Tag: 2011 lockout

NBA And Player's Association Meet To Negotiate CBA

Bluffing or not, David Stern gets his deadline


For all of the emphasis on David Stern’s recent ultimatum to the members of the National Basketball Players Association, this is hardly the first time he’s issued a deadline threat against the union. The lockout has been laced with cancellation dates, each with the accompanying acknowledgement from Stern that the league’s offers would reflect the damage of games lost. That doesn’t seem to have been the case thus far, as the league’s stance has remained more or less the same. If anything, the offers have become more favorable for the players in recent weeks.

With all of that in mind, it’s natural to wonder if — as Henry Abbott discussed earlier this week on TrueHoop — Stern and the owners will actually follow through with their most recent threat: a reset to a 47-53 proposal that the union would likely never agree to. Stern’s threat record speaks pretty clearly, but there’s always the chance that this is where Stern and the owners legitimately draw the line. There’s a chance that for whatever reason, they’ve picked today, an otherwise nondescript November 9th, as the day when the fate of the basketball universe will be decided.

For all of the rhetoric about the union “calling Stern’s bluff,” this ultimatum has created a sense of urgency. The players may not have accepted the deal the NBA put on the table, but they’re still granting the ultimatum its gravity by rushing to scrap together a last-ditch attempt to negotiate out some system-related kinks.

Late Sunday night, Howard Beck of the New York Times wrote:

The union regards the deadline as artificial and believes the N.B.A. will return to the table.

If the players truly believe that, their actions betray their belief. The NBPA has responded to the NBA’s arbitrary deadline by formally meeting with the entire body of player representatives to discuss their options, and by returning to the table to discuss the league’s latest offer in an attempt to get the owners to move from their positions on a few holdout issues. The players have done a terrific job of flipping the lockout narrative in the process, but they’ve also made the deadline anything but artificial. Stern aimed to make today a critical point in the negotiations when he made his ultimatum, and it has become just that. At this point, no one can say how this otherwise nondescript November 9th will actually turn out, but a threat — legitimate or not — has pushed both parties back into the negotiating room to stave off an “artificial” deadline. Here’s hoping that we’ll never learn the substance of that now infamous ultimatum.

Wizards rookie Chris Singleton shows some perspective on the lockout

Chris Singleton
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The NBPA hasn’t done the best job of managing their PR front. David Stern has done his damnedest to control the public message of the lockout, all while the factions that have reportedly formed among the players threaten to decertify the union entirely and rip the 2011-2012 season apart.

Yet individually, the lockout has provided certain players a chance to show their reasonable perspectives, in spite of the ridiculous actions and comments of their peers and negotiating opponents. For every JaVale McGee there is a Shane Battier or a Raja Bell – a player in a non-leadership role who demonstrates an awareness and an understanding of the negotiations and the lockout’s sticking points.

Among that group is Wizards rookie Chris Singleton, who, in an interview with Jared Zwerling for TrueHoop, gave some thoughtful answers to questions about the players’ position in the lockout, and the nature of an inevitable deal that they’ll eventually have little choice but to accept:

Are any of the players saying to each other, “Let’s just get this thing over with and earn your stripes on the court to make that extra million or two you think you deserve?” 

I mean, that’s in some peoples’ minds, but our board members are just trying to do the best for everybody. You know the superstars are going to get their money. We’re trying to see how much the max contracts are going to be. I feel like the superstars are going to be fine, but it’s just how much money are the owners wiling to put out now? They’ve given 15 to 20 million — some ridiculous amount — to some people who don’t even play 85 percent of the season. You’ve got to go out there and earn it; that’s how I feel. But, I mean, we’re together and I’m behind whatever they do.

Do you think the owners are trying to get the players to cave in? Is there any thought from the players that you won’t get the best deal once you start missing paychecks? 

I mean, we’re not going to get the best deal. We’re not going to get the deal we hoped for. It’s a business, I know that. I’m just hoping that it’s something that works out for both sides.

What has the experience of the lockout taught you? 

I don’t take for granted the opportunity that I have every day to be able to go out and showcase my abilities to the fans who are watching. I just take it all in and just try to be the best person I can be, the best player I can be. You grow up faster, especially because you don’t have anything. You’re depending on a check. That’s why you get a job; you try to earn a living. I have a job, I have a title, but I don’t get compensated by the league.

There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but that in itself may be notable. The NBA’s PR front would love nothing more than to have us all believe that the players are not only the problem, but oblivious to the actual goings-on of the negotiating process and the economics of a deal. Demonizing the locked out party — or at least framing them as inept — is one of the only ways to justify the league’s actions without being tagged as “greedy.” If the public thinks that the players just don’t get it, they’ll naturally side with the financially sound businessmen who are shackled from success by an allegedly broken system. Players salaries are rising! Look at the difference between the Lakers and Kings! We’ve heard it all before, framed so conveniently to exclude pesky facts and context.

Singleton, and his many informed peers, stand antithetical to the perception that the league strives for. The players may have conflict within their ranks, but that dissensions shouldn’t be confused with incompetence, even if it does stifle their efficacy. The players have reportedly made concessions in almost every area of the negotiations. They’ve made legitimate strides toward a potential deal. Yet Singleton knows and willingly tells us that the players aren’t going to get the kind of agreement they had hoped for — a softer contrast to the owners’ hard line. He may not be deeply involved in the negotiating process, but he shows flexibility and perspective, things which — although the league’s spin machine would have you believe otherwise — aren’t at all uncommon among the player ranks.

Chauncey Billups doesn’t trust players’ collective ability to remain strong for a full season


This lockout has never been as simple as one side negotiating against another in an effort to produce a fair deal. There are a number of factors circling the negotiations that inevitably have an impact on their progress and timeline. The NBPA still holds the threat of decertification, a breaking point from which there is no coming back. The NBA itself continues a campaign of half-truths and misinformation, as every press conference is turned into an opportunity to shape the opinions of the general public. The legal system attempts to unravel this mess from one end, and ineffective National Labor Relations Board hearings try to do so from the other.

All while the players fail to escape the most basic of lockout truths: due to simple economics, their adversaries are much more equipped to deal with a lockout than they are. Not only will the NBA’s offers get progressively worse as more and more games are missed, but those lost paychecks will hit some players hard and others harder. Chauncey Billups spoke on that subject when he joined Stephen A. Smith on ESPN Radio in New York (via Sports Radio Interviews):

What are you hearing from other players? Is it getting to a point where they feel like it’s just time to make a deal even if it’s a 50-50 split because it’s better than no deal at all?:

“Honestly, you’ve got 400-some players and obviously the general body of the league are not in my position … that are maybe as in stable position of myself or some of the older, aging veterans. We have to be sensitive to the fact that some of those guys are young, although we, for the last two and a half, three years, said, ‘Prepare yourself; save your money.’ … We’ve got to know that some guys didn’t. … Then you’ve the guys that are really, really involved in the situation saying, ‘No, you don’t really understand what that 50-50′s really going to do going forward. You’re just worried about today.”

…Do you expect there to be a season?:

“Man, I think the only way I can really answer that question is just with being hopeful and saying, ‘Yeah, I hope so.’ I hope so, but I could see it going either way.”

You really think the players would be able to do that?:

“I’ve spoken to a lot of players and I could see a lot of players wanting to do that. If you’re asking me if the general body of the NBA is willing to do that, willing to lose a year’s salary, I don’t think guys would be willing to do that. That’s going to be a position and a bridge that we’re going to have to cross when we come that.”

Billups is merely articulating what most of us already know, but it’s an important point that shouldn’t be forgotten at any stage in these negotiations. Even with help from the Kobe Bryants of the bunch, there will be players who didn’t prepare well enough for the lockout, there are those who are still on their rookie deals and didn’t heed warnings to save, and there are minimum salary guys who simply may not have the coin on hand. The ticking of the negotiating clock is audible; the players have only so long before the union’s internal pressures reach their brink, and when that moment comes, all bets are off. Maybe the players will buckle and take a poor deal, or maybe they’ll decertify in desperation. All we know is that things are only going to get more tense for the players as the conversation continues, making each meeting in the short-term all the more valuable.

After deliberation, lockout negotiators decide not to bring back federal mediator George Cohen

George Cohen

UPDATE (7:24 PM): Per Howard Beck of the New York Times, George Cohen will not be coming back to the collective bargaining sessions after all. Plus, there remains no scheduled time or date for the resumption of talks. Delightful news all around.

2:18 PM: The negotiations to end the NBA lockout are not ongoing — in fact, at present, anything but going. Representatives of the league and the NBPA aren’t camped out in a room for marathon sessions, nor are such sessions even planned. Everything is quiet, and yet the revenue split between the two parties hangs in the air. The 2.5 percentage points of basketball-related income (BRI) that separate the NBA and the union nudge actual basketball just out of reach, and for the moment there aren’t even discussions on how best to deal with that gap.

Yet the leadership on both sides of the negotiations know that more talks are the only way to produce an agreement, even if there’s currently a bit of a stalemate. More meetings are an inevitability; we may not know precisely when the gang will get back together again, but we can say with confidence that they will.

And this time around, they may have another appearance from a recurring guest. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, George Cohen, the federal mediator who guided talks between the NBA and NBPA two weeks ago, may be brought back to facilitate further negotiations. Considering how quickly previous discussions seemed to implode once the subject of BRI was breached, I’d say some mediation — of the federal, or just about any other variety — is precisely what these negotiations need. Both sides have claimed a hard line, but waiting for the other party to break isn’t a negotiation at all. The NBA and NBPA obviously want a deal that’s financially sound from their perspective, but one has to believe that there is some middle ground that can be reached without one side or another “winning” the lockout negotiation outright by way of the other finally breaking.

Cohen isn’t likely to arrive to any negotiation with that solution in his pocket, but he could bring a new tone to a negotiation process that failed to capitalize on last week’s incredible momentum.

Players have avoided getting their hands dirty, but will the PR high road pay off?

Derek Fisher, Spencer Hawes, Maurice Evans
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A dozen radio shows play soundbites of his voice on loop. There’s talk of competitive equity, of the struggling economy, and of players with inflated contracts. One calm voice meanders through accusation after accusation, and countless listeners on a dozen frequencies swim in the carefully manufactured bile. Somewhere, David Stern cracks a slight, sly smile.

The NBA has been on an all-out offensive over the last 48 hours, with Stern acting as a mouthpiece for the league’s owners. He’s been on major media channels of all kinds offering something that only vaguely resembles the truth, all while Billy Hunter, Derek Fisher, and virtually all of the members of the NBPA have remained civil. The attack rhetoric has been largely one-sided, and the players — by design — have opted to maintain an air of professionalism. Dwyane Wade noted as such to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

Wade said the NBA has done an “amazing” job in getting its message out to basketball fans during the lockout. Players, he said, have not wanted to take the same approach as the NBA on the battle of perception.

“We haven’t done a great job of complaining,” Wade said. “That’s what the NBA has done, they’ve done a great job of complaining. We haven’t done a great job of that so no one sees our side. They more so see the owners’ side.”

…”Not at one point have we asked for more money,” Wade said. “I’ve heard people say ‘The players are being greedy.’ How are we being greedy? … People need to get in a room and understand what really needs to be done so everyone – not just the owners, not just the players – can continue to grow with the game. That’s where we’ve got to come to an agreement.”

The players’ general lockout strategy may not be perfect, but there is some nobility in this particular element of it. Compromise is a tough sell when one group is publicly antagonizing the other, and though both parties agreed to a more peaceful media approach just weeks ago, Stern has already reverted form. The man creates rules and violates them, just as he knows the facts and chooses to publicly skew them. That kind of disingenuous behavior isn’t a good look for Stern, but it may not matter; the owners’ message is the only message, and a general public with quick tongues and a poor understanding of the lockout (as evidenced by the many still calling this a “strike,” or citing player greed) will soon replicate Stern’s soundbites. The players are trusting the fans and remaining professional, but that path could end up burning them. The high road has its costs, and we’ll soon find out if the players are willing to continue paying them.

It’s unknown exactly how the lockout’s PR front has or will affect things at the negotiating table, but it seems fairly unlikely that those outside of an informed minority will ever know of Stern’s insidious spin. He’ll continue to spew falsehoods at little risk, and it’s up to the Union to decide if they’re willing to sink to Stern’s level and play his game. Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter appeared fairly frustrated with the nature of Stern’s comments and gestures after the Union meeting on Friday, but whether their reactions were a brief slip or the beginning of something more remains to be seen. The NBPA’s leadership has some soul-searching to do.