Mark Cuban, David Stern

Okay owners, time for you to give a little and make the deal


It’s really this simple:

If the players have come to 50/50 in terms of a basketball related income split, this is all on the owners. If negotiations fail Wednesday it is on ownership. If there is no season blame Michael Jordan not Derrick Rose. Blame Robert Sarver not Steve Nash. Blame Dan Gilbert not LeBron James.

The owners claim to have lost $300 million last season. If the players come to 50/50 — as they implied they would after their meeting on Tuesday — then that is about $300 million in last season’s dollars and about $3.3 billion in a 10-year deal. They have covered the losses. The players have given up cold hard cash out of their pockets to make the league profitable for the owners.

What do the players want — to keep some freedom of movement so they can work where they want. Which is something we all can relate to. In a free country we should be able to sacrifice money to work in better conditions and live where we want if we so choose. That’s capitalism at work. Freedom of choices.

Howard Beck of the New York Times put the owner’s situation well in a late night tweet Tuesday.

Is it worth losing season over whether taxpaying teams get to do sign-and-trades and have full midlevel exceptions?

That’s what it has come down to — system issues. Frankly, minor ones. There have been five teams paying the luxury tax who have done sign-and-trades to bring in a player in the last six years, and one of those was the Knicks getting Eddy Curry. Is that what you are going to lose a season over? Are the owners going to lose a season over whether the Lakers can go out and get Steve Blake one year? Really?

Yes there are luxury tax and escrow issues, but those are solvable.

It was much earlier in the process when we posted about “the ultimate game” — an economic theory that people will reject a deal that favors them if they think it is unfair. That’s how the players feel right now. So they stand and fight. The owners have to give the players a way to save face, they have to give a little so the union can sell this as a win. Do that and this ends.

That means agreeing to a meeting. That means telling the hardliners they have gotten enough and to shut up (we’re looking at you MJ). It’s time to really negotiate, make a deal and end this.

Not that it’s going to happen. The owners are wildly unpredictable right now. They might not even meet with the players. But that’s what should happen.

It’s time to make a deal.

Union wants to negotiate, Stern says no wiggle room in offer


After a long day of negotiations through the media, we stand looking off the cliff of a lost NBA season, and there are not a lot of positive signs on the horizon. Here are where things stand as of this writing.

First, there are no meetings planned between the owners and players union for Wednesday. That may still happen, but as of right now nothing is set. It’s pretty hard to strike a deal if you are not talking, so consider this the first bad omen.

On Tuesday NBA players’ union team representatives met, rejected the owners offer on the table and said they wanted more negotiations. According to tweets from Marc Stein at ESPN, the consensus at that meeting was to go with the 50/50 split of league revenues the owners want if the owners will give a few more things on system issues.

Then just more than an hour later David Stern went on NBA TV and said the owners were not changing their offer. At all. Neither system or revenue. When David Aldridge asked Stern if there was wiggle room on the owners offer, he replied:

“As of Sunday morning at 3 in the morning there was none left.”

Stern cleverly used a phrasing to suggest things could change, but don’t bet on it. The offer may be the offer. Stein says union reps were told that the league would be able to pass the offer on the table by a 17-13 vote (one of those yes votes coming from the league, which currently owns the Hornets). That’s not a lot of margin to be selling more change to the deal.

If the offer does not change, the players will not take it.

Then Stern has said he and the owners will revert to a rollback offer that includes player salary rollbacks, a hard salary cap, the players getting 47 percent of league revenues and other things the players would outright reject and be willing to lose a season to avoid. Basically, Stern would let his hardliners win.

That would spark the decertification on the union process — Paul Pierce and supporters of decertification reportedly have enough signatures to force a vote. They needed 30 percent of the union, which is about 130 players, and reportedly they have more than 200 signatures. Which is something union director Billy Hunter told CBSSports.com he was fine with.

“Listen, I’m cool with Paul and all these guys. I think it’s very important. I’m happy that Paul and the others are involved in the process. That’s always been the problem with athletes, that a lot of stuff is foisted on them and they have no input. Paul has been actively engaged, he understands, he’s been in five or six of our negotiating sessions, he talks to me, and when they had the (decertification) calls, he called and let me know that they were having the calls. And I said, ‘Hey, I’m not at all opposed to you doing that.’ … I endorse what Paul did.”

It would take about 45 to 60 days between when the players filed a signed petition with the National Labor Relations Board asking for a vote on decertification and when the actual vote would take place. That would leave a window for more negotiations. But if the owners really stick with their rollback plan there will not be much to talk about — a hard salary and salary rollbacks are the kind of thing the players will stay out for a season over. And decertify over.

As CBA expert Larry Coon told us, the likelihood of the players voting to blow up the union would depend on when the vote takes place. If it is before the league’s deadline to cancel the season it might be hard to get the votes, but after the players likely would vote to decertify and sue the league on anti-trust grounds.

All this means that Wednesday the sides need to sit down, treat each other like adults for a change, and pound out a compromise deal.

I wouldn’t bet on it happening, though.

Union attorney says owners treat players like “plantation workers”

NBA Commissioner Stern holds a news conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals basketball series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat in Miami

In case you think the NBA owners and players might tone down the rhetoric and start to negotiate like adults, we bring you this.

Union attorney Jeffrey Kessler — one of the top sports labor attorneys and the nation — went back to the “plantation” reference with NBA Commissioner David Stern (as Bryant Gumbel had done), and Stern responded with plenty of venom of his own.

The Washington Post has the gory details, starting with Kessler’s thoughts on Stern’s ultimatium.

“To present that in the context of ‘take it or leave it,’ in our view, that is not good faith,” Kessler, who also represented the NFL players in their labor dispute with the NFL, said in a telephone interview Monday night. “Instead of treating the players like partners, they’re treating them like plantation workers.”

In a phone call Tuesday, Stern blamed Kessler for the stalled talks and said he deserved to be “called to task” for the remark.

“Kessler’s agenda is always to inflame and not to make a deal,” Stern said, “even if it means injecting race and thereby insulting his own clients. . . . He has been the single most divisive force in our negotiations and it doesn’t surprise me he would rant and not talk about specifics. Kessler’s conduct is routinely despicable.”

Stern and the owners don’t really like Kessler, in case you didn’t pick up on that. The league’s pre-emptive lawsuit trying to block union decertification (filed months ago) mentioned Kessler by name a number of times.

With the NBA and its players flirting with Armageddon, this kind of inflammatory language just makes it harder to get a deal done. Plantation — meaning slavery — references always bring a lot of baggage with them. While you can try to make a contextual argument, it’s hard to do when the median salary in the NBA was $2.3 million last season.

In the end, Kessler and Stern have to sit in a room together and pound out a deal if an NBA season is to be saved. And right now, they are acting like four year olds fighting over Halloween candy. Sadly, we can’t just send them both to their room for a timeout.

Hunter: League about to cancel games through Christmas


Bah humbug.

Among all the information thrown out there during the NBA players union press conference rejecting David Stern’s ultimatum offer, there was this little bit from director Billy Hunter:

He has heard the league is going to cancel games through Christmas if there is no deal by 5 p.m. Wednesday (his drop-dead date).

The league denied that is the case.

But it’s getting close to that time. Even if the two sides reached a deal this week it would take about 30 days to ramp up and have regular season games. That already leaves very little margin for error to get a deal done and games on Christmas.

And Christmas is huge — it is a second opening day for the league. It is the first games on national broadcast television. It is when the average NBA fan really starts to pay attention.

Miss Christmas Day and that is a huge black eye for the league.

Not that the hardline owners care.

Bill Clinton walked into NBA union’s press conference. Yes, really.


Is Bill Clinton now down with the NBA players? And if so, does that really help their cause against a bunch of Republican team owners?

During the media scrum that followed the NBA players union’s press conference Wednesday, in strolled former president Clinton. He came to see fellow Arkansas native Derek Fisher and according to a tweet from Howard Beck of the New York Times told him:

“Now you know how I felt all those years.”

Reports say the players were pretty much star struck and a few (including Blake Griffin) asked the former president to sign a copy of his book, ironically titled “Back to Work.”

It’s all very surreal.

The photo with this story is courtesy the twitter account of Alan Hahn of Newsday.