NBA PM: Owners Won’t Back Off Hard Cap?
If the NBA lockout were the NBA season, Tuesday’s meeting in New York could have been considered the conference finals.
With less than three weeks to go until training camps are scheduled to open, Tuesday’s negotiating session was crucial to keeping the season intact. And as HOOPSWORLD reported on Friday, there was some reason for optimism that this could be the day that the sides finally moved in the right direction. Sources told us, and several other outlets, that if the players would agree to the owners’ demands on a revenue split, the owners would likely walk away from their mechanical demands such as a hard salary cap, three-year deals and fewer guarantees in contracts.
Apparently that did not happen.
In a flurry of tweets and blog updates, the NBA’s prospect of having a full, 82-game season took a significant blow Tuesday afternoon.
“We’ve advised (NBA players) they may have to sit out half the season before we get a deal,” Players Association executive director Billy Hunter told reporters, as quoted by CBSsports.com’s Ken Berger.
Hunter said that he and the executive committee arrived at the meetings “intent” on “negotiating” and “prepared to compromise,” but left the meeting feeling “pessimistic.”
“The owners are unwilling to move off of the position on which they’ve anchored themselves,” he added. “As of this moment, there doesn’t appear to be any progress that we can predict.”
Essentially, as HOOPSWORLD’s Steve Kyler mapped out on his Twitter account and in another piece, the union was willing to make the necessary revenue concessions, but the owners still insisted upon dramatic changes from the previous collective bargaining agreement. According to many reports, the insistence on a hard salary cap was the major sticking point. But these reports don’t necessarily mean that the owners walked away from anything they previously committed to. As commissioner David Stern has insisted throughout the process, there is no deal until there is one.
In his post-meeting statement, Stern said the goal is still to start the season on time, but denied reports that the Owners are still regurgitating the same proposal from back in June. Deputy commissioner Adam Silver complained that the players’ revenue concessions were “preconditioned for acceptance” that the new CBA would read much like the previous one (i.e., no hard cap). It’s not clear if all the owners agree on the need for a hard cap (Stern said the owners didn’t necessarily agree on all the “concepts”) but the commissioner did say the players’ refusal to accept that term amounts to an “emotional attachment.” (If that seems dismissive on Stern’s part, check out the next segment “Why is a Hard Cap Important” below.)
Hunter insists the union has not had any discussions about decertification while they await the National Labor Relations Board’s response to their unfair labor practices charge against the owners.
Without having made any progress Tuesday, the two sides don’t have any current plans for another negotiating session. Union president Derek Fisher said the players are “not walking away from the table,” but added, “We’re not marching towards a deal at this time or at any time we can predict.”
From here the players will hold a union in meeting on Thursday in Las Vegas, where many are currently training with Joe Abunassar, while the owners will hold a board of governors meeting in Dallas. The hope, at least from the players’ perspective, was that a vote could take place at the meeting. Instead, the meeting will cover a great many topics, but voting for an end to this problem will not be on the agenda.
Why are the Players Resisting a Hard Cap?
Sports Illustrated’s Zach Lowe did a great job of putting together some experts to explain why a hard cap—an idea Hunter calls “highly untenable”—is so important to NBA players. Two of his many answers are written below, but it’s definitely worth checking out the entire piece.
Gabe Feldman, law profession and sports law expert: “If the players were allowed to keep their current 57% but had to accept a hard cap, then I’m not sure the players would have as much of an issue. They are worried mostly about the combination of a hard cap and a lower percentage. But just taking the hard cap on its own, there would be less money to go around for the veteran fringe guys who are often overpaid at this point. The stars will get their money—it’s never the superstars who are hurt. But if you institute a strict payroll cap, there will be less money to go around.”
Mark Bartelstein, player agent: “A hard cap at the team level obviously takes away a tremendous amount of flexibility and movement. Everybody in the world wants to choose where they work. Maybe a player wants to play in a certain city or for a particular coach. If you make the system more restrictive with a hard salary cap, teams that are bumping up against that cap can’t go beyond it and pursue free agents. And suddenly there is no such thing as a free agent.”
By most accounts, the players are willing to concede to the owners’ demands on revenue share, but the hard cap is something else. A measure that some owners—not all—want so as to protect them from themselves could radically change the way teams are built.
Frank Lures Loyer from Nets to Pistons; P.J. Returns to Newark
Longtime Cincinnati Bearcats and New Jersey Nets assistant John Loyer is leaving Avery Johnson’s coaching staff to work for his old boss, Pistons coach Lawrence Frank, reports Colin Stephenson of The Star-Ledger.
“John Loyer is going to Detroit,” Johnson told reporters. “We’ll have Popeye Jones taking John’s spot. We’ll figure out where we go from there with the rest of the bench.”
Jones was with the team last season, but, as Stephenson pointed out, he sat in the second row on the bench. Now he’ll presumably be sitting up front with Johnson.
It’s obviously not a shock that Loyer would return to Frank, with whom he worked with in New Jersey, but there are some surprising rumblings that there could be sweeping changes to Johnson’s staff. Namely, former Seton Hall and veteran NBA coach P.J. Carlesimo has been named as a possible addition, reports Al Iannazzone of The Bergen Record. And that could leave last year’s head assistant, Sam Mitchell, without a role.
A source told HOOPSWORLD that Carlesimo has been mentioned, but decision has been made as of yet. Perhaps when we know there will be basketball in 2011-2012, we’ll find out just who Avery Johnson’s assistants will be.
Shaq Lands an Oreo’s Gig
America loves Shaquille O’Neal. Even though he’s retired from the NBA, sponsors are still lining up to have him endorse their products. Just check out this morning’s “Fox & Friends” where O’Neal plays one-on-one with the guy who isn’t Steve Doocy in an effort to get some press for Oreo’s cookies.
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