This was the one bit of good news — for the first time in two-and-a-half months the owners and players sat down in the same room and talked about a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Words like “amicable” and “thawed” were thrown around by Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (the union) in a post meeting press conference. He used nice words — as did union president Derek Fisher — to say that after this kind of meeting both sides may be more open to compromise down the line.
But nothing changed. At all.
That became more and more clear the more Hunter talked. Behind the soft words was the same message.
“If we have to give up a season to get a reasonable deal we can live with, we’re ready to go,” Hunter said. “We don’t want to, but if forced to do it we’ll suffer some pain.”
Both sides had large contingents at the meeting. No specifics were discussed at this meeting, this was more philosophical and having the two sides understand where each other are coming from, Hunter said. But that didn’t stop Fisher from getting in a little dig (with plenty of truth to it).
“We’ve actually had some of our owners say, basically, we need to be protected from ourselves,” he said.
There are not going to be any proposals going back and forth, rather the two sides are going to sit down in small groups over the coming weeks to discuss aspects of the deal. Meanwhile the union will continue to plan for a lockout, including working with banks to have loans available for players. Also the owners will give the union the combined financials for 09-10 season, helping to show the union their situation and why the players need to give something back.
Both sides understand there needs to be a change in the economic system to make it easier for more teams to turn a profit, especially when the economy is not booming. The disagreement is how to get there. The owners want to control costs more by reducing and limiting player salaries. The players counter that some owners are making plenty of money — Hunter called the Lakers new television deal, reportedly about $3 billion over 20 years, the elephant in the room — and that the owners need to have revenue sharing, not just put it back on the players.
They are still a long, long ways apart. But at least they are talking. That’s a start. Still, neither side really sounds ready to compromise (not in a meaningful way).
The lockout is coming people. Hunter was asked if this negotiation was going to go down to the wire.
“It always does,” he responded.
The thing is, the real wire is not July 1, when the lockout would start, but more like mid September when training camps and games start to become threatened.
Then we’ll see if the two sides have intentions to back up the nice words.