NBA AM: Can David Stern Save Christmas?
Can Stern Save Christmas?: Today the lawyers representing the NBA Players will meet with the lawyers representing the NBA, with the goal of finalizing a settlement of the NBA Players’ lawsuits against the NBA by way of a new labor deal.
Both sides met in secret on Tuesday, while trading barbs at one another in the press. On Wednesday the sides met again and agreed to reconvene today in efforts to reach a deal.
NBA Commissioner David Stern began gauging interest in further changes to the NBA’s offer among his 30 team owners with specific focus on whether the teams would be open to relaxing its restrictions in their latest offer on how Luxury Tax teams would handle salary cap exceptions.
So what’s at stake today and what are the players asking for in this round of talks?
Before we get into the specifics, understand that the share of revenue has been resolved. This is no longer about percentage points on the revenue split, the Players have conceded the 50-50 split the NBA was seeking and that has not been blocking a deal for some time.
The Salary Cap system, and the exceptions afforded teams that exceed the cap remain the biggest sticking points and there are some real issues that have to be addressed today or the Christmas Day slate of games and possibly the balance of the 2011 portion of the NBA season hangs in the balance.
The single biggest issue the Players have is the Escrow Tax system.
In order to insure that the Players’ share of revenue never exceeds the agreed percentage, funds are withheld from each Player’s check throughout the season, just like Payroll taxes are withheld from your paycheck.
At the end of the NBA season the math is done on total salaries and benefits paid to Players. If that final number is greater than the agreed percentage, the NBA removes funds from the Escrow account and “pays down” the percentage.
Any money left after paying down the percentage is refunded to the Players.
The NBA is asking the Players to contribute 10% of their checks to the Escrow system under the new deal, that’s an increase of 2% from the old deal which held back 8%.
The Players are concerned because the NBA offer not only holds back 10%, which the Players would agree to; it also is somewhat vague in how overages after Escrow would be handled.
The NBA has suggested that if the percentage paid to the Players was over the agreed 50% split after the Escrow Fund is exhausted that those additional overages would be subtracted from the following year’s system.
The Players are materially opposed to this in a major way.
Sources close to the process call this one of the single biggest issues on the table. The Players are open to a 10% withholding, but anything beyond that they view as the league’s problem and they do not want a system that could potentially poison or reduce the next season as a result of spending in the previous season.
In additions to the Escrow system, the Players want the restrictions on Luxury tax teams removed altogether.
Under the league’s current offer, Luxury Tax paying teams would not only face a much harsher tax system, they would also have reduced options when it comes to the Mid-Level salary cap exceptions and sign and trades after the first two years of the deal. There is also a substantial penalty for “repeat” tax payers that the Players’ want removed.
The Players’ goal is a system that is the same for all 30 teams which allows for tax spending if teams want to spend. They are willing to accept a harsher tax system, but that’s about the extent of the changes they will accept in a new deal.
There has been talk that the NBA could present a revised offer to the Players today that may include softening of some of these issues.
There is optimism that today could yield a handshake agreement on a settlement.
If such a settlement were reached, the defunct Players Association would need to re-organize in order to vote on the offer.
If the majority of Players vote to accept the deal, and there is a belief that there were enough votes for the old offer, the NBA and its Players would start writing the legal employment contract with the goal of having a signed agreement inside the next two weeks.
Once both parties have signed an agreement the NBA would move to lift the lockout and allow a small free agency period to commence under the new cap rules.
Training camps would likely open three weeks from today with the possibility of two exhibition games to be played before a 66-game regular season gets underway the week of Christmas.
If a settlement is not reached today, expect the remaining games in 2011 to be wiped out and the possibility of a cancelled NBA season to become a grim reality.
Up Close With Kyle Lowry: Houston Rocket’s guard Kyle Lowry has been as active as anyone during the NBA Lockout, not only in being a vocal part of the negotiation process but also a regular at pickup games and charity events around the country.
HOOPSWORLD caught up with Kyle earlier this week in Houston, where he talked about the Rockets’ roster and the possibility of adding a marquee-type center in free agency.
Some Notes Worth Noting: While the NBA and its Players still try and hammer out a labor deal, a few more players have opted to take ‘the bird in the hand approach’ and have reached terms on deals with teams in Europe.
ESPN’s Marc Stein is reporting that Laker’s forward Lamar Odom has come to terms on a deal with Besiktas Milangaz Istanbul, the same team New Jersey Net’s guard Deron Williams joined this summer. The deal as reported would pay Odom $2 million for the balance of the season and contains an NBA-out clause should the NBA lockout be lifted. Odom is expected to finalize the deal this weekend and could join the team as early as next week.
Italian team Virtus Roma, whose sponsored name is Acea Roma, announced that they have signed Sacramento guard Tyreke Evans to a deal. The terms were not released; however the agreement does have a NBA-out clause in the event that the NBA Lockout is lifted.
Acea Roma was the team that signed Brandon Jennings out of high school and is considered one of the better teams in the Italian league. Acea Roma is currently ranked 13th in the Lega Basket Serie A league and could add Evans as early as next week.
Russian power BC Khimki is opting not to renew the deal of Pistons’ forward Austin Daye. Daye signed a two month deal and has helped power BC Khimki to the top of the Eurocup Group B standings, as well as the best record in the VTB United League and the top spot in the BEKO PBL. Daye was brought in as a rental and was paired with NBA center Timofey Mosgov, Chris Quinn and former NBA players Zoran Planinic and Sergey Monya.
Daye talked about his Russian experience with our friends at HoopsHype early in November.
In Case You Missed It: HOOPSWORLD held its first Videocast on Monday, featuring Bill Ingram, Eric Pincus, Yannis Koutroupis and myself.
We hit on a number of hot button issues, including the ongoing NBA Lockout, the 2011 NBA Free Agent class and where 2012’s key free agents Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Chris Paul might end up.
This was our first time using the Videocast tool, so there are some small tech glitches that will get resolved with our next Videocast next week.
The tool allows you to join in the Videocast and ask questions both in text and on video if you have a webcam installed on your computer.
So keep a look out for the second Videocast next week.
More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to insure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @jfleminghoops, @TheRocketGuy, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNBA, @TommyBeer and @YannisHW.