NBA Lockout Watch, Day 70: Sides Meeting For Second Straight Day
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” (FOXSPORTSOHIO.com, 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" (NBA.com, 9/8).
REASON FOR OPTIMISM? CBSSPORTS.com’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” (CBSSPORTS.com, 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” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 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” (NBCSPORTS.com, 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: SI.com’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” (SI.com, 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” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 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" (SHERIDANHOOPS.com, 9/7). SI.com’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” (SI.com, 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” (CHARLOTTE.com, 9/7).