NBA Lockout Watch, Day 119: Both Sides Convey Optimism After 15-Hour Meeting
The NBA and NBPA are "pushing hard to reach the framework of an agreement to end the league-imposed lockout after moving closer to consensus on several important issues," according to league sources cited by Adrian Wojnarowski of YAHOO SPORTS. Negotiators "met for more than 15 hours," finishing past 3:00am ET this morning, and sources said that the talks on "system issues resulted in significant progress on one of the labor fight’s most vexing obstacles: the luxury tax teams would have to pay for going over the salary." Negotiations "will resume" today at 2:00pm. One source said, "They need (Thursday) to punch it over end line." Sources said that there was a "significant effort among the NBA’s owners to push hard to get a deal done with the players over the weekend." NBA Commissioner David Stern "wasn't happy with the implosion of talks that occurred with him home ill last Thursday." Stern: "I leave these guys alone for a little bit of time, and all hell breaks loose" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/27). CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger notes after the marathon session, the two sides emerged to say that "progress had been made." Stern: "This has been a very arduous and difficult day, and productive. (Thursday) is going to be just as arduous and difficult, if not more so. We hope that it can be as productive." Stern made his comments after 4:00am in a conference room of the N.Y. hotel where the negotiations took place. The two sides will reconvene this afternoon, and NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter said that an "82-game season remains 'possible' if a deal were reached by Sunday or Monday." Berger notes while "progress was made on several system issues -- 'small moves,' according to one source -- the talks are back in the tenuous place where they’ve blown apart on several other occasions" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/27). In L.A., Mike Breshahan notes the reported progress on smaller issues lent "hope to the possibility of a big-picture resolution in the near future." Breshahan notes there was "little to no movement on how to divide basketball-related income," but "on the bright side, nobody was called a liar." Yesterday's session was "scaled down into a smaller group." Additionally, "optimism began to rise" yesterday when Heat F LeBron James, Knicks F Carmelo Anthony and Hornets G Chris Paul "pulled out of a planned six-game tour" (L.A. TIMES, 10/27).
OPTIMISM, FOR A CHANGE: In N.Y., Marc Berman notes the "second-longest negotiation during this labor war had its best day and Stern and Hunter seemed either happy or just punch drunk when they met the media." The "rhetoric was a 180-degree turn from Thursday's federal-mediation breakdown and Stern didn't once talk of cancelling more games this week" (N.Y. POST, 10/27). One source said during a break in the negotiations, "There’s a good exchange of ideas, and that’s a hell of a lot better than what we had last week" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/27). In DC, Michael Lee reports Stern and NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver "will talk with the league's labor relations committee on Thursday morning to discuss how much the owners would be willing to give the players moving forward." Lee notes Stern "smiled, joked and appeared in a more cheerful mood than he has after previous meetings," though he "remained cautiously optimistic" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 10/27). ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said the labor talks are “much closer than everybody is letting on.” Smith: "They’re further along then they have ever been in these talks.” He added there is a "lot of reason for optimism,” and a deal "could get done within a week.” Smith: “The reality is the luxury tax issue, the mid-level exception and BRI are the three major issues on the table. I think the luxury tax issue and the mid-level issue are solvable, pretty close to being resolved. The BRI is still the one elephant in the room that needs to be resolved” ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 10/27). CBSSPORTS.com's Berger wrote, "The deal that has been there to make for weeks should -- and I stress the word should -- begin coming into focus." One source said, "We're inching closer to a deal." Another source said earlier this week that "51.5 percent is, in fact, the presumed landing spot for the players' share" of BRI. League execs, team officials and owners "participated in a video conference call lasting several hours Tuesday to discuss the latest proposals and how to redistribute revenue." One source on the call said there was "no consensus" but "a lot of ideas" remained on the table. Another source said that observers "will be 'pleasantly surprised' by the commitment big-market owners are willing to make to revenue sharing" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/26). Stern said, "I have a pretty good idea of what they’d like, and we’re trying very hard to get them what they’d like. We’re trying to apply a tourniquet and move forward. That has always been our goal." But NBPA President and Lakers G Derek Fisher, when asked if there was "a meeting of the minds," said, "I think that’s a little bit of a reach" (SHERIDANHOOPS.com, 10/27).
MEET THE PLAYERS: One source said that the sides "had 'moved closer' on most of the system issues, but cautioned that an agreement was not in hand." In N.Y., Howard Beck reports the parties "did not discuss the division of revenue, which remains just as critical as the system issues." The NBA was represented at the negotiations by Stern, Silver, NBA Exec VP & General Counsel Rick Buchanan, NBA Senior VP & Deputy General Counsel Dan Rube, Spurs Owner & NBA Labor Relations Committee Chair Peter Holt, Knicks Owner James Dolan and T'Wolves Owner Glen Taylor. Hunter, Fisher, Wizards F and NBPA VP Maurice Evans, NBPA outside counsel Ron Klempner and economic consultant Kevin Murphy appeared on behalf of the union. NBPA outside counsel and lead negotiator Jeffrey Kessler "was absent because of a prior commitment" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/27).
can be played if deal is reached in time
THOUGHTS FROM PAST AND PRESENT: Mavericks C Tyson Chandler said, "I really feel it’s up to the owners at this point. ... Honestly, I feel like it’s between them. Different owners want different things. Personally, I believe that within the ranks they have differing opinions, but have to be as one during negotiations" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 10/26). Bulls G Derrick Rose said, "I wish it was back like in the old days where there wasn't a cap. Back in the day, they were giving guys coming out of college multimillion-dollar contracts, so why stop it now? The game is growing" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/27). In Memphis, Ronald Tillery notes during the NBA's '98-99 work stoppage, the players had "unification that they believe will be a slam dunk with players today." Former NBAer Damon Stoudamire said, "I'm not saying it was easy. But getting a good deal was important. I went from making $1.7 million to (earning) $11 million." Former NBAer Elliot Perry "pointed toward a system that allowed him to go from earning $260,000 to $2 million." He said, "If we would have been in a hard-cap system I don't think I could've done that. Having said that ... there is a glitch in the system today." Stoudamire said, "I don't think the players can settle for less right now. They have to stay unified. If you don't get what you want then what did you lose games for? What did you fight for? It's getting to the point of no return" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 10/27). Former NBAer Paul Shirley in an op-ed for the WALL STREET JOURNAL writes, "The idea that NBA players are better prepared this time around is, for the most part, poppycock." Shirley notes when the lockout ends, it will "probably be for the same reason as the last one: On average, NBA players are not particularly good with money, and NBA owners know this." He adds, "The trait that causes most NBA players to burn through their savings is the same trait that allows them to become NBA players in the first place: an almost unlimited capacity for irrational behavior. … The NBA lockout will end because … the owners will remain rational. They will turn the screws on those NBA players, not because they think the players are stupid, but because they know the players are irrational actors" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/27).