SBD/October 3, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBA Lockout Watch, Day 95: Sides Make Little Progress During Weekend Session

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After taking yesterday off, the NBA and NBPA will meet "today and tomorrow with the season on the brink," according to Marc Berman of the N.Y. POST. Cancellation of the "rest of preseason and a chunk of the regular season could come tomorrow night." The league and the union met for a "combined 12 hours at the Waldorf Astoria Friday and Saturday and didn't get much closer on the two giant issues -- the hard salary cap and revenue split" (N.Y. POST, 10/3). NBA Commissioner David Stern said after Saturday's session, "We're not near anything. But wherever that is, we're closer than we were before." Stern also indicated they were "closer" to a compromise on system issues. But NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter said that the parties are "'miles apart,' even on the system issues." Wizards G and NBPA VP Maurice Evans said the two sides exchanged proposals "back and forth," but did not reach an agreement. The sides agreed to meet today "in a small group with only the top negotiators and attorneys and Tuesday with the full bargaining committees" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/1). Stern said that deciding "when to cancel more games is 'day-by-day'" (L.A. TIMES, 10/2). Spurs F and NBPA VP Matt Bonner said both sides were "burned out" by the process and in need of Sunday's break from negotiating (MYSANANTONIO.com, 10/1).

CLOCK WINDING DOWN
: CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger writes, "Welcome to the most important 48 hours of David Stern's reign." The meetings today and tomorrow in N.Y. are "the fourth quarter for Stern, Hunter and their sport," and it is "winning time, or losing time." There is a "deal to be made -- a fair, reasonable one for both sides." But Berger notes, "We are nowhere near a deal. ... There's barely time to get a deal that would save the season. There isn't nearly enough time to get that deal right, to make the kind of meaningful changes that would achieve the goals that both sides should share" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/3). In Boston, Gary Washburn noted Saturday's session was "the longest meeting the owners and players have had since the lockout began July 1." Several players and NBA officials "described the discussions as amicable and the process incremental, but also indicated that it's highly unlikely such a methodic pace would produce a deal to save all 82 games in the season" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/2). Stern, Hunter and NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver said that the parties "felt some good came of going at the cap issue first." But the AP's Brian Mahoney noted they "couldn't resolve it, and it leaves another problem on the horizon largely untouched" (AP, 10/1). SI.com's Ian Thomsen noted the NBA and union are "so far apart on how to divvy up the $4 billion generated by their league -- by far the most important issue separating them -- that they agreed not to discuss it whatsoever Saturday," instead turning their attention to "the so-called system issues." Silver said, "It at least helped us to focus on a couple of issues" (SI.com, 10/1). Lakers G and NBPA President Derek Fisher said the parties, at Hunter's suggestion, "decoupled" the issues of the split of BRI and the system that would go with it, in an effort to "break down the mountain into separate pieces." CBSSPORTS.com's Berger noted the system issues include factors "such as the cap, contract length, nature of exceptions and luxury tax." A source said that the players "would be willing to accept more system restrictions if they achieved a BRI share of 53 percent, but there is no chance they would accept what the owners are proposing at their current offer of 46 percent or modestly more than that" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/1).

FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS: NBA.com's Steve Aschburner noted there was a "smaller number of players at Saturday's session," but several "stayed over from Friday," including Celtics F Paul Pierce, Pistons G Ben Gordon, Cavaliers G Baron Davis and Nuggets G Arron Afflalo (NBA.com, 10/1). Fisher said that there were "no outbursts comparable to a skirmish Friday" involving Heat G Dwyane Wade, who "warned Stern to not point a finger at him." Stern later acknowledged, "There was a heated exchange of some kind" (SI.com, 10/1). CBSSPORTS.com's Berger cited a source who said that Wade "took exception to commissioner David Stern's tone and gesturing -- the commissioner evidently was pointing his finger while speaking to the players -- and 'stood up for himself.'" Other sources said that Wade "warned Stern not to point his finger and made reference to not being a child." One source said that Wade's tone "was not threatening." But Berger noted the "upshot was clear: This was a potentially galvanizing moment for the players, who finally got the kind of star participation -- and leadership that they've lacked at key moments in these talks." After the confrontation, Stern and Hunter "met privately, seeking a way to calm nerves and preserve the rest of the negotiations" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/1). Wade reportedly said to Stern, "You're not pointing your finger at me. I'm not your child" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 9/30). Stern later acknowledged that Wade "did manage to push him to a breaking point." Stern added, "I feel passionately about the system that we have and what it has delivered and what it should continue to deliver for the players and the owners. And he feels passionately too." Heat Owner Micky Arison "downplayed the confrontation, terming it on his Twitter account, 'A friendly chat'" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 10/3).

VENTING FRUSTRATION: In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman wrote Wade "simply was venting the frustrations of many players, of how Stern calls the NBA a partnership with the players yet often adopts a my-way-or-the-highway tone in the dealings" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 10/2). In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence cited sources as saying nothing "reached the level of the infamous shouting match between then Washington Owner Abe Pollin and Michael Jordan" during the '98-99 lockout. One source said, "Not even close. But our stars did have some very good things to say to the owners." A source indicated that Pierce was "at his vocal best" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/1). On Long Island, Alan Hahn wrote, "Make no mistake about it: Wade is the ringleader of this generation of NBA players." Hahn: "Derek Fisher is the president of the players union, but Wade is the president of the fraternity. ... The union desperately needed some defiance to emerge from an influential voice" (NEWSDAY, 10/1).

Leonsis thought to be in group of owners pushing
for major concessions from players
HAWKS & DOVES
: In San Antonio, Mike Monroe noted Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver "has emerged as the hardest of the hardest of the hard-liners on the labor relations committee." The players over the weekend "reportedly were dumbfounded when he described how his wife had begged him to bring home the mid-level salary cap exception in a designer bag." Monroe wrote it is "going to take an owner with a boatload of courage to stand up to shut-it-down hawks such as Sarver and remind [them] what is at stake, which is the very popularity of the league." Monroe added it may be time for Spurs Owner and NBA Labor Relations Committee Chair Peter Holt to "take control of the committee" (MYSANANTONIO.com, 10/2). In DC, Lee Friedman wrote it is "disheartening" that Wizards Owner Ted Leonsis "may be among the group of hard-liner owners pushing for major concessions by the players." Friedman wrote if the Wizards "can't turn a profit under the current system the fault is with the team management, not the system" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 10/2). In West Palm Beach, Ethan Skolnick wrote, "No one should be sympathetic to their pleas of poverty." Skolnick: "Are some losing money on their teams? Yes. Have some of their own decisions contributed to the losses? Of course" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 10/1).

ON REVENUE SHARING: Hunter confirmed that the owners' "offer on BRI continues to be a 46 percent share for the players" (NBA.com, 10/1). The N.Y. POST's Berman noted Wade and Heat F LeBron James have "asked the union to not go below 53 percent," and if the union "sticks to its guns on that number, there will be no 2011-12 season" (N.Y. POST, 10/2). The players at the talks "told Fisher and Hunter that the union should not relent" on the issue of BRI (SI.com, 10/1). Stern indicated that the owners are willing to "triple their revenue-sharing pot to about $180 million for each of the first two years of a new deal and increase it to at least $240 million in years three and beyond" (L.A. TIMES, 10/2). CBSSPORTS.com's Berger wrote the "only progress described by anyone Friday was the state of the owners' revenue sharing plans." Stern "revealed for the first time that the league is prepared to triple the current revenue sharing pool in the first two years and quadruple it starting in the third year." But Berger noted even that issue "is clouded in big-market, small-market politics and the issue of when the high-revenue teams will begin to substantially increase their sharing." Sources said that the Lakers and Knicks "would be called upon to pay the lion's share -- with the Lakers paying roughly $50 million and the Knicks $30 million -- into the new pool" of about $150M. But Berger noted some big-market teams "are increasingly reluctant to share their growing local TV revenues; the Lakers, for example, recently signed a 20-year, $3 billion deal with Time Warner that dwarfs some teams' total revenue." Stern said Friday that "the players 'know precisely' what the owners' revenue sharing plan will look like" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/30). Hunter called the owners' revenue-sharing plan "insignificant." Sources said that it "isn't just the amount of revenue sharing, but the timing of its implementation, that is holding up that part of the deal." A source said that there is reluctance "on the part of small-market teams to increase the players' share of BRI to beyond 50 percent without a stronger commitment from the big-market teams to share more -- and to share more quickly in the first year of the deal" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/1).

PLAYERS REACT: Heat F Udonis Haslem, who attended Friday's session, said, "I don't think anybody's going to win per se. We don't want to get over on them, and we don't want them to get over on us" (ESPN.com, 9/30). 76ers F Andre Iguodala said, "I don’t feel like it’s on the players to take 100 percent of the responsibility of a franchise when (ownership) claims they’ve lost significant amounts of money. … I think we’ve given a lot already and they’re trying to see how long they can stretch us out. We haven’t started missing paychecks yet. And I think they’re killing time to the point where they can have us miss paychecks and then we’ll fold. That’s what they’re hoping" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/1). Spurs G Tony Parker: "I think we'll have a season" (MYSANANTONIO.com, 10/1).

ON THE HOME FRONT: An ORLANDO SENTINEL editorial states, "It's outrageous that owners and players would show so little regard for the real victims of their brinkmanship -- their hometowns. It's way past time for them to settle their difference and play ball" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/1). Oklahoma City Exec Manager for Special Projects Tom Anderson said that officials "estimate each Thunder home game pumps about $1.28 million into the city's economy, and that doesn't count ticket sales or wages for team and arena workers." Bricktown Association Exec Dir Jeannette Breckenridge said that the "biggest hit to the Oklahoma City economy likely would be to midweek revenue in Bricktown" (THE OKLAHOMAN, 10/2). In Milwaukee, Don Walker writes under the header, "Businesses Concerned About Lost Bucks." Bradley Center officials "are worried about a largely empty arena this winter" without the Bucks. Bradley Center President & CEO Steve Costello said that the arena "has annual revenue of about $25 million, and the Bucks represent 40%, or about $10 million" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 10/3).

EURO TRIP? In L.A., Mike Bresnahan noted Friday "marked a day of boasting and then backtracking" for Italian club Virtus Basketball, which "declared with near certainty that it locked up" Lakers G Kobe Bryant with a 10-game, $3.2-million deal only to post an "ominous, defensive statement on its website later in the day." The statement read, "With great surprise, Virtus Basketball notes that, due to the negative view of some clubs, it's not possible to go forward with the 10-game agreement, therefore putting in serious doubt the economic deal behind the plan to bring Kobe Bryant to Italy" (LATIMES.com 9/30). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said Bryant playing in Italy “is no consequence whatsoever, because the moment the deal is struck, he’s out of Italy on a private jet and he’s back playing." Kornheiser: "Players seem to think that this creates leverage against the owners, and I fail to see how it has anything to do with anything” ("PTI," ESPN, 9/30). But CNBC’s Darren Rovell said if enough NBAers play overseas, “then I think the NBA players finally have some leverage.” Rovell said, “You’ve got to miss a couple more games and then I think we’ll see one of the sides -- probably the players -- say, ‘This isn’t the greatest deal, we’ve just got to go (and accept it)’” (“Street Signs,” CNBC, 9/30).
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