Today is expected to be a "busy day" in the NBA labor negotiations, with "another bargaining session featuring only the heaviest hitters and activity in the league's federal lawsuit against the players," according to Ken Berger of CBSSPORTS.com. In addition to the third negotiating session between the league and players since the lockout began July 1, U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe "has called a telephone conference" for 5:00pm ET today regarding the NBA's federal lawsuit. Gardephe "has ordered attorneys for both sides to join a conference call to discuss the scheduling of hearings, the basic positions on each side and the motion to dismiss the players' attorneys have informed the court they will be filing." The call is a "mere formality, but a reminder to all involved on both sides that the case will move forward at an excruciatingly slow pace if they don't reach an agreement in time to avoid the cancellation of games." Berger noted "one thing both sides have agreed on from the beginning is that the only realistic resolution to this dispute will happen at the bargaining table, and so it should be taken with a reasonable amount of optimism that the only people with the power to make that happen will be staring across the table at each other again Wednesday for the second time in 14 days." As was the case when the NBA and NBPA met last week, today's meeting "will be limited" to a select few: NBA Commissioner David Stern, Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver and Spurs Owner Peter Holt representing the league, and NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter, Lakers G and NBPA President Derek Fisher and attorney Ron Klempner for the union. Berger added, "Nothing has changed, per se, on either side. But what we're beginning to witness with the secretive meetings with only the big dogs invited is a demonstration that the league and players are meandering down the path they have been destined to travel for months" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/6). NBA TV’s Dennis Scott said, “The fact that they're communicating, the fact that they're trying to meet and some more meetings are supposedly coming up, that's a great sign. When there's no communication, there’s no fighting going on, that's when I get nervous ” (“GameTime,” NBA TV, 9/6).
CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR? NBA reporter Chris Sheridan noted the two sides are a "lot closer to a settlement than most people realize." If the owners come to the table today "with an offer that promises more money than the flatlined $2 billion in Years 1-7 that they have been proposing, they’ll be getting somewhere." Another "major sticking point, for now, is the owner’s desire to transition from the current soft cap system to a hard cap system in Year 3 of the new CBA, which would necessitate an unprecedented giveback, perhaps through an unlimited escrow tax, perhaps from an across-the-board salary cut for every NBA player, that the players would simply not accept." Sheridan: "The Year 3 transition that the league is seeking is actually a red herring. But if there were to be a transition to a hard cap (or a harder team cap through a more punitive luxury tax system) in Year 5 or Year 6, it would allow teams a half-decade of long-term financial planning to get ready for the new harder-cap system. This is one of the areas where it seems the owners have no choice but to soften their current stance" (SHERIDANHOOPS.com, 9/5). SPORTING NEWS' Sean Deveney noted the main points of contention "have been how the league and players will split basketball-related revenues, and whether the owners should get the hard salary cap they laid out in the initial proposal." A source said that the players "have already acceded to stiffening the cap, but they want it to be offset by increased revenue sharing and they want to protect the league’s middle class, so that stars are not claiming an inordinate percentage of payrolls." The source: "There’s always a chance that things could unravel or that you take a step back, but it sounds to me like some of the obstacles, at least, could be overcome" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 9/6).
MAKING AN IMPACT: In N.Y., Howard Beck noted NBA players starting next week "will be competing against NBA players in something resembling an NBA-caliber league." More than 40 players "have committed to play" in the league at Impact Basketball gym in Las Vegas. As many as "eight teams, featuring seven or eight players each, will play daily" starting next Monday in the tournament, the Impact Basketball Competitive Training Series. The series "will conclude with two days of playoffs, with a championship game Sept. 23." Games will be "officiated and played under NBA rules, albeit with 10-minute quarters and without coaches barking from the benches." The plan is to "sell tickets (about 500 per day, with proceeds donated to charity) and to stream the games live on the Internet" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/4). Longtime NBA player trainer Joe Abunassar, a driving force behind the Las Vegas league, "plans to post statistics and standings on the Impact Basketball website and hopes to reach a deal with a broadcaster to provide feeds to the games online." The league "will feature only NBA players" (ESPNNY.com, 9/6). Asked about the Impact league, Heat F Chris Bosh said, "It’s a cool thing, but it’s just not me. I think a lot of guys want to use that to their advantage, but it’s just not me. There are so many things that can happen. There are so many different obstacles, like insurance and if I get hurt, that I just stay away from those things. But for some guys, that’s good for them, and if they love doing it, then that’s great for them. But for me, I like to stay healthy" (SI.com, 9/3).