Tag: NBA Players Association


Tolliver admits union membership divided on next move

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Some NBA players want to put David Stern’s ultimatum offer to a vote, take it and get back on the court.

Some NBA players want to start the process to decertify the union and fight the owners fire with fire.

It leaves union president Derek Fisher and director Billy Hunter in a no win situation heading into Tuesday’s union player reps meeting — no matter the move they will make some players unhappy. But the divide among the membership is real, Timberwolves team representative Anthony Tolliver told the Star-Tribune.

“Pretty much everything is split,” he said on his way to the airport after playing in a charity game in Salt Lake City on Monday night. “Half of the people want to decertify. Half the people want to vote on it….

“Probably my best bet is to sit down and figure out what’s really important,” he said. “I don’t want to make any outlandish comments about it right now. I want to see what everybody else has to say before I decide what I want to do. At this point, I’m split down the middle like everybody else. I don’t know what I want to do.”

It’s not an easy choice. Stern’s offer is a radical change from the old system and a big loss for the players at the bargaining table. However, decertifying the union would start the clock toward a vote that would certainly end the season. As CBA expert Larry Coon told us, it is likely that the union would make sure the actual vote to decertify the season would come after the owners deadline to cancel the entire season — at that point there is nothing to lose by decertification.

But that decision needs to be made now. And there is a real divide in the union on what steps to take.

Owners, players may meet Tuesday. That would make Kobe happy.

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Two

What Kobe Bryant wants, Kobe Bryant gets.

Okay, it’s not that simple, but in this case it could be a good thing.

The NBA owners and players are trying to set up one last meeting before David Stern’s Wednesday deadline, reported Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The NBA and Players Association are discussing setting up a meeting for Tuesday to try and reach agreement on a labor deal, a league source told Yahoo! Sports. Nothing is finalized, but the sides were working toward having a session in New York before Wednesday’s league-imposed deadline for the union to accept the owners’ current offer.

They can’t make a deal if they aren’t in the same room talking to one another, so if they set this up it is a start. What preconditions could be on this meeting — after Stern’s ultimatium late Saturday night — are unknown. The union isn’t going to take Stern’s offer as is. But if the two sides talk maybe the system issues could be worked out, clearing the way for an agreement on basketball related income. It would mean both sides giving a little more, but hey miracles do happen.

And it would make Kobe happy.

He told Wojnarowski he just wants to see the two sides sit down and talk.

“We need for the two sides to get together again before Wednesday, because we’re too close to getting a deal done,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports on Monday. “We need to iron out the last system items and save this from spiraling into a nuclear winter.”

This is what the lockout has come to: Kobe Bryant has become the voice of concession and reason. Kobe and concession in the same sentence.

(Although this is very Kobe, he knows he is at the tail end of his career and he can’t win a ring or make personal scoring goals, like passing Jordan in total points, if he has to sit out a season.)

At this point, I am pleased when the two sides sit down in a room to talk. Not optimistic, but pleased. It’s the only way anything is going to get done.

Union membership clearly divided on Stern’s ultimatum

Derek Fisher, Billy Hunter

Union leadership is clear — they don’t like the latest offer from David Stern and the league. They think it is unfair. They don’t think the owners have given enough on system issues for the players to come down from getting 51 percent of league revenues (and plenty within union leadership don’t even want to go down to 51 percent). The union is not backing down from Stern’s threat of a worse deal to follow.

And union leadership does not have an obligation to present offers it thinks are bad ones to the membership for a vote. The leaders are elected to vet such offers for the union, that’s how a negotiation works.

But they do have an obligation to know the mood of their constituents, and right now the union is a divided group. There are plenty of players out there — many the “rank and file” NBA players — who would vote to take the deal and get out on the court. And they are speaking out.

Take this note from Kevin Martin as told by Sam Amick at Sports Illustrated.

“If you know for sure [the owners] are not moving, then you take the best deal possible,” Martin wrote in a text message to SI.com. “We are risking losing 20 to 25 percent of missed games that we’ll never get back, all over 2 percent [of basketball-related income] over an eight- to 10-year period [of the eventual collective bargaining agreement]. And let’s be honest: 60 to 70 percent of players won’t even be in the league when the next CBA comes around….

“My opinion — which is just one of 450 players — is that if it comes down to losing a season and 100 percent of the money, we all definitely have to sit down and think about reality. That doesn’t sound smart to possibly become part of the country’s growing unemployment rate.”

Lakers guard Steve Blake has been working the phones telling people around the league to push team rep’s to ask for a vote on Stern’s proposal, tweets Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Amick tweeted he spoke to agents representing 19 players, all of whom want to take the deal.

On the flip side, you have team reps reaching out to see if players favor decertification today. And you have plenty of players — particularly veterans and the elite players — who do not want to give in. There is this tweet from ESPN’s Chris Broussard.


It’s impossible to tell which side is in the majority (although Wojnarowski says more players would reject deal than take it) but clearly the union is divided. Which makes the job of Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter all the more difficult because they are going to have to sell the heck out of whatever decisions they make.

And that seems to embolden the owner hardliners, who want to pull back the offer on the table and really try to stick it to the union. To heck with the game, they want to win big.

Don’t expect to see the union calling for a vote on Stern’s proposal — union leadership would consider it a loss to put it to a vote. They are more likely to lean decertification and really fighting back.

Whatever happens in Tuesday’s union meeting, some people are going to be very unhappy. The union is not a unified front.

Salary rollbacks part of new owner offer to come Thursday

Padlock Arena AP

UPDATE 2:01 pm: Over at the New York Times, Howard Beck has gotten a hold of a copy of the letter David Stern sent to the union about their “reset” proposal.

Here are the “highlights” (or lowlights, if you wanted to see NBA basketball this season):

The “reset” proposal features a flex-cap system that contains an absolute salary ceiling — to be set $5 million above the average team salary. In addition, the N.B.A. would roll back existing contracts “in proportion to system changes in order to ensure sufficient market for free agents.”

¶ Maximum salaries would be reduced.

¶ Contracts would be limited to four years for “Bird” free agents and three years for others, but each team could give a five-year deal to one designated player.

¶ Raises would be limited to 4.5 percent for “Bird” players and 3.5 percent for others….

In both deals are:

¶ Extend-and-trade deals, such as the one signed by Carmelo Anthony last season, will be prohibited.

¶ A 10 percent escrow tax will be withheld from player salaries, to ensure that player earnings do not exceed 50 percent of league revenues. An additional withholding will be applied in Year 1 “to account for business uncertainty” stemming from the lockout.

¶ Team and player contract options will be prohibited in new contracts, other than rookie deals. But a player can opt out of the final year of a contract if he agrees to zero salary protection (i.e., if it is nonguaranteed).

There is no way the players would accept those rollbacks. The union would file to decertify and this thing will get much, much uglier.

12:18 pm: When the NBA labor talks started, the owners had put out a number of ridiculous demands — salary rollbacks, a hard salary cap and other items the players would not accept — out on the table. As talks moved along, the owners made “concessions” of giving up things off their wish list (while the players gave up actual cash).

But if the players don’t accept David Stern’s and the owners ultimatum offer by Wednesday night, come Thursday morning it is all back on the table along with a smaller percentage of basketball related income, reports Ken Berger at CBSSports.com.

In addition to a 47 percent share of revenues for the players and a flex cap, those terms also would include a relinquishing of guaranteed contracts and a rollback of existing salaries, sources familiar with the hardline owners’ position said.

Part of that (and the reason it gets leaked) is to try and frighten the players into taking the deal on the table.

But make no mistake, that proposal would kill the NBA season if the owners stuck to it.

The players have given up money to keep a soft salary cap and guaranteed contracts (as well as keeping the salary cap tied to league revenues). Those are issues the union would be willing to lose a season over. Those issues would push them to decertify the union and try to take this thing to court. It would be a disaster.

The sides are not that far apart on a deal, with the players giving up more money wanting system issues concessions (they want more ease of player movement and for teams paying the tax to have exceptions). That’s a small olive branch for the owners to offer at this point so the union could save face, call it a win (even though the union lost big) and we could have a season.

But the hardline owners are driving the league bus right now and they want to crush the union and give no quarter. They are driving this. The owners are up by 40 points in the fourth quarter and are keeping the full court press on.

“I think, at the end of the day, this group (of hardline owners) said, ‘OK, we will let you do it your way up until Wednesday,'” a person in contact with ownership told CBSSports.com Monday.

If the sides don’t talk, if come Thursday morning there is no deal in place, I fear for the season. At that point, if the sides reach a deal it will likely be after Christmas just in time to save a 50-game NBA season. And even that could be a long shot.

At that point, both sides will have hurt the sport so much they will have lost all extra revenue they were fighting over.

Talking decertification, union moves with CBA expert Larry Coon

NBA Labor Basketball
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If an NBA writer has a labor question — specifically a question about the Collective Bargaining Agreement — we call Larry Coon. Pretty much all of us do.

He wrote the CBA FAQ that is a go-to resource not only for NBA writers and fans but some agents. And know that some NBA teams have taken notice of Coon and his work, and thought about the next step. Now with ESPN, Coon is THE go-to guy on all things NBA labor. We’re lucky to call him a friend of this blog.

So we talked with Coon about what is next for the players union — and part of that is decertification

“I think they should start the decertification process now, because it takes 45 days, and during that time they’ll have additional leverage. I don’t think there’s any reason NOT to get the ball rolling at this point…” Coon said in a conversation with ProBasketballTalk. “It’s a often-made mistake for people to assume the player’s don’t have leverage. A pending decertification vote increases that leverage.”

But that threat is only good if there is the will to back it up. Would the players really vote for decertification? Depends on when they vote, Coon said.

“The timing is crucial – if the vote is before the owners’ deadline to cancel the season (likely early January), then there may not be enough votes from players who understand that decertification likely clinches a year’s lost wages, and perhaps more, for an unknown process with an uncertain outcome. Many players would rather just take what’s on the table,” Coon said. “After the season is canceled, decertification would be much more likely.”

The players might be coaxed into a deal, but not one they think is unfair. The owners cannot just go for the rout, they have to offer some kind of olive branch to the players.

“Yes, I think (David) Stern needs to give them something so they can save face,” Coon said. “And as (Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski) put it, I think they need to stop hurling alley-oops when they’re up by 30 with two minutes left in the fourth quarter, trying to push the margin to 40.”

Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter — the player and director at the head of the union — do not have to present Stern’s deal to the players union. But Coon adds that if they feel the majority of players — or even a significant minority — do want to settle that has to be taken into account.

For the record, Coon has always pretty much thought a deal would be reached just before the deadline to cancel the entire season. As happened in 1999. Which looks more likely right now than anything else.