NBA AM: NBA Labor Talks Implode
Then It Fell Apart: As the NBA and its players entered the 112th day of the 2011 NBA Lockout yesterday, there was again optimism and hope going into their mediated meeting in New York.
Both sides had spent the better part of 25 hours negotiating and finding common ground on smaller parts of a larger deal only to have a bombshell delivered yesterday that may have destroyed all the progress that had been made.
According to Players’ Association director Billy Hunter, Portland Owner Paul Allen came into yesterday’s meeting to deliver what the Players deemed as an ultimatum, that they must accept a 50-50 split of revenues in order for talks to continue. The players passed, and the talks abruptly ended.
What followed was the most brutal display of “he said, she said” from both sides as they tried to paint very different pictures of where things stand for the media and ultimately the NBA fans that could be without basketball for the foreseeable future.
“Ultimately, we were unable to bridge the gap that separates the two parties,” NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We understand the ramifications of where we are. We’re saddened on behalf of the game.”
“The response back from the union today was they made a slight move from 53 to 52.5 percent of BRI, and that’s where we broke off,” Silver said. “They made it clear that if our position was that we were unwilling to move beyond 50 percent, there was nothing else to talk about, and that’s when the discussions broke off today.”
The Players however content that the NBA stuck to their predetermined script and that the NBA was not being honest about what played out in the negotiating room.
“They’re interested in telling one-sided stories that are not true,” Players’ Association president Derek Fisher said.
“We’ve spent the last few days making our best effort to try and find a resolution here. Not one that was necessarily a win-win. It wouldn’t be a win for us. It wouldn’t be a win for them. But one that we felt like would get our game back … and get our guys back on the court, get our vendors back to work, get the arenas open, get these communities revitalized,” Fisher said.
“In our opinion, that’s not what the NBA and the league is interested in at this point. They’re interested in telling you one side of the stories that are not true and this is very serious to us. This is not in any way about ego. There are a lot of people’s livelihoods at stake separate from us.”
Fisher throughout this process has said he believes there is a master plan playing out, a plan designed to break the Players’ Association and force a far more restrictive labor system into the NBA.
“We’ve always felt there was still a place where they would just not go and they would lock us out as long as it would take in order to get us beyond that place. There was never really a willingness to negotiate beyond certain points,” Fisher said. “There was just a line drawn, and regardless of what’s going on, how many times we meet, ‘we’re not going past that.’ ”
Billy Hunter was far more open about his thoughts, revealing many of the private details of the talks while being adamant that there were lines the Players would not cross out of principal.
“We’re not prepared to let them impose a system on us that eliminates guarantees, reduces contract lengths, diminishes all our increases,” Hunter said. “We’re saying no way. We fought too long and made too many sacrifices to get where we are.”
Hunter revealed a moment in the meetings were Cavalier owner Dan Gilbert urged the Players to “trust him” on the system issues if the Players agreed to the Owner proposed 50-50 revenue split.
“I can’t trust your gut. I got to trust my own gut,” Hunter said of the comment. “There’s no way in the world I’m going to trust your gut on whether or not you’re going to be open and amenable to making the changes in the system that we think are necessary and appropriate.”
The overall vibe from the talks last night was one of distrust, especially from the Players’ side, which will likely derail all of the perceived progress made over the last few days.
Players’ Association attorney Jeffery Kessler told reporters after the press conferences he believed something occurred during the NBA Board of Governors meeting this week that changed the course of the labor talks.
“Something happened in that Board of Governors meeting,” Kessler said. “Yesterday we thought we were moving toward a deal. Suddenly, today, they spend very little time negotiating. As soon as we got in there and presented our offer and without caucusing, they said, ‘We don’t have to do anything else. We can tell you right now we’re at 50 percent, and it has to be our way.’
“We adjourned, we came back with the players. They said, ‘We will not agree to anything else unless you agree to 50 percent. I couldn’t believe it.
“We were told Paul Allen was there to express the views of the Board of Governors, and that view was ‘our way or the highway.’
“They were carrying out a mandate they were given. This is a sad day for fans, because someone in that board of governors was sent to blow us off, blow the fans off.”
Federal mediator George Cohen did not address the media yesterday after the talks, but did issue a statement which clearly frames where things stand between the Players and Owner.
“As a follow up to the NBA’s and NBA Players Association agreeing to my invitation to conduct negotiations under the auspices of the FMCS, three days of mediation have taken place. During this period, a wide variety of issues were addressed in a professional, thoughtful manner, consistent with what one would expect to take place in a constructive collective bargaining setting.
Regrettably, however, the parties have not achieved an overall agreement, nor have they been able to resolve the strongly held, competing positions that separated them on core issues.
In these circumstances, after carefully reviewing all of the events that have transpired, it is the considered judgment of myself and Deputy Director Scot Beckenbaugh, who has been engaged with me throughout this process, that no useful purpose would be served by requesting the parties to continue the mediation process at this time. For our part, the Agency has advised the parties that we will be willing and prepared to continue to facilitate any future discussions upon their mutual request.”
While yesterday’s meeting ending in a fiery display of emotion, Peter Holt, the NBA’s labor relations committee chairman and owner of the San Antonio Spurs expressed some hope that more talks could take place and that the NBA was ready to continue talking.
“Hopefully, we can get back to the table, but certainly a tough day, a very tough day,” said Holt.
“We’ve kind of worn each other out,” Holt said. “We need some fresh air and maybe some fresh thoughts, and try to get back together.”
It now seems that the odds of an 82-game season even with a modified schedule are out the window and with the tone of the talks and general mistrust on display, the odds of a labor deal in the NBA any time soon are equally shaky.
Is David West The Top Free Agent? Lance Young, the agent for unrestricted free agent David West, told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports that not only was his client medically cleared to return to basketball, but West would be ready for the start of NBA Training Camps whenever they open.
A quick glance at The 2011 NBA Free Agents List and it becomes pretty clear that the top names in the 2011 class are Denver center Nene, Memphis’ restricted free agent center Marc Gasol and New Orleans’ forward David West.
Of the bunch, West might be the most obtainable even coming off a torn ACL.
Sources near the process label West as a top candidate not only for the Indiana Pacers and New Jersey Nets, but that he is also very high on the list for the Houston Rockets and the Atlanta Hawks, depending on whether sign-and-trade deals are allowed in the next labor deal.
West has not ruled out returning to the Hornets, likely because they can offer him the most money. There is some concern about the future of the franchise and whether star point guard Chris Paul will remain with the team beyond this year wich could weigh heavily in the ultimate decision.
The Indiana Pacers have just $37.63 million in salary commitments for the 2011-2012 NBA season making them one of the teams with the most money to spend regardless of where the salary cap gets set in a new labor deal.
The Pacers have coveted a bruising power forward and West fits the bill almost perfectly.
The New Jersey Nets have $40.9 million in salary commitments, but also offer the appeal of an All-Star guard in Deron Williams and an eventual move to Brooklyn in the summer of 2012.
Like Paul, Williams can opt to leave the Nets in July of 2012, so that could weigh into West’s ultimate decision as well.
The Houston Rockets have a lot of duplication at the power forward spot with Luis Scola and Chuck Hayes, but sources said the Rockets are looking to acquire premier talent, and while Marc Gasol is said to be Houston’s top free agent target, landing a two-time All-Star in West would be an upgrade that could open the door for additional trades.
West has been cleared to resume full basketball activity, so the longer the labor situation plays out the better the situation gets for West.
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