Sorting through the spin: Progress was made in NBA labor talks

By Chris Sheridan

NEW YORK — At the start of the day, the score was Players: 54; Owners 46.

At the end of the day, after a doomsday-like declaration from Billy Hunter that there might not be any more bargaining sessions or a month or two, then a pronouncement from David Stern that Monday was the deadline for making a deal or losing the start of the regular season, the score had changed.

It is now Players: 53, Owners 50, in terms of the split of revenues.

In other words, they were separated by eight percentage points at the beginning of the day; three percentage points by the end of the day (although the players argued that the proposed 50/50 split was a mischaracterization, something Stern vehemently disputed).

I’ll repeat that: From eight to three.

Are we really supposed to believe they won’t be able to find a way to meet in the middle on the financial issue — as well as the remaining systemic issues — between now and the end of the weekend? C’mon.

If there was a tactical error made Tuesday, it was Stern’s decision of increase his formal offer from 46 percent to 47 percent. After that offer was made, the players went into a separate conference room to vent their displeasure, and they were still foaming at the mouths 90 minutes later when a knock came on the door and Derek Fisher and Hunter were summoned next door and told something completely different by Stern, Silver and Spurs owner Peter Holt.

“We asked the players: Would either side entertain the notion of a 50-50 deal? While in the process of discussing that with the owners, we were advised by the players that they would not do that,” Stern said. “It’s fair to say we were making good progress with the owners, but is was disrupted by the players saying no.”

No new talks are scheduled, but there is a lot of time between now and Monday. 

The union is going to try to maintain its ground now — “The union told us there was no reason to schedule another meeting,” Silver said — but there will certainly come a point between now and Sunday when it behooves everyone to try to make the closing push. 

“We’re ready to meet and discuss anything anyone wants to talk about,” Stern said.

And when those talks come, which they will, somewhere in between 50 and 53 will be the magic number that settles this lockout. The sides are simply too close to throw in the towel now — especially with the true 11th hour now known.

Moreover, the 50-50 concept (Stern made sure everyone understood the distinction that the owners are officially offering 47 percent, but conceptually are willing to go to 50-50. They also made it known that owners last weekend backed off their demand for rollbacks or givebacks from players’ current contracts) does not constitute the owners’ final offer.

“It demonstrates the potential for more movement on our part,” Silver said.

So if you read between the lines and cut through the bullshit, the end game became clear.

There is a deal to be done at 51/49 or 52/48, and there are five days to get there. 

To me, that’s a layup.



  1. CLM says


    Thx for being a true journalist! I am very hopeful that your analysis is spot-on, but frankly, I just appreciate some good old-fashioned, fact-based, insightful journalism.


  2. S. Sebastian says


    Your coverage of the NBA is the best and is not tainted by the obvious spin trumpeted via many other reporters.

    I expected a stare down yesterday from the players and was not surprised by the theater we witnessed yesterday. The players move, including their apparent anger are all tactics and I am certain the owners know this. It was not the 11th hour and the players needed to run some time off the clock in order to get a better deal.

    Perhaps Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher needed to demonstrate resolve in the face of the pressure put on by a group of agents, who i believe would be pleased to see the destruction of the union.

    The players, however, cannot afford to make tactical errors over the next several days. The time for a deal is now, while the owners are willing to bend. If the players insist upon losing games in order to prove a point, the dynamics will change, giving the owners more incentive to scuttle the season. The players will then lose $2.1 Billion (with a B) that will never be recovered. The losses amount to 10 to 20% of career earning potential for many players.

    Moreover, a subsequent move to decertify will give the owners more incentive to legally nullify contracts and essentially destroy the union. There is no doubt in my mind the players cannot handle and do not want this scenario. Although it could happen.

    Keep being the best Chris.

  3. skelman says

    So is Monday (10/10/11) the deadline for a “deal” or just a handshake agreement?

    It’s interesting that Tuesday was such a “big day” and now ends up it really wasn’t. It gave Stern the chance to pressure the players since they probably thought the season was on the line and low and behold it wasn’t. They now have until the weekend, which hopefully sets the stage for both parties to move equally to the middle after a day or two off.

    After reading how Tuesday went, I had lost most of my hope, but here comes Mr. Optimistic Chris Sheridan, who adds another twinkle of hope for the NBA season. This is just like reading all the Rubio headlines in the last 2 years for me, I just had to keep ignoring what most everyone was pessimistically saying and hope he in fact was coming to sign.

  4. FanTasTic says

    As a die hard fan I’m strangely cheering for the cancellation of the entire season. IMO Both players and owners need a big piece of humble pie. They have a good thing going and are screwing it up with their respective greed. If the season gets cancelled, the casual fans will hopefully lose interest and bring down the ratings,attendance and eventually their profit margins over the next few years. The NBA itself will never fold due to the diehards support but maybe a shrink in the fan base will hurt these millionaires where it counts most…in their wallets and they’ll rethink the CBA process the next time.

    • says

      I had these same feelings at first but we are at a point where a deal will be struck any week now, depending on egos. Cancellation of a season would hurt the league which is why I favor a shortened season over no season.

  5. says

    As you said on our Podcast yesterday, use logic in assessing this situation and you have done a great job doing just that. It makes sense but will both sides be able to focus on the main goal? I think they will.

  6. Andrea (Italy) says

    Thanks, Chris Sheridan, for staying positive and giving us a ray of hope. With all the doom and gloom there is out there, we need someone who put things in perspective.

    Like I said yesterday, it seems odd to me that news leaking out from the negotiating room say there’s progress and things look good, but when both league and players union talk to the press they say things look bad. Something doesn’t add up so I keep thinking this is just some kind of agreement they took to avoid to have the media swaying negotiations.

    The rest of the preseason is gone for sure, but I still believe the regular season will be safe. They’re going to get a deal by October 15 or something close to that. You watch.

  7. Michael Ramsden says

    I really really hope you’re right. I’ve long since lost all hope of seeing basketball this calendar year if I’m honest. However, when I read your blog you’re always optimistic that a deal will be in place sooner rather than later.

    I’ve no idea who to believe and I can’t really place the blame on people or sympathize with them when we’re talking about billions of dollars, I just hope for the sake of the fans that they can get enough money in the bank to appease them so we can enjoy a sport we all love to watch.

  8. Hoopin Harm says

    Agree a deal should be in sight, but I think they players could be digging their own grave. There may be one more go at it, but owners retract after that and open up everything on economics and system issues after that.

    Hopefully players are turning the tables and waiting to last minute to jam owners with counter of 52-48 and/or settle at 51-49 but only if owners give back some system issues. If they’re actually dead seat on staying at 53-47, they are not the savvy businessmen they claim to be and see ya next year.

  9. Dajody10 says

    Players best be careful…..pushing for the last 2% could screw everyone and hurt thier final deal next July, if the lockout runs that long. 51/49 seems like a GREAT deal for the players at this point. If they get greedy and force the league to cancel games, that offer will be back to the mid 40’s before they can blink.

    • Karl says

      You could say the same about the owners push for 50%, if this mess ends up in litigation. Let’s just say the NBA wouldn’t have that ‘momentum’ anymore it could really kill the league.

      • Hoopin Harm says

        Good luck with that one. A strategy of mutual self-destruction only works if NBPA suffers less than owners and has better alternatives. That simply is not the case. Talk about overseas, but that market has 10 – 25% of earnings potential for players and has been proven by market for Kobe, DWill, etc.

        For each year lockout continues, players lose $2bn in salaries per year, owners lose something like $1.5 bn decreasing over time, players have a limited earnings window of lets say 10 years to be generous, owners have established current income for life. Litigation has no merit and owners can withstand the legal bills, judiciary process, lengthy timing, etc.

        This is a no-brainer for the players.

        • Karl says

          You’re right about one thing, compared to settling at 50%, litigation is a terrible alternative. A threat is only as effective if the other party believes you to go through with it. About the merit of any litigation (ie has the NBA been bargaining fairly), I’m not sure any of us are in a position to judge that. We know only what little scraps we are thrown.

    • Hoopin Harm says

      Agree, play with fire and you might get burned. I think players made a tactical error today. Reports of the gap being “significant” are not accurate representation. If they’re within 3%, players should be at the table or have a strategy to get back their soon. Relying upon statements that they are locked out and not striking, just want to play ball, etc do not resonate with anyone.

      If NBPA stays strong based on tactics of fear from a few top agents and pride from top paid superstars, they just messed up a deal from happening…on a dispute of on average approximately $25 – 50k per player per year after tax for players that make multi-millions, or 100x that amount, in salaries + endorsements.

  10. TheSandman says

    Nothing against Adam Silver, but maybe Chris should be the next NBA commish. This would have been taken care of long ago if he was.

    • Faizan says

      Haha I agree. I’d even take it up a notch and say put Chris as the commissioner and replace stupid Stern. He needs to go.

  11. BucksJP says

    It is important to note (as Mark Stein has) that from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday is the Jewish Holiday of repentance, Yom Kippur. There will be negotiations during that time period just as there were no negotiations last week during Rosh Hashanah. This shortens the timeframe that the two sides have to talk, particularly up to the Monday deadline set by Commissioner Stern.

  12. Sean says

    Chris, I was curious if there was some catch to the owners 50/50 proposal. I had been reading some others tweet that the 50/50 was contingent on some other items not being part of the revenue and thus it was technically 47 they were offering but made to look 50/50 for PR reasons.

  13. Let the season start says

    Chris, Thank you for giving the diehard fans hope. I really do think you put the most thought and real research into your writing (compared to all the other writers covering the lock out). I have wanted to believe you all along, and I told myself there is no way someone with this much support for his opinion can be dead wrong and people who dont know what they are talking about can be right on.

    Doing the Math and assuming that 1% is worth about 41 or 42 million, we could be talking about a total of 84-85 million dollars being what keeps us from having a season. Thats less than 3 million dollars per team. I mean- couldnt they just increase the fines for technicals and other violations a bit and cover the majority of that 2-3 million per team?

    I dont know if I can take another let down like today though. Thank you for giving the fans hope though and sharing your information with the diehards. It’s appreciated

  14. Jason says

    Chris: Very perceptive insights, you have read between the lines better than anyone throughout this crappy ordeal. Hopefully your work willl be validated by Monday in teh form of an agreement.

    Although I’ve personally dislike you for years due to your enlistment in the Knicks propoganda machine, your writing is definitely top rate, and I will be visiting Sheridan Hoops regularly from now on.

  15. h vino says

    Is it your gut feeling that it will happen in time to save the season or do you know something from “sources”?

    I’ve been optimistic through this whole thing but today really knocked me down to doubtful that we see an 82 game season. I know you said it wasn’t the “11th hour” yet, but it’s so damn close why keep wasting time?

    Also, I keep getting the feeling that whenever the players give back something, the owners ask for more, that is why I think it will be extremely difficult to make an agreement soon. And when we start missing games it will become even harder because I think the owners will harden their stance even more.

  16. Bo says

    @Daniel That was addressed several times by Stern. The 50% offer that in reality would amount more closely to 47% (which is what you’re referring to) is entirely different from the notion of a true 50/50 that was “unofficially offered” by the owners.

  17. Marian Marcus says

    perhaps the mentioning of a 50/50 split by stern is in theory the power move that the owners hoped to make in hopes of getting a deal done? one that i believe was inspired by the move that the nfl owners made to end their lockout. I maintain optimism and hope that today was simply an offered opportunity to allow the nbpa to go back and really look in the mirror. a week to come to terms is a good thing . . . but at this point, it is also the only thing.

  18. GSWFaithful says

    You make too much sense. Thank you for actually typing the work “bullshit”, it truly applies to the situation like no other word.

  19. Daniel says

    I don’t think that the 50/50 split Stern was talking about is an actual 50/50 split. From what I’ve read elsewhere, the owners would take a lot of money off the top first. So the players still wouldn’t be getting half, and would be agreeing to almost a 10% drop. So to say they are 3% apart is a bit misleading if the owners are actually taking money off the top.


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