SBD/June 21, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBA, Players Still Ways Apart Heading Into Crucial Bargaining Session

Stern has stressed the importance of progress coming from today's meeting
The NBPA is "expected to make a new offer to the owners" during today's collective bargaining session in N.Y., but "no matter how much money the players offer to sacrifice when the sides reconvene Tuesday, there is no way it'll be anywhere close to the number the owners are seeking," according to Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com. What continues to be the "biggest divide between the sides is how to split up the money, with the owners still seeking a reduction of approximately $750 million, phased in over four years, from the $2.1 billion in player salaries they doled out last season." The players are "willing to sacrifice some money, but not that much money." A source said, "The owners are asking for a give that puts them in a place where they've never been, which is guaranteed profitability. The biggest problem is that it is unreasonable for owners to even ask for $400 million when they say they are losing $300 million, and thus far they are nowhere near lowering their demands down to the $400 million range. So it's a question of when will they get to a number that is reasonable?" NBA Commissioner David Stern indicated that today's negotiating session is the "most important" yet, but Sheridan wrote it is "not the time for the union to show its entire hand." It is a "time for the players to give the owners a peek at the direction where they'd like this negotiation to move, but not much more." Sheridan: "If you are looking to measure progress Tuesday, look for it in the measure of disdain Stern exudes when he makes his public comments afterward. If he is off the charts in terms of contempt, that will be a bad thing. But if he comes out and concedes that this negotiation is still salvageable, that'll be the most important thing he says" (ESPN.com, 6/20). Regardless of how today's negotiations progress, both sides "might be reluctant to call off the talks entirely, especially since that would overshadow Thursday night's draft." The "best news then might be if they end the meeting by deciding to have another" (AP, 6/20).

A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN: CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger noted the "old guard of loyal ownership that used to stand in lockstep with Stern during labor talks is largely gone." Stern as a result "has turned these negotiations over to a younger, more demanding generation of owners who've experienced life-changing losses in their core businesses, watched franchise values rise at a slower pace than ever before and are now seeking what they perceive as a birthright to profitability on the backs of the players." The "hawkish crowd that was the driving force behind the owners' initial draconian" CBA proposal is "led by owners who bought their teams after the league's only work stoppage" in '98-99: Mark Cuban (Mavericks), Robert Sarver (Suns), Dan Gilbert (Cavaliers), Wyc Grousbeck (Celtics), Clay Bennett (Thunder) and Ted Leonsis (Wizards). A source said, "Stern has been letting this cadre of owners lead the charge for months. At some point, he and the moderates will have to step up and say, 'We've tried your way for 21 months, and it hasn't worked. Now, you have to step aside and get a deal, because we're not going to damage what we've worked so hard to build.'" Berger noted "key owners who have not shown enough of their cards" include Jerry Reinsdorf (Bulls), Herb Simon (Pacers) and Michael Jordan (Bobcats) (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/20).

YOU GOT YOURSELF INTO THIS: In Milwaukee, Michael Hunt wrote despite strong playoff ratings, the NBA "could use all the help it could get right now" because those who tuned into the Mavericks-Heat Finals "were watching to make sure LeBron James went down." Hunt: "On that account I have zero sympathy for Commissioner David Stern, who was responsible for creating an anti-PR monster like James in the first place. It was Stern's decision long ago to market individual players over teams, so James' ESPN Egofest last summer that upstaged an entire league was the natural extension of a bad idea that has led to a gradual erosion of popularity for the NBA." Hunt added, "Still, I'm pulling for the NBA to dig itself out from under its self-inflicted financial and image problems. ... Without a relatively quick agreement that accounts for the health of the smaller markets, the NBA is headed for niche-sport status" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 6/19).
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