NBA Lockout Watch, Day 96: Derek Fisher Says Tuesday "A Very Huge Day"
NBA owners and players today will meet for a “full bargaining session, knowing if they fail to produce results, there may not be enough time left to avoid canceling regular-season games,” according to Brian Mahoney of the AP. Lakers G and NBPA President Derek Fisher yesterday said, "A lot of signs point to tomorrow being a very huge day. There will be a lot of pressure on all of us in the room, and we'll accept that responsibility and go in and see what we can get worked out." The sides yesterday met in small groups “for about five hours,” and NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver said the session was mainly about "setting the table" for today’s meeting. Mahoney reported Silver was “careful not to put too much pressure” on today's talks, but he and NBA Commissioner David Stern “made clear there had to be signs of compromise.” Silver: "We both understand that if we don't make our best offers in the next few days, we're going to be at the point where we're going to be causing damage to the game, to ourselves, and they're going to be out paychecks." Training camps, which were postponed last month, were scheduled to begin yesterday, with the regular season scheduled to begin Nov. 1. Fisher said that the sides “still weren't close enough to be able to talk about major progress, but were aware of the calendar.” Mahoney noted an ESPN.com report yesterday claimed that “six powerful agents had sent a letter to their clients warning them of the financial damage the current proposals would cause them, and urging them to demand a full vote on any proposed deal.” Fisher later sent a letter to players in which he said the agents' letter "includes misinformation and unsupported theories." Fisher said in the letter, "We go into tomorrow's meeting strong, remaining steadfast on the issues we will not be able to move away from. Anyone saying different is not privy to the meetings and is uninformed" (AP, 10/3).
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE: Silver indicated games could be canceled “very shortly” if a deal is not reached. Silver: "Sometimes, deadlines are constructive -- for both sides -- in making the final moves that are necessary to get to a deal.” In N.Y., Howard Beck notes if not for the lockout, players “would have been gathering for media-day events across the country” around the opening of training camps (N.Y. TIMES, 10/4). NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter said that he “assumes the season can start on time if the two sides reach a handshake agreement by the middle of this week.” ESPN.com's Henry Abbott notes Celtics F Paul Pierce, whom Silver “singled out as a player who said meaningful things in the weekend talks, remains in New York and was in the small group session” yesterday. Pierce was joined by Stern, T’Wolves Owner and NBA BOG Chair Glen Taylor, Silver and Hunter (ESPN.com, 10/3). NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner noted after today’s meeting “nothing is scheduled for Wednesday, although that could change.” By Friday -- based on “the timeline established in 1998, the only previous time the NBA has canceled games -- the start of the regular season figures to be in jeopardy, if not already sacrificed” (NBA.com, 10/3). SI.com’s Ian Thomsen wrote there is “no evidence to suggest either side is ready to compromise, even though the cancellation of regular-season games will surely mean loss of support from fans.” The “big question is whether the owners' priority is to play a full (or almost full) season and ultimately compromise in order to make that happen -- or do the owners instead view this CBA as a watershed deal, making it worthwhile to lose games (and perhaps the season altogether) in order to completely overhaul the finances and operating structure of the NBA?” (SI.com, 10/3).
AGENT LETTER: ESPN.com's Ric Bucher cited sources as saying the letter drafted by the six player agents was "jointly composed" and sent Monday to clients.” The letter “advises the players not to ratify any deal that includes a reduction in basketball-related income beyond the 57 percent or any other systematic changes from the last collective bargaining agreement, which expired July 1.” Sources said that the letter was written by Wasserman Media Group’s Arn Tellem, BDA Sports’ Bill Duffy, Lagardere Unlimited’s Dan Fegan, Excel Sports Management’s Jeff Schwartz, CAA’s Leon Rose and Henry Thomas, and Priority Sports & Entertainment’s Mark Bartelstein, which is the same group of agents that has “strongly suggested that the union pursue decertification.” The letter “does not mention decertification, nor does it suggest that their clients break from the union.” It “simply -- but pointedly -- advises them to request ample time to review any labor deal the union might present for ratification and to demand that the entire union membership be given the chance to vote on it” (ESPN.com, 10/3). One agent said, "If you look at the history of how these things go, you often get a system that is rammed through without time to consider what the ramifications are. We don’t want to see that in this case. These are long-term decisions that will take time to really pore over" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 10/3).
TIME FOR COOLER HEADS TO PREVAIL: YAHOO SPORTS’ Adrian Wojnarowski writes under the header, “Blame Stern If Push Comes To Shove In NBA Talks.” Stern “needs to gather his owners, propose a deal the players can accept, and understand that this is no time to run up the score on the union.” The owners have “already won big,” and Stern has “spent most of his professional life as an unapologetic bully, but this time, enough’s enough.” Wojnarowski writes, “He invited this insurrection out of the agents, and now it’s coming. He needs to end it, and spare the NBA a needless bloodbath.” One agent yesterday said, “We’re not just walking off the cliff with (Hunter). We’re ready to take the next step and decertify.” Another agent said, “Stern doesn’t want to deal with us; he wants Billy and his lawyers in there.” Two agents said that “it doesn’t matter what happens in the talks today, because they refuse to give back anymore to the owners.” They will “tell their players to reject any union deal that offers more givebacks to the league, and they’ll hope that decertification will push the owners into negotiating for real” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/4). ESPN.com's Bucher wrote, “I'd love to see a full 2011-12 NBA season that starts on time, but, just as a paid observer, it feels as if the owners crafted the narrative of what these negotiations are all about from the start, and the union -- by making immediate concessions -- has become an accomplice to presenting a picture of the NBA and its financial health that simply doesn't completely make sense” (ESPN.com, 10/3).
ON THE INTERNATIONAL FRONT: In L.A., Mike Bresnahan reports Lakers G Kobe Bryant is “getting closer to reaching a 10-game, $3.2-million contract with Italian pro team Virtus Bologna, though there's a little issue with revenue sharing.” Two Italian teams “remain reluctant to tear up the old schedule and give Bologna more home games this month to maximize Bryant's appearances with the team.” Any contract Bryant signs with Virtus Bologna “would allow him to return to the NBA if the lockout ends.” Bryant was in Italy last week for promotional appearances on behalf of Nike and “would need to sign soon with Bologna,” as the season opener for Bologna is Sunday (L.A. TIMES, 10/4). In Australia, Michael Cowley reports the Sydney Kings of Australia's NBL “may learn as early as this morning if” Bucks C Andrew Bogut will play in the league's "season opener in Melbourne on Friday night.” Bogut's agent Bruce Kaider was “spending the early hours of this morning in contact" with Bogut's lawyers, FIBA, and insurance agents, but "was hopeful to be able to finally clear the way” for Bogut to play in the NBL. The “sticking point has been the insurance," which is worth around $US500,000 to "protect Bogut's multi-million dollar contract” with the Bucks (CANBERRA TIMES, 10/4).