Progress reported in NBA labor talks

National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern answers questions from the media regarding failed contract negotiations between the NBA and the players association in New York June 30, 2011. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS BASKETBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

The NBA and the players are making progress towards a deal after a 15-hour marathon negotiating session yesterday. Talks will resume today at 2 PM.

Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the sides are focusing on system issues and the salary cap, and the the split issues can be addressed once this formula is worked out.

The quotes cited in his article suggest that momentum is pushing both sides to a deal. I haven’t lost any sleep over this, as the NBA isn’t nearly as interesting or fun as the NFL, and the NBA season is way too long. I really wouldn’t care if half the season was cancelled.

That said, in this economy, many people rely on the NBA for their livelihood, and I’m not referring to the players. The ripple effect is also important, as bar owners and hotels benefit from a full NBA season. With that in mind I’m hoping this gets wrapped up soon. Whatever they decide, I’m sure this will improve things for the owners and hopefully for the game as well.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Why isn’t NBATV running Red Zone Channel-like coverage of the 13 MLK Day games?

Early last year, I wrote a post about how I’d fix the NBA. Looking at the slate of MLK Day games (13 in all), I assumed NBATV would be running buzzer to buzzer coverage, looking in on the competitive games and tight finishes. But right now they’re running a documentary about Dikembe Mutombo. Go figure. Anyway, here’s an excerpt of that post:

The lottery idea was actually the way the NBA used to do things, and they should go back to it. Tanking at the end of the season is one of the biggest problems with today’s NBA.

As for the length of the season, I wouldn’t stop at cutting just four games. I’d go with a 66-game season. Every team would play each of its division rivals four times (16 games) and all the other teams twice, once at home and once away (50 games). Cutting back on the regular season would make it matter again. Right now, it’s rare for a regular season game to hold much significance.

Fewer games would also mean more schedule flexibility, so I’d set it up so that NBA teams would only play on certain days, say Tuesday (to avoid Mondays during football season), Friday and Saturday. That means there would be 15 games on each night, so NBATV could bounce around from game to game like the Red Zone Channel catching the best action and furious finishes. This would generate interest in the league and make fantasy basketball more appealing. Fantasy football is something that has really helped the NFL increase its popularity over the last decade.

Lastly, I’d cut guaranteed contracts down to a max of four years to re-sign a team’s own players and three years for free agents. This would limit the impact of mistakes, and while I agree with Houston GM Daryl Morey that it’s not a system that favors the prepared, it would increase parity by allowing teams to recover from mistakes more quickly, which is another thing that makes the NFL so popular. (Mediocre teams would benefit from a lottery system that would give equal opportunity to win the #1 pick to all of the non-playoff teams, so you win some and you lose some.)

Of course, this is all a pipe dream. David Stern exudes confidence and whenever someone asks him about something that’s wrong about the NBA, he spins it the other way. They aren’t going to cut the regular season back because it would mean less revenue at the box office for the owners. That means that my idea of “NBA Nights” will never happen, and that means that fantasy basketball will continue to flounder.

The league is doing well enough that Stern and the owners will be reluctant to make any significant changes to the structure. The four-year max contract is a possibility, however, as the owners and players have to agree on a new CBA and shorter contracts are one of the things that the owners are pushing.

Putting the NFL’s potential lockout in dummy terms

If you, like me, live in fear of the fall of 2011 having no NFL football, but don’t understand all of the legal mumbo-jumbo associated with the labor dispute, I’m hear to put things in terms we all can understand.

First things first, and that is that the owners unanimously opted out of the current CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) in 2008, one that they had signed off on in 2006. Since I’m making this as easy as possible to understand, let me tell you that a CBA is the agreement two sides, usually labor and management, come to on various topics, most of which include how money will be divided. And in this case, the owners realized that player salaries were escalating out of control and that their profits were being squeezed more each year. Yes, part of the problem is they are agreeing to these salaries, and player agents are a huge part of that. In the bigger picture, the real problem is revenue sharing, a.k.a. how to split the financial pie. And while the NFL is bringing in a ridiculous amount of money ($7.6 billion in 2008), about 62% of that goes to player salaries, a number that keeps climbing due to increases in the overall salary cap. To make matters worse, there is also revenue sharing among teams, meaning the big market teams have to help the small market teams to help them compete with each other on the field.

So the owners want something like 18% of the pie back, in the form of salary cuts to the players. Naturally, the players do not want to give them this money back, and that is why head of the players’ union DeMaurice Smith announced during the Super Bowl’s hype week that the chance of a lockout were a 14 on a scale of 1 to 10. For his part, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell denounced that, saying he hoped it wouldn’t come to a work stoppage, but he also knows that it’s a very real possibility. The players aren’t necessarily saying they won’t give part of the pie back, either. Smith wants the owners to show the players that they are struggling to run their businesses, meaning he wants them to open up their books. And the owners won’t do it. So are the numbers being reported not what they say? It’s hard to say the owners aren’t lying about these numbers, when they keep agreeing to player contracts and they keep building huge state-of-the-art stadiums, but they also have the right to not open their books if they don’t want to. And the bottom line is that the owners are not happy about doling out more and more of their profits.

Then, of course, there is the issue of an uncapped 2010 season. The current structure calls for a salary cap through the 2009 season, with 2010 being an uncapped year if the owners opt out of the CBA, which they did. Last time this happened, in 1993, player salaries rose to 69% of NFL revenue, and that is expected to happen again. But of course, nothing is guaranteed in 2011, so the players have to be careful of what they wish for.

If organized sports have taught us anything, it’s that the possibility of no games being played can and will happen. You might remember the NFL had a similar situation in 1987, and the owners used replacement players for a few games before the dispute was resolved and the regular players went back to work. MLB cancelled the last two months of the 1994 season as well as the playoffs and World Series, a black mark they have not recovered from. The NBA had a similar situation in 1998-99, with almost half a season being wiped out. And of course, the freshest in our memories is the NHL’s 2004-05 season that was not played due to a labor dispute.

So as fans, we have to hope a few things happen between now and the summer of 2011, which is spewing a black cloud that keeps getting darker and more imposing by the day. We have to hope the owners agree to open up their books, and we have to hope the players agree to give back part of the pie for the health and financial well being of the NFL. Sure, we want the players we love to watch get the money they deserve, but within reason. Certainly it’s not worth much to anyone to have no NFL games being played, but it may very well come to that.

Of course, the NFL is not the only business that would be affected by a lockout. Besides the local businesses near stadiums that thrive during the season, fantasy football and all of the money (reported as upwards of $3 billion in 2007) associated with that is threatened here. Think about that for a second. The folks that make their livelihood in that world will be flattened financially. Well, maybe that’s going to be the subject of my next piece on this, but for the moment I wanted to do my part to help everyone understand the dispute between owners and players, and what it all really means.

Many think that a lockout won’t really happen, and I’m optimistic myself that it won’t. But history surely does make us all nervous, doesn’t it?

Line of the Night (11/3): Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki scored 29 points in the fourth quarter — you read that right — to give the Mavs a 96-85 win over the Utah Jazz. He posted 40 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, five blocks and two steals. He shot 12 of 22 from the field and 15 of 16 from the charity stripe. The Mavs trailed by 16 with 8:17 to play before they made their charge.

After a somewhat surprising loss to the Washington Wizards on opening night, the Mavs beat the Lakers soundly on the road and derailed the Jazz at home, all without Josh Howard. They look like a fringe contender in the West. If they can stay healthy and get a few lucky bounces, they could challenge.

Inside the Box (10/30)

Here are a few random thoughts as I peruse the box scores from last night’s NBA action:

– Nice win by the Bulls, though we shouldn’t read too much into it with regard to the Spurs. They were in the second of a back-to-back and are still trying to work out the kinks with a few new players.

– Tim Duncan (28p, 16r, 2a, 2s, 3b) proved he can still dominate a game. The rest of the Spurs shot a woeful 34% from the field. Tony Parker (8p, 3a, 3r) had an off game, losing the head-to-head matchup with Derrick Rose (13p, 7r, 7a).

– Luol Deng (17p, 9r) was better than expected and shook off the rust quickly, posting a very efficient (+22) night.

– Denver got a big win in Portland (97-93) behind a great performance by Carmelo Anthony (41p, 6r, 3a). Brandon Roy (30p, 5a, 5r) had a nice game, but hasn’t shot the ball well (32%) through two games.

– If Portland wants to join the West’s elite, beating Denver at home would be a start. LaMarcus Aldridge (9p, 7r, 4-15 shooting) is off to a rough start after signing a huge extension before the season.

Related Posts