Tag: NBA owners

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.

DeShawn Stevenson is frustrated, rips Billy Hunter

Miami Heat v Dallas Mavericks - Game Five

Dallas Mavericks players maybe more frustrated with the lockout than anyone. This season was to be their coronation — Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd and a team full of guys who worked hard, won an NBA title and…

No banner to the rafter. No rings. Just lost momentum.

A couple of them spoke with Marc Spears of Yahoo and vented that frustration — nobody more so than DeShawn Stevenson.

“For me, personally, I don’t think there will be a season,” Mavericks guard DeShawn Stevenson said recently at Drew Gooden’s Make-A-Wish charity game. “Right now there is just a lot of bad blood and [the owners] keep putting offers out that we’re rejecting. So we’re not going anywhere….

“I felt like we should have decertified in July,” Stevenson said. “I feel like Billy Hunter is doing a horrible job because basically now [the owners] know our hand. The media knows our hand. The owners know our hand.”

Stevenson, I get your anger and frustration. But I think it’s misplaced here.

It would be a mistake to assume that it was Billy Hunter’s plan to answer David Stern’s ultimatum with a “disclaimer of interest.” Here is the thing — Hunter works for the players (the same way David Stern works for the owners). At the end of the day, he has to do what they want. If he wants to send a counterproposal to David Stern and the 30 team representatives say, “no, we want the disclaimer of interest” then the disclaimer it is.

In the end, the player reps voted unanimously for the disclaimer. If Stevenson wants to be angry with someone, it should be Mavs team rep Jason Terry who voted for this plan of action. And Terry told Spears he’d do it again.

One reason why Terry was glad the players rejected the owners’ most recent offer: Under it, he thought the Mavs would have a tough time keeping some of their core contributors. While Nowitzki, Terry, Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd are under contract, the Mavs have a long list of free agents that include Stevenson, center Tyson Chandler, guard Jose Juan Barea and forwards Caron Butler, Brian Cardinal and Peja Stojakovic.

“Look at our roster,” Terry said. “Free agency is going to hit us hard. We don’t know what our team is going to look like.”

The fact is now nobody is talking. Maybe the union’s attorneys will call the league attorneys soon and set up a settlement conference, if not that a judge will force the two sides to talk again, a source close to the negotiations told PBT.

But when that happens the attorneys — including Stern and Hunter — have to strike a deal both sides will ratify. And right now they can’t get their people to a middle ground compromise.

Players consolidate lawsuits, but court ordered talks best hope


If you were holding out hope that David Stern and Billy Hunter were going to be having pleasant phone conversations over the holiday weekend, and that the NBA on Christmas still could happen, well, we’re sorry.

The next NBA owners and players negotiations will likely be because a judge ordered them, a source close to the labor dispute told ProBasketballTalk.

Those talks — and maybe a settlement out of them — would happen in the coming weeks, in time to have a partial NBA season. And when those talks start there will be significant pressure on both sides to reach an agreement, more than there has been at any point up to now.

On Monday, the players voluntarily withdrew their case in Northern California and will amend their case in Minnesota. It is now a consolidated case of the two, but still a class action on behalf of the players, something attorneys for the players said would speed the process along. Carmelo Anthony remains the first name on the lawsuit, other players listed include Chauncey Billups, Kevin Durant, Steve Nash, Rajon Rondo and more.

The league responded to that with some legal jabs, because that’s what they do.

“We assume that (lead players attorney David) Boies was not happy with either the reassignment of the case from Oakland to San Francisco or the fact that the new judge scheduled the first conference for March 2012,” said Rick Buchanan, NBA Executive Vice President and General Counsel. “This is consistent with Mr. Boies’ inappropriate shopping for a forum that he can only hope will be friendlier to his baseless legal claims.”

The league was forum shopping with its preemptive lawsuit back in August, but whatever. The league has until Dec. 5 to answer the claim, they likely will do by calling the union’s “disclaimer of interest” a sham. Bottom line for fans, if it comes to the judge deciding this case you can kiss the current season goodbye. Fans need to hope for a different resolution.

Over the weekend, we had passed along a report that there had been some recent “back channel” negotiations going on between the league and the players association.

That talk is “nothing significant” PBT was told. That’s not going to help.

Instead the battle remains on the antitrust legal front. The players’ attorneys are pushing for summary judgment (not an injunction, as the NFL tried and failed to get). Still, summary judgment hearings would not happen until the spring (April or May), which means by then the 2011-12 NBA season would be lost.

Hope of a partial season springs from the fact in the next few weeks (likely after Dec. 5) we can expect the judge to order more mediated negotiations between the two sides, PBT was told. Mandated mediation is commonly part of anti-trust lawsuits, essentially a chance for the judge to make sure the two sides really want to go down this path. To give the sides one more chance to settle their differences without a judge involved. (It is possible one side picks up the phone and calls the other to ask for a negotiating session, but that is the less likely scenario. The owners have said they wouldn’t do that and players attorney Boies said he would not because the league is not receptive.)

A judge likely will order mediated negotiations by the middle of December if not before, according to the source. Talks would start soon after. This would be similar to the talks when federal mediator George Cohen sat down with the sides last month.

The one key difference would be the level of pressure on both sides to figure this out — the players do not want to lose a season of salary ($2.2 billion), the owners do not want to lose a season of revenue (at a much higher percentage for them than the last deal), plus neither side wants to damage the game by costing a full season. What is the point of fighting over how to divide up the revenue pie if the pie itself gets smaller?

In addition, the threat of summary judgment — which would certainly be a huge loss for whichever side did not convince the judge of its case — is another motivation for both sides to figure this out.

The challenge is that people from both the owners and players have suggested they will come into the next negotiations with the last offer they made off the table. Stern has threatened a “reset” offer of 47 percent of BRI for the players and a “flex cap” that is really a hard cap. The players have suggested in kind their last offer of a 50/50 BRI split with more system issues leaning in their favor is something the owners may never see again.

This is not where either side wanted to end up. Union officials have said that the disclaimer of interest was the route of last resort — they wanted to negotiate in good faith. That’s why they didn’t decertify in July or August, they thought this could be worked out. After David Stern’s last ultimatum they felt they had no choice. League officials will tell you they expected this — which is why they filed a preemptive suit back in August — and that the union had bad timing to do disclaim interest now. The league says it has given far more than many owners wanted just to make a deal.

For better or worse, the courts are involved now. For fans they can just hope that the upcoming mediation sessions will turn out different than the last ones.