The National Basketball Players Association needs a new plan to push the owners to compromise, get a deal they can live with and end the NBA lockout.
But first, they have to stop fighting amongst themselves.
The union’s executive board is set to meet Thursday in New York. That means union president Derek Fisher, long time director Billy Hunter and eight other players in a room together.
First order of business, making sure the rift between Fisher and Hunter has closed. That rift came to light Saturday with a Fox Sports report that Fisher had secret meetings with David Stern and was trying to broker a deal on the side. Everything comes down to the split of basketball related income (or league revenue) the players will get in the new deal — the owners are offering 50/50 (after they get expenses off the top); the union officially says they have come down to 52.5 percent, after getting 57 percent in the old deal, and that is enough.
Howard Beck at the New York Times explains the rest from his sources.
According to a person with ties to both men, Fisher believes that a 50-50 deal should at least be considered, if it would salvage more of the season. Hunter is more adamant about holding firm, believing the long-term gain justifies the short-term losses….
The picture is also muddled at the bargaining table, where Jeffrey Kessler, the union’s outside counsel (and a 52.5 percent hardliner), serves as the lead negotiator. According to people involved in the talks, Kessler does 80 percent of the speaking, while Hunter, who has a reputation for not being detail-oriented, takes a secondary role.
The rift between Fisher and Hunter’s positions has spilled over to the players speaking out. Some players are saying to end this and that 50/50 is fine, while others say Fisher should not be the one working side deals.
The union division even worries the league — they can’t strike a deal with a fractured union. Both Fisher and Hunter need to be unified in any deal made to be able to sell that to the players when it comes time to vote, right now it’s hard to see that happening.
Which makes Thursday’s meeting key. The sides need to clear the air (something the NY Times reports happened Tuesday in a conference call) and get on the same page. Then they have to figure out their next plan of attack in these talks. Because whatever deal the players strike will impact salaries and player movement for at least another six years and maybe a decade.