The NBA's "nuclear summer has begun" as Commissioner
David Stern announced yesterday the league will lock out its
players beginning midnight Tuesday, according to David Moore
of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. The recommendation of the
league's nine-man labor relations committee was "unanimous"
and the "only action" the owners needed to void the final
three years of the current CBA. Moore writes the owners'
decision "was driven by economics" and there are "strong
indications this impasse is more complex and contentious"
than previous disputes between the league and its union
(DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 6/30). Stern: "We can't afford to
play the season under the current system. ... The final
numbers aren't in, but for the first time, as a whole, we
believe the league was actually unprofitable last season."
Stern, asked if the lockout could threaten the start of the
season: "Yes, that is fair and accurate. Unfortunately,
there are a number of clubs that would do better not
operating than actually operating. That's something the
players don't yet understand." NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter
said in a statement, "Unfortunately, the owners continue to
demand unprecedented concessions. Until the owners abandon
their posture of seeking one-sided concession bargaining and
show some willingness to compromise, it is difficult to
expect any progress" (Greg Logan, NEWSDAY, 6/30). In S.F.,
David Steele calls it a "mild surprise" that the league "did
not even make a pretense of pushing negotiations" with the
NBPA until the last moment, "announcing its intentions a
good 32 hours before" the CBA was to expire. Stern: "We
were in touch with the union. ... But we really had nothing
to talk about" (David Steele, S.F. CHRONICLE, 6/30).
WHAT IT MEANS: In N.Y., Mike Wise reports that while
league business will effectively be stopped, previously-
scheduled charity games "were spared." Players
rehabilitating injuries will be forced to work out
arrangements through the team to be treated privately (N.Y.
TIMES, 6/30). In Boston, Peter May reports that teams will
"forward a player's mail, and the league won't prevent
players and management from co-mingling in social
situations, such as weddings" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/30). USA
TODAY's Roscoe Nance: "For the average fan, the lockout
won't have many visible effects" (USA TODAY, 6/30).
NEXT MOVE: NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik said the
Larry Bird exception continues to be the sticking point in
negotiations. Granik: "At our last meeting, the union said
to us that unless the owners are prepared to maintain the
Larry Bird exception they have nothing further to talk
about" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 6/30). Granik: "We tried not
to focus on the Bird exception as such, but we need an
agreement that is not open-ended. There may be one whereby
we keep 'Bird,' or some elements of it" (DENVER POST, 6/30).
In Chicago, Lacy Banks reports the owners want to replace
the Bird exception with a new rule allowing high-profile,
10-year vets to be grandfathered into the exception. The
NBPA's Hunter: "But that's only for this year. It's a one-
shot deal." Granik has proposed that a player whose
contract has expired will be able to re-sign for his old
deal with a 5% increase. Teams will be allowed to go "over
the cap" in signing players with the 5% increase (CHICAGO
SUN-TIMES, 6/30). Yesterday, Stern mentioned three economic
models the league would consider: Decide on a fair share for
the players and write a check to the union to distribute as
it wishes; agree on a specific percentage of the gross, and
if salaries exceed that percentage, the owners would not be
responsible; or a hard cap (NEWSDAY, 6/30). Hunter: "Their
position is no hard cap, no deal. ... For lack of a better
word, our only position on that is to go to war" (USA TODAY,
6/30). More Hunter: "They don't want the top player on any
team to make more than $10 million a year. Nobody restricts
how much money they can make. ... When they say, 'Take it or
leave it,' we obviously left it ... and there may have to be
some bloodletting" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/30). Granik said the
possibility of bringing in a mediator is an option. The two
sides are "not expected to meet" until after the union meets
in Hawaii from July 6-12 (N.Y. TIMES, 6/30). ESPN's David
Aldridge reported it "will be a couple of months before any
serious negotiating gets done" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/29).
TV MONEY: NBA owners will receive their TV rights fee
from Turner and NBC even if the regular-season games are
canceled. The payments must be returned in the fourth and
final season of the TV deal, "depending on the number of
telecasts missed." Stern: "That money has to be repaid to
the networks, so it's not like extra money given to teams.
It was arranged so our teams would be in a position to
survive the season without dire economic consequences in the
short term" (Barry Jackson, MIAMI HERALD, 6/30). In Denver,
Mike Monroe puts the rights fee for each team at $23M
(DENVER POST, 6/30). NBPA counsel Jeffrey Kessler said,
"What's really driving this [the lockout and CBA reopening]
is that (the owners would) like to keep more of the TV deal
than they kept under the old deal" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/30).
In N.Y., former NBPA President Buck Williams tells Kevin
Kernan that he believes CBS and Fox are contemplating a new
league: "There's not a better time" (N.Y. POST, 6/30).
HOW IT PLAYED: The lockout was the subject of front-
page stories in USA Today, the N.Y. Post and the Houston
Chronicle. ESPN's "SportsCenter" led its early and late
editions last night with the owners' declaration.