NBA owners and the NBPA will resume labor negotiations led by Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service Dir George Cohen today following yesterday's "16-hour session that generated minimal progress," according to an NBA source cited by Adrian Wojnarowski of YAHOO SPORTS. The source said that the league and players union "emerged from their longest labor meeting of the 111-day lockout 'still not anywhere near a deal.'" Reps from both sides "refused to comment publicly on the nature of talks, citing a gag order" from Cohen. Asked if the sides had closed any gaps between them, one source said, "On small stuff. Hard to see where this is going." The two sides were scheduled to resume talks today at 10:00am ET, and NBA Commissioner David Stern left yesterday’s meeting -- which "began about 10 a.m. and stretched past 2 a.m. Wednesday -- without making any additional cancellations to the league’s 2011-12 schedule" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/18). CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger reported the two sides "rehashed the issues they've been wrestling with for more than two years." But a source said the difference yesterday was that Cohen "took the emotion out of it." No topics "were excluded from the mediation session, including the biggest obstacles in the way of a deal -- the split of revenues and a revised luxury tax system that would replace the hard team salary cap" sought by the owners (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/18). In N.Y., Howard Beck notes both sides "brought their full negotiating committees" yesterday. Stern, NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver and "twelve owners, all members of the NBA’s labor-relations committee," represented the league. NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter, Lakers G and NBPA President Derek Fisher and "eight players from the union’s executive board" appeared on behalf of the union (N.Y. TIMES, 10/19). Meanwhile, the NBA BOG will meet today and tomorrow at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan as owners discuss the league's labor issue as well as a new league-wide revenue sharing plan. The entire BOG will begin meeting later today and tomorrow as the league and the union continue negotiations this morning. Owners also will be briefed on other league business matters (John Lombardo, SportsBusiness Journal).
READING THE TEA LEAVES: The N.Y. TIMES' Beck notes there was "no outward hint of progress -- other than the length of the meeting and the agreement to continue the talks" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/19). In N.Y., Marc Berman writes, "Judging by the length of talks, it appeared to be a success and they will go at it again later this morning." But sources said that there was "minimal progress made in the negotiations" (N.Y. POST, 10/19). In Boston, Steve Bulpett reports there were "differing sources -- some saying progress was being made during the marathon, others that nothing should be read into the length of the proceeding." One source said, "They're still talking, so that has to be better than not talking" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/19). On Long Island, Alan Hahn notes the fact that more regular season games have not been canceled "is, at the very least, a positive sign" (NEWSDAY, 10/19). ESPN's Chris Broussard: "I really can’t say that they’re much closer to an agreement than they were before they went into that marathon session. ... If the meetings with the players don’t go well today, I guess it’s possible David Stern could talk with the owners and then come out and cancel another block of games" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/19). But in Boston, Gary Washburn writes, "At this point in the NBA labor negotiations, even a lengthy meeting seems to carry little significance in terms of progress" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/19). ESPN's Mike Golic said, “I don’t know if they’re any closer to it, but you know why they’re closer to it? Because they were in a room talking, and they’re going to get in a room again today and talk about it. So from that standpoint it has to be looked at as somewhat positive.” ESPN's Mike Greenberg said Cohen "at this point should be the Sportsman of the Year if he gets this thing worked out." Greenberg: "Might have saved two sports” (“Mike & Mike in the Morning,” ESPN Radio, 10/19). Hornets G and NBPA board member Chris Paul after the meeting tweeted, "WoW, 16 hours...I PROMISE we are trying!!!" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/19). Meanwhile, former MLBPA COO Gene Orza said he was “betting” that Stern has a “date in mind at which he will play the same card he played at the last negotiation.” That “worked successfully” when Stern he threatened to cancel the season if the NBPA did not agree to a deal by a certain date (“Cavuto,” Fox Business, 10/18).
TAKE A LETTER: In Boston, Bob Ryan writes what both sides "must realize is that the sports world will get along very nicely without the NBA." America grew "very antsy as football training camp time approached and there was no deal." But the NBA "cancels a portion of its regular season and in many locales the news isn’t even reported on the first sports page." Ryan writes, "Memo to the NBA: There is only one league this country can't live without, and it isn't yours" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/19). In Indianapolis, Matthew Tully writes, "Memo to the NBA: I speak for many fans when I offer this warning: We're not coming back." Tully: "I haven't heard one fan this fall voice concern, from a sports perspective, about the potential loss of the upcoming season" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 10/19). ESPN NBA analyst and former NBAer Bruce Bowen said, "It's time. It's time for both sides to come together. Both sides have to give." He added, "My biggest fear is those season-ticket holders will find something better to do with their money" (MYSANANTONIO.com, 10/18). In Sacramento, Marcos Breton writes, "Living and working in Sacramento, one of the smallest of the NBA's small markets, I want the owners to win." Breton: "I want the owners' desire for spending controls to prevail. I want the league to combine real revenue-sharing between big teams and small teams, along with restrictions that would make it harder for big-money teams to spend smaller ones into oblivion. Some have feared a long NBA lockout will hurt Sacramento's efforts to build a new arena, but actually the exact opposite is true: The longer the lockout, the better for Sacramento." Breton adds, "You can build all the arenas you want, but unless the NBA fundamentally changes the way it does business and tilts its financial rules, small markets such as Sacramento will always be in trouble" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/19).
GARNETT'S NOT THAT INTIMIDATING: Yahoo Sports earlier this week reported the two sides were making progress until Celtics F Kevin Garnett joined the negotiations on Oct. 4 and thwarted the work was had been achieved. Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said, “There’s no way, if they were that close to an agreement, one player coming in staring -- no matter who they are -- cannot mess up an agreement.” ESPN’s Bomani Jones said if Garnett “scowling at people would have had that much if an impact, this lockout would have been over long ago." Jones: "He’d be in charge of the union, not Derek Fisher.” Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said, "I can’t imagine that would affect what the owners want to accomplish” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 10/18). ESPN’s Dan Le Batard said the idea that Garnett would “come in and he’s glowering at somebody and everything would fall apart, that seems ridiculous” (“Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable,” ESPN2, 10/18).
CONSPIRACY THEORY: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Lauren Schutte reported Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert's new video dealing with the NBA lockout "comes out on the side of the owners, who the ad says are on the fans side." Colbert in a voice-over says that the fans are "the number one employers of 'our nation's blimp pilots.'" He adds, "They're working hard to save the season, so Americans don't have to watch hockey." The Super PAC "attempted to run the ad" on Dallas' WFAA-TV. Colbert later addressed the attempt on his Comedy Central show, saying that "despite purchasing airtime, the TV station did not run the ad, which he calls an elaborate conspiracy" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 10/18). Colbert said of WFAA not airing the video, "According to the letter I received from their sales manager, ‘Here's an explanation of what happened…I can't explain why it happened.’ I can. They're trying to silence you, nation. Are you going to take it? WFAA, I call on you to air our ad tomorrow on a prime spot like ‘Good Morning America.’ It’ll be a dose of hard truth between segments on keeping your pet happy and cocktails inspired by ‘Dancing With The Stars’” (“The Colbert Report,” Comedy Central, 10/17).