SBD/August 25, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBA Lockout Watch, Day 56: Sides To Hold Negotiations Next Week

Lead negotiators for the NBA and NBPA “will hold a bargaining session next week -- just the second since the lockout began -- with an unofficial deadline fast approaching to save the start of training camps,” according to Howard Beck of the N.Y. TIMES. Sources said that the sides “planned to meet in New York, although the day and the location were still being arranged.” NBPA leaders are “still steaming over comments" made by David Stern in a recent podcast with ESPN's Bill Simmons, when the NBA commissioner "insinuated that players were not well informed on the issues.” Stern also “framed the economic debate in terms that the union considered misleading -- most notably an assertion that players were being asked to take a pay cut of just 8 percent.” Wizards F and NBPA VP Maurice Evans yesterday said, “It’s not true. Blatantly, it’s just lying.” NBA Senior VP/Marketing Communications Mike Bass said, “While we haven’t heard Maurice Evans’s remarks, I can confirm that we last proposed $2 billion in total player compensation for next season, an 8 percent reduction from last season” (N.Y. TIMES, 8/25). The AP’s Brian Mahoney reported the union “has been holding regional meetings, informing its members just how harsh it believes the owners' proposal is" for a new CBA. Players “have balked at the demands,” and Evans yesterday said that “when players are shown what the league wants, they are unified in their stance.” The NBPA is “set to hold another meeting” today in Chicago, and "more than 100 players have attended the three gatherings, in Los Angeles and Las Vegas last week before New York on Wednesday.” Evans added that they “hope to schedule more in Houston and Atlanta.” Evans believes that Stern has been “more aggressive in his tone because the numbers don't support the position the league says it is in after a successful 2010-11 season on and off the court.” Evans: "He has to go to extremes to try to prove his case and normally he doesn't negotiate through the media." He added, "We just want something that's fair. We don't feel like their proposals have been in good faith at all. That's why we filed the suit with the NLRB" (AP, 8/24).

UNITED THEY STAND: In an extensive interview with SI.com's Sam Amick, Evans said, “The offers have been so pathetic that it's hard to even talk about it when we're informing the guys. We're $7.6 billion apart. ... (Players) are really starting to get it and they're willing to sit out for as long as necessary to get us a fair deal.” Evans: “It's not about who's more unified and having a battle of wills. It's about knowing what's right. We've earned the right to compete. We're the ones playing. You can't tell me their sponsorships and the package that they're selling is what has allowed the game to grow to what it is. That's not what increased basketball-related revenue 4.8 percent. We can go down the list about record television ratings and all kinds of different things. And for those guys to jeopardize that, you can't tell me that the owners aren't going to be hurting as well.” He added, “We don't want anyone to take a loss, not even the owners. But they seem to be hellbent on contracting (teams) and, as David Stern said, have a huge reset (of the entire system). If we're going to reset ... then they're going to have to reset the entire league. And even they're going to have to take a reset.” Evans said the “major, if not the most, misleading thing” Stern said in his ESPN.com podcast was that if NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter “just tells the players that all I'm asking for is eight percent salary cuts that there would be resolution.” Evans: “That eight percent is actually 40 percent over 10 years, and the actual total is $7.6 billion.” He added, "Our guys are willing to miss this season and more. We're willing to do what it's going to take because accepting a deal at the numbers that they're asking for will be worse than missing the season" (SI.com, 8/25). In DC, Mike Wise notes “beyond finding a more equitable split of income, stale contracts are why the union and the league may not come to terms this fall and perhaps beyond.” The players “are more proactive than they were in 1999, realizing the owners want to fix the system for the long haul, that if real progress isn’t made by the first two weeks in September they will most likely miss paychecks, and their earning potential needs to be tapped elsewhere” (WASHINGTON POST, 8/25).

Vucevic becomes the first '11 first-round
selection to sign overseas during lockout
MAKING OTHER PLANS
: Former USC F Nikola Vucevic, the 76ers’ first-round draft pick, has signed a deal to play in Montenegro, and he is believed to be the first ‘11 first-round selection to sign a deal to play overseas due to the lockout. Agent Bill Duffy, who reps Vucevic, said, "Absolutely, he has an opt-out." Duffy: "I think what it says is the dam is about to break. We are having a lot of dialogue. We are talking about deals with our established veterans going to Europe." Vucevic, the son of a pro basketball player in Europe, played his teen years in Montenegro, where he was ranked a top junior player there. But unlike most European teenagers, he chose to play college basketball and was picked No. 16 overall after three years at USC. Duffy declined to reveal financial details of the deal, but said, "It is an impressive deal. He has proven to be a marquee player in Montenegro. He is also a member of the national team" (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal). Meanwhile, SI.com’s Amick reported “more than 50 players” will be in Las Vegas to “take part in a league at Impact Academy, starting on Sept. 12.” The Vegas session “will have the feel of an unofficial training camp for a number of teams.” Impact Owner & Trainer Joe Abunassar said that Clippers F Blake Griffin and Gs Mo Williams and Randy Foye "came by last week and expressed a desire to enter the league with a team made up solely of their teammates.” Thunder C Nazr Mohammed “is trying to convince Kevin Durant, James Harden and others to do the same,” while Pacers G Dahntay Jones and Nuggets F Al Harrington “are making similar pitches to their respective teams.” While "Pro-Am and street ball leagues such as the Los Angeles' Drew and D.C.'s Goodman have given NBA types a place to play in recent months, Abunassar plans on taking it to a whole new level.” The “key difference is the NBA-only rule, as most Pro-Am leagues allow players who play collegiate or internationally as well” (SI.com, 8/24).

IMAGE OVERHAUL: In Newark, Dave D’Alessandro writes under the header, “In NBA Lockout, Players Are Fighting An Uphill Battle In Public Perception.” Free agent G Delonte West “tweeted about how he’s already broke, and that he had applied for a job at the local Home Depot.” D’Alessandro: “The players have pushed the wrong theme all along -- nobody who buys a ticket at MSG or Canseco or Staples cares who plays in Turkey or China this winter. It’s as irrelevant as a Kardashian.” The players “have to work to erase that stereotype, and they’re not getting any help from their leadership in this pursuit.” Bucks G and NBPA VP Keyon Dooling said, “I never understood the negative image we have -- we have a league of givers.” D’Alessandro writes, “They must find a real theme, as the NFL guys did. Get back and reconnect, show the public that you’re not obsessed with your next paycheck. Send each guy back to his neighborhoods once a week. Pick a day and give free clinics in every city in the U.S. Refurbish playgrounds” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 8/25).

HOW TO IMPROVE THE NBA: CBSSPORTS.com’s Ken Berger wrote there is “no shortage of creative minds across the league, but the emphasis is so squarely on changing the economic model and winning bargaining concessions that other ways to enhance the product and bring in more revenues are being ignored.” The NBA owners should “call a three-day session of the competition committee in a central location (Chicago or Dallas) and let them figure out some solutions that have nothing to do with how much money the owners and players get.” The NBPA should “seize control of the bettering-the-game dialogue and become the lone voice in the wilderness talking about issues fans care about." Berger lists several concepts that execs, players "or both could address instead of wasting valuable time arguing (and not arguing) over money," including "anti-tanking rules," the NBA age limit and improving the D-Legaue (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/24).
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