NBA players’ union head optimistic lockout can be avoided

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During the Las Vegas during Summer League, I heard people with some knowledge of the ongoing Collective Bargaining Agreement talks between the NBA and players’ union speak very differently about the proceedings.

The conventional wisdom side says there will be no lockout — or at least one that costs regular season games — essentially because there is so much money on the table for both sides after the new television contract that a deal is getting and will get done. The other side wisely does not underestimate human greed, saying that in the wake of Kevin Durant leaving a small market to help form a superteam there will be a push from some owners for steps to stop that kind of player movement, steps that would certainly lead to a lockout.

The principles involved continue to speak optimistically — that includes in the past NBA commissioner Adam Silver, and again players’ union executive director Michele Roberts to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

“I can’t [discuss the talks] because I promised [not to],” she said. “I’m not going to be too terribly substantive but I will say I do believe and [Commissioner] Adam [Silver], I hope he agrees, he and I continue to maintain a civil relationship. I actually like him. I think that he’s a pro.

“We’ve had discussions. Our teams have been in discussions for some months now and we have made progress and we’re inclined to continue along those lines. We have meetings this summer and we’re meeting next week and [consistently] after that. We’re trying to get a deal as quickly as we can, ideally before the start of the season….

“I’ve heard Adam proclaim his optimism,” she said. “I’ve proclaimed mine, so I would like to sooner rather than later be able to have a press conference where we both stand together and announce together that we have a deal and there will be no work stoppage. There will be no lockout. Having said that, I gotta be ready for anything. But I am optimistic.”

By this December, either side can opt out of the current CBA — unless a new deal is in place by then you can be sure that one side will. That will put a real deadline on the talks because if a new deal isn’t in place by next July 1 there will be a lockout.

Both sides have done an excellent job of keeping what is being discussed in those ongoing CBA talks private, they are not trying to negotiate through the media. That’s a good sign. When both sides start working to spin their stories to the press, it’s to pressure negotiations in the room, to sway public opinion, and that’s rarely ever good for talks.

Last time around the owners won big, pushing the players’ percentage of the league’s “basketball related income” (BRI includes national television deal money, jersey sales, a percentage of local ticket sales and on down the list of nearly all the money generated by the league) from 57 percent to a scale between 49-51 percent. It’s essentially a 50/50 split now. That’s the only number that ultimately matters — that’s the bottom line. The age limit, PED testing, appeals process for league fines, anything else is secondary to the money. If the two sides can figure out the BRI, the rest falls into line and wouldn’t lead to a lockout.

We’ll see if a deal gets done.