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Thursday's Meeting Will Be First With Stern,
Silver, Hunter Since Talk Of Reducing Salaries
Lakers G and NBPA President Derek Fisher said that he and NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter on Thursday meet with NBA Commissioner David Stern and Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver in a CBA negotiating session "involving the heaviest hitters," according to Ken Berger of CBSSPORTS.com. Fisher "will participate via conference call" from Minneapolis during the Lakers' upcoming road trip. He said, "The smaller meetings allow us to get more accomplished. We're going to be hard at work on this between now and All-Star weekend, that's for sure." Berger noted since the last formal CBA negotiating session in N.Y., the league and NBPA have "begun holding smaller staff meetings to address specifics of each side's proposal." But Thursday's meeting "will be the first session involving Stern, Silver and Hunter since Stern dropped his bombshell after last month's Board of Governors meeting" that owners are looking for a $750-800M reduction in player salaries (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/14). Fisher acknowledges that there is "plenty of work to do between now and when the current CBA expires June 30." Fisher: "We're open to a lot of things but mainly open to realistic dialogue that's focused on real solutions rather than just throwing things out just to see how their response is." Lakers C and NBPA VP Theo Ratliff "scoffed at contraction, an issue Stern brought up last month." Ratliff said, "When you're selling teams for $450 million, a lot of people are looking to get in this league. So, I mean, the contraction part, it's a stretch. It's a stretch for me." FANHOUSE.com's Chris Tomasson noted it will be "considered pivotal when the union and NBA owners get together during the Feb. 18-20 All-Star Weekend" in L.A. If "no significant progress is made by then, the general belief is a lockout would be much more likely," which is why the NBPA is "trying to get as many players as possible to come to Los Angeles that weekend" (FANHOUSE.com, 11/12).
KOBE WEIGHS IN ON DEBATE: Lakers G Kobe Bryant weighed in on CBA issues “for the first time Sunday night with some strong words for NBA owners.” Bryant said, “The owners need to look in the mirror. They need to make the right judgment themselves and stop trying to force us players to be the ones to make adjustments. They’ve got to look in the mirror and decide what they want to do with the sport, and we as employees will show up and do what we’ve got to do.” He added, “I’m going to fight for our players. It’s about making sure we have the best deal going forward. ... It’s about taking care of the generation that’s coming after us. That’s what the guys before us tried to do, and that’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m not going to waver from that.” CBSSPORTS.com’s Berger notes these are the “strongest words yet spoken publicly by an NBA player about the owners’ pursuit of a hard cap, enormous salary reductions and a rollback of existing contracts.” Coming from Bryant, “they carried weight -- both with the players and owners” (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/15).
SHARE THE WEALTH: In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote there is "no greater silent problem in the NBA than the continued lack of parity at the top." Only seven franchises have won an NBA title since '84; during that time, MLB has crowned 18 different World Series winners, the NFL has had 14 different champions and the NHL 13. Stern said, "I don't think that (seven) is a fair enough number. We've had teams like Utah, Orlando, Portland and Cleveland go to the Finals." He added, "We're focused on some things in our collective bargaining that will make the league a little more competitive in respect to competition between the teams, where large-market teams don't have huge economic disparities to utilize to make them better. We've talked a little bit about teams to retool faster; teams that are judged to make mistakes under the cap" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 11/14).
D'Backs Exec Says Player Compensation
Was Not A Factor In Nixing Taiwan Games
The D'Backs and Giants "will not be opening the 2011 regular season in Taiwan after all," according to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com. The two teams had been pegged to play "two exhibition games plus two regular-season games in Taiwan in late March." They then "would have returned to Arizona to finish up Spring Training before resuming the regular season." As part of the deal, the D'Backs "would have had to give up a pair of home dates against the Giants, which they had indicated they were willing to do" (MLB.com, 11/12). D'Backs VP/Communications Shaun Rachau: "We're getting pretty late in the game and a deal couldn't be put together at this time." Rachau added that player compensation "wasn't a factor." A D'Backs player near the beginning of the World Series said that the Giants' postseason run "might have thrown a wrench in the plans." In Phoenix, Nick Piecoro reported the D'Backs saw the trip "as an opportunity to increase their international visibility, something that could make it easier to attract foreign-born players" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 11/13). In S.F., John Shea reported Giants players "were hesitant from the start -- about the travel, about the compensation, about the possibility it would affect the momentum heading into the season -- and the prolonged postseason raised concerns." Those concerns "were relayed to the players' union," but Giants President & COO Larry Baer said that "in the end, it was the Giants' front office that made the call." Baer added that the team "remains open to international travel, in Taiwan or elsewhere, to 'help baseball grow globally'" (SFGATE.com, 11/12).
World Cup Of Hockey Has Not Been Held
Since '04, But Plans Are Being Floated For '13
Conversations "recently took place once again" to bring the World Cup of Hockey "back to life," according to sources cited by Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com. The event has not been held since '04, but there are "different ideas being floated around right now, including a plan to hold the next World Cup in September 2013, five months before" the '14 Sochi Games. The September '13 idea is "conceptual at this point and far from any official proposition." There are "pitfalls with the idea," as the NHL and NHLPA "first and foremost ... have yet to commit to Sochi in 2014." But LeBrun wrote the idea is "still interesting" (ESPN.com, 11/13).
WARMING THE ICE: In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote he has "warmed up to" the NHL's new All-Star Game format, in which captains select the rosters for the two teams regardless of conference, "after initially dismissing it on Twitter." The selection of the two rosters might "get more notice than" the game itself. But Brooks added, "Doesn't baseball's Monday Home Run Derby attract more attention than Tuesday's game? And what exactly would be the harm?" Meanwhile, Brooks wrote he hopes the NHL and the players "would be intuitive enough not to name" Penguins C Sidney Crosby or Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin as a captain for the game, "so that both would be on the board and eligible for drafting." Brooks also hopes the NHLPA "wouldn't object to a last-man standing scenario" during the selection of the rosters (N.Y. POST, 11/14).
WORTHY OF EMULATING: ESPN.com's Ryan Corazza wrote while the NHL "appears to still be sorting things out" in terms of a social media policy, the NFL's and NBA's policies are "worth emulation." The NFL "doesn't allow use of social media or networking sites for players, coaches and football operations personnel up to 90 minutes before kickoff," and "only after media interview obligations have concluded postgame can players bust out the cell phone and get to tweeting." The NBA's policy is "near identical," though "instead of 90 minutes before games, it's 45." Corazza wrote adopting a policy is "about a happy medium," as to "restrict players from using the service entirely isn't a sound business or personal relations practice for the league or its players going forward." Corazza: "Social media has its drawbacks, but it's imperative for leagues, teams and players to be where the conversation -- and the money -- is headed" (ESPN.com, 11/12).
STATE OF MISMANAGEMENT: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell writes it "can be safely said that as a league, the NHL has gotten worse, not better, at managing itself during the post-lockout era." Many execs "still haven't fully grasped the concept of cap space as an asset," and teams "generally speaking ... still follow a market that is dictated by bad signings." The "biggest problem, perhaps, is that teams don't seem to be learning from the mistakes of others." Campbell: "Until they do, they'll continue to have all kinds of trouble navigating their way through a system that was originally designed to help them" (THE HOCKEY NEWS, 11/15 issue).
CBS' Charley Casserly reported NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is "in the process of forming an injury safety committee," something he has been "working on for the last few months." Casserly: "Some of the people he's considering for the committee: John Madden, Willie Lanier, Ronnie Lott, Derrick Brooks, Anthony Munoz and perhaps a game official. ... This committee would make recommendations to him and the Competition Committee. Some of the areas that he's going to have them talk about, for example: How do we get better consistency with the game officials calling the rules? What's the best way to educate players on applying the rules as they play?" Casserly added, "The most interesting concept he talked about was … about widening the field and widening the hash marks, opening up the middle of the field. Does that make the game safer?" ("The NFL Today," CBS, 11/14).
BE CAREFUL WITH PLAYOFF EXPANSION: SI.com's Tom Verducci noted MLB GMs at their meetings this week are "expected to discuss the issue of adding two playoff teams" prior to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig presenting the issue "to his 14-man committee for on-field matters" during the winter meetings next month. Managers and GMs who "like expanding the playoffs are pushing Selig for two wild-card teams to play a best-of-three series instead of a one-game elimination," which Verducci wrote is "such a horrible idea that baseball would be better off keeping the current system." A play-in series is a "terrible idea because it makes the division winners sit around too long -- as many as five or six days -- while second- and possibly third-place teams have the stage to themselves." Verducci: "It's bad for ratings, too; baseball needs more ultimate playoff games but not more playoff games that may or may not decide a series" (SI.com, 11/12).
EVERYBODY IS WELCOME: In N.Y., Dave Caldwell reported Las Vegas resident Michael Myers "made what he thought was NASCAR history by arranging a ticket discount for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fans" to yesterday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. Myers, who in '09 started a racing website "for gay NASCAR fans" called Queers4Gears.com, is "trying to get the word out to gay NASCAR fans that they are not alone." About 50-100 people were "expected to take advantage of the discount, which ranged from $7 to $18 a ticket." NASCAR Dir of Business Communications Andrew Giangola: "NASCAR is a sport open to everyone, and we market it very broadly, as opposed to specific demographic segments" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/14).