SBD/September 19, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBA Lockout Watch, Day 81: Derek Fisher Steps Up In Role As NBPA President

Lakers G and NBPA President Derek Fisher may "currently have the worst sports job in America, but it's exactly where he belongs," because he is "more than the union president, he is the calm face and reasoned voice of negotiations," according to Bill Plaschke of the L.A. TIMES. Fisher said, "There have been moments when it's been draining. But it's not draining me of my overall energy and passion for playing this game I love to play." He added, "My experience with the Lakers plays a part in my ability to fill a leadership role, absolutely. There are many similarities between making executive decisions and leadership roles in athletics." Plaschke noted this is "not an NFL-type lockout where the only issue was the number of slices to be shared from an enormous pie." Rather, the NBA owners "want to bake an entirely new pie, and are willing to spend an entire season behind locked doors while it cooks." Fisher said, "I have the pressure of 1,000 families relying on this agreement getting done, an agreement that could set the foundation of the NBA for the next six to 10 years. I knew it would be tough, and it is." He added, "We view what we bring to the brand of NBA basketball as the league's most valuable and important asset, one that helps generate millions of dollars. We just want to share in a fair part of the game as it grows; we're not asking for anything in addition, no raises arbitrarily, just a fair share for the players." More Fisher: "I don't believe the model is broken, and our players don't either. We respect the fact that team owners don't want to feel as though they paid a contract and the player does not 'perform' up to that level. But our position is simply that they have ability to manage assets in ways to run a successful business, and that shouldn't be something that becomes the employees' responsibility" (L.A. TIMES, 9/17). NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter said last week, "We know the owners are dug in ... they've seen what has happened in hockey; that you can break the will of the players. We spent three years preparing these guys for this. I'm convinced they'll hang in there." Hunter added, "I haven't heard one guy yet say anything about their financial strain. They say they're prepared" (L.A. TIMES, 9/19).

DOLLARS AND SENSE: In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence noted in the "next ten days, owners and players have to reach a new labor deal or else training camps will be canceled, as will the start of the regular season on Nov. 1." Players have "come down" to 53%, from their initial request of a 57% share of basketball-related income. Suns F and player rep Jared Dudley said, "Let's say we went down to 52% or 51%. If that gets it done, I guarantee you we would have the season, if that's what it takes." But Lawrence noted it will "take even more, which is one reason we're still a ways from an agreement." Sources said NBA Commissioner David Stern "is looking in the end for a 50-50 split." The union has said that Stern has been "asking for a 55-45 split in favor of the owners," but he "knows he will never get that much, and will eventually come up to where he'll agree to an equal split" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/18). In Boston, Gary Washburn noted some believe that the players' "offer to lower their share of basketball-related income from 57 percent to the 52 percent range was paramount to negotiations." Such a move "encouraged positive vibes," particularly when NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver "intimated that economic progress had been made over the past two weeks." Former NBPA Exec Dir Charles Grantham said, "I saw this week as a sign of progress, not one of dismay. This is sort of a concessionary negotiation because the owners have obviously made timeless claims that they are losing substantial sums of money and the union has settled in on the fact there [are] teams that are facing losses." But the owners "responded to the players' offer of decreased BRI with insistence on an NHL-like hard salary cap, something the players are soundly against." Grantham said, "I think these next couple of weeks are important, as long as they don't get derailed through a legal strategy which is flawed. This whole concept of decertification, at this point in the game, makes no sense" (BOSTON.com, 9/18).

Grousbeck (r) is reportedly in favor of NBA adopting a hard salary cap
HAWKS & DOVES
: ESPN.com's Chris Broussard noted since the lockout began, it has been "assumed that large-market, big money owners are more willing to accept a soft salary cap while the small-market owners are adamant about a hard one." But sources said that several "large-market owners are hawkish on the hard cap." The reason for "this seeming contradiction is related to the enhanced revenue-sharing system the league will implement." The big-market owners will "bear the brunt of the new system" and sources said that some of those owners "are adamant about having a hard cap so that if they must share revenues, they'll have more money from which to pull." Celtics Managing Partner & CEO Wyc Grousbeck "has been widely reported to be a hawk, but it is not clear which of the other big-market owners ... share his philosophy." One source said that some large-market owners "want to delay revenue-sharing for at least one season" (ESPN.com, 9/17). Miami Herald columnist Israel Gutierrez said, "Small markets have never driven this league and no matter how badly they want to be heard, those owners won’t drive these negotiations forever, especially if David Stern is allowed to negotiate” ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN2, 9/18). 

FROM THE BEAT: ESPN.com's Henry Abbott wrote there is "no word yet on when the next round of talks will be, but it's a good bet it will be very soon." With the "money issue apparently close, and the league ready to think creatively on the only other 'blood' issue, there is the chance things could progress quickly" (ESPN.com, 9/16). ESPN.com's Larry Coon wrote if a CBA "isn't hammered out soon, then it's not good news for the players." Coon: "The longer this lockout lasts, the stronger the owners' position becomes. The players can make it tough on the owners in the meantime, but they can't prevent the inevitable. In a game of tug-of-war, the bigger side wins. In this dispute the owners are the bigger side" (ESPN.com, 9/16). In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman wrote of reports that Caviliers Owner Dan Gilbert and Sun Owner Bob Sarver was negatively impacting the negotiations, "I can't fathom Dan Gilbert or anyone else who hasn't been around for decades driving Stern's agenda." Winderman: "We're not talking about the late Abe Polin here. If David Stern wants a deal, Dan Gilbert and Bob Sarver will have to deal. But I do find it somewhat surprising that owners such as Jerry Buss, Micky Arison, James Dolan, Jerry Reinsdorf and more of that ilk aren't seizing control of the situation. Has David Stern truly sold that much of his soul? Do these new owners possess compromising pictures?" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 9/17). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes it is "hard to imagine that the second-year owners at Golden State and the incoming ownership groups in Detroit, Philadelphia and Atlanta aren't frustrated with the pace of events and itching for the season to start." But throughout the negotiations, the tone "has been respectful, which suggests that both parties really want to get a deal done soon." Hunter "has kept the power agents at a distance, at least for now." Voisin: "There will be a season, and I might be crazy, but I don't think the lockout will last beyond the opening weeks of the preseason" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 9/19).

PLAYERS' PERSPECTIVE: ESPN’s Howard Bryant said NBA stars are missing in the labor talks and "think about how different this would look if you saw” NBPA President Derek Fisher speaking with Lakers G Kobe Bryant and Heat F LeBron James “standing behind him." Bryant: "That message would be, ‘Look, we’re together, we’re unified, we’re not going anywhere, we’re not backing down.’ But right now the way it looks, if I’m ownership I’m thinking, ‘These guys aren’t taking this very seriously. They’re too busy clowning around on Twitter’” (“Jim Rome Is Burning,” ESPN2, 9/16). Wizards G John Wall said, "We're going to have to have guys like Kobe, LeBron, the face of the NBA, to step up and say something." Thunder F Kevin Durant said it "could help" if the NBA's premier players took a more prominent role in the negotiations. He added, "Everybody knows all the top-tier guys in the league want to be involved in it, they want to be locked into what's going on, but because of what we have going on as players, throughout the summer, we can't be in some of the meetings." Meanwhile, Wall indicated that "more would have to be done to reach an agreement" before training camps open on Oct. 3 (WASHINGTON POST, 9/18).
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