NBA basketball

Labor talks focused on mid-level exception, 66-game season


As PBT and other outlets have already reported, the attorneys for the NBA owners and players are talking Wednesday.

The goal — to reach a deal in the next few days, one that can have the NBA starting games on Christmas Day. That’s the day seen as the NBA’s second opening day by many around the league, the day of the first games on national broadcast television when more casual fans start to really notice the league. It’s a day of marquee matchups — the scheduled ones this season were Boston at New York, Miami at Dallas (a finals rematch) and finally Chicago at the Los Angeles Lakers.

However, this week’s talks are a little different than previous ones — were always a lot of attorneys in the negotiating room, but now they are the ones driving the bus. The question becomes are they able to drive it to a deal?

Here are three update notes out of the talks.

First, David Stern is canvasing owners to see if he can offer the full mid-level exception to all teams regardless of where they are on the luxury tax scale, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

The MLE was a sticking point in the last talks. The players want higher spending teams — the taxpayers such as the Lakers and Mavericks — to have the ability to spend the MLE to bring in role players to go around their stars. The owners did not want that — the hardliners want to rein in the spending of the bigger market teams and saw this as a way. The owners proposal called for a mini mid-level of $3 million that could not be used every year.

The second note is that if a deal can be struck this weekend and games would start Christmas day, there would be a 66-game season, according to Howard Beck of the New York Times.

That would be a more condensed schedule than the 50-game one of the 1999 season, which saw back-to-back-to back games for teams. Teams will get tired and worn down in that schedule.

Third, and finally, remember that this is not a labor negotiation any longer. It is a bit of semantics, but this is now a lawsuit settlement conference, the sides are talking about the terms to settle the NBA players’ antitrust lawsuits against the league.

Bottom line, if the attorneys can find a compromise on the key issues — division of revenues, structure for the salary cap and exceptions, etc… — then the union will be reformed (and the lawsuits dropped), the “B list” issues (draft age restrictions, drug testing, and the like) will be hammered out and the deal will be voted on by both sides. Games would start in a month.

For the fan, the function is the same, these are negotiations. But the language is different. It’s a bunch of lawyers.

Report: NBA owners, players have opened negotiations again

NBA & NBA Players Association Announce New CBA

Everybody wanted to see the NBA owners and players open up negotiations again — if there is any hope of NBA games on Christmas a deal is going to be need to be reached by the start of next week. Whether a judge ordered it or if someone just picked up the phone, it didn’t matter.

And they are talking again, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo. Here are his tweets.

NBA and players resumed talks on Tuesday to try and end the lockout before the cancellation of Christmas games, two sources told Y! Sports.

Talks were expected to continue today, sources said, and one league source tells Y!: “We should know more by later this evening.”

Derek Fisher isn’t a part of the talks now, sources say.

Technically these are “settlement negotiations” to end the players’ anti-trust lawsuits, so the talks are between the league and the attorneys for the players, as well as Billy Hunter (part of the NBA’s legal team). Fisher is currently president of a trade union not authorized to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement, so he has no seat at the table.

How the negotiations go may depend on what the sides see as the starting point. If the owners are still using the last offer David Stern made to the players — a 50/50 split of revenues and a soft cap with a stiff luxury tax — the sides may not be far apart. If Stern is at his “reset” offer of 47/53 revenue split with basically a hard cap, they are doomed. What’s more, union officials have suggested their best offer may have come off the table as well. We’ll see.

But at least they are talking. We are back to that.

Report: NBA owners, players reach out to 1999 dealmaker


You don’t know who Jim Quinn is, but he might be the one guy who can save an NBA season.

He’s done it before.

For two decades Quinn sat in Billy Hunter’s seat as director of the players union (well, Hunter’s old seat, there is no union any more, just a trade association since the “disclaimer of interest”). But he is a guy that the key players on both sides know and trust.

And he’s the guy who helped broker the deal the last time the NBA found itself losing games to a lockout, in the 1998-99 season.

Both sides have reached out to Quinn in recent days, reports Ken Berger at CBSSports.com.

Reached by CBSSports.com Tuesday at the offices of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, where he is a partner and chairman of the global litigation team, Quinn confirmed he has spoken with both Stern and NBPA director Billy Hunter since the collective bargaining process broke down and the union disclaimed — leading to multiple antitrust lawsuits.

Quinn characterized the conversations as “touchy-feely” and “off-the-record,” and said they have occurred “in the past number of days….

“I’ve always said that I’ll be helpful in any way I can be,” Quinn said. “Everyone would like to see that there is a season, so sure, I’d be helpful.”

Both owners and players have talked about the desire to make a deal — everyone gets the urgency. Everyone wants basketball back. And there is a sense that someone else needs to be in the room to get a deal done — federal mediator George Cohen seemed to move the sides somewhat toward some middle ground, but could not get them close enough in the end.

Maybe Quinn can be that guy. Maybe it will be another mediator. But a reasoned voice from the outside that guides the talks.

As a source close to the talks told ProBasketballTalk, there is growing pressure on both sides to make a deal. They are running out of time and a lost season would mean $2 billion in lost salaries to the players and about that much in lost revenue for the owners (under much more favorable labor terms). They realize the momentum the league built up is slipping away, and to allow the players case to slide toward summary judgment carries big risks for both sides.

Nobody wants that. Everyone would love to see NBA basketball on Christmas, but since it takes about 30 days from a handshake deal to the first games, so there isn’t much time. That is only going to happen if someone like Quinn can broker a deal. Fast. And even that may not be enough.