This is good. There is a growing sense of optimism from both the NBA owners and players sides that a deal is there to be had — and now they are both actually working hard toward it.
Less than 11 hours after they walked away from the bargaining table at 3 a.m. Thursday morning, representatives of the NBA owners and players returned to the conference room of a fancy New York hotel to complain about their financial pain.
Sure, there’s some irony there, but in a 15-hour session yesterday the two sides made progress on key system issues. Issues such as contract length, the mid-level exception and other issues that will be the framework of a new labor deal saw progress.
How much progress depends on who you ask. You’ll hear “some” in certain quarters, “significant” in others. Either way, it’s progress and we’ll take it. Especially after talks blew up last Thursday and a storm of pessimism swept over the NBA landscape.
But know there are three key hurdles yet to clear.
First is the luxury tax. The owners want a more punitive tax to keep the highest-spending teams in line, the players do not. Zach Lowe sums it up well at Sports Illustrated.
Sources close to the talks indicated last Thursday that the league had softened the tax ratios, but that the multiplying penalties for routine payers remained. A source close to the talks tells me that remains true today-that the league has stood by the multiplied penalties for teams that pay the tax three or more times during a five-year span.
Second remains the split of “basketball related income, or BRI, which is the revenue that flows into the league. There are those that believe that if a system framework can be put in place, the BRI will slide right into that and not remain such a huge issue. Or to be honest, if the players feel they can get enough give from the owners on the system issues they’ll come down closer to or at the 50 percent the owners want. The players’ only real leverage is to give up points of BRI to get system gains. That’s what they are trying to do, but the players have yet to come down from 52.5 percent of BRI — which is a $100 million difference from the owners offer. That’s a lot of cash. This will not be that easy to close.
Finally, whatever deal is struck is going to leave both sides unhappy. Which is how a good negotiations usually ends. But both Commissioner David Stern and union head Billy Hunter are going to have to sell this deal to their hardline constituents. When larger groups have gotten involved in the past is when talks have blown up. That is a risk again.
But, for the second straight day they are talking. Which is good.