By Chris Sheridan
“If we didn’t think there was any hope, we wouldn’t be scheduling the meetings. But that’s the best I would say right now.” — David Stern, Oct. 1.
That was about the best thing the commish did say — although he threw in a line about wrestling Dwyane Wade to the ground — Saturday night when collective bargaining talks adjourned and the sides said they would reconvene Monday.
Getting a deal done in the upcoming week is imperative to keeping the scheduled Nov. 1 start of the regular season intact, and sometime in the next couple of days we should expect an announcement canceling the remainder of the preseason.
Optimism is waning, but as I’ve said and written before, no matter how far apart the sides are on the key issue — the division of revenues — if both parties have a clear idea of where the middle ground is, they can make a giant leap from their current respective positions (owners currently are offering the players 46 percent of revenues; the players are asking for 54). And that piece of the puzzle can be completed in a matter of minutes, not hours or days.
So there is hope, but time is dwindling.
Here is a sampling of what the NBA writers best versed in lockout lingo are saying today:
Ken Berger, CBSSports.com: “ The owners have proposed reducing the starting mid-level salary at $3 million, while the players have signaled a willingness to negotiate down to $5 million from last season’s level of $5.8 million. In addition to BRI and system issues, the other key piece of the puzzle is the owners’ revised revenue sharing system, which Stern has said would triple and then quadruple the existing pool of $60 million. On Saturday, Hunter called the owners’ revenue-sharing plan “insignificant.” Sources say it isn’t just the amount of revenue sharing, but the timing of its implementation, that is holding up that part of the deal. Under the owners’ revenue-sharing proposal, the Lakers would contribute about $50 million and the Knicks $30 million toward an initial pool of $150 million, sources said. There is reluctance, according to one of the people familiar with the talks, on the part of small-market teams to increase the players’ share of BRI to beyond 50 percent without a stronger commitment from the big-market teams to share more — and to share more quickly in the first year of the deal. Some big-market owners are pushing for a more gradual phase-in of their increased sharing responsibilities and are reluctant to take the hit this coming season, one of the people with knowledge of the talks said.”
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: “No time was spent discussing the economic elephant in the room, union attorney Jeffrey Kessler and others said. That is, the split of basketball-related income that will either green-light or red-light every other topic in play. “We’re not near anything,” NBA commissioner David Stern said. “But wherever that is, we’re closer than we were before.” Said Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association: “They put some concepts out, we put some concepts out and we’re still miles apart. There’s a huge … gap that, I don’t know whether we’re going to be able to close it or not.” … Baron Davis, veteran point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers, exited the session before its midpoint and called it “very constructive.” He also minimized the rancor in the room and said of the Stern-Wade episode: “I think a lot of that was blown out of proportion.”
Mike Monroe, San Antonio Express-News: ”According to Spurs forward Matt Bonner, a member of the union’s negotiating team, both sides were “burned out” by the process and in need of a break, and they will get one today. … Despite the lack of progress, no additional cancellations of preseason games have been announced, and Stern promised there would not be another cancellation announcement before Monday’s meeting. With no tangible progress to report from the long sessions, Stern walked back from his prior pronouncement that the weekend carried big implications. “I don’t take myself as seriously as you do,” he said.
Marc Berman, New York Post: “Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have asked the union to not go below 53 percent. If the union sticks to its guns on that number, there will be no 2011-12 season. Stern admitted he and Wade went at it during Friday’s session. Wade, who wasn’t present yesterday, became furious when Stern pointed his finger at Wade while lecturing him. Wade shouted at Stern to stop treating him like a child, and the altercation nearly ended the talks prematurely. “Neither of us remember, but there was a heated exchange and I feel passionately about the system we have and what it should continue to deliver for players and owners and he feels passionately, too,” Stern said. ”If anyone steps up on that, it’s my job on behalf of owners to make the point that needs to be made.”