NBA AM: Unified Players Focus on System
Entering yesterday’s NBPA meeting, the majority of team representatives and star players in attendance wanted to accept the NBA’s latest offer. Many of the players, and their teammates, were frustrated with this process and ready for the lockout to end.
Before they made any decisions, Billy Hunter wanted to make sure the players knew what they were getting themselves into by accepting this deal. He stood in a front of a whiteboard, writing all of the system restrictions that would exist in the next collective bargaining agreement: No extend-and-trade deals, no team or player options, lower annual raises, shorter contracts, reduced mid-level exception, no sign-and-trade for taxpaying teams and a significantly reduced mid-level exception for taxpaying teams.
Hunter explained how each restriction would change the landscape of the NBA and after breaking down each provision, he asked the players, “What should we do?”
“We can’t take that deal,” said one veteran player.
The rest of the players nodded in agreement. Hunter went around the room, asking all 43 players in attendance to give their thoughts. The players felt the system was too restrictive and believed the best move would be to flip the script on the owners, calling their bluff on the ultimatum and putting the ball back in their court.
Decertification was discussed “very little” during the meeting, according to Hunter. The players agreed that they’ll go down that road only if David Stern cancels the season and they’re out of other options.
With the players focusing on the system changes more than basketball-related income, a deal appears to be within striking distance. The union is expected to propose a 50-50 split of BRI with several system changes today. That means players would have given up seven percent of revenue, with the tradeoff being the system.
“That’s what’s on the table right now,” said one NBPA source in the room. “We want the system.”
The two sides were communicating last night, but they haven’t scheduled a meeting for Wednesday. It’s likely that they’ll meet before Stern’s 5 p.m. ultimatum, but nothing has been finalized as of yet.
If the two sides can’t reach a deal this evening, Hunter said he’s been hearing that Stern will cancel all of the games through Christmas. Day 132 of the lockout is important because the 50-50 deal that the owners have pushed for is within reach if they’re willing to back off on some of their system demands. If the owners budge, we could have an agreement by this time tomorrow.
Kessler Makes “Plantation Workers” Comment: Months after Bryant Gumbel was criticized for referring to David Stern as a “modern plantation overseer,” the NBBA’s lead attorney Jeffery Kessler made a similar comment during an interview with the Washington Post on Tuesday.
“To present that in the context of ‘take it or leave it,’ in our view, that is not good faith,” Kessler said. “Instead of treating the players like partners, they’re treating them like plantation workers.”
Billy Hunter and players distanced themselves from Gumbel’s quote last month, which makes Kessler’s comment so strange. When asked to respond to the statement, Stern had some harsh words of his own.
“Kessler’s agenda is always to inflame and not to make a deal,” Stern said, “even if it means injecting race and thereby insulting his own clients. … He has been the single most divisive force in our negotiations and it doesn’t surprise me he would rant and not talk about specifics. Kessler’s conduct is routinely despicable.”
Agents have been frustrated with Kessler’s actions and accessibility throughout this process. He has taken on a larger role in recent weeks and was the most animated of anyone after the NBA issued their ultimatum to the union.
“The players will not be intimidated,” Kessler said early Sunday after eight hours of negotiations. “They want to play, they want a season, but they are not going to sacrifice the future of all NBA players under these types of threats of intimidation. It’s not happening on Derek Fisher’s watch; it’s not happening on Billy Hunter’s watch; it’s not happening on the watch of this executive committee.”
Kessler has stirred the pot recently, but he’s been one of many characters to emerge during these talks.
Agents Upset With Hardline Owners: Throughout these negotiations, there have been several owners who have been viewed as villains. They’ve been blamed by the fans and endlessly criticized, but cannot respond to the attacks because of the NBA’s gag order.
Paul Allen, one of the richest owners, has joined forces with the hardline owners and tried to intimidate the union with the silent treatment. Michael Jordan has also aligned himself with the hardline owners, leading the way according to several reports. Other owners such as Dan Gilbert, Robert Sarver and Peter Holt have also received plenty of criticism for their stances and strange quotes.
But fans aren’t the only ones upset with these owners. Players and agents are just as frustrated, and one agent tells HOOPSWORLD that they’ll remember their actions long after the lockout comes to an end.
“I don’t want any of my clients playing for Michael Jordan, Paul Allen, Robert Sarver, Dan Gilbert or Peter Holt,” said one agent. “We won’t sign with them, unless they’re willing to really overpay. That’s going to be the only way these hardline owners are going to land any free agents after the way they’ve handled these negotiations.”
These small-market teams have a hard enough time trying to attract free agents. It won’t be any easier now thanks to the way the hardline owners have been depicted throughout this process.
HOOPSWORLD Chats: There are two chats on today’s schedule. HOOPSWORLD’s salary cap and CBA guru Larry Coon will kick things off at 3 p.m. ET with his weekly chat. Up next, HOOPSWORLD’s Mark Nugent will be answering your questions at 5 p.m. ET. Submit your questions early because these chats fill up fast. To view all of HOOPSWORLD’s upcoming chats, click here.