The NBA and the NBPA will meet today in Miami, with two more bargaining sessions expected when the Finals move to Dallas for Game Three as the June 30 deadline of the current CBA nears. "The question is whether the owners and the players will be bold enough to do what has to be done here to keep this sport on the track that it is on now, which is straight up," said NBA Commissioner David Stern during a press conference prior to Game One of the Finals last night in Miami. NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver said he expected both the owners and the union to submit their best proposals in the month leading up to the June 30 deadline. "It is a very real deadline," Silver said. "And while we have incurred some damage already, it will move to a new level once we're in a work stoppage, if that were to occur." Silver added that there has been no talk with the union of extending the June 30 CBA deadline. "We're not at that point yet where we've even considering doing that here," Silver said (John Lombardo, SportsBusiness Journal). BLOOMBERG NEWS’ Scott Soshnick notes the meeting marks “the first talks in about two weeks” between the NBA and NBPA and shows “a sense of urgency ahead of the June 30 expiration” (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 6/1). Silver said that the “damage to the business of the league has already been incurred because marketing partners and licenses cannot plan for next season.” Stern said that the CBA deadline “could be extended.” But he added, “That would require some more intense negotiations than we currently can report on” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 6/1).
TIME IS NOW: Stern was asked following the press conference “why he’s so confident a worse deal would be struck after July 1,” to which he replied, “Because the damage gets to be intense from our perspective. We know the deal can get worse.” Stern said it would be worse “for the players.” Stern: “And to us, the deal will get worse for the owners. So we’ve got to decide to focus fully on how bad it will be after July 1. So June 30 is a really important date” (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/31). Meanwhile, in Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes Stern “didn’t rule out” that the Heat's "Big Three" of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh “could be collectively-bargained out of existence” in a new CBA. When asked if a hard cap would mean teams with multiple star players would have to “shed one of their contracts,” Stern said, “That’s part of the negotiation.” Stern: “There are all kinds of negotiations that go on in these things between teams that have different roster make-ups and among teams that gross different amounts generally when it comes to revenue sharing. This is very complex” (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 6/1).
WANTING IT BOTH WAYS? The AP’s Paul Newberry writes there is “a disconnect when David Stern starts talking about the state of the NBA.” Stern and the owners “claim to be losing hundreds of millions of dollars, even while attendance is up, television ratings are booming and merchandise sales are off the charts.” Stern “keeps calling the NBA a success,” but in the “very next breath, he’ll rail against an economic system that supposedly has the owners on the verge of financial ruin.” Newberry: “Apparently, things have never been better. … So why are the owners about to shut things down?” (AP, 6/1). YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel wrote Stern “wants to put pressure on the faceless ‘owners’ and ‘union,’ but in the end he’s the oversized commissioner here.” If the league is “going to shoot itself in the foot on June 30, he’ll be holding the gun.” The NBA is “as popular as ever, with a slew of likable, excitable young stars.” Most of the big-market franchises “are in order,” and there is a “pile of revenues to be made, especially with NFL marketing dollars exposed because of that league’s own labor strife.” Wetzel: “And here’s the NBA, about to watch a big chance sail by” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/31).
FOLLOWING IN NFL'S FOOTSTEPS? SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL’s Liz Mullen reports NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter “has agreed to meet with Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George Cohen, who tried to mediate the NFL labor dispute in the weeks leading up to the NFL lockout.” Hunter said that he “had not made any decision on whether NBA players as a group would agree to enter mediation but said he had agreed to meet Cohen after Cohen reached out to him.” Hunter: “He contacted David Stern and he contacted me.” Hunter said that the NBPA “will continue to meet with the NBA and that the union was discussing ‘concepts’ with league negotiators in small-group meetings.” He said that he “had not lost hope about reaching a settlement.” Hunter: “It’s my nature. I’m not going to write it off -- the possibility of reaching an agreement” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/30 issue).
SMALL MARKETS A BIG FORCE? In Salt Lake City, Brian Smith noted sports labor analysts said that small-market NBA teams “could be the ones soon controlling collective bargaining agreement negotiations if the NBA’s bright lights go dark July 1.” A lockout “would not just result in the NBA versus the NBA Players Association.” It would be “a three-part battle, with financially burdened lesser-known teams fighting for a profitable existence.” ESPN.com's Larry Coon said, "If a team is in the red, they’re better off not playing than they are playing. … Pretty much everybody sees the economic system is broken." Stern said the league wants “a system where fans believe that their team has a real shot” at the NBA championship (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 5/31).
SUMMER SCHOOL DENIED: Bobcats coach Paul Silas yesterday said that the NBA denied the team's "plans to host a multi-team, free-agent camp after this month’s draft and before” the CBA expires on July 1. The Heat, Grizzlies and Hawks “were scheduled to bring free agents and possibly draft picks to Time Warner Cable Arena.” The teams “even reserved hotel rooms for the series of workouts and scrimmages on two courts at the facility before plans changed.” NBA Senior VP/Basketball Communications Tim Frank said that “it would have been too similar to July’s summer leagues, which are normally held next month in Las Vegas and Orlando.” Frank: “With what the teams wanted to do, it was really acting as a summer league. No summer leagues are permitted to be run until after July 1” (AP, 5/31).