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Volume 24 No. 160

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The NBPA and NBPA “met for about 5 hours Wednesday, plan to resume negotiations Thursday, and could even sit down again Friday,” according to Brian Mahoney of the AP. While neither side “would say if progress is being made, the frequency of the discussions seems a good sign.” NBA Commissioner David Stern said, "We agreed that we're going to sit here for as many days as we can to see whether we can make progress, but we agreed not to characterize anything at all." Both sides were “cautious not to portray any optimism" after yesterday's meeting in N.Y. Shortly after the negotiating session, Knicks G and NBPA VP Roger Mason Jr. on Twitter wrote, "Looking like a season. How u." Mahoney noted Mason “later deleted that post and wrote a subsequent one that his account had been hacked” (AP, 9/7). In N.Y., Howard Beck notes the meetings this week are, "by far, the most activity since the lockout began 10 weeks ago." Stern and NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter “seemed relaxed and upbeat, a sharp contrast to the grim faces they took into the lockout on June 30.” The union yesterday also “received permission from a federal judge to file a motion to dismiss an NBA lawsuit.” The league “filed suit last month, accusing the union of threatening an illegal decertification” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/8). Stern said, "We know we have a real problem to solve and there’s nothing personal about this. It's going to be about problem solving. If we can, we can. If we can't, we can’t.” Hunter: “I think there clearly is -- there's more than enough time” (, 9/7). Lakers G and NBPA President Derek Fisher said, "There's a window here. We have an opportunity here to make some progress, to try and hammer some things out. ... But time is running down -- not necessarily out, but I think we all feel in that room that if we continue to work at it, we can possibly find a way to get a deal done" (, 9/8).

REASON FOR OPTIMISM?’s Ken Berger reported “new parties were on hand Wednesday whose presence could indicate a progression of the talks to nitty-gritty areas.” Rejoining the talks were NBA Senior VP & Deputy General Counsel Dan Rube, the league office's “foremost expert on salary cap mechanics and player contracts,” NBPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler and economist Kevin Murphy, whose “input would be needed to decipher predictions of revenue growth in the out years of a new CBA” (, 9/7). YAHOO SPORTS’ Eric Freeman wrote the “fact that subsequent interviews in the press contained minimal posturing stood out as a good sign.” Even with the sides “far apart, it seemed like they were finally willing to sit down and work out a deal” (, 9/7). Suns F and player rep Jared Dudley said, “I think guys are still kind of tentative, but they are like ‘hey, we’re going in the right direction.’ Nobody is happy, people just say ‘now it’s started.’ Before it was all like fake smoke, now we know it’s getting started” (, 9/7). Knicks F Amar'e Stoudemire yesterday said, "I'm hearing good things about the lockout. I'm not sure what the change is going to be, but I do feel better about the fact that we may start sooner than later. So that's a positive for us" (NEWSDAY, 9/8). But Suns G Steve Nash on Tuesday "wasn’t hopeful that NBA training camps would begin on time.” Nash said, “It looks like, right now, we probably won’t start on time” (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/7).

THE HEAT IS ON:’s Sam Amick wrote Hunter is “in a precarious position these days,” as some player agents “question his every move, glossing over his respectable résumé and wondering aloud about the competency and leadership of the former U.S. attorney who took the union helm in 1996.” Other agents “simply stew about the state of affairs, unsure who to blame and ever-mindful of the fact that someone must lead their clients to a best-case scenario finish here no matter how Draconian Commissioner David Stern and the owners prove to be.” The pressure is “indeed building, but these last eight days have been good for the union head.” Hunter will “need to deliver results in the coming weeks or risk a mutiny, but the incremental progress has continued if only because the two sides are talking again.” In the absence of “extreme plays like decertification, the previous lack of negotiations had led to fair questions about Hunter's plan.” Amick: “Yet as this process has been prolonged and the internal scrutiny has increased, there are indications that Hunter has made an effort to connect with his critics in a more comprehensive manner because, well, there's that saying about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer” (, 9/7). YAHOO SPORTS’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported most major NBA agents said that they “wanted to decertify the union and file an antitrust suit against the league.” But Hunter “resisted those advances.” One agent said, “We all know how this ends. It ends like all the others have -- with us giving back everything. Billy had a chance to get out ahead with decertification early on, like (DeMaurice) Smith did with the NFL. Now, if it happens, he won’t be able to take the lead on it” (, 9/7).

IS THERE A DRAFT IN HERE? NBA reporter Chris Sheridan reported NBA owners "have proposed adding a third round to the annual draft, a proposal that the players’ union has countered by offering an array of changes to the draft that would help address the owners’ desire for more competitive balance." Under one proposal, the 15 teams "with the worst records would continue to pick 1st through 15th, but then would also have the 16th through 30th picks." The teams with the top 15 records would have all the second-round picks. In another proposal, the "teams with the eight worst records would get an additional first round pick," and the teams with the eight best records would "select at the top of the second round" (, 9/7).’s Zach Lowe wrote, “To say this stuff is on the back burner would be an understatement, and Sheridan acknowledges that these nitty-gritty details won’t get the floor until the major issues -- the revenue split and the hard cap -- are resolved” (, 9/7). In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell wrote, “I'm less interested in the idea of adding a third round than I am with various proposals to give the league's worst teams extra first-round picks.” Bonnell: “I think the idea of granting bad teams extra picks is innovative, and I suspect you'd hear less complaining from the elite teams than you might suspect” (, 9/7).

The details surrounding MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's plan to add a second wild card team to the postseason "remain cloudy enough that the chances of expanded playoffs next season are iffy at best," according to league sources cited by Jeff Passan of YAHOO SPORTS. Selig said, "I hope to have it next year. It will depend on a whole series of things. The holdup is working out all the details." While collective bargaining talks have progressed "cordially, little movement has been made on the five-team playoffs because realignment remains unresolved." Sources said that "realignment is among the significant issues at the bargaining tables." Passan noted "hard slotting and the wild card are two of Selig's pet projects in this negotiation." Selig said that the second wild card "is endorsed by almost everyone in the game." That "makes sense considering playoff appearances stabilize the employment of general managers and managers while giving players an opportunity to earn beaucoup bucks." Still, Selig said that the proposal for the new format "does at times trouble him." Selig: "I agonize over it." But he supports the plan "nonetheless, even as the bargaining room teems with ideas and differences of opinion and questions as to how to format it." Passan noted Selig "doesn't know, and nobody in the rooms seems to, either, which, for now, leaves it in limbo and delayed, perhaps until 2013" (, 9/7).

RUNAWAY RACE: In N.Y., Bill Madden wrote, "Bud Selig can sing all the praises he wants about the wild card, but for the ninth time in its 17-year history, it has turned September into a numbing succession of meaningless games for the Yankees and Red Sox." This year, the wild card "has done nothing to boost fan interest as both wild cards and five out of the six division races are virtually sewed up with nearly a month to go." Madden added, "Selig will never see his private dream of geographic realignment realized, in which all the big-market, traditionally high payroll eastern teams -- Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Phillies -- are lumped into the same division. Nobody wants to be in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/5). Also in N.Y., Sean Forman asked, "With three and a half weeks of games to be played, how does 2011, with no race closer than three and a half games, stack up in the wild-card era through Aug. 31? It turns out this year is much less competitive than past years. Before this season, every playoff chase since 1994 has had at least one race in which the trailing team was within one and a half" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/4).

Penguins C Sidney Crosby thinks that the NHL "should ban blows to the head" as he continues to recover from a concussion suffered in January, according to Sean Gordon of the GLOBE & MAIL. Crosby, speaking publicly about his head injury for the first time, said, "I don’t think there’s a reason not to take them out. I read a stat that there’s 50,000 hits in a year, and we’re talking about 50, maybe. You know, 50 head shots. And to take those out, the game’s not going to change." He added, "It's a fast game, but we’ve got to be responsible too. A guy’s got to be responsible with his stick, why shouldn’t he be responsible with the rest of his body when he’s going to hit someone?” Gordon notes there is "still no timetable for Crosby's return" from the concussion that forced him to miss the second half of the '10-11 NHL season (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/8). Crosby yesterday called playing this season "likely" and said he "wouldn't bet on" the injury forcing him to retire. He noted that "only the headaches remain -- and those only after he approaches 90 percent exertion during workouts" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 9/8).

CHANGE WILL DO YOU GOOD: Crosby said, "Whether accidental or non-accidental, you’ve got to be responsible. It could do a lot more good than what it’s going to take away from the game." In Toronto, Damien Cox writes, "Your move, Gary Bettman. You too, Don Fehr. Your league’s best player and most important union member doesn’t believe enough is being done to stop the wave of brain injuries in the sport, and Crosby didn’t even touch on the absurdity of supposedly cracking down on head shots while continuing to allow bare-knuckle fighting" (TORONTO STAR, 9/8). In Pittsburgh, Shelly Anderson writes the concussion has reduced Crosby "from perhaps the world's best hockey player and the face of the NHL to another name on what seems to be an ever-expanding list of concussion victims." Yesterday, he "took the big step of joining what seems to be a growing minority pushing to legislate hits to the head out of the NHL" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 9/8). Also in Pittsburgh, Joe Starkey writes, "Even if Crosby comes back this season, danger lurks. He would rejoin a league that still has such a thing as a 'legal head shot,' to quote NHL commissioner Gary Bettman -- and there is no predicting how Crosby's brain will react to the next big hit, no matter what the medical experts say" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 9/8).