Union wants to negotiate, Stern says no wiggle room in offer

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After a long day of negotiations through the media, we stand looking off the cliff of a lost NBA season, and there are not a lot of positive signs on the horizon. Here are where things stand as of this writing.

First, there are no meetings planned between the owners and players union for Wednesday. That may still happen, but as of right now nothing is set. It’s pretty hard to strike a deal if you are not talking, so consider this the first bad omen.

On Tuesday NBA players’ union team representatives met, rejected the owners offer on the table and said they wanted more negotiations. According to tweets from Marc Stein at ESPN, the consensus at that meeting was to go with the 50/50 split of league revenues the owners want if the owners will give a few more things on system issues.

Then just more than an hour later David Stern went on NBA TV and said the owners were not changing their offer. At all. Neither system or revenue. When David Aldridge asked Stern if there was wiggle room on the owners offer, he replied:

“As of Sunday morning at 3 in the morning there was none left.”

Stern cleverly used a phrasing to suggest things could change, but don’t bet on it. The offer may be the offer. Stein says union reps were told that the league would be able to pass the offer on the table by a 17-13 vote (one of those yes votes coming from the league, which currently owns the Hornets). That’s not a lot of margin to be selling more change to the deal.

If the offer does not change, the players will not take it.

Then Stern has said he and the owners will revert to a rollback offer that includes player salary rollbacks, a hard salary cap, the players getting 47 percent of league revenues and other things the players would outright reject and be willing to lose a season to avoid. Basically, Stern would let his hardliners win.

That would spark the decertification on the union process — Paul Pierce and supporters of decertification reportedly have enough signatures to force a vote. They needed 30 percent of the union, which is about 130 players, and reportedly they have more than 200 signatures. Which is something union director Billy Hunter told CBSSports.com he was fine with.

“Listen, I’m cool with Paul and all these guys. I think it’s very important. I’m happy that Paul and the others are involved in the process. That’s always been the problem with athletes, that a lot of stuff is foisted on them and they have no input. Paul has been actively engaged, he understands, he’s been in five or six of our negotiating sessions, he talks to me, and when they had the (decertification) calls, he called and let me know that they were having the calls. And I said, ‘Hey, I’m not at all opposed to you doing that.’ … I endorse what Paul did.”

It would take about 45 to 60 days between when the players filed a signed petition with the National Labor Relations Board asking for a vote on decertification and when the actual vote would take place. That would leave a window for more negotiations. But if the owners really stick with their rollback plan there will not be much to talk about — a hard salary and salary rollbacks are the kind of thing the players will stay out for a season over. And decertify over.

As CBA expert Larry Coon told us, the likelihood of the players voting to blow up the union would depend on when the vote takes place. If it is before the league’s deadline to cancel the season it might be hard to get the votes, but after the players likely would vote to decertify and sue the league on anti-trust grounds.

All this means that Wednesday the sides need to sit down, treat each other like adults for a change, and pound out a compromise deal.

I wouldn’t bet on it happening, though.