Tuesday was billed as they most crucial day of NBA labor talks, but the results after four hours looked exactly like every other meeting over the past several weeks:
There was incremental progress, but the two sides remain an ocean apart. And in that ocean could be a sinking NBA season that will see regular season games cancelled next week.
After Tuesday there are no more meetings scheduled both NBA league officials and union leaders said. No more meetings this week when the calendar demands it, and union executive director Billy Hunter said it could be a month before the two sides do sit down.
Both sides said the rest of the preseason has been cancelled. Commissioner David Stern said that come next Monday the league will have no choice but to cancel the first two weeks of the regular season. As the two sides are not meeting before then, the first two weeks are toast.
Usually once regular season games are missed, both sides tend to harden their positions for a while before coming back to the table. David Stern said, “We have a reset here.”
Folks, settle in and make yourselves comfortable. We’re going to be at this a while.
Fisher: “today was not the day to get this done. Not able to get close enough to close the gap.”
Fisher: “we find ourselves where we expected to be: a lockout that may jeopardize a part, or our whole season…”
The big issue remains the split of “basketball related income” (BRI), which is basically all the money that comes into the league through tickets, television and other sources (like a percentage of arena sponsorship).
In the last labor deal the players got 57 percent and Fisher said the union offered to go down to 53 percent, which works out to more than $1 billion reduction over six years, but were told that is not enough. Fisher said the owners’ latest offer was 47 percent, something Stern confirmed. Each percentage point works out to about $40 million a year, which leaves the two sides $240 million apart in the first year of the deal alone.
Stern said that he asked if a 50/50 split of BRI (under the old definition of BRI) would be acceptable to the players, but while he was polling his owners the players said no. That’s some spin by Stern there — we don’t know that the owners would have been okay with it, and a 50/50 split means the players give up 7 percent from their starting point and the owners just 4 percent.
Stern said that the cancellation of the preseason means a $200 million loss for owners and they would have to factor that in. (The reason the NFL labor deal got done in time for the preseason is those owners lost $200 million a week without preseason games, it’s a cash cow for them and they didn’t want to miss out, while NBA owners still take a hard line.) Stern said that is an economic hit for the owners.
Fisher stood at the podium flanked by stars such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Once again, the union was trying to look unified. If it really is or not remains to be seen.
Hunter also said union leadership would have to take another look at decertification of the union (the breaking up of the union, a tactic used by the NFL union). For the NBA players association, that has always been the plan of last resort. That they are discussing it shows where things stand.
There was no serious hope for NBA fans out of today’s meetings. In the middle of the day there was some buzz of hope after Metta World Peace — the artist formerly known as Ron Artest — tweeted that the lockout was over. Even though he was not in New York. He then said he was joking and he was filming a shoe commercial and getting to put that jersey on. It was all very Artest. And not that funny. Not to fans, not to the thousands of arena employees and others around the nation about to start missing paychecks that mean more to them feeding their families than the massive ones NBA players get.