NBA labor negotiations update

Henry Abbott of TrueHoop has been covering the NBA labor negotiations. Here’s what happened on Tuesday:

The players say they were ready to make what they thought was a very meaningful economic offer to the owners. But before they did, they wanted to know that the soft cap would remain.

In response to that, the owners did what both sides have done many times, and left the bargaining table to confer among themselves. (At CBA meetings, both sides typically have “caucus rooms” for just this purpose.) The owners huddled for three hours before deciding they would not respond to the players’ offer. Meeting over.

Later, the careful Stern decided to share with the public that the 11 owners in the room were not unified on how to handle the players’ offer:

“As you might guess, I don’t know how many owners we had, but we had as many views … We were not unanimous in every aspect of it. But all of the owners were completely unified in the view that we needed a system that at the end of the day allowed 30 teams to compete. And we went back to the players and said that although we have some ideas, we’ve been talking to each other, agreeing, disagreeing, coming up with everything that we possibly could to see if there was still time to save the season, it actually didn’t make sense for us to respond to their non-negotiable demand that everything remain the same that it was, and that we’d be best off going back and reporting to our respective sides at the meetings we’d have on Thursday.”

On Thursday, after his meeting with the owners, this is what Stern had to say:

“It is the view of the board and the committee that an individual team salary cap, as opposed to a league-wide salary cap, is preferred and the better way to go. But as we told the union, and will continue to tell them, everything is negotiable.”

“The vast majority of owners are in favor of a hard cap system. Having said that, they have authorized the committee to be willing to negotiate on all points, and the committee is.”

“I get reports that the union is coming out of their meeting today unified. We think that’s a good thing. We would like to negotiate with a strong union capable of delivering a deal.”

“The clock is ticking, but it hasn’t struck midnight yet. We’ve got time to do what needs to be done, and we’d like to do it, actually.”

“There’s nothing scheduled right this minute because we’re traveling back to New York and I assume the union is traveling back to New York. But we’ll both be in New York starting [Friday] and it wouldn’t surprise me if there was some conversation that was going on.”

It sounds like there is a sense of urgency right now in an attempt to get the season started on time, but I wonder if that’s going to go away once/if everyone realizes that it isn’t going to happen.

If I had to guess, I’d still bet that we miss a month or two of the season, though it doesn’t seem like the two sides are as far apart as they once were.

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NBA stars play at UCLA’s open gym [video]

Keep an eye out for Ron Artest bringing the ball up the court. Pretty funny…

NBA labor negotiations moving slowly

The president of the National Basketball Association players’ association, Derek Fisher, speaks to reporters after taking part in contract negotiations between the NBA and the players association in New York June 30, 2011. The NBA was on the verge of its first work stoppage in 13 years after negotiations over a new labor deal collapsed hours before the current collective bargaining agreement expires, the union representing players said on Thursday. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS BASKETBALL)

When the NBA and NBAPA left today’s negotiation session, all they spoke of was doom and gloom, but as CBS Sports’ Ken Berger writes in his excellent column about the status of the negotiations, things aren’t as bad as they seem.

The only thing both sides agreed on after this latest round of posturing and semi-negotiating was that the players had come to the table with economic concessions the owners and NBA negotiators could live with — or at least could envision writing into a new CBA. Though no written proposals were formally exchanged, hidden amid all the rhetoric and doomsday prognosticating was something extraordinary for how lost it became: the NBA and its union are on the verge of solving the biggest dispute between them, as in how much money each side gets.

Great, right? Well, sort of. The issue now is that the owners are demanding a hard salary cap and the players aren’t going to go for it.

The owners want significant salary concessions, which they’re on the verge of receiving, and they want a more restrictive cap system to go with it. They can’t have both, say the players. It’s straight out of the cake-and-eat-it-too negotiating handbook.

“We don’t want a system where players come in, they have no security and you have two or three marquee players who get a guarantee — and not a full guarantee as they have proposed, but a limited guarantee — that everybody else would not have,” Hunter said. “And these guys would be on one- or two-year deals and at any whim of any given owner or GM or whatever, they’d be out the door. And so we’re saying, ‘No way.'”

I’m in favor of a hard cap because it encourages parity and allows small market teams to compete on equal footing with teams in New York and Los Angeles. But Berger argues that revenue sharing can fix that issue. I supposed that’s true, but the level of revenue sharing has to be high enough to allow the small market teams to spend as much as the big market teams. (For example, if the hard cap is $20 million over the soft cap, then the small market team needs to receive $20 million in revenue sharing to make things equal. That’s not going to happen.) High profile free agents already prefer to play in a big market because of the impact it has on their Q Rating — a soft salary cap only exacerbates the advantage that the big market teams have over their competition.

People will point to the San Antonio Spurs, the LeBron-era Cleveland Cavaliers and the Oklahoma City Thunder as small market teams that have managed to compete year in and year out, and it’s true, those teams have done a fine job, but they all have one thing in common — they were fortunate enough to have a #1 (or #2) pick in a year when a no-brainer superstar was available at the top of the draft. Without lucking into Tim Duncan, LeBron James or Kevin Durant, the Spurs, Cavs (R.I.P.) and the Thunder would be no better off than the T-Wolves or the Bucks.

Granted, the T-Wolves and the Bucks (and Bobcats, Raptors, Pacers, Grizzlies and Kings) had their chance to land a superstar with their lottery pick(s), but a small market team shouldn’t have to make mistake-free personnel decisions to compete. If the big market teams screw up, all they have to do is slash salary and then they’ll eventually be able to lock up a superstar — just look at the Knicks.

Anyway, Berger thinks the two sides are closer than they seem and wonders if they’re willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater in their pissing match over a hard cap.

Are the owners, having essentially received the economic concessions they were seeking, really willing to sacrifice $4 billion of revenues (roughly half of which they’d get, depending on how the deal ultimately is written) in order to impose a hard cap that may or may not allow Charlotte Bobcats to make the conference semifinals?

Are the players, having fought back the owners’ quest for what Hunter called Tuesday “total capitulation,” willing to cut off paychecks for more than 400 players for a year so that Corey Maggette can make more money than he deserves until his contract finally can be dumped into a voodoo-math NBA trade at some future deadline?

These are good questions.

NBA labor negotiations enter key stretch

This is a big week for the NBA, per ESPN.

A pivotal stretch in the NBA lockout begins Tuesday, when full bargaining committees return to the table.

That could move players and owners closer to a new labor deal, but it also could send things in the wrong direction with time running down if more voices in the room leads to discord.

Any setback now would diminish hopes of the preseason opening without delay.

The process toward getting a new collective bargaining agreement seems to have gotten back on track after three meetings in the past two weeks between top negotiators from each side.

They decided their full committees have to return before they can go any further, so the owners’ labor relations committee and the union’s executive committee were told to come to New York for a session Tuesday, and perhaps even Wednesday. That should more than double the number of people in the room from last week, when there were nine.

The league is running out of time to get something done so that the season isn’t delayed. Although no one seems particularly optimistic about the chances of the two sides striking a deal, it’s a good sign that they’re bringing their bargaining committees to the table. We’ll have a better idea where a potential deal stands on Thursday.

Is progress being made in the NBA labor talks?

The president of the National Basketball Association players’ association, Derek Fisher, speaks to reporters after taking part in contract negotiations between the NBA and the players association in New York June 30, 2011. The NBA was on the verge of its first work stoppage in 13 years after negotiations over a new labor deal collapsed hours before the current collective bargaining agreement expires, the union representing players said on Thursday. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS BASKETBALL)

ESPN’s TrueHoop dissected comments from player representative Derek Fisher and wonders if the two sides are holding something back:

The two sides have agreed not to characterize the talks to the media. And in the spirit of keeping that promise, Stern and Fisher peppered their talks with let’s-not-get-carried-away language. Stern said, “I don’t know if it’s positive or negative,” that the groups’ meeting will expand next week. Similarly, Fisher said, “It doesn’t imply that we’re somehow on the verge,” and added that, “We still haven’t found that place where we can come out and say here’s where we are, here’s where progress is being made.”

But it’s hard to talk for 15 unscripted minutes, as Fisher did, without dropping some hints as to what has happened behind closed doors.

The most alarming of the hints came when Fisher explained expanding the meetings: “From our perspective, we want to make sure that our executive committee members who aren’t in the room are able to really fully understand the deal, the deal points, all the information that’s being thrown around the room, all the ideas that we’re going back and forth with.”

A deal? Deal points? There are deal points?

The post has more positive quotes from Fisher which do sound encouraging.

Is it possible that the NBA could reach a deal soon? It doesn’t seem likely given the reported chasm between the two sides, but compared to media attention surrounding the NFL labor negotiations, the NBA and NBAPA have been able to negotiate in relative anonymity.

A month ago I would have pegged the chances of the season starting on time somewhere in the 0%-5% range. Now I’d give the two sides a 15%-20% of coming to an agreement by mid-October.

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