Posted on: November 21, 2011 5:44 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 8:59 pm

Boies: NBA players consolidate antitrust lawsuits

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

Last week, National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter announced that his union was disbanding so that the NBA players could file antitrust lawsuits against the NBA. The immediate question that was raised: was this a legit strategy or a legal longshot?

One week later, USA Today reported that one of the lawsuits filed by the players, set to be heard in Northern California, has been abandoned. 
NBA players involved in lawsuit vs. NBA in California's Northern District file notice of voluntary dismissal of complaint without prejudice.
Later Monday, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported that the voluntary dismissal was a precursor to the players' decision to consolidate their two antitrust lawsuits into one. Players' attorney David Boies made that announcement official during a Monday evening press conference in New York.

"David Boies says players filing consolidated complaint, combining the cases in California and Minnesota," Berger reported. "The consolidated complaint including all plaintiffs from both cases was filed today in Minnesota."

Players originally named as plaintiffs in the California case included New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, Knicks guard Chauncey Billups, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, San Antonio Spurs rookie forward Kawhi Leonard and free agent forward Leon Powe. Players named as plaintiffs in the original Minnesota case included free agent forward Caron Butler, Detroit Pistons guard Ben Gordon, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Tolliver and Minnesota Timberwolves rookie forward Derrick Williams.

"This is now a consolidated class action on behalf of all the players," Boies said, according to Berger. "If we had not done this, the courts would have done it."

"This should permit us to expedite the case," Boies said of the consolidated complaint, noting that additional plantiffs will be added to the case. Those players include Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash, Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Baron Davis, Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, free agent point guard Sebastian Telfair and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Randolph

NBA general counsel Rick Buchanan issued the following statement in response to the consolidation.

"We assume that Mr. Boies was not happy with either the reassignment of the case from Oakland to San Francisco or that the new judge scheduled the first conference for March of 2012," the statement read. "This is consistent with Mr. Boies’ inappropriate shopping for a forum that he can only hope will be friendlier to his baseless legal claims.”

Boies, in turn, called the NBA's statement "ridiculous," Berger reported, before adding that no settlement talks have taken place yet.

"It takes two people to negotiate," Boies said. The NBA has until December 5 to formally respond in court to the players' consolidated legal complaint.
Posted on: November 18, 2011 7:02 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 9:19 pm

Granger: Blame David Stern for damage to NBA

Posted by Ben Golliverdanny-granger-small

We're well into the fifth month of the the NBA lockout with no end in sight. If you're not blaming NBA commissioner David Stern by now, either your name is Adam Silver or you just don't care about American professional basketball.

You can add Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger to the long, long, long list of people who believe Stern is responsible for causing harm to his own league by mishandling the ongoing labor negotiations.

In an interview with NBC SportsTalk, Granger, formerly the Pacers' player representative to the union, points the finger squarely at Stern.
"Definitely let a little upset about it. David Stern, to his credit, he has grown the NBA. But as far as with the negotiations and where they have went in the last six or eight months, I don't think he's done a good job of conveying to the owners what's the most important thing for an NBA team, for an NBA season. And, for the NBA as a whole organization, the lockout has really damaged the game. How much, I don't think we know yet, but we'll find out. As commissioner, I just don't think he should have let it get that far, to the point where it is right now." 
As commissioner, Stern is paid to take these lumps. Granger's criticism is more than fair, and it represents a sentiment that's surely shared by thousands of fans across the country. Stern is the boss, this is going down on his watch, and the buck stops with him. He is expected to be the answer, not part of the problem. 

Granger makes a key assumption though. His statements imply that Stern had the power and influence over a majority of the league's owners to save a full 82-game season if he simply put his mind to it or thought that approach was prudent. We would all assume, from a distance, that a league's commissioner would want his league to play its scheduled games, but the more we learn about the hard-line ownership contingent the more we realize that overhauling the league's financial system is a much higher priority than saving an 82-game season and, potentially, even playing a season at all this year.  

It's quite possible that Stern wants games just as badly as Granger. It's quite possible that he fears the potential damage to the league even more than Granger does. So if we are going to blame Stern, let's blame him for the right reasons. 

Let's blame him for reportedly making promises of profitability to owners that recently bought into the league. Let's blame him for agreeing to the last collective bargaining agreement which allegedly created a league that couldn't produce profits despite record revenues. Let's blame him for being unable to build and hold a consensus among his owners. Let's blame him for still failing to communicate the league's revenue sharing goals and philosophies clearly. Let's blame him for ratcheting up the ugly rhetoric. Let's blame him for waging a personal war of words with union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler. Let's blame him for delaying the beginning of true negotiations until way too late in the game. Let's blame him for calling in sick earlier this fall on a day when negotiations blew up. Let's blame him for each and every ultimatum and threat he's made. Let's blame him for making offers and then taking them off the table. Let's blame him for trying to shift the blame to agents. Let's blame him for repeatedly talking down to the players.

But let's stop short of blaming him alone for the damage that is being done to the NBA. For sure, there is blood on his hands, lots of it. But this has spun out of his control; he can't solve this by himself. In the end, let's settle for blaming him for not swallowing his immense pride right now so that he can proactively do his part to fashion a solution. There's still time, after all, to make the damage done to the league a thing of the past.
Posted on: November 16, 2011 7:11 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2011 12:05 am

Report: NBA owners to talk strategy on Thursday

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

OK, they sued us. Now what?

Yahoo Sports reports that the NBA's owners are ready to start planning their response to the disbanding of the National Basketball Players Association and two subsequent antritrust lawsuits filed by the players against the league earlier this week.
After lawyers for NBA players filed antitrust suits against the league in California and Minnesota, commissioner David Stern has a conference call set with owners on Thursday to discuss their next steps in the lockout, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

The NBA’s labor relations committee, which is responsible for negotiations with the players, scheduled the call earlier in the week, sources said.
One goal of the antitrust lawsuits was to create leverage for the players by bringing in the possibility of massive legal damages. The idea was that the legal filings might compel the owners to return to the bargaining table, this time negotiating with the players' new lawyers, with a more open mind and a willingness to offer concessions. 

With the players missing their first paychecks on Tuesday and a January drop-dead date for saving a season, though, time will be the major factor in the owners' decision-making process, at least in the short-term.

Having essentially achieved $3 billion in revenue concessions and a host of system changes that are expected to ensure profitability, the owners would be foolish to walk away from the bargaining table for the foreseeable future simply because of the legal maneuverings the players made this week. Talks should, and almost certainly will, continue in some form prior to the NBA being forced to shut down its season. 

The question for the owners becomes: When is the best time to get back to negotiating? After the players miss one paycheck? After they miss two paychecks? After the league is forced to cancel Christmas games so that the panic level and reality of the situation sets in? For the hard-line contingent, there's no rush. For the owners who want to play, getting the ball rolling in the short term would make sense. Remember, NBPA executive director Billy Hunter said "30 to 40" additional B-list issues still need to be agreed upon even if the two sides can reach a compromise on the revenue split and the outstanding system issues that led to this week's breakdown.

There are hours of talks ahead for these two sides. Thursday's meeting could provide an answer as to when those talks will begin taking place.
Category: NBA
Posted on: November 15, 2011 4:21 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 5:35 am

NBA officially cancels games through Dec. 15

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lcokout

The news was implied, assumed and the announcement, given recent events, is a formality. Nevertheless, the NBA officially cut another portion off its 2011-2012 regular season schedule on Tuesday.

Yahoo Sports reports that the league "informed late this afternoon [Tuesday] games through December 15th have been cancelled, a front office executive says."

103 games will be lost during this span. 

NBA commissioner David Stern had targeted Dec. 15 as the start date for a 72-game regular season in the league's most recent proposal to the National Basketball Players Association, delivered last Thursday. Stern has made regular reference to "the calendar" determining the cancellation schedule and has stated that the league needs one month from the date an agreeement is reached to have sufficient time to begin its season. The NBPA rejected the NBA's proposal and issued a disclaimer of interest, disbanding the union and threatening to take the labor impasse to court.

The New York Post reported last weekend that the NBA had modified the schedules on its website to remove all games from Dec. 1 through Dec. 14.

Tuesday's cancellation represents the third cancellation of games in two-week increments. The NBA has now canceled a total of 324 regular season games. On Oct. 28, Stern announced the cancellation of all games from Nov. 15 to Nov. 30. On Oct. 10, Stern cancelled the first two weeks of the NBA regular season, spanning from Nov. 1 to Nov. 15. On Oct. 4, Stern cancelled the NBA's preseason.
Category: NBA
Posted on: November 13, 2011 2:20 am
Edited on: November 13, 2011 2:28 am

Report: Hunter says player reps to vote Monday

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

Representative democracy has arrived to the NBA lockout. Sort of.

National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter told SI.com on Saturday that the NBPA's player representatives will vote on a modified version of the NBA's most recent proposal to the players during a meeting scheduled for Monday morning.
When reached on Saturday night, however, Hunter told SI.com that his intention was to have the player representatives vote on a revised version of the NBA's latest proposal before moving forward.

"We will vote on the NBA's proposal," Hunter wrote in a text message. "The proposal will be presented with some proposed amendments."

When the most recent negotiating session broke on Thursday night, NBPA president Derek Fisher said the proposal made by the NBA did not sufficiently address the NBPA's desires on system issues.

"We have a revised proposal from the NBA," Fisher said. "It does not meet us entirely on the system issues that we felt were extremely important to close this deal out."

The plan here, it seems, is to work in the desired system changes, secure enough votes to ensure that the players as a whole are reasonably happy, and then present the modified version of the league's offer back to the league for further negotiations and/or their approval.

(There's also the possibility that the proposal -- even an amended version -- is voted down. In that case, the process is stalled at the same place it is right now.)

It's a plan born of desperation. The NBPA realizes that if the players reject the NBA's current proposal outright the NBA is prepared to revert to a significantly worse proposal that they have said publicly will include a 47 percent revenue split and a flex camp system. But, if the players vote to accept the NBA's current proposal they will, well, be stuck with what Hunter admitted on Thursday was not a favorable deal. 

"It's not the greatest proposal in the world," Hunter said. "But I owe that, I have an obligation to at least present it to membership."

Based on recent public statements from both sides, it's likely the players will focus their amendment efforts, at least in part, on system issues that they believe will allow for freer player movement. Those line-item issues could include the luxury tax structure and penalty system as well as the mid-level exception.

NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver specifically singled out the player movement issue as a point of "philosophical difference" between the owners and players. The owners believe a rigid luxury tax system and a restricted mid-level exception for luxury tax payers will increase competitive balance in the league, while the players believe that those changes would unnecessarily tie players to franchises and thereby limit their free agency options.

So how will this new plan of the union's br received? That will depend on the quantity and scope of their proposed amendments, of course. But NBA commissioner David Stern said in a Friday night interview that the league's most recent offer is effectively a final one.

"The owners have moved to wherever they are going to move to," Stern said. 

Still, if faced with the possibility of hitting a home run the revenue split by reducing the players' share from 57 percent to 50 percent, winning numerous, major concessions on system issues, entirely avoiding any potential court battles or union decertification, enjoying a 72-game schedule that starts in a little more than a month and getting the league back on track, Stern and the owners likely have a measure of motivation to make some final, minor concessions to close out this seemingly endless labor battle.

That would be logical. But logic, as we've learned recently, has no place here.
Posted on: November 11, 2011 9:16 pm
Edited on: November 11, 2011 9:23 pm

Stern: Decertification will backfire on agents

Posted by Ben Golliverdavid-stern-asleep

NBA commissioner David Stern's talking points have crystallized: the league has officially made its best offer to the players, the 2011-2012 season rests in the hands of the NBPA, the possibility of a canceled season is unthinkable, and the potential decertification of the union is a negotiating tactic that will backfire on the agents who are reportedly pushing for it.  

During a nationally-televised ESPN interview on Friday night, Stern laid out his arguments, point by point, explaining first why he chose to extend the deadline on the league's current offer past its original date of Wednesday.

"Well, we stopped the clock so that we could negotiate," Stern said, "and we came out of last night with a proposal [that is] as far as the owners could possibly reach to the players. That [proposal] provides a 72-game season starting Dec. 15. I'm very, very hopeful that the players and the union will say 'yes, let's have the season, let's begin it on Dec. 15.'"

Stern characterized the current proposal as possessing the largest concessions the NBA plans to make.

"The owners have moved to wherever they are going to move to," Stern said. "This is the proposal that's on the table. If it's not accepted, then we'll be substituting the proposal [with one] that the union knows about when the clock starts again, and it will be very far from where this proposal is."

The fall-back proposal is said to include a 47 percent revenue share for the players -- down from 50 percent contained in the current proposal -- and a flex cap system.

NBPA president Derek Fisher said on Thursday that the owners' current proposal doesn't do enough to compensate the players on system issues for their potential $3 billion concession on the revenue split, thus opening up the possibility of a lost season.

Stern would have none of that. 

"I refuse to contemplate the loss of a season," he said. "It's going to be too painful for the players and the owners alike. But [if it happened] we'll still be here, we'll pick up the pieces and do the best we can under the circumstances. That's not an eventuality that I anticipate or look forward to. It's all in the hands of the players."

For months, player agents have been pushing for the decertification of the union, a cry that drew more support following Thursday's negotiating session, when it became clear that the NBA's current offer was not substantially better than its previous one, which was rejected by an NBPA group meeting on Tuesday. Stern said the threat of decertification is a strategic ploy that would jeopardize the 2011-2012 season.

"[it's a move] actually calculated to, one, [serve] as a tactic to improve their bargaining position and, two, as making it even more likely that there won't be a season," Stern said.

If the union did decertify, Stern predicted the move would backfire. 

"If the union is not in existence, then neither are 4 billion dollars worth of guaranteed contracts that are entered into under condition that there's a union, Stern said. "So if the agents insist on playing with fire, my guess is that they would get themselves burned."

Asked if the NBA would employ "scab" players if the NBPA decertificed, Stern said simply: "I don't want to go there now."

Hat tip: IAmAGM.com 
Posted on: November 10, 2011 11:00 pm
Edited on: November 11, 2011 12:57 am

NBPA says NBA's revised offer is not good enough

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association met for nearly eight hours on Thursday in New York City, emerging at 11 p.m. Thursday evening to inform the assembled media that they still have not yet reached a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement.

The day's major news, though, came when NBA commissioner David Stern met with the NBA's labor relations committee and was authorized to make the NBPA a revised offer. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported that the new offer is not the significantly worse offer featuring a 47 percent BRI share for the NBPA and a flex cap system threatened by Stern last Saturday, but instead is a new, slightly improved proposal based on the last two days of negotiations.

NBPA president Derek Fisher said after the meeting adjourned that the league's revised offer was not good enough for the players to accept immediately.

"We have a revised proposal from the NBA," Fisher said. "It does not meet us entirely on the system issues that we felt were extremely important to close this deal out."

Fisher said that the union would confer with its player representatives to determine their next course of action and is hoping to continue negotiations after that process takes place.

"At this point we've decided to end things for now, take a step back," Fisher said. "We'll go back as an executive committee, as a board, and confer with our player reps and additional players over the next few days and then we'll make decisions about what our next steps will be at that point. Obviously, we still would like to continue negotiating and find a way to get a deal done but right now is not that time."

Fisher called it "another long day" of negotiations and admitted that "a litany of issues" still remain unresolved. However, he did acknowledge that the NBA's revised offer was an improvement from its previous offer.

"On a couple of the issues there was some revision, some change since the last proposal that we saw," Fisher said, "but at this time it's not enough to entice us to try to finish this out tonight."

NBPA executive director Billy Hunter said the player representatives would meet on "Monday [or] Tuesday at the latest," but he made it clear that there is still plenty of ground to be covered between the two sides.

"It's not the greatest proposal in the world," Hunter said. "But I owe that, I have an obligation to at least present it to membership."

In addition to the six major economic and system issues -- including the mid-level exception and luxury tax structure -- that have been discussed this week, Hunter said, "another 30 or 40 issues" remain unresolved, including the age limit, player discipline issues, days off for players, and others. 

While Fisher and Hunter didn't get into too many specifics of the league's new offer, Berger reports that it includes a 50/50 split of BRI, as expected, but does not include significant concessions on system issues. The owners did improve their luxury tax mid-level exception offer by increasing its value $500,000 and extending its length for one year. These are generally considered minor adjustments.

Stern's account of the current situation was virtually identical to that presented by the NBPA, although he provided additional logistical specifics.

"We've had another couple of intense days," Stern said. "We made a revised proposal to the union which attempted to meet their concerns as best as we and the labor relations committee could. We did that in the context of the possibility that we could have a 72-game season starting on December 15."

Stern confirmed the NBPA's stated timeline for the next steps in these talks, saying that he was extending his previous deadline of Wednesday through to next Tuesday.

NBA Labor

"We understand that the revised proposal will be presented to the board of the union on Monday, or if travel is difficult, no later than Tuesday," Stern said. "Just as the clock had stopped on Wednesday as we negotiated through to today, it would remain stopped through [Hunter's] meeting with his board. Then, at that time, if we don't get a positive response the revised offer starting at 47 percent and based upon a flex cap would be our revised negotiating position."

He then struck somewhat of a conciliatory tone, thanking the union's executive staff for their efforts and attempting to paint the league's current offer as a compromise between the desired outcomes from both sides. 

"We don't expect them to like every aspect of our revised proposal," Stern said of the players. "I would say that there are many teams that don't like every aspect of our revised proposal. But I did tell Billy that that proposal has the support of the chairman of the labor relations committee, Adam, me and the labor relations comittee itself."

The talks between the two sides would be suspended until after the NBPA meets next week, Stern said, because talks would not be fruitful until the players have time to consider the merits of the offer in full.

"It doesn't make any sense to keep going here [because] we have made our revised proposal and we are not planning to make another one," Stern said.

The commissioner, when asked directly, refused to offer a prediction on whether the NBPA would approve of the offer.

"I would not presume to project or predict what the union will do. I can hope, and my hope is that the events of next week will lead us to a 72-game schedule, starting on December 15."

NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said that the 72-game schedule would be made possible by pushing the NBA playoffs back one week.

Thursday's talks began at noon and marked the second consecutive day of negotiations between the two sides. The chatter throughout the day was minimal, except for a brief moment of optimism caused when former New York Knicks executive Dave Checketts told a Salt Lake City radio station that he heard an agreement had been reached, before later back-tracking.

The ongoing NBA lockout has now lasted for 133 days.
Posted on: November 10, 2011 1:07 am
Edited on: November 10, 2011 1:51 am

NBA-NBPA talks pass deadline; still no deal

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association met for roughly 12 hours on Wednesday in New York City -- blowing past a 5 p.m. deadline imposed by commissioner David Stern -- and emerged at 1 a.m. Thursday morning to inform the assembled media that they still have not yet reached a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported that "no deal" was reached.

"We've agreed that we have stopped the clock and we continue to negotiate," Stern told reporters after the negotiating session concluded. "I would not read into this optimism or pessimism, we're just continuing to negotiate."

Talks will resume on Thursday at noon Eastern, Stern said.

Wednesday's talks, which began at 1 p.m., were the first since Saturday, when Stern imposed his deadline, telling the NBPA that the league's offer would get significantly worse if it was not accepted. Following an NBPA meeting on Tuesday, NBPA president Derek Fisher signaled a willingness to re-open negotiations and apparently was ready to accept the league's proposal on the all-important revenue split if the owners would include desired changes to system issues in their offer.

Following Wednesday's talks, both the NBA and NBPA addressed the media.

"Nothing was worked out today," Stern said. "We're not failing and we're not succeeding, we're just there."

Asked why the league has not reverted to its threat of a worse offer yet, Stern said it was still a possibility, although it would only occur after the current bargaining session was over.

"It was our understanding going in, at the end of the negotiating session, whether it ends today or it ends tomorrow, that's when our offer reverts," Stern said. "We're trying to demostrate our good faith and I think the union is trying to demonstrate its good faith."

"We've obviously been here for quite some today," Fisher said. "We spent a lot of time covering all of the issues that we still have remaining but we can't say that there was significant progress today, but we're going to meet again tomorrow... to see if we can continue to make the effort to try to finish this out."

Fisher was asked to comment on the NBPA's decision to concede a 50/50 revenue split -- down from the 57 percent the NBPA had in the previous deal -- in hopes that it would lead to the NBA improving its offer on system issues.

"I think what we stated yesterday was an openness and a willingness to come off our number," Fisher said, "and come closer to a deal on the economics and we would be willing to move on a lot of system issues that we expect from them. We never actually said '50/50 and give us the entire system.' What we've continued to say is that if we continue to make economic concessions on the BRI split, in exchange for that there should be more flexibility from the NBA and the league on the system and that continues to be our belief." 

NBPA executive director Billy Hunter specifically said that the BRI issue still remains unresolved and that no progress had been made on Wednesday in resolving specific system issues that continue to separate the two sides.

"Not today, no," Hunter said. "We are still discussing those issues along with a litany of other issues. I think that's part of the problem. There are just so many issues that haven't been resolved, it's pretty copious."

The chatter throughout the day on Wednesday took an optimistic turn. Berger reported that there is "growing optimism in the agent and front-office community that a deal will get done. One person briefed on talks [was] 'incredibly optimistic.'" Berger quoted another person familar with the negotiations who said talks were "moving slowly" and that the sides were "trying to get something done," but noted that progress has been "slow" even though there have been "no blow-ups."

The ongoing NBA lockout has now lasted for 132 days.

Here's video of Stern's comments.

Here's video of Fisher's comments.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com