NEW YORK — The gag order imposed by federal mediator George Cohen has left the NBA lockout writers with a dearth of quotes to work with, so let’s have a look around the Web to see what they had left in the tank after doing stakeout duty during 24 1/2 hours of talks Tuesday and Wednesday:
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com looks at the salary cap math but leaves out one important piece of the equation — the money that would be freed up by the amnesty provision: “ It is clear from studying the salaries already committed for the 2011-12 season that it would be nearly impossible to reduce the players’ share to 50 percent and flatten the payroll disparity without rollbacks on existing contracts, a concept the union has fought and the league has agreed to abandon. Including the 60 draft picks (who for the sake of argument would be paid something close to the previous rookie scale) but excluding players on fully non-guaranteed deals, there are 303 players under contract for next season for a total of $1.65 billion. There are 129 free agents. If the average roster size is 14 (as required under the previous CBA), that’s 420 jobs. So a reduction in the players’ share to 50 percent, or $1.98 billion, would leave only $330 million to pay 117 players — an average of $2.8 million each. So clearly, with a 50-50 BRI split in Year 1 and no rollbacks, the brunt of the salary reduction would fall on the class of 2011 free agents, with such names as Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, Tayshaun Prince and some members of the players’ negotiating committee, such as Roger Mason and Maurice Evans. A 53 percent share for the players, or $2.09 billion, would leave $444 million for teams to fill out their rosters, or a more manageable $3.8 million per player. But any way you look at it, the top free agents would take a major cut compared to those who already got paid, and a significant number of role players would be out of jobs.
Howard Beck, The New York Times: Talks will resume around 2 p.m. Thursday, once the owners’ meetings have concluded. It will mark the first time in the 112-day lockout that the parties have negotiated for three consecutive days. The discussions remain taut and frustrating, according to several people involved, but some progress was made Wednesday on a critical issue. The league formally proposed a 50-50 split of league revenues — a concept that until now had only been discussed informally — according to multiple people involved in the talks. Under the proposal, the players could receive as much as 51 percent if league revenues exceed projections, or as little as 49 percent if revenues fall short of projections. The players are expected to respond to the proposal Thursday. They have been seeking a 53 percent share, down from the 57 percent they earned under the last labor deal. One person monitoring the talks described the 24 ½ hours as a mixture of momentum and volatility.”
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: “The discussions have been direct and constructive,” Cohen added while seated next to deputy FMCS director Scot Beckenbaugh, “and, as far as we are concerned, we are here to continue to help assist the parties to endeavor to reach an agreement.” How direct? How constructive? Enough that there might have been movement Wednesday on the split of BRI (basketball-related income), one of the most hotly contested issues of the lockout. In fact, a source briefed on the talks told NBA.com’s David Aldridge that there won’t be a problem on the split. Dallas owner Mark Cuban reportedly was helpful in moving the owners and the players — each of whom had wanted 53 percent of BRI (the old split favored the players 57/43) — toward the middle. There reportedly was substantive discussion, too, of the practice of trading bad contracts. Besides attaching “the expiring contract of …” to the front of some guys’ names, teams have been able to swap underperforming players for helpful talent thanks to the cap impact — and then re-sign some of the traded players. Cohen took no questions, standard-operating procedure in the disputes he works, and he has asked both the owners and the players to abide by that, too. … “Once you get into mediation, it’s the ongoing rule and principle that everything said to us is on a confidential, off-the-record basis. We’ve been functioning that way. We’ve requested each of the two parties to conduct themselves accordingly and I understand they have.” That is, unless you count the sort of anonymous sourced cited above, many of whom can be once- or twice-removed from the meeting room.”
Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports: The NBA and Players Association have made progress on the proposed revenue split between owners and players, an important element in settling a new collective bargaining agreement and ending the lockout, league sources involved in the ongoing labor negotiations told Yahoo! Sports. As long expected, the two sides have moved closer to a “50-50 split, give or take a point with ranges based on revenue performance,” one source said. While the league’s owners and players made progress in Wednesday’s 8½-hour mediation session, one source involved in the talks was hesitant to characterize it as a “breakthrough” moment, saying system issues could again derail talks. … It was always believed the two sides would eventually have to meet in the middle, and sources said there was momentum on Wednesday to get there. “I think everyone is expecting miracles. It is still going to take some time even with a mediator,” one league executive said. “I don’t think Cohen has solved disputes in two days.”
Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times: Not only did Cohen, 77, once serve as outside counsel to the professional baseball, basketball and hockey players unions, but his father, Leonard, also spent 48 years as a sportswriter, columnist and sports editor for The New York Post. “I grew up being with my Dad, and that meant Dodgers, Yankees, Giants baseball games,” Cohen said in an interview during a break in the N.B.A. negotiations Wednesday at a Manhattan hotel. For Giants football games, he said, “I often sat with him on the 50-yard line.” Cohen is not a miracle worker, and he declined to discuss the N.B.A talks in his interview Wednesday. But Cohen — who has mediated opera, symphony and aviation disputes as well as ones involving federal workers — did say that sports confrontations are especially hard to resolve. “Among the important differences between sports negotiations and others,” he said, “is you have the two parties, the union and team owners, then you have the commissioner representing the league as a third party. And then, behind the scenes, you have a fourth party, the agents who are representing individual players, and they have a voice that is being heard in the process. And then there are the interests of the fans.”
Ira Winderman of the South-Florida Sun-Sentinel, via Twitter: “A thought on how moving to 50-50 split could be made palatable to players: Any wages lost to cancellation of games would nonetheless be paid.”