SBD/Issue 165/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NBA CBA Talks Stall After ESPN Report On Union/Agent Meeting

NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik has issued a statement saying that due to what the league says is the NBPA’s recent reversal of position on several key issues, there are no further CBA negotiations scheduled. Granik: said after a bargaining session on April 17, “We thought we were very close to a deal, with only a few items remaining to be compromised. On April 19, a day after the Players Association met with a group of player agents, we were informed that the Players Association could no longer agree to a previously-committed five-year rule on length of contracts. Then, last week, after promising a written proposal to form the basis of a new agreement, the union instead advised us orally that it needed to backtrack on several other essential terms that had already been resolved.” Granik said the NBA offered to raise the salary cap from 48% to 51% of BRI [basketball-related income], “to lessen the impact of the luxury tax by distributing escrow funds to all teams equally, and to guarantee the players as a group the same 57% they have received in each of the last two seasons” (NBA). Granik said the “No. 1 priority” for owners is a reduction of the maximum length of contracts (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/19). Granik added, “We’ve gone backwards the last few weeks. We don’t know where we’re going from here. ... The situation is alarming. It’s difficult to see how we can get where we need to be” (USA TODAY, 5/19).

BLAME AGENTS? Granik: “It appears to be a possibility that the agents are responsible for what happened here. [But] I don’t have personal knowledge of this” (ESPN.com, 5/18). NBA Commissioner David Stern: “We need to get back to the table without the agents injecting themselves into our negotiations as they currently have” (TNT, 5/18).

HUNTER CLAIMS RACIST UNDERTONES: NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter said the league blaming agents is the “same approach used by the league seven years ago [when a lockout postponed the start of the season]. At that time the word was that (agents) David Falk and Arn Tellem and others were actually orchestrating and managing the negotiations. I thought it was repugnant and offensive at that time, and I think it’s even more so now — the fact the inference is that me, as a black man, cannot operate an institution such as the union without having some white man oversee and legitimate whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing” (ESPN.com, 5/18). More Hunter: “If Commissioner Stern wants to push this off and pretend that agents are running the show then that’s a terrible misconception, and I think he’s being disingenuous” (TNT, 5/18).

AGENT REAX: In L.A., Mark Heisler cites an agent who was at the April 18 meeting as saying the union “never represented that they had made a deal. They just went through the different issues and asked our opinion. They never represented they were close to a deal” (L.A. TIMES, 5/19). In Chicago, Sam Smith cites an agent saying that the union “never agreed on any contract lengths and termed the NBA’s response posturing” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/19). Agent Mark Bartelstein: “It’s impossible for me [to see] how the players would accept a system that goes farther backward than they are now” (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 5/18).

DEAL MAKERS? Hunter added of a new CBA, “We’re not going to do a bad deal. And if that means as a result that we have another lockout, then we just have another lockout” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/19). Hunter: “If we give something we expect something back in exchange” (WASHINGTON POST, 5/19). NBPA General Counsel Jeffrey Kessler said, “I don’t think the union has any intention to make a counter comment on the specifics. It’s bargaining. There’s nothing unusual going on” (N.Y. TIMES, 5/19).

PLAYER REAX: NBPA President Michael Curry, on the NBA’s claim that the sides had agreed to shortening the length of contracts and other issues: “We hadn’t agreed on anything. When we ran the numbers with our economist, it didn’t work. It wasn’t a deal that we could suggest our players take.” NBPA Secretary & Treasurer and Magic F Pat Garrity said talks ended because the owners “got greedy.” Garrity: “We were giving up everything. We asked for some things in return and they wouldn’t give. We were on the right path and their eyes got too big, and now it’s backfiring” (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 5/18). But Hornets F and union rep P.J. Brown said, “I still believe we’re going to get a deal done. ... Negotiating things like this takes a lot of time, and both fronts are not going to give up easily” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 5/19).

MORTAL LOCK? In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence cites sources as saying that “four to five major issues still have to be resolved” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/19). Former Hawks/Braves/ Thrashers President Stan Kasten considers an NBA lockout a “certainty if there is no agreement when the current agreement expires” June 30. Kasten: “This is not close anymore. No question, business will stop on July 1 if there isn’t an agreement” (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 5/19). One GM before the announcement of talks breaking down said, “I’d be stunned if anything different from [a lockout] occurs.” Another GM said, “We’re already thinking up contingency plans for when they cancel the summer leagues. We’ve got to tell our players now how to prepare for summer before we’re not allowed to talk to them anymore” (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/19). ESPN.com’s Marc Stein cites sources as saying that the NBA and its teams “are bound to take a harder line because of what's happened in hockey. They think, as training camp in October draws closer, that they can get the players to acquiesce to their demands." ESPN's Tim Legler added of the NBA’s desire to shorten the length of contracts, “The Players Association will never go for that. They're not going to give one inch on that. That's something they got in the last negotiation; they want to keep that obviously. That to me is the line in the sand issue” (“SportsCenter,” 5/18).

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