SBD/November 29, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBPA Sends Letter To Players In First Step Of Recertification Process

NBPA must recertify before it can vote on ratifying the tenative CBA
The NBPA "began the process of recertifying on Monday night," and the organization "planned to send out a letter to its 450 players on Monday night asking for signatures to recertify the union," according a source cited by Kate Fagan of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. Moving toward recertification is the "first step in the process of turning Saturday morning's tentative settlement agreement" into the NBA's new CBA. The union "must recertify before it can vote on ratifying the next CBA" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/29). In Boston, Steve Bulpett cites two agents as saying that the "plan is for NBA players to meet in New York on Friday to deal with their portion of the labor settlement business." The players "must re-form as a union to allow the collectively bargained aspects" of the deal to become legal (BOSTONHERALD.com, 11/29). USA TODAY's Falgoust & Zillgitt note B-list issues including the player conduct code, drug testing and NBA D-League "could be resolved this week." But discussion of the "highly debated draft-eligibility age rule might be put off." Under the last CBA, a draft-eligible player "needed to be one year removed from when his high school class graduated." The NBA "might try to push that to two but will get resistance." The rule "could remain as is through the next draft, then be re-evaluated" (USA TODAY, 11/29).

SCHEDULE REMAINS UNKNOWN: In N.Y., Howard Beck notes it "could be another week before the NBA ratifies its new labor deal and releases a 66-game schedule for the revived 2011-12 season." In the meantime, the league "is constructing a hurried preseason schedule." Each team "will play two exhibition games -- one home and one away -- against the same opponent." Pairings are "being determined, but most will be geographically based, to minimize travel time." The regular-season schedule "is still being formulated and could be sent to teams for approval this week." It will "probably not be released publicly until early next week, around the same time the owners vote on the labor deal." Training camps and the free-agent market "are scheduled to open Dec. 9," with the regular season set to begin Dec. 25. Exhibition games "will probably be played from Dec. 17 to 24" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/29). In DC, Michael Lee notes teams "don’t know how long training camps or preseason will be," and they "remain in the dark about the schedule that they will play once the season begins." As it stands, "only the six teams scheduled to play on Dec. 25 know where their seasons will begin." Additionally, players "still don’t have access to team training facilities, so they remain on their own as it relates to working out and getting in basketball shape" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/29).  Meanwhile, In Philadelphia, Bob Cooney noted the 76ers "can't play a home game in the Wells Fargo Center until early January, due to the Disney on Ice show that annually invades the arena during the holidays, along with a Duke-Temple basketball game and a Flyers game." The original schedule "had the Sixers on the West Coast during the holidays." Whether that is "where they'll start when the new schedule comes out is a big topic" (PHILLY.com, 11/28).

CHINESE LEAGUE NOT BENDING: YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski cited sources as saying that the Chinese Basketball Association "is showing no inclination to let unhappy NBA players out of their contracts for the 2011-12 season, and will likely mandate they not receive clearance letters to return to the NBA until the Chinese season ends in March." Aaron Brooks, Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith "are the top four NBA players under contract in China," and sources said that "escape clauses won’t be allowed with the impending end of the NBA lockout." The Chinese league "passed a rule that its teams could sign only NBA free agents during the lockout, and it was made clear to those players they would have to play the full season to be given FIBA clearance letters to sign contracts with NBA teams." One Chinese team official said of the NBA players under contract, "They can play, get paid (in China) and return to the NBA in March. Or they can not get paid, and return to the NBA in March" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/28). Meanwhile, in Newark, Colin Stephenson reported Nets G Jordan Farmar concluded his stint in the Adriatic League Saturday following Israeli team Maccabi Tel Aviv's last game. Farmar said, "I'm sad that I have to go." Farmar noted that he would "consider returning to Israel to play in the future." Farmar: "When I become a free agent, if the situation is right, I'm comfortable here. I know my family can live here and get along and feel good"  (NJ.com, 11/28). Meanwhile, in a special to the N.Y. POST, Knicks rookie Iman Shumpert writes the "news of the labor agreement brought tears to my eyes." Shumpert added, "I was just praying it would be over. And my prayers were answered" (N.Y. POST, 11/29).

EVERYBODY GETS A MULLIGAN: In N.Y., Peter Vecsey notes the proposed CBA's amnesty clause allows teams "to waive one player during the course of the CBA -- but prior to the start of the season -- without having that salary counted as part of the cap and/or luxury tax bill." The rule "gives ownerships a mulligan for existing contracts only. It does not make them any smarter when it comes to the inevitable next numbskull signing." There is also a "modified waiver process involving released players." Vecsey: "Teams with room under the cap may submit competing offers to assume some, but not all, of the player’s remaining contract. ... Nobody I spoke to was able to define 'some' for me" (N.Y. POST, 11/29). In Toronto, Doug Smith notes with "about $7 million in salary cap room to fill out his roster, [Raptors] general manager Bryan Colangelo is likely to wait at least a year before thinking about using the new amnesty clause in the new agreement that’s about to be ratified to free up more money." The clause "can be used at any time in [the] next six years on anyone on the roster July 1, 2011" (TORONTO STAR, 11/29).

KEEP THIS SCHEDULE GOING FORWARD: L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said he is in favor of the shortened NBA season and asked, "Why don't they do this every year?" Plaschke: "They should, frankly, start the NBA on Christmas Day. I think people start getting interested in it then anyway. I like the shortened schedule. That the playoffs go later in June, I don’t care" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 11/28). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "Christmas Day is the de facto opening for the NBA every year anyway, and what they should do … is go to 65 (games) every year and begin right around Christmas Day.” ESPN's Michael Wilbon said the start of the NBA season on Christmas Day “is just about the right time” ("PTI," ESPN, 11/28). In West Palm Beach, Ethan Skolnick asks, "Why not do this every season? Why not stay rooted at 66?" Skolnick notes there is not "anything special about 82" games per season, as the league's "lack of emphasis on the historical importance of single-season totals or career statistics make it much less a slave to tradition than, say, baseball." But there is "too much revenue at stake to kill 16 games per season, eight home dates per team." For this "one special four-month stretch, the NBA fan might consistently get his or her money's worth" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 11/29).

Hunter (l) and Stern each took a major hit
to their legacy as a result of the lockout
MORE WINNERS AND LOSERS
: An L.A. TIMES editorial states, "The announcement of a tentative deal is a mixed blessing." The deal will "shorten player contracts and make it prohibitively expensive to exceed the league's formerly porous salary cap." The editorial: "As a result, players are likely to switch teams more often, and the dynastic big-market franchises (e.g., the Lakers and the Boston Celtics) will have a harder time keeping as many stars." It adds, "A potentially more important step for the league's health is the new revenue-sharing arrangement that owners are negotiating among themselves. That will guarantee significantly more money for small-market teams -- enough to sign a star -- at the expense of the big-city franchises" (L.A. TIMES, 11/29). Former NBPA Exec Dir Charles Grantham said the “owners won because they have a significant amount of money to return to their side of the equation, and very simply put, the players lost significant income ” ("Bloomberg Bottom Line," Bloomberg TV, 11/28). Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said the owners won, “but not to the degree they wanted to win” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 11/28). Comcast SportsNet Bay Area’s Greg Papa said, “The players got nailed in this deal” (“Chronicle Live,” Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 11/28). NBA.com's Aldridge wrote with the new CBA, "everyone lost." The players, "who gave up $3 billion in future salaries based on the previous collective bargaining agreement, lost." NBA Commissioner David Stern, NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter and Lakers G & NBPA President Derek Fisher "lost; each man had his intelligence, effectiveness and character questioned, and Stern and Hunter in particular took a major hit in terms of legacy." Aldridge: "And you lost. Big time. You lost faith with, and in, this league. You thought no one was listening, or cared. Anyone who is a fan of the orange leather lost, because this episode did nothing to help the league's reputation." Aldridge added, "Even the owners lost" (NBA.com, 11/28).

WHAT ABOUT THE FANS? Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic’s Ivan Carter said, “Are we going to get a discount here on tickets? Can I get the NBA package? Some kind of deal as a fan? What are they going to do for the fans? ("Washington Post Live," Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 11/28). NBA.com's David Aldridge wrote, "If, in the next week to 10 days, the league and its teams don't commit to the following -- announce that two games -- one preseason, one regular season -- are 'on the house,' meaning free tickets for both season ticket holders and single game buyers, with the remaining seats given out to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis ... then I'm gonna be really ticked off" (NBA.com, 11/28). In San Jose, Mark Purdy asks, "What do the fans get out of this, exactly?" When the NHL returned after missing the '04-05 season, the league "realized that it needed to give fans a reward for sticking with the sport," and some teams "dropped ticket prices or promised not to raise them for a while." However, the "bigger changes occurred on the ice itself." Purdy: "Let's take a look at the NBA. Emerging from its own lockout, here is what the league did to improve its game for fans: nothing" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 11/29).

ANYBODY OUT THERE? In N.Y., George Vecsey writes, "How are people reacting to the end of the NBA lockout? Tepidly, I would say, judging from a quick swath of television interviews over the weekend." Vecsey asked, "Do we really need the NBA to come back this soon?" The NFL "will dominate the tube until the end of January," and fans have "college football into January and college basketball for four more months." The NBA players and owners "may have demonstrated their irrelevancy." In the "first days since the tentative labor agreement, vox populi seems to be reacting to the 66-game schedule by asking: That long, huh?" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/29). The Washington Post’s Lee said, “There’ll be some fans that are bitter, they’ll hold a grudge. But I think once they watch a couple of games, they see LeBron dunk on somebody, they’ll be right back in there cheering on their teams” (“Washington Post Live,” Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 11/28). ESPN’s Wilbon said the NBA “largely will get a pass here because people aren’t paying attention yet to professional basketball." Wilbon: "It’s a football world we live in in America” ("PTI," ESPN, 11/28).
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