The NBA owners and player’s association met for five and a half hours yesterday, reportedly making as much progress as a car with four flat tires. The result: training camp and the opening slate of preseason games will be postponed at least two weeks. (ESPN)
The NBA will announce Friday it will postpone the start of training camp and the opening slate of exhibition games after a negotiating session Thursday in New York between players union executive director Billy Hunter and commissioner David Stern ended without a labor agreement or progress toward one soon, league sources said.
Stern, according to one source, told Hunter in Thursday’s meeting the owners want to reduce the players’ cut of basketball-related revenue to a figure well below 50 percent. Under the previous agreement, which expired July 1, the players were guaranteed a minimum of 57 percent of basketball-related revenue would be spent on salaries.In negotiations, the players’ union had offered to reduce its percentage to as much as 54 percent to accommodate the owners’ contention they lost $300 million last season, with the stipulation that a mechanism would be instituted to reward the players if future revenue increased.
The league offered players a 46 percent of basketball-related revenue, 11 percent less than they received in last deal and seven percent less than last proposal by players, a league source said. Owners agreed to try to come up with a mechanism to solve their issues without adding a hard salary cap before the next meeting, according to the source.
If the league really is hoping the players settle for 46% of basketball-related revenue, this lockout could endure until I’m in a nursing home — currently, I’m 24 years old. The players offered to cut their basketball-related revenue to 53% during the last bargaining session, and that number was seen as a real concession. If the NBA really desires the players to take just 46% of basketball revenue, Billy Hunter’s response will probably be: “Yeah, and I would love a date with Mila Kunis.”
Hunter was understandably frustrated by the way yesterday’s meeting went, telling Chris Sheridan he does not feel the NBA owners even want a deal.
“In general, we haven’t made any progress,” Hunter said. ”I really don’t think they’re ready to do a deal. My position is that they said 2 years ago they were prepared to lockout for a year to get what they wanted, and I think the way they’ve negotiated gives every indication that that’s bearing out.
“And while they’re talking about not wanting to miss the season or having to cancel games, I’m not really sure that that’s the truth,” Hunter said.
Only one national reporter, Ken Berger, came away from yesterday’s negotiating session with anything close to an optimistic outlook. Berger reported that the NBA’s proposal for basketball-related revenue was less than the players’ (“unacceptable,” according to one of Berger’s sources) but still, the number was better than the owners’ last proposal.
Following a series of small compromises by both sides, it was the owners’ turn to move the needle in a significant way. And they did: According to a person briefed on the negotiations, the league put forth a new number on the split of revenues, or basketball-related income, on Thursday, a step that could help propel the talks forward even as the start of training camps were set to be delayed and preseason games canceled — with such gloomy but fully expected and insignificant announcements expected Friday.
“It’s moving,” said another person with knowledge of the talks. “Not as fast as some people would want, but it’s moving.” …
But despite hand wringing over the imminent delay of training camps and the cancellation of preseason games — an announcement is expected Friday, according to sources — what happened here actually had the potential to be productive. For the first time since their initial proposal in January 2010 — when they offered a $45 million hard cap that would deliver the players well below 50 percent of BRI — the owners proposed a revised BRI split that was closer to, but still below what the players have indicated they would be willing to accept. In this impossibly slow negotiating dance, that qualifies as progress.
The owners’ number, one of the people familiar with the details said, represented a willingness to move off their most recent formal proposal to cap player salaries at $2 billion a year for the bulk of a 10-year proposal. So, do the math: Assuming 4 percent revenue growth next season to $3.95 billion, the owners’ $2 billion proposal represented roughly 50.5 percent of BRI for the players. If the players were willing to go down to, say, 53 percent with assurances that a soft cap would remain in place, that would be $2.094 billion — leaving the two sides only $94 million apart in the first year of the deal.
Given that the owners moved off their $2 billion to somewhere between that and the players’ number, we’re talking about perhaps as little as $75 million per year holding up the future of the NBA. That’s why, as one person familiar with the talks said Thursday, a deal is “there for the taking.”
A deal is “there for the taking,” but now the pressure is on to make a deal quickly. First, the NBA loses training camp and preseason games. The next step will be regular season games, which would likely postpone the beginning of the regular season by a few months. The last time that happened, during the 1998-99 season, Zach Lowe warns the league-wide caliber of play decreased dramatically. He called play that season ”the worst collective offensive performance since the league instituted the three-point line in 1979-80, according to Basketball-Reference.”
So yeah, holding a full season would be nice. And the league only has a week or two left to save it.