structured, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.via Full labor session not likely before August - CBSSports.com.
Wait a tick. So the lower staffs are meeting to discuss things like the salary cap, which is a huge impediment between the two sides? And we're supposed to feel bad about this because the big guns aren't in there to overcomplicate matters with politics and a media presence?
The question is whether there can be any substantive work done on the salary cap with the owners still pushing for that hard cap. If there's wiggle room there, that could get the players out of the corner, brandishing a chair against the lions. The players know they're not "winning" this negotiation, they've already conceded that there will have to be compromises based on the global economy and the economic model of the league. It's a matter of degrees. If these smaller meetings can just get some movement by both sides toward compromise, it could open the door for things to be settled outside of the BRI split.
And that's just money, which is what this lockout should be about, as opposed to the ideological split it's become. You can solve a disagreement over cash, even if it'll take awhile. It's trying to initiate a protocol revolution that puts both sides at Defcon 1.