Posted on: October 9, 2011 2:23 am

Players meet Saturday to confirm position

By Matt Moore

In another event in a sequence throughout the lockout that sounds like one thing and is really another, the NBPA canceled a Sunday regional meeting in Los Angeles. Immediately the questions began. "Does this mean they're meeting with the league? Is it a last-minute hail mary? Is there hope?" 

No, not so much, it was just more convenient for them to get their rabble rousing out of the way early.

Yahoo! Sports reports that the meeting was rescheduled because it was more convenient for the players already in Miami to hold it Saturday night.  After the meeting, Carmelo Anthony slammed the door shut on any sort of hopefulness that might have been brewing. From the AP: 
The way Anthony put it Saturday night, it almost seems inevitable."Theyre going to cancel the first two weeks of the season," Anthony said. "Well see what happens then. If they want to lock us out, lock us out. Were going to stick together."

The New York Knicks forward played in the South Florida All-Star Classic hosted by Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami, the latest - and most competitive - of the many exhibitions players have participated in during this lockout that reached the 100-day mark Saturday. NBA Commissioner David Stern has said that the first two weeks of the regular season could be canceled as early as Monday if a deal is not struck.

Anthony says it would not be "realistic" for the sides to agree on anything before then.
via Now what? After Miami game, players wait and see - NBA - CBSSports.com Basketball.

Yahoo! also reports that at the meeting, the players stuck to their guns regarding 53 percent of BRI being the lowest their willing to go, while no meetings were scheduled due to the league's insistence on a 50-50 split being a precursor to any further talks.  

So here we are. The trenches have been dug, both sides are settled in for the shelling, and Stern's finger is on the trigger. Barring a miracle, the first two weeks of the 2011-2012 NBA season will be canceled on Monday, costing the league, players, team cities, employees, local businesses and supporting industries millions of dollars, because the two sides won't even get in a room to discuss it.

Everyone's stopped trying to make sense out of the lockout, because you can't make sense out of something that's not driven by reasonable people. From the owners' childish insistences to the players' hyper-reactive defensiveness and clownish pouting, both sides have revealed themselves as more dedicated to "winning" this fight than getting a deal done. It's a business negotiation, and so it's cutthroat. But too often this has taken on the feel of the inmates running the asylum. The dogs are playing poker, and we hit the river.
If any meetings pop up in the next 24 hours we'll keep you updated and once the axe falls, we'll have complete reaction to that, too. The lockout drags on. 
Posted on: October 6, 2011 11:40 am

Deron Williams is struggling in Europe

By Matt Moore

Sounds like a great vacation, right? See the sights, try local food, experience a new culture. And hey, play some basketball with guys who aren't even in your league. You can drop 40 a game if you really want to, but you won't, because you're a guest in their country. 

Turns out it's not quite that easy for Deron Williams with Besiktas in Turkey. From ProBasketballTalk.com:  
Williams led Besiktas into the EuroCup last week, which is a second tier tournament that took place in Belgium, and he had 7 points on 3 of 13 shooting with 6 turnovers. The man who should dominate at this level watched his team get eliminated fast.

Days before that in D-Will’s debut for Besiktas he was 3 for 15 shooting.
via Deron Williams not impressing anyone in Europe so far | ProBasketballTalk.

Williams told the New York Times that he's getting bumped around so much, it's difficult for him to adjust. So to review, he can't hit shots, and the guy who's less than four months removed from wrist surgery is getting lots of contact without an NBA training staff around. 

That sound you hear is Mikhail Prokhorov saying "No, really, 52 percent BRI is fine!"  
Posted on: October 5, 2011 10:34 am
Edited on: October 5, 2011 11:22 am

The NBPA is up three, it's time to foul

By Matt Moore

We're right there. I mean it. Right freaking there. This thing's within arm's reach, if there can just be a few more inches of movement. From Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, a hefty blockquote to get the full perspective on where we stand:
In that group, the league -- sensing the opportunity for a deal was there -- proposed essentially a 50-50 split with no additional expense reductions over a seven-year proposal, with each side having the ability to opt out after the sixth year, two of the people said. This was the offer Stern described in his news conference Tuesday evening, one he and Silver thought would be enough to finally close the enormous gap between the two sides.

The league's offer, according to four people familiar with it, came in a range of 49-51 -- with 49 percent guaranteed and a cap of 51 percent, the sources said.

"There was a real opportunity to make progress," Stern said.

Stern told the players and Kessler that he was bringing this proposal to his owners in an attempt to sell it, making no bones about the fact that he would. In fact, Stern said in the news conference, he did sell it; the owners were prepared to sign off on this 49-51 percent band. With many of the most polarizing system issues resolved -- the league previously had relented on its the most severe version of its hard team salary cap, agreed to drop its pursuit of rollbacks on existing contracts and offered to retain the basic structure of max contracts -- the framework of a deal was in sight."

Adam and I felt comfortable and confident that we would be able to report to the players that we could move to the next subject, because the split had been accomplished," Stern said.

While the owners were caucusing, a member of the players group returned with a counterproposal -- effectively 52 percent of basketball-related income BRI for the players with no additional expenses deducted. The players' counterproposal followed the format presented by the owners -- a 51-53 percent band, though sources gave different accounts of whether the players offer included a guarantee at 51 percent and a cap at 53.

So while Hunter and Stern remained publicly entrenched in the economic positions of their most recent formal proposals -- with the players asking for 53 percent and the league offering effectively 47 -- the reality is this: the gap has closed to 2 percentage points of BRI, the difference between the midpoint of the two offers, or stated differently, the value of one Gilbert Arenas.
via With nearly all of $8 billion gap closed, season can be saved - NBA - CBSSports.com Basketball

NBA Labor
The union sent a letter to the players last night according to ESPN, another in a long series of missives to keep the troops together, to keep them updated, and keep the agents out of the conversation. In that letter, they said that a 50/50 split is "not a fair deal." Now, getting beside the base-level hilarity of that statement, they're probably on target. But anything, and I mean anything north of 50/50? That's a huge win for the players. 

Since the lockout began, the players knew they had no leverage. They've sought it. From European contracts to legal recourse, the union only has so much it can do. The owners still hold the biggest advantage. They sign the checks. The players make the product and have shown that they're more than willing to lose the year to get a deal they find acceptable. But this? This is painfully close to a win on all fronts. 

Hard cap? Off the table. 

Rollbacks? Gone. 

Sweeping systemic changes? Limited to a few acceptable shifts. 

And the BRI which last week was at 46 percent, an insulting, ridiculous figure indicative of the owners' approach throughout this process, has been raised to 49 with a 51 percent ceiling, conceivably. The players don't want to fall to that, and that's understandable. But the second, the very second the average hits above 50 percent, they need to jump on it. This is as good a deal as they're going to get. Their figures will not improve once checks are missed. This is not some owners-supporting propoganda, it's reality. With the strength of the league, the odds of the revenues hitting above that 51 percent mark are pretty likely. But if they want to hold out for that extra percent or two, fine. But here's the reality. The players are at 52 percent, bottom offer. The owners are at 51 percent, top offer. Yes, 51.5 percent is probably the best compromise but that's not the point. It's right there. 

The players have to take this deal the second that percentage ticks up, and it will this week. The owners, after two years of bullying and absurdly insulting proposals, have gotten serious and offered real proposals which the union can take. They get back a lot of what they want, set the table for further wins in the next CBA, and get the "reset" they've been pushing towards. The players and owners both save face. The players just have to know their position and take the win. 

That's what this is. A win. A big ol' win that represents the players dodging a catastrophic possibility of being forced into a hard cap, a sub-50 BRI percentage, and the loss of any and all flexibility. Theyv'e done it. They've held together long enough to get things where they need them to be. They still can get a 50+ cut of the BRI, and have gotten the hard cap off the table. 

This situation the players are in? They're up three points, and the opponent has the ball. The players can foul, lose the points (the drop from 53 where they wanted to stay), and take the win (avoiding complete pillage), or they can try and defend the perimeter. But in this case, the opponent is trotting out a lineup of five Ray Allens. 

For the first time, the players are in control. They get to make the decision on a reasonable deal. They can save the season, save the jobs, save the damage to the game, save their own paychecks, their own careers. The owners have moved, finally. 

Give the points. 

Take the win. 

Posted on: October 4, 2011 5:34 pm
Posted on: October 4, 2011 12:45 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 12:46 pm

NBA lawsuit oral arguments scheduled for Nov.2

By Matt Moore

Update: Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports:
In hearing today in U.S. District Court, oral arguments were set for Nov. 2 in @TheNBPA's motion to dismiss #NBA lawsuit, court says.
via Twitter / @KBergCBS: In hearing today in U.S. D ...

The NBA season, if you are unaware, is scheduled to begin the regular season on November 1st. So, really, good news all around! Sigh.

Original report: The NBA and NBPA have been trying to settle their differences inside the boardroom, not the courtroom, to avoid a prolonged battle that would get even uglier than the talks have been. But with "Detonation Tuesday" upon us, both sides are making preparations for the legal fight which could get started as early as this week. 

Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated reports that a meeting occurred early Tuesday between representatives of both sides and a judge overseeing the NBA's lawsuit seeking to block the NBPA from decertification and subsequent antitrust lawsuits.  
Another ominous sign: source says both sides meeting w/ 2nd circuit judge today in regards 2 league's lawsuit & NBPA's motion to dismiss. That would be stage-setter 4 decertification fight, with league's preemptive suit looking for ruling that it's illegal and NBPA disagreeing.
via Sam Amick (sam_amick) on Twitter.

There are multiple interpretations here. It could be that the two sides are looking to get some sense of where this thing is headed, because if the NBPA is cut off at the head from decertification, that essentially lops out the push from the agents and means that the players have to get a deal. More likely it's simply a general check-in on where things stand and what the process is from here on out.

But regardless, it does mean there's starting to be an eye on the legal front. Which means the focus is shifting away from a resolution. Which means the prospect of losing games looms ever larger.
Posted on: October 4, 2011 1:10 am

NBA Lockout: The night before

By Matt Moore

We've told you that previous meetings were relevant, were important, were key. And each one has yielded the same result: both sides sayng they were still too far apart, talks will resume tomorrow or in a few days. So forgive me for over-emphasizing this.

Tuesday's the day

Monday night, each set of parties will go to sleep in preparation of Tuesday's NBA lockout negotiations, which are expected to decide whether games will be lost and likely how many. The players will sleep comfortably. They'll have a measure of anxiety for their livelihoods and their careers, sure. But they'll be resting on 500 count sheets, unperturbed by any real consequences. Losing a few games just means an unpaid vacation. The game will be there when they get back. The agents will sleep the sleep of wolves. Knowing you're the thing that goes bump in the night has its advantages. The owners may be coming for their money, but this is a challenge to be thwarted, as is their perception that Billy Hunter has lost control of the fight. (The agents who are not part of the plot are just along for the ride, unfortunately.)

And the owners? The owners sleep the sleep of babes.

Maybe there really is a healthy conversation being held in the owners' meetings. Maybe they arrived at their hardened stance after hours and days of tense and lively debate over the best way to rectify the economic lapses in the system they signed off on. It's possible that they've really been down every road, listened to every argument, embraced every alternative until they were left with nothing but this, the scorched court policy.

But it doesn't seem that way, feel that way, or sound that way.

Every indication is that the owners go to sleep Monday night fully aware that they are likely setting the league back by upwars of a decade, that they are crushing something that bring joy to millions, that they are stomping on the legacy they inherited when they plunked down their change for the right to courtside seats and a number of player headaches. They are aware that their decision will cost people jobs they need, part-time money they need, diversions that make life more fun, and boost local economies. They are aware that there's no decent compromise they're seeking, only total and complete conquest in this dispute.

And every indication is that they could not care less. You have to look out for yourself in this world, apparently.

David Stern goes to sleep with the knowledge that Tuesday will bring with it a judgment upon his term as commissioner of a professional sports league. Failure to bring the owners off the fortress walls or to somehow shakedown the players into what will be a crushing deal for them would represent a phenomenal failure for Stern in his duties to, you know, run the NBA. He will have done his job in protecting the interests of his board and in doing so sacrificed the good the NBA brings with it. Not just from a sports perspective, or economic, but from the lost charity work, the goodwill, the positive influence on young people and every other impact. He will have watched over the league as it costs a year in the careers of promising young athletes like Blake Griffin and John Wall, as it robs history of one of the final years of Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett.

Big king-sized beds for men of wealth and fame, all.

Tuesday the sun comes up, the gloves come off and the lockout will sort them out. Odds are we're headed towards regular season games missed, maybe months, maybe the entire year, along with a lengthy court battle, ugly internal strife in the union, and no professional basketball. It's difficult to see any other result coming out of the boardroom tomorrow in New York. Even the optimists like Ken Berger are staring down the barrel of missed games. Cooler heads have not prevailed. Reason has not won out. It's Lord of the Flies time in the NBA Lockout and we're about to find out how ugly it will get. 

Rome is burning but the Roman Senate sleeps soundly.  
Posted on: October 1, 2011 2:53 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 3:13 pm

NBA apparel sales to drop 50 percent in lockout?

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

In 2006, shoe and clothing manufacturer adidas signed on to be the official jersey and apparel supplier of the NBA, paying a reported $400 million over 11 years. Now roughly halfway through that agreement, adidas is about to hit some choppy waters thanks to the NBA lockout.

The Oregonian reports that while sneaker campaigns built around star players, like one launched by adidas for NBA MVP Derrick Rose this week, are expected to flourish like usual during the ongoing labor negotiations, industry analysts are predicting that sales of team apparel such as jerseys, shorts and other items will take a massive hit if the NBA cancels games during the 2011-2012 season.

The paper quotes two experts, Matt Powell and Marshal Cohen, on the subject. 
Apparel sales will be hammered by a lockout of almost any duration, a prediction that would be especially damaging to Adidas -- the league's official apparel provider. 

Look for 50 percent fewer sales of jerseys and other paraphernalia for the duration of the lockout, Powell said. 

And if the lockout lingers, the NBA, Nike, Adidas and everyone else in the basketball business will see declining sales across the board because of declining interest, Cohen said. 

In that event, Cohen said, "people aren't playing as much, not thinking about it as much." 
The NBA lockout has led to a league-mandated gag order with regard to contact between teams and current players, and team websites have been scrubbed of references to current players. The NBA's official store welcomes online visitors with the option of customizing a jersey of a fan's favorite team and does not have any images or links to players on its main page, although jerseys of current players are still available. Obviously this stands in stark contrast to usual practices, which would see highly marketable star players like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant front and center.

While any NBA owner can calculate how much extra money he will take home if the Basketball-Related Income split is rejiggered or if games are missed and player salaries don't need to be paid, it's a much difficult proposition to gauge the longer-term financial impacts of a lost season. The secondary and tertiary spending on things like memorabilia aren't as important as ticket revenue or television revenue, but, still, tens of millions of dollars are at stake.
Posted on: September 30, 2011 10:53 am

Lockout Day 92: Judgment Day

By Matt Moore

The NBA lockout has been filled with double-talk, as you'd expect. The league will say negative things, then leak that progress has been made. The union will make statements of promise towards a deal, then leak that a lot of agents and players think they are nowhere. Things go from being "blood issues" to "on the table" in the blink of an eye. And if I hear one more report about how this or that meeting is "key," I'm going to scream. But there's no getting around the unaninimity in reports surrounding Friday's negotiating session. 

This is Judgment Day.  

Either the union and league are going to find a way out of their issues, have a huge breakthrough, and stun everyone by announcing a handshake deal by the end of the weekend, with a process that starts Friday, or they're going to realize by the end of the day that they're simply too far apart to even be considering a resolution. The consequence of the latter could mean anything from a "go dark" end to negotiations for upwards of a month, canceling up to a month of the regular season at minimum, to the mutual assured destruction of the 2011-2012 NBA season. 

The essentials of where we're at, and how we got here, according to various reports: 

  • Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported Wednesday that the talks have reached a "key moment" due to how far they've come. Essentially, both sides feel there's a deal to be made, and if they can't work something out from the progress they've made in the past week, they're not going to get a deal done for months. It's put up or shut up time for both parties. 
  • Yahoo! Sports reports that Stern's ready to push the owners to "take the 30-point victory and leave the floor with some grace and dignity," but "the players have to blink first." You can read that in conjunction with ESPN's Thursday-night report that details the changes being offered by the owners which amount to a hard cap in mass without being an actual hard cap. This proposal offers essentially a hard cap for the owners without being a hard cap for the players. The players would keep guaranteed deals, presumably, or at least have a significant portion guaranteed. Any talk of a hard cap being opposed by the players out of flexibility should be considered a red herring. The guaranteed contracts is the key element, and if those are upheld in any significant way, that's enough to constitute a signifcant compromise on the owners part... which should necessitate an equal concession by the players in the way of the "Carmelo Rule," and the additional changes. In short, pieces of the proposal indicate a concession on both sides towards the middle. The players are still going to "lose," but that was evident from the get-go.
  • Despite the league's denial that David Stern intends to threaten to cancel the entire season, there's still a lot of people spooked, based off the "we don't know what he's going to do" factor. The lockout has been so hard to understand, with the extremist views on both sides of the aisle playing a huge part. One good reason that threat is unlikely to develop was mentioned by Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, who brought up the legal ramifications:
    One reason I don't think Stern will threaten to cancel season today: Union would use that against NBA in a "good faith" complaint to NLRB
    via Twitter / @ChrisMannixSI: One reason I don't think S ...
  • So what are those who want a season looking for today? The union to cave on the systemic changes, taking the lesser of two evils in exchange for not being burdened with a hard cap. That's probably not the hardest sell, even if the changes make the players grumble and unhappy. No one's going to be happy with this deal. On the owners' side it's all BRI. They're still pitching 46-percent-over-the-life-of-the-dea
    l offers according to Berger, and that's not going to get it done. The players dropped to 53 percent in their most extreme offer, the owners realistically want a 50/50 split. They have to at least get to 50 percent for things to even stay out of "cursing and throwing things" mode. If the owners want a deal, if Stern's going to push them into a deal, it's going to have to be with a BRI offer of plus 50 at some point during the life of the deal, with the total average not far from 50. Anything where the owners make more and the players will likely walk. The owners aren't getting a hard cap, they're going to want the BRI win. The players aren't getting the same system as before, they're going to want the BRI win. So as usual, everything comes back to money. 
You want the most awkard moment of the day? This weekend's negotiations are expected to include both Dan Gilbert and LeBron James. That should be a fun one. 

So this is it. It may not be Friday outright, it may be Saturday or even Sunday, but the next three days determine whether November 1st sees the opening tipoff of a league high on its popularity, enjoying a resurgence of relevance, of the Heat vying to redeem themselves, of the Mavericks making one last run, the Lakers trying to return to the top, the Celtics' last stand, the Bulls trying to fulfill destiny, or whether we're banished to months, and possibly a full year without professional basketball in the United States.

Close your eyes. Hold your breath. Just don't expect the best, or the worst. We're well past the point of expectations in the NBA lockout, and the courts haven't even gotten involved yet.  
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com