NBA Commissioner David Stern and NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter "have been meeting face-to-face to negotiate a new" CBA, according to sources cited by Henry Abbott of ESPN.com. The sources said that Stern and Hunter "met last week in Chicago with staffers from both sides present." The sources added that the two sides are "set to talk this week in New York." In past negotiations between the two, face-to-face talks "have not always led to significant progress, but there has never been big progress without such high-level meetings." Against a "backdrop of labor strife and ongoing legal action in the NFL, representatives of the NBA and the players' association have recently softened their public rhetoric" (ESPN.com, 5/10). SI.com's Sam Amick notes Lakers G and NBPA President Derek Fisher "has been in contact with Hunter throughout the process, but he will be able to dedicate far more time to the task at hand now" that the Lakers have been eliminated from the playoffs. Fisher: "I still worked on it daily (during the playoffs), but Billy didn't bombard me with too many calls or too many things unless it was vital. Now, it's 24/7" (SI.com, 5/11).
LOOKING FOR A BETTER DEAL: Fisher said that he "wasn't happy with the last proposal received from owners" about a week ago. Fisher: "Frankly, we're disappointed in the context of it." The owners "presented the players with their second offer in which they seek significant rollbacks in existing contracts, a hard salary cap and a larger share of the basketball-related income." The players are "willing to give ground on the 57% guarantee" of basketball-related income, but they "want to keep most parts of the current deal." Fisher said, "The goal is to get a deal done and not necessarily rush through it, but to try and get something done that will sustain us for the next several years to come." He added, "People have continued to support this game over the last few years in ways that you can't compare to any other time in pro basketball. I think the fans have spoken, obviously" (L.A. TIMES, 5/11).
MLS yesterday formally announced that The Home Depot Center will host MLS Cup 2011, the fourth time the AEG-owned facility has hosted the league's championship game. The game will kick off at 9:00pm ET on Nov. 20 and air live on ESPN and Galavision in the U.S. and TSN2 in Canada. The HomeDepotCenter previously hosted the MLS Cup in '03, '04 and '08 (THE DAILY). AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke "had let it slip a couple of months ago that the Home Depot Center was going to be the site for the game, but MLS had yet to officially comment on that" prior to yesterday's announcement (SOCCERBYIVES.net, 5/10). The championship game is "included in Galaxy full-season ticket plans as Bonus Game 1," and a "special ticket pre-sale will take place for all current Galaxy ticket plan holders who want to add additional tickets at a discounted price" (LATIMES.com, 5/10).
THINK ON YOUR FEET: In Minneapolis, Wendy Lee reported staffers at the MLS sales training program in Minnesota "performed scenes at Brave New Workshop, a comedy theater," last week as part of their training. MLS officials contend that it is "simply good strategy for its sales team to develop a little of the timing, confidence and attitude that you would find in a comedy club." Lee noted the 45-day sales training program is a "major change" for MLS. Eleven trainees are "picked from a hundred applicants who make short videos explaining why they love sales and soccer," and the program "prepares the selected team to sell league tickets." The initiative "began last July and is in its fifth session." In its first four sessions, 42 graduates "landed jobs, and in their full-time positions have produced more than $1 million in sales." The league declined to disclose the program's budget (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/10).
REAL WORLD: In Salt Lake City, Scott Pierce notes Real Salt Lake is "one of the best teams" in MLS, averaging the most points per game this season, yet "only five of 18 MLS teams make fewer appearances on national television during the regular season than RSL." By comparison, the Red Bulls "make eight appearances on ESPN2 this season, three more than the last four MLS Cup champions combined." Pierce: "Four appearances by RSL is just this side of insane. ... When you're fighting for fans, giving RSL just four of a possible 86 national TV slots makes absolutely no sense" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 5/11).
SPORTING NEWS' Greg Couch wrote Heat F LeBron James "constructed one of the best moments in NBA history" with last summer's "The Decision," and the ESPN special "might go down as the single best thing to happen to the league since Michael Jordan." The NBA "has been rebuilt and revitalized by one superstar listening to the advice of some hangers-on he empowered who just thought it would be a blast to hang out in South Beach all year." Couch: "As a result, this is the best NBA season I can remember. The most interesting. The most exciting. The most watchable, as smashing TV ratings prove" (SPORTING NEWS TODAY, 5/10).
USE YOUR WORDS: YAHOO SPORTS' Kevin Iole reported Zuffa LLC kicked off its third annual UFC Fighter Summit yesterday in Las Vegas, where UFC President Dana White stressed that fighters "must be aware of what is happening to their money." There also are sessions on "concussions, steroids, taxes, gambling, merchandising and rules." White said that UFC "spent $975,000 to put on this year’s summit," which also included a "session on conducting interviews, dealing with the media, the significance of social media, rules, merchandising, event production and insurance" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/10).
IMMORTALIZING SEVE: YAHOO SPORTS' Jay Busbee reported a "movement is building to change the logo of the European Tour to honor" Seve Ballesteros, who passed away last weekend. The logo is "only a few years old" and features the silhouette of six-time British Open champion Harry Vardon. But Ballesteros, "more than any other golfer, built the European Tour into what it is now." Busbee noted the "knock against the idea, of course, is that the Vardon logo is only two years old, and a change right now would be more of an emotional decision than a well-considered one" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/10). THE GOLF CHANNEL's Jason Sobel wrote, "I wish the European Tour would change its logo to a silhouette of Seve Ballesteros." Sobel: "As with anything, there will be red tape and bureaucracy in making such a change. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen" (THEGOLFCHANNEL.com, 5/9). EVERYBODY'S DOING IT: Following reports that NFL teams are contacting both current players and undrafted free agents despite the lockout, the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION's Hays Carlyon wrote any team "that isn’t using some inventive method of trying to get its recruiting pitch out to its top free-agent targets probably is falling behind and incredibly naive." Most players selected in last month's draft "weren’t able to meet with their new teams and be handed a playbook." But Carlyon added, "Something tells me at least a few of them have received some anonymous package on their doorstep or some email that’s untraceable back to the team containing the vital information" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 5/10).