SBD/October 6, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBA Lockout Watch, Day 98: Current Gap In NBA Labor Talks Hard to Bridge

The NBA and NBPA in labor negotiations currently “stand perhaps 2 percentage points apart -- about $80 million -- but it is this final gap that could be the hardest to bridge” as both sides “contend they have moved far enough,” according to Howard Beck of the N.Y. TIMES. That message “was evident in a letter sent by union leaders to their members” yesterday. NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter and NBPA President and Lakers G Derek Fisher in the letter wrote, “Yesterday, the owners gave us an opportunity to back down. We refused.” Hunter and Fisher wrote the 50% share would be the players’ lowest “since the early 1990s,” and is “simply not a fair split.” Sources said that before talks ended Tuesday, the union “proposed a player share ranging from 51 to 53 percent.” Fisher and Hunter in the letter wrote the owners “refused” that offer. No further meetings “are scheduled this week.” High-ranking officials from both sides spoke yesterday “by telephone, however, and it is possible they will meet again before the league starts canceling regular-season games on Monday.” Beck notes “beyond the revenue split, several other major issues remain on the table -- including contract lengths, trade rules, limits on cap exceptions and a so-called amnesty clause to waive bad contracts.” The parties also “must negotiate the framework of a more punitive luxury-tax system, to address the owners’ concerns about economic parity among teams” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/6).

PLAYER AGENTS HAVE RESERVATIONS: CBSSPORTS.com’s Ken Berger cited sources as saying that there are “some serious reservations” about how the NBPA “negotiated its way from 57 percent to where they are now.” Some player agents “have been pushing behind the scenes for a more open and flexible system to allow for easier player movement, which they believe drives fan interest and revenue.” The owners “could dig in at 51 percent for the players, and they could dig in pretty hard considering they just moved $1.3 billion in five hours Tuesday -- not to mention relaxing the system elements they agreed to preserve.” Similarly, the players “could dig in hard at 52 percent, having already made a $1.3 billion concession of their own by going from 57 percent under the previous deal to 53.” Sources said that 52% “is a figure the most influential voices in the group of powerful agents would accept -- though at least one of them has told associates he'd be willing to miss a month of games to get it” (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/5). On Long Island, Alan Hahn notes some agents, while “intending to take the wheel from the reeling executive director Billy Hunter, have really only given Stern and the owners more fuel by publicly criticizing the union for what is viewed as conceding too much in negotiations.” A “fractured union is the result of weakness and distrust in leadership,” and Stern is “carefully using the agent strong-arming to his advantage in the collective bargaining process.” Seeing a union “on the verge of fracture, he applied some added pressure by revealing to the media the concept of the 50-50 BRI split, which was discussed only in private and never put on the table” (NEWSDAY, 10/6).

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME: In Michigan, Brendan Savage notes Pistons G Richard Hamilton is “denying a report that says his relationship with agent Leon Rose could be among the early casualties of the NBA lockout.” ESPN’s Chris Broussard on Twitter reported that Hamilton “is threatening to fire his longtime representative over a letter Rose and five other high-profile agents sent to their clients.” In the letter, the agents told players “not to make any more concessions in negotiations” with owners for a new CBA. Broussard said that Hamilton “perceived the letter as being ‘anti-union’ and has threatened to leave Rose's stable of clients while taking other players with him.” But Hamilton said on his Twitter account wrote the report is “100% UNTRUE. Never happened” (FLINT JOURNAL, 10/6). YAHOO SPORTS’ Eric Freeman wrote, “The problem for any anti-Hunter agent, including Rose, is that their job is to represent their players, not persuade them by means of coercion. If Hamilton and other clients don't want the union to decertify, then Rose is making a big mistake in pushing for it” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/5). CBSSPORTS.com’s Gregg Doyel wrote the players are “stuck between the immovable owners and their own insincere agents.” The agents are “the tail wagging this dog,” with the “most powerful agents, representing nearly a third of the league's players, advising their clients to do one thing while Hunter and Fisher are advising the players to do another” (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/5).

FAN APATHY? In Houston, Jerome Solomon writes many fans “don't pay attention to the NBA until the Christmas Day games,” but he asked, “Aren't there enough true NBA fans for the owners and players to care about?” Solomon wrote about the lockout, “Fans don't care. The NBA should. The NFL didn't have to wonder if fans would ‘come back’ to the sport.” The NBA, which “in a sense already depends on a host of fans to come back to the sport every year around midseason, is about to give more fans permission to look away,” and that is “something to fret over.” Solomon: “The NBA is so off the sports radar that the acronym BRI has never trended on Twitter and probably never will” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/6). In Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz writes under the header, “Players Have It Good, Should Take NBA’s Offer.” The NBPA “has to stop fighting over 2 percent or 3 percent of the basketball-related income and get back on the basketball court.” Kravitz: “Times have changed, the economy has gone in the tank, and the players have to be willing to give back more to make their league work.” It comes down to “dividing the basketball revenue,” but that “shouldn't be a reason to blow up part or all of the season.” Kravitz: “The risk for everybody is far too great. Even after one of the most compelling seasons in history, with so many likable superstars and mega-teams and built-in drama, the NBA maintains an increasingly tenuous hold on the American sporting consciousness. Take away part or all of this NBA season, and how many fans will come running back, especially in cities like Indianapolis?” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 10/6). In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell writes under the header, “Sides Are Too Close To Give Up Now” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/6).

BEST BEHAVIOR: In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence wrote under the header, “Despite The Lack Of Buzz About NBA Lockout, Players Need To Remember They’re Still In The Spotlight.” Lawrence notes Knicks F Carmelo Anthony and Heat G Dwyane Wade went to a party following last Friday's negotiating session in N.Y. and "ordered 12 bottles of Ace of Spades champagne at $2,000 a pop.” By doing that, they “sent a message that they aren't particularly concerned about losing paychecks” If the players “want to throw around that kind of money on the bubbly, they're going to lose the public relations battle, even if it's the owners who have been pleading poverty all along in this labor dispute.” Lawrence: “Now that the regular season is going to start getting whacked, players should remember that they're going to be in the spotlight, even if the arena lights are out all over the NBA landscape” (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 10/5).
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