Tag:CBA lockout
Posted on: September 28, 2011 8:38 pm

Lockout Winners and Losers: September

By Matt Moore

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


Derek Fisher

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

The Lakers

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

Kobe Bryant

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


Power-pushing agents

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

Players' ability to earn outside the NBA

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

"Hawk" owners

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

Updates from NBA-NBPA meeting in NYC

By Matt Moore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Matt Moore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The widening gap driven by the owners

By Matt Moore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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