SBD/November 30, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
NBA players beginning tomorrow "can use team training facilities for voluntary workouts," according to a league memo cited by Mike Bresnahan of the L.A. TIMES. The facilities "will be open to all players who are currently in the NBA," including free agents and draft picks. Players "may use any team's practice facility, but coaches and front-office officials can't be present for workouts." If coaches and team officials "see a player, they are instructed to have only 'minimal interaction as is required by courtesy.'" Players must "sign a release of liability before beginning their first workouts," and the memo states that they "can also start taking physical exams at team facilities Thursday." Beginning today, teams "can start talking to players' representatives about contract terms for free agents but can't officially make verbal or written agreements" (L.A. TIMES, 11/30). YAHOO SPORTS' Spears & Wojnarowski noted one "media relations official per team can attend the workouts to assist reporters who are allowed to watch." Additionally, trainers and strength coaches "can assist in the player workouts, but can’t supervise or participate" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/29). In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman notes the "earlier-than-expected gatherings will allow teams to complete physicals in advance of the abbreviated training camps that will include a pair of exhibition games." Dec. 9 "remains the earliest players can sign contracts, although it remains unclear if players will be allowed to agree to terms with teams in advance" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/30). T'Wolves F and player rep Anthony Tolliver said that he "expects he and his teammates will [gather] at Target Center next week for 'at least a few days' of their own workouts before training camp opens Dec. 9" (Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 11/30).
BRING ON THE FREE FOR ALL: On Long Island, Alan Hahn noted the start of training camp is still a week away, "which gives players little time to prepare." The free-agent signing period is also set to begin next Wednesday, "which will make the first few days of camp hectic for players looking for teams and general managers trying to build teams" (NEWSDAY.com, 11/29). In Salt Lake City, Brian Smith writes, "'Crazy' was a term used by many when discussing the NBA’s decision to open free agency and start 30 camps on the same day." The dual move "is necessary to get the league up and running by Dec. 25." But with the CBA "still in its infancy and team officials uncertain about many rules governing player movement, questions easily outnumber answers." An NBA source said, "To be honest, I don’t know how it can kick off at the same time, because there’s teams with a lot of free agents that won’t have enough players on the 9th when free agency starts." Smith notes hard offers "will have to be delivered real-time, with some teams overpaying or signing less-than-ideal talent just to ensure they’re able to perform when exhibition games likely start in mid-December" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 11/30). In Minneapolis, Jerry Zgoda wrote the NBA "has A LOT of work to do to get this thing up and running by Christmas Day. Maybe even too much" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 11/29). In Dallas, Eddie Sefko notes most agents "believe the one-year contracts that normally are last resorts for most players in free agency are going to be closer to the norm this season." Agent Tony Dutt said, "This is going to be a year when a lot of things have to be done right away. A lot of teams are going to want to wait until next year, and I think there are going to be a lot of one-year deals" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 11/30).
A FAIR DEAL: NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter wrote in a memo sent Monday to players, "We believe the settlement is a fair one." Hunter also noted that despite "salaries staying stagnant or in some cases dropping initially from a reduced cut of basketball-related income (BRI), players should expect to see gains by 2013-14 that will get them back to what they made last season -- as long as league revenue grows at 4% year over year." USA TODAY's Zillgitt & Falgoust note the memo "also laid out a timeline" for the next few weeks. A settlement could come "on the lawsuit in Minnesota district court" as early as today. Additionally, the NBPA recertification process "has begun and is expected to be completed by Friday" (USA TODAY, 11/30). In Chicago, K.C. Johnson notes Bulls F and player rep Carlos Boozer "attended the final [mandatory NBPA] meeting and applauded the union's strategy and leadership down the stretch." Boozer said, "We protected some of the free agency issues we've worked hard for." He also noted Hunter and NBPA President and Lakers G Derek Fisher "were a good voice for us." Boozer said that the players "knew all along they would have to concede financially to owners but that the union's decision to disband and file litigation helped preserve critical system issues" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/30).
AN EARLY CHRISTMAS PRESENT: In N.Y., Beck & Sandomir cite a source as saying the NBA "will start its lockout-delayed season with five games on Christmas Day," instead of the previously scheduled three. The first game "will be on TNT, followed by two on ABC and two on ESPN." The league "will announce the details of the five-game opening day on Friday." The first game "will begin at noon Eastern, followed by tip-offs at 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m." (N.Y. TIMES, 11/30). Also in N.Y., Bob Raissman reports Knicks-Celtics will be the TNT game. While ESPN and ABC "usually broadcast the holiday tripleheader, TNT, due to its contract, gets the first game of the season" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 11/29).
CRAMMING TOO MUCH IN: The N.Y. Daily News' Frank Isola said it is "great" that the NBA is back, but the 66-game schedule is "too many games." Isola: "It should be more about the quality. But the players want to make their money back, the owners want to make their money back, that’s why they’re playing 66 games. They should not play 66 games if they really care about the product. They should have some rest in between games. Your body is not meant to play that many games.” The N.Y. Daily News’ Bill Madden: “It's going to be a bad quality of play, there’s no question about it. The fans are going to get ripped off” ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 11/29). In Utah, Brad Rock writes a "late 2011 launch date sounds great to me." It is "not like anyone is really paying attention in November," and Christmas or New Year's Day "should be the starting point of every season." Fans "aren't really engaged in December either," and it is "one of the lowest attended months" of the season. Rock: "You have to wonder how engaged even the players are before the turn of the calendar" (DESERET NEWS, 11/30).
MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner participated in a Q&A with ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, discussing details of the league's new CBA and the negotiations that led to the deal. Below is an excerpt from that interview.
Q: It's great to have labor peace, but not everyone out there is happy. I don't know how aware you are of the complaints that general managers and people in scouting have voiced about the changes in the draft. But their feeling is that this agreement doesn't help competitive balance. ... Do you share those concerns?
Weiner: Yes. The union did not come into these negotiations with proposals to modify the (June) draft. For management, that was perhaps their most aggressive objective. They said that what they were trying to achieve was competitive balance. We questioned them, really at every turn, on whether their proposals really would achieve those goals. ... We did question whether restricting the ability of low-finish clubs in any fashion to spend on the draft really was (good for) competitive balance. And the clubs insisted that that's where they needed to be.
Q: One of the criticisms that has arisen since you announced the details of the agreement is the fact that there's no in-season testing for HGH. Why is there no in-season testing for HGH? And do you foresee that changing at some point?
Weiner: Well, there is no in-season testing now because the players just weren't comfortable yet that we were ready for that. They weren't comfortable enough with the collection process, how the collection process fits with day-to-day play. And they felt that we needed to talk with the membership broadly about those issues. And we will do that starting in spring training this year.
Q: We're now heading for 21 years of labor peace in this sport. How much, if any of that, is due to the fact that people are still scarred by what you went through in 1994 and '95, by that strike?
Weiner: What happened in 1994-95 is crucial to what's happened since then. And maybe we're saying the same thing, in terms of you saying people being scarred and me saying that what happened coming out of those negotiations was that owners finally developed a respect for the union, and for the process of collective bargaining, that didn't exist. Maybe that's saying the same thing. But players don't like to go on strike. Players have never liked to go on strike or be locked out.
Q: Then there's you and (management's lead negotiator) Rob Manfred. I think it's safe to say you have a little different relationship than David Stern and Billy Hunter. How much has your mutual respect and your relationship enabled labor relations in this sport to reach this point, where you can now talk pretty much as partners in trying to make the game a better place?
Weiner: It certainly helps in bargaining that there are open lines of communication, that there is a mutual respect, that there's a familiarity with the negotiating style of the other person, so that things aren't misread or misinterpreted. In the end, though, it's not the negotiators that make the agreement. It's the principals that make the agreement. And if the negotiators have open lines of communication, that's going to help. ... So I think sometimes a little bit more is made of the fact that Rob and I have been able to work well together for a number of years. We've been in the game virtually the same period of time. We've been through a lot of things together. I don't think it would have mattered, though, who was negotiating in '94 and '95 in baseball. And frankly, I don't think it would matter who was negotiating this year in basketball, given what the owners' economic demands were there (ESPN.com, 11/29).
IT'S ABOUT MUTUAL RESPECT: On Long Island, Ken Davidoff wrote following the '94-95 MLB strike that led to the cancellation of the '94 World Series, Commissioner Bud Selig "deserves props for appreciating the error of his ways and dramatically changing them." This marks the "second straight CBA that has been negotiated without dueling conference calls from the owners and players on a daily basis." Weiner and Manfred "treat each other with profound respect." But Davidoff noted it is "not as though the two sides, working in harmony, produced a perfect agreement." The "limits on amateur draft and international spending help only the teams too cheap to dole out money for young talent." Additionally, the "only reason to agree to blood testing for human growth hormone ... is to shut up the dopes (many of whom serve in the United States Congress) who shout 'HGH!' whenever a player enjoys a breakout season" (NEWSDAY, 11/27). In Toronto, Richard Griffin wrote the "positive big picture in the new collective bargaining agreement is that baseball did what needed to be done, proving to the other major sports that work stoppages aren’t the answer." But upon "further review, it’s clear that the huge bargaining chip for both sides was the amateur draft and international free agency, prospects and players that don’t yet pay union dues, whose rights are easy to trade off for the good of the game" (TORONTO STAR, 11/26). In S.F., John Shea wrote it is "clear big-leaguers are better off with the new deal, and it's also clear the union was a big winner" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/25).
When NHL owners meet Monday in Pebble Beach "to discuss realignment, the solution might come down to how much pain franchises are willing to endure," according to Kevin Allen of USA TODAY. Owners "must decide if they want to opt for a simple solution involving two or three teams, or embrace a comprehensive change that would tidy up several problems around the conference." What makes that challenge "complicated is that a two-thirds majority (20 of the 30 NHL teams) must agree to pass any realignment." One proposal "to be discussed is going from six divisions to four." The new divisions "would have geographic logic, such as Pacific and Mountain time zone teams lumped together and Central teams in another." NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that league officials "will be guided by the sentiment they hear as owners debate whether they want a simple or complex solution." He added, "Then we will drill down from there." If owners "embrace the four-division concept, it likely would include divisional playoffs and a minimum of a home-and-home schedule against non-division teams." The "four-division concept, if passed now, would seemingly set up the NHL to add two expansion teams, although the league has no plans to expand." Allen notes it is "presumed, as a general rule, that Eastern teams like the current conference setup, and Western teams would prefer a four-division alignment" (USA TODAY, 11/30).
SHARE & SHARE ALIKE: In Chicago, Adam Jahns noted with a tentative agreement reached in the NBA lockout, the NHL’s issues "soon will come to the forefront." A season-cancelling lockout "seems unlikely, but there are still some issues that might drag out negotiations." Blackhawks VP & GM Stan Bowman said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "and his group are preparing very well for it." Bowman: "They’re going to learn something from these negotiations with the NBA. I don’t know if they’re going to necessarily translate over, but that will probably heat up as the year goes along." Jahns noted revenue sharing "should be a topic" in upcoming negotiations. Under the current CBA, players "are entitled to 56 percent-57 percent of league revenues in any year in which revenues exceed $2.7 billion." The NHL "topped that mark last season and is expected to this year." Still, Jahns noted many "believe the negotiations won’t be as volatile as they were in 2004, when the players finally agreed to a hard salary cap" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 11/27).
F1 Management Chair Bernie Ecclestone indicated that Europe’s time as “the dominant force in motor racing is over and the sport’s traditional heartland will be reduced to as few as five races a year” on the F1 circuit, according to Kevin Eason of the LONDON TIMES. Ecclestone said, “I think in the next few years Europe will be left with only five races. Europe is finished. It will be a good place for tourism but little else. Europe is a thing of the past.” Ecclestone’s “drive for cash” on behalf of F1 parent company CVC Capital Partners “may be good for the private equity group’s finances, but millions of fans across Europe will be devastated if the television set is as near as they can get to the sport.” Ecclestone did not name the tracks that would be lost, but his “sights will be swinging towards Spain and Germany, as well as Belgium.” Ecclestone “does know where the sport will be heading in [the] future, though, and, apart from a United States Grand Prix in New Jersey in 2013 and inquiries from South Africa and Mexico, it is almost exclusively to regimes in the East, willing and able to pay hosting fees" of more than US$39M a year. Asked whether Europe was still the traditional home of F1, Ecclestone said: “It used to be.” Eason notes only Monaco, the “jewel in Formula One’s crown, is above the troubles in Europe” (THETIMES.co.uk, 11/29).
SOCCER AMERICA's Paul Kennedy noted WPS has "experienced three turbulent seasons and lost more clubs -- six -- than it has left." Kennedy: "How much longer will its current owners go on? As it is, the Boston Breakers began the search for a new majority investor in August, and no successor has been named" (SOCCERAMERICA.com, 11/29). Meanwhile, in a special to the N.Y. TIMES, Western New York Flash MF Yael Averbuch wrote, "I like to think that I have a fairly realistic view of the state of women’s soccer in the U.S. I am fully aware that it is likely never going to be a huge money-maker, filling large stadiums and securing tons of corporate sponsors. I have, however, seen extra seating brought into Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester to accommodate more than 14,000 fans for a Western New York Flash game, with others unable to get tickets." She continued, "I whole-heartedly believe that there is a market for women’s soccer in this country. No, it is not going to be a multi-million-dollar-making endeavor. And it will not happen quickly or easily. But the raw materials are there. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t feel so strongly about making it work" (NYTIMES.com, 11/29).
CRAZY TRAIN: UFL Locomotives President, GM & coach Jim Fassel said that a decision "on whether the Locos remain in Las Vegas, or if there's even a UFL in 2012, will be made in the next 60 days." Fassel said that "several factors have to happen -- and soon -- for the league to remain in business." Fassel: "We need to go from four to six teams. We need to get financing in place, get all our debt settled so we can start fresh. We have to market our teams better, and we need some sort of TV deal. If we can do a regional package mixed in with a couple of national TV games, I think we'll be fine there" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 11/30).
KICK-OFF DATE: MLS announced yesterday that it will "open the 2012 season March 10 with six matches, followed by two more games March 11, and one March 12 to complete First Kick weekend." The league said that times and opponents will be "included in the entire regular season schedule, which will be announced upon its completion in the coming weeks" (SPORTS NETWORK, 11/29).