George Cohen, the federal mediator who led intense discussions between the NBA and players union several weeks back, will be in the room again Saturday.
That’s what Chris Broussard of ESPN reports, confirmed by an NBA spokesman.
Cohen led the two sides through 30 hours of negotiations in three days, when some of the most progress was made during the lockout. However, when everything went south he seemed to throw up his hands and walk away in frustration.
Having Cohen back in the room — a room filled with large groups — could help keep the discussion on point. That said, he can’t force the sides to make a deal. If both sides are not willing to come together and make a deal, Cohen can’t force them.
Still, they made progress last time he worked in this room. So, if you feel optimistic run with it.
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.
The reviews of federal mediator George Cohen from both sides out of the 30 hours of NBA labor negotiations this week were positive. They said he was able to take the emotions out of the talks, made progress on smaller issues and tried to build momentum to big ones.
Then it all blew apart today, and Cohen basically threw up his hands and walked out of the room.
He was a lot more kind than that officially, but read his statement below and tell me that’s not what you take away from it.
“As a follow up to the NBA’s and NBA Players Association agreeing to my invitation to conduct negotiations under the auspices of the FMCS, three days of mediation have taken place. During this period, a wide variety of issues were addressed in a professional, thoughtful manner, consistent with what one would expect to take place in a constructive collective bargaining setting.
“Regrettably, however, the parties have not achieved an overall agreement, nor have they been able to resolve the strongly held, competing positions that separated them on core issues.
“In these circumstances, after carefully reviewing all of the events that have transpired, it is the considered judgment of myself and Deputy Director Scot Beckenbaugh, who has been engaged with me throughout this process, that no useful purpose would be served by requesting the parties to continue the mediation process at this time. For our part, the Agency has advised the parties that we will be willing and prepared to continue to facilitate any future discussions upon their mutual request.”
In other words: “We give up, you’re on your own.”
Which is bad, bad news for NBA fans.