Lockout update: Labor talks have broken up

NEW YORK — NBA Labor talks have broken off.

The split of revenues was the ultimate undoing Thursday after nearly five hours of discussions, and the sides told different stories about how things came apart.
NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said the union moved from 53 percent of BRI to 52.5 percent of BRI, while owners moved from 47 percent to 50. That’s when the talks broke off, with union director Billy Hunter saying the owners were not willing to negotiate over any other issues unless the players agreed to the 50-50 split.
Silver said he will meet with commissioner David Stern and the owners’ labor relations committee tomorrow to reassess the situation. It is fair to expect more regular season games to be canceled at some point in the near future.
Spurs owner Peter Holt said federal mediator George Cohen wanted the sides to keep talking, “but both sides realized that we’re too far apart. … We need some fresh air and maybe some fresh thought and then try to get back together.”
“What Peter and the owners made clear is that was as far as we were willing to go, that’s 50 percent of BRI,” Silver said, adding the sides also were still apart on several system issues related to the salary cap.
The union responded with a long news conference in which president Derek Fisher and Hunter took issue with the league’s rendering of the undoing of the negotiations.
“A couple things we heard coming out here were just not true,” Fisher said. 
Hunter said the union proposed a floating band for the revenue split, with the players having the assurance their share would not drop below 50 percent, and the owners having the protection that it would not rise above 53 percent. When that notion was rejected, Hunter said the owners refused to continue talking.
“We asked is this a ‘take it or leave it?’ ” Hunter said. “They said ‘Yeah, that’s basically what it is.’
“We said we’re not going to let you precondition us,” Hunter added. “We were  making progress on the other issues, they were the ones who broke it off. They knew when they presented to us what they presented to us that it wasn’t going to fly.”

Cohen’s employer, the Federal Mediation and conciliation Service, released the following statement:

“As a follow up to the NBA’s and NBA Players Association agreeing to my invitation to conduct negotiations under the auspices of the FMCS, three days of mediation have taken place.  During this period, a wide variety of issues were addressed in a professional, thoughtful manner, consistent with what one would expect to take place in a constructive collective bargaining setting.

“Regrettably, however, the parties have not achieved an overall agreement, nor have they been able to resolve the strongly held, competing positions that separated them on core issues.”

“In these circumstances, after carefully reviewing all of the events that have transpired, it is the considered judgment of myself and Deputy Director Scot Beckenbaugh, who has been engaged with me throughout this process, that no useful purpose would be served by requesting the parties to continue the mediation process at this time.  For our part, the Agency has advised the parties that we will be willing and prepared to continue to facilitate any future discussions upon their mutual request.” 



  1. Paulpressey25 says

    I really enjoyed hearing Holt and Silver talk about the NHL and NFL models as being the ones to emulate. Let’s face it, those models are a heck of a lot better for competitive balance and all the fans know it. I’m a huge NBA fan but more than happy to miss a season in order to get and NHL or NFL type system.

    If Hunter wasn’t so compromised by certain players and agents, he should simply offer the owners a trial balloon deal where he says the players will take a hard cap in exchange for 53 percent of BRI. THAT would be a black swan move that would completely divide and confuse the owners.

    And the players overall would get more money if the league did indeed accept it. But hey, that would hurt LeBron and Wades ability to form super teams and the ability of Corey Magette to score a 50 million dollar deal. And limit agent commissions. But that type of offer would flush a lot of things out into the open.

  2. Clueless in NY says

    Let the entire players as a whole vote on BRI in a secret ballot:

    (a) Take 50% now
    (b) Hold out for 52.5% someday

    • John says

      If that’s the case, we would probably be having training camp by now and I would already be scouting for my fantasy basketball draft.

      The problem is the rank and file aren’t really represented that well by the union. It’s the KG’s and the LeBron’s of the league that have caused the hard stance of not giving up more of the BRI money. Good for them though as they’ve already earned tons of money. What about the Scalabrine’s and the Mbenga’s of the world who haven’t earned that much and wouldn’t be able to make up for the loss of a year’s salary.

      I hope Stern announces the cancellation of games until Christmas. Maybe only then will the players realize that he isn’t f*&$ing around and take a 50-50 deal, though it’s likely gonna be gone once more games are cancelled.

  3. Mark says

    Ultimately, the players are delusional into thinking that the American people really care. The economy is in a rough patch with high unemployment. Further, look at the sports calendar: world series, pro/college football, hockey and college basketball on the horizon.

    Chris kept saying that the BRI was a few percentage points apart and ultimately he was right. However, the bigger picture is that the players are inflating their value and they will pay the price.

  4. ignarus says

    I don’t think it’s perceptive to come away from this thinking that this is the players’ fault. The owners imposed this lockout, so they’re the ones complaining about how they’re not getting rich enough.

    Stern is a better PR guy but my gut told me this was all a publicity stunt from the owners and ultimately it was. They weren’t willing to budge off their unreasonable BRI demands.

    And it’s not about “parity” — this is all about owners wanting more $$$$$$. If they cared about parity, they’d dump max contract restrictions and let rookies become free agents after two years at most. That way the teams who employ top players will have to pay top dollar and sacrifice other aspects of their rosters to make it happen.

    I’d give the players a hard time if this were a strike, but it’s not. It’s about OWNER greed because it’s a lockout. Neither fantastically rich side was so particularly deserving of more money at the end of last season that I could say a lockout or strike was justified.

    • Clueless in NY says

      Actually, it’s about both sides wanting more money. But who’s counting.

      And yes, it is about competitive balance. The league cares about two things: $$$ and competitive balance. It just so happens that they go hand in hand (see: NFL, where teams are required to spend within 3% of the HARD salary cap max).

      Think a hard cap won’t make a league better? Hockey and football have both proven it to be true.

      • illyb says

        If they really care about the health of the league then the revenue sharing should be higher than 10% of BRI (will be ~10% after the new plan)

        Instead they basically want to try to impose parity and the financial health of the league totally on players salaries and mobility, because they feel like they can. The reality is players will be fine with a 50/50 split and a hard cap it still is a great league to play in and the best money in the world for a basketball player. I have no idea why they would agree to give up all of that all at once. The notion they would is kind of crazy.

      • Kid In Cleveland says

        “Clueless in NY”, thank you for being one of the primary voices of reason among these comments. You are spot-on that the NBA system is broken. I agree with you 100%. We all agree that the NBA is not the NFL. Heck, right now, amid the major leagues’ thrilling late-season rush, the NBA is not even baseball. Yet the NBA’s average player salary of about $5.1 million equals the average salary of those two sports combined.

        Ignarus, this doesn’t sound screwed up to you? And your earlier comment about the “NBA making more money than ever” has no factual basis behind it. Show me the numbers. It may be more “popular” in the national media because its star players are the most recognizable amongst any pro sports, but that doesn’t necessarily mean profitable for the league overall.

        Re-read that last sentence. These small market teams are not making money. Have you been a game in Milwaukee? Or Charlotte? The national media calls it “bad management” but in reality It is the league salary structure that is screwed up. (What is this sign-and-trade BS?!?) And you need a league to for the NBA to exist, not just 7 teams in the major markets that are profitable.

        Did the owners make a bad deal in 2005? Yes. Were they too quick to give in due to a flush economy, the desire to avoid labor unrest, and eliminate the influx of high schoolers that was killing the quality of the game on the court? All of the above.

        2011 is a whole new world. I’m just glad that the profitable teams understand the problems the small-market teams are having and are playing hardball with the players. It is a shame that these players are in their own world and don’t realize that without drastically changing the NBA model it will lead to teams going broke, contraction and fewer jobs overall. Not to mention they don’t seem to realize they have zero leverage now.

  5. dan says

    Cancel the season already. Clearly, the players think they will play ball in Jan after the owners cave.

    I really want to see the NBA goes away for a long time like 2 or 3 years.

    • ignarus says

      if owners try to stretch a lockout that long, cities will sue for use of the arenas and we’ll probably see a new league come up out of the ashes of the nba.

      i seriously doubt that the league will get cancelled for that long, though.

      honestly, without any cynicism at all, i can say that it’s going to take time for the two parties to re-anchor their BRI baselines. owners are still clinging to the fiction that their baseline is 47% for the players and players are still bitter from conceding from 57% to 53% while the owners sneered at them and asked for more.

      whether it was dishonest or not, that move from the owners in the beginning poisoned this whole process.

      i guess they got closer than i really expected.

  6. John says

    The players don’t have any leverage, or do they refuse to accept that? The players in ’99 took a far less favorable deal than what they were offered before games were missed. Why won’t they learn the lesson from the past. History is just going to repeat itself and the players will get massacred and end up going below 50% of BRI AND losing the system issues they have been opposed to if the season gets scrapped.

    I don’t want to lose the season but a part of me kinda want to see it happen too see how Hunter and the players will justify accepting the worst deal possible.

  7. Clipper George says

    Chris. What now? Did the players make a mistake.? To me it seems that agreeing to a 4 and a half % pay cut should be more than enough. Are the owners willing to give up the whole season as many people thought they were from the beginning?

  8. S. Sebastian says

    Not surprising development as I stated a couple days ago on this site. The players were just not going to agree to owners proposal this week.

    It is clear to me now that the players are following a path that will cost them serious long term dollars. They also don’t seem to get the fact that without enough dollars on the table and with losses mounting this year, the owners will be better off restructuring the league the other way, which will mean no season, contraction, and lower revenue for players in the future.

  9. Clueless in NY says

    Billy Hunter is a clown. The players slapped the owners in the face by offering a .5% move while the owners moved 3% from their last official proposal.

    • Stu says

      Huh? Who cares about the last official offer? The players have already given 4 percent. They’ve already given the owners a chance to break even from their supposed yet unsubstantiated losses. The NBA has existed for decades without an NHL like CBA.

      It is not the burden of the players to make the owners profitable. The owners want the players to make them profitable, but how does that in any way guarantee that the owners won’t just squander that new money into more terrible business decisions.

      • Clueless in NY says

        While it is not the burden of the players to make the owners profitable, the cost of the players themselves have become a burden. Realistically, only a handful of players can provide value even close to what they’re paid any more. In any well-run business, those employees would be held accountable and expected to produce in line with their paid value.

        The players got a sweetheart of a CBA deal in the height of a booming economy when money was raining from the sky. That is no longer the case.

        The NBA is and has been a broken model for quite some time in relation to competitive balance. You need only visit http://www.hoopshype.com/salaries.htm to see for yourself. How many of the bottom 15 salaried-teams made the playoffs? How many of the top 10 went deep? Look at the number of teams who have won championships in the past 30 years. The only small market team (San Antonio) did it by accident (an injury to David Robinson, rest is history).

        • ignarus says

          nope. the current distribution of player salaries (top players underpaid, middle players overpaid) is a DIRECT result of the owners demanding and getting max salary levels. if lebron can’t make $30m, somebody else is going to be making that money.

          complaining about modest players getting overpaid is stupid at best and dishonest at worst because it’s pretending that the best players in the league *shouldn’t* be getting more than the max salaries and all the other players should scale down from that fixed point.

          the last cba isn’t a result of the “booming economy” because the nba is making more money than *ever.* if that’s the way we’re looking at it, the players should get the same amount or more next year.

          • Clueless in NY says

            The players SHOULD get the same amount overall…except that it should primarily be going to about 30 guys in the league. Pay LeBron $50M, but pay the other players what they’re worth, and that’s significantly less than what they’re making now.

            The last CBA is absolutely a result of a booming economy, where team valuations (how owners really make money, from buying and selling their franchises) were escalating right along with housing prices and other investment assets.

            The bubble has burst. Thus, lockout.

  10. Gary says


    Having spoken w/ anonymous west coast team source. 51 percent figure as top end for players is, and I quote, “all they will ever f****** see.” Also, not a lot of confidence in Billy Hunter getting the players to accept what he recommends from what I have heard.

    • ignarus says

      yeah, even if billy hunter *wanted* to settle for 51% of the BRI, there’s no way he can get the players to go along with it. not after the dishonest crap david stern has been pulling from the very beginning of all of this.

      stern really has to go. he generated WAAAAAY more bad blood than he needed to for the sake of his own noxious ego.


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