Buy This Shoe, Plus Morning Lockout Roundup

NEW YORK — I was supposed to go to a Converse event late last week, but the lockout interceded when the union called a media briefing at its headquarters in Harlem and I had to choose news over shoes.

I told Mandy Gutmann (who left her post as a Knicks media relations staff for the greener pastures of Converse) that I would find a way to make up for my absence, and there it is. (I saw more people wearing Chuck Taylors in Lithuania in September, at Eurobasket, than I can possibly count. One of them was Arvydas Sabonis, who was wearing low-cut Chucks with no socks as he sat with the president of Lithuania in a luxury box.)

As for the NBA lockout, here is where we stand: The union is having  conference call today and a meeting of its player reps tomorrow in Harlem, after which they will presumably ask the league or mediator George Cohen for another sitdown with the owners before the close of business on Wednesday — the deadline NBA commissioner David Stern has set for accepting the offer that is on the table. If the offer is rejected, the owners will revert to their previous offer of 47 percent of revenues and a flex cap.

The union isn’t happy about the ultimatum, but the players’ hands are somewhat tied. The only trick play they have in their arsenal is being driven by forces outside of the union, with agents attempting to secure signatures from 130 players to initiate an involuntary decertification of the union.

So we’ve got a little more than 48 and a little less than 72 hours to see how things play out.

Let’s have a look around the Web or the latest lockout interpretations, shall we?

Ian Thomsen, SI.com: “The stance of the union can be changed if a majority of players is willing to force that change. This much needs to be understood: Stern probably isn’t bluffing when he says the offer to players will plummet after Wednesday. Stern has been seeking a deal to save the season ever since the negotiations began. The union has taken note of his willingness to seek compromise during the small-group meetings, with him and deputy commissioner Adam Silver sitting across from the union’s executive director Billy Hunter, president Derek Fisher and economist Kevin Murphy. They have made consistent progress in those low-key talks, only to see that progress reversed when the larger group of owners (and players) brought its diversity of needs into the negotiations. … The larger markets will always have an advantage in contending for championships regardless of any system that may arrive from these negotiations. Think about it: If the best players are suddenly prohibited from fishing for extra salary from the bigger markets, and they realize their NBA paycheck is limited no matter where they choose to play, then guess where they’re going to go? They’re going to seek employment with large-market franchises like the Knicks, the Lakers, the Bulls or the Mavericks, because those markets will offer superior earning opportunities off the court. The goal of preventing the best players from swarming to the biggest cities is bound to backfire on the less-rich teams. The smaller-market franchises may become profitable across the board, but will that make them more attractive to the best players? … I don’t believe a majority of the players can pull this off. They may want to play, in order to rescue this season and their incomes and avoid the long-term, self-destructive harm to the NBA that will certainly follow a canceled season. But they aren’t the leaders of their teams or their league, and they have been headed off by the bloc of decertifiers. My best guess is that the players will refuse the proposal offered by Stern. On Thursday, the owners will reduce their offer, making it more difficult than ever for the players to reach a deal. The abject failure of the two parties to find unity among themselves — for if they can’t agree among themselves, then how can they ever create enough room to compromise with the opposition — will lead to a greater push to decertify, resulting in murkiness and uncertainty amid one probable outcome. More likely than not, there will be no NBA season in 2011-12.

Brian T. Smith of the Salt Lake City Tribune: “You would have to have been a real, real, real optimist to think that both sides were going to move enough at this point to get a deal done in a couple of days,” Jazz guard Raja Bell told The Salt Lake Tribune. He added: “I’ve [said] from the beginning that I really felt that was going to be the eventuality — it was going to be take it or leave it. And that’s OK. But that’s not negotiating in good faith. That’s just giving someone an ultimatum. And we kind of felt like that was going to be their stance the whole time.”

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, via Twitter: “For those baffled why there’s no deal: Guess how many sign-and-trades were executed by tax payers during previous CBA? No, really, guess. … Your answer, from union source: FIVE sign-and-trade deals were done by tax-paying teams during previous six-year CBA. … This is something season could be canceled over, folks. FIVE sign-and-trades in six years. And wait until you hear what they were … Three in ’05-’06: Knicks-Eddy Curry; Memphis-Marko Jaric; Lakers-Kwame Brown and Laron Profit. Destroyers of competitive balance, all. … Two in ’09-’10: Suns-Hedo Turkoglu (basketball-driven deal); Mavs-Shawn Marion. … So one could argue, the season could be canceled over an issue that doesn’t matter that much to either side. … Also, who couldn’t love the irony that of the five sign-and-trades by tax-payers during previous CBA, two were done by Sarver and Heisley?

Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald: “Somewhere along the way, the bait and switch was pulled. To wit: We came to Manhattan to cover a basketball labor negotiation, and a session of Congress broke out. The NBA: Where Washington happens. For those still paying attention to the details here — those who’ve resisted the “wake me when it’s over” siren song — the latest break in the NBA’s collective bargaining talks might seem particularly perplexing. The players got 57 percent of defined revenues in the last CBA and had been trying to squeeze out 52.5 percent this time. But on Saturday, the players took what they believed would be a giant step toward peace, harmony and mid-winter trips to Minneapolis by coming down to 51 percent. They even stated that funds from the last percentage point would be dedicated to retired player programs, also known as “CSI: Where the Hell Did All the Money I Made Go?” The NBA countered with a band that would give the players as little as 49 percent and as much as 51 percent, though union attorney Jeffrey Kessler later cited fuzzy math and called the higher number “a fraud.” The league said its offer is good until the close of business on Wednesday, at which time if it is not accepted the NBA will revert to an offer of 47 percent and a highly restrictive flex cap. In other words, take a deal you don’t like or take a long vacation. …  The NBA and Players Association have essentially drawn lines in the sand here. And while the numbers would appear to be close, they may not, in fact, be on the same beach. That’s because of the Washington Effect. While commissioner David Stern and union president Derek Fisher may have their personal opinions as to what constitutes a fair and equitable arrangement, they are not speaking for themselves. Like D.C. party leaders, they negotiate with the Damoclean sword of ‘Can I get the votes for this?’ hanging over their heads. And as in Congress, they are being tugged toward the strong-minded edges.

Bill Rhoden of The New York Times: “Shame on the league for not pushing for true partnership, but shame on the players for not insisting that equity in the league become a nonnegotiable plank in the labor talks. Instead, the currently stalled negotiations have involved the same wage-based scuffles between employer and employees: we give you a piece of the pie, and we’ll fight over the size of the slice every few years. … The N.B.A. and the players are engaged in another season-threatening battle over the distribution of what has become about $4 billion a year in revenue. This is not what a partnership looks like. If the N.B.A. and the players were actually partners, with players having an ownership stake in the league, we might be watching basketball instead of owners against players, owners against owners and players against players. Shortly after the N.F.L. and its players ended their feud earlier this year, DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the players association, said he had made an equity proposal to owners. “One of the proposals we had was, ‘O.K., if you want money back, fine; just give us a share of the National Football League,’ ” he told a group of black lawyers in Baltimore in August. The proposal went nowhere, but Smith said that equity-based relationships could be “one of the more creative models going forward in sports.” This new model would involve a drastic change of thinking by players and owners. For all of the talk about player-owner partnerships and owners’ platitudes about the importance of the players, the one thing owners will never easily give up is something they cherish: total ownership.”

Chris Broussard of ESPN.com., via Twitter: “Interesting: sources from each side told me players & owners only spent “about 15 minutes” together during Saturday’s 8 1/2 hour meeting. … Federal Mediator George Cohen shuttled back & forth between the two rooms before bringing them together at the end for owners proposal.”

Howard Beck of the New York Times: “A movement to decertify the union, which would shift the battle to the courts and probably imperil the season, is proceeding, although its strength remains unclear. ESPN.com reported Sunday that organizers believe they can get at least 130 signatures — enough to force a decertification vote — by Tuesday. However, two prominent agents with large client lists said that no signature drive had begun. They expressed skepticism that anything could be done in the next few days. If 30 percent of the union signs a petition, it is up to the National Labor Relations Board to approve a vote by the full membership. That could take up to 45 days — and during that time the union could resume negotiations with the N.B.A., but with the threat of decertification as added leverage. … A contract squeeze is already under way. A record 160 players were on minimum contracts last season, according to one agency’s accounting. An additional 107 players were on rookie contracts, and 63 were on midlevel exception deals. That means that only 90 to 100 players were on negotiated contracts that were not bound by a salary slot. If the midlevel exception is curtailed as the N.B.A. proposes, that number would surely continue to drop, and the number of players on minimum salaries would increase. No bargaining sessions are expected before the N.B.A.’s deadline, which Stern described as the close of business Wednesday. The union regards the deadline as artificial and believes the N.B.A. will return to the table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  1. dan says

    I have to laugh when the players cry out “I just want to play ball’”

    Hey kids, Euro ball is wide open. You can go to Romania, Serbia, Russia, Poland, Turkey, Israel or anywhere else. No one will stop the players from bolting to Euro or China.

    The agents should be able to find jobs for their clients right ?

  2. Evan says

    More than anyone else, that fat loser Carmelo is responsible for this lost season. The knicks openly tampered and the media (Chris Sheridan first in line) cheered all the way.

    The big market teams need to be restrained and good for teh NBA for recognizing this

  3. paulpressey25 says

    The Ian Thomsen article is laughable when it tries to make the point that somehow this CBA will be bad for small markets, and that players will now go to big markets not for more salary but for more endorsements.

    Question to Ian. If under the owners proposal on the table with the mini-MLE for luxury taxpayers, the Lakers hypothetically decide they want to sign Carl Landry. They offer him the 2-year/$5 million dollar mini-MLE. Now the Pacers come calling. They offer him the full 4-year MLE of 4-years/$22 million dollars. Is a player like Carl Landry going to pass up $17 million dollars of guaranteed money just to go to LA? Is there any conceivable way that Carl Landry can make up $17 million in endorsement money? No way. He’d go to the Pacers and the system thus would provide for more competitive balance.

    Now let’s look at Landry’s situation if he wants to stay with the Hornets. Under the old CBA, the Lakers could pull up in their money van and toss out a 5-year/$30 million dollar MLE deal. The only way the Hornets keep him to to massively overpay him with a $40 million dollar deal to compensate Landry for playing on the Hornets. Landry isn’t worth a 5-year/$40 million dollar deal but if the Hornets don’t pay up, they lose a decent talent. And teams like the Hornets can’t afford to lose anyone. Damned if the do, damned if they don’t.

    Taking the MLE out of the hands of the luxury taxpayers not only prevents said lux tax teams from raiding the better MLE players, it makes the contracts the lesser teams pay to retain their mid-tier talent far more reasonable.

    End result under the owners proposal? Landry doesn’t get overpaid and it is likely he ends up on a team that really needs his services more than the Lakers. WIn for everyone except the Lakers, Landry and Landry’s agent. And that extra money that Landry might not get? Goes to other deserving players.

    • Mark says

      Paulpressey25: your posts have been spot on. As I have been saying, the league was moving in the following direction: players would band together to form mini all star teams (Celtics, Lakers, Heat, Knicks, Bulls). These big money markets would than use the old MLE as a way to bolster the roster with good talent.

      So the owners have attempted to create a system that allows everyone to compete and perhaps allows the small markets to remain profitable. Instead of embracing this concept or at least reporting on this concept, much of the shill reporters have instead resorted to issuing the agent talking points.

      • paulpressey25 says

        Mark-I agree with what you are noting on the stars coming together.

        This is why the NBA status quo apologists keep trying to cite data from years earlier. We are in a whole new era. Again arguably four of the top 10 players in the league pushed their way out to new teams last season. With Dwight and Paul on deck. And Deron not liking his destination of New Jersey, so he’ll move again in eight-months.

        Ken Berger last night tried the same stunt in talking about how few meaningful sign and trades were done by lux taxpayers. Yet he acknowledged the Mav’s got Shawn Marion in one. The Mav’s also got Erick Dampier in a S&T and used his bloated contract to get Tyson Chandler a few years later. Think the Mav’s win the title without those two guys?

        These MLE’s and S&T’s will be used by the lux tax payers in the near future unless you put in these restrictions. I’m thinking about the S&T’s the Lakers will pull off for Dwight Howard and the Knicks for Chris Paul.

        And while Miami was able to fit their big-three in under the cap, based on escalations with 10% raises due to Bosh and LeBron being “sign and trades”, the Heat will quickly be in luxury tax land with those guys.

        I appreciate Sheridan’s blog and these other national NBA writers. Understandably they are concerned that the industry that feeds them may shut down for a year. But from a fan standpoint, really only about 8 markets care. The other 20-22 markets are more than willing to blow it up for a better system.

        • ignarus says

          it’s interesting that you put it in terms of numbers of markets 8 vs ~22 when those 8 markets have a LOT of people in them and so many of the NBA’s fans are relatively casual fans who only tune in or buy tickets when there’s someone involved that they’re excited to watch.

          the way you’re framing it might seriously underestimate the impact of a lockout on the league’s actual popularity.

          but yeah, i’d be more “change the system!!!” if i were a born-in-indiana Pacers fan. i can sympathize, but for the most part, i don’t see the owners pushing for the things that would *actually* balance the league, so i’m left thinking that this is really just a cynical money grab rather than a genuine attempt to make the game better.

          if it’s all about money and sticking it to the players to make the owners feel like bosses again, i can’t justify supporting the owners’ lockout.

          honestly, a weighted schedule where better teams play each other more and worse teams play each other more would really help the regular season suck less and it would promote more team rivalries when they actually matter (e.g. when both teams are similarly good).

          bad teams wouldn’t have to sit through as many blowouts and fans of good teams wouldn’t have to sit through as many 4th quarters where their starters are sitting.

          it’s obvious that this would put a hit on bad teams’ attendance rates (fewer sellouts when top teams come by) but it’d be good for the league as a whole. plus, what’s the harm in making the pointless 5-8 seeds a little more random?

          but of course, that’s not being discussed because the small market guys pushing the lockout aren’t justifiably trying to improve the product — the only things they promote are changes that boost their profits and sense of control at the expense of the players.

          it’s not even about giving their teams a better shot at winning. THAT is why a lot of people are so critical of the owners and not buying their complaints about how they want parity and all that.

          • Mark says

            Ignarus: if the players want to leave the current money on the table when this country faces a 9.0% unemployment rate, that is their call.

            Remember, this negotiated settlement does not impact the players endorsement deals and we all know that some players make more money off the court than on.

            The current offer is fine for the players. That is why the union won’t let the players vote on it — they know it would pass.

    • ignarus says

      1) don’t complain too much about the hornets having to risk overpaying carl landry when they get to underpay chris paul. they are among the HAVES not the have-nots. george shinn just sucked THAT much.

      2) aside from luke walton, the lakers aren’t wildly overpaying anybody. if anything, they got to underpay ron artest with the MLE. a better example would be a team like the knicks — and they didn’t really benefit from overpaying bad players. it ate up their cap space and took years to clear enough space to make room for a star.

      3) the only team anyone’s *actually* worried about being able to use the mid-level exception when they’re over the cap is the Heat, and that’s just because they’ve taken the “hey, the rules let us underpay superstars!” absurdity to its inevitable conclusion : using almost all the cap space to sign superstars.

      there’s really not much anyone can do about the Heat at this point other than just rake in the money when they come to town. any rule that is imposed to restrict them will necessarily restrict other teams that would otherwise be able to overspend to compete with them.

      but it never would have happened if superstars could get paid more than a quarter of the cap. lebron and wade took only a little bit less than the max to play together. no way that happens if lebron and wade are able to bring in 40m/$30m. but dan gilbert loses $200m of his franchise’s value because he can’t offer Lebron anything near what he’s actually worth.

      giving the Heat the MLE when they’re in luxury tax territory *would* exacerbate the imbalance, guys that could earn more than the MLE would seriously consider taking the Heat MLE because A) TWO starting slots are open, B) no state income tax in FL, C) no winter in Miami, D) they’d get better brand exposure by winning on TV, and C) role players on great teams *actually* have a shot at getting into the hall of fame — the new guy might be the guy history credits for getting Lebron a ring!

      maybe dumping a lot of the “exception” part of the MLE to weaken the heat monster will help a little bit, but ultimately, it’s only going to be teams with deep & loaded rosters that have a real shot at messing with that unholy alliance of buddies.

      my concern is that the restrictions may just make it harder for the Heat’s serious competitors to catch up, especially when you’re in a small market and all you can really offer is salary.

      • says

        ignarus – I couldn’t agree with you more when you say that the max salary rules are absurd. The only way that the NBA achieves any sort of parity is to try and put a superstar on every team, and the only way that happens is to give every team a chance to pay stars megabucks to stay.

        Deron Williams would still be in Utah, Melo would still be in Denver, and LeBron would still be in Cleveland if their old teams could have offered $30-$50 million a year in salary. Granted, LeBron at $50 million would mean his team-mates were a bunch of role guys, but would that be so bad? LeBron is still good enough to lead a low quality roster to the playoffs, and if all the teams in the league were similarly unbalanced, we might be able to focus more on rivalries that generate interest (such as Bird vs Magic) rather than triumvirates (LeBron, Wade, and Bosh) vs. big spenders (Dallas, Boston, or LA).

        Eliminating the maximum salary might also facilitate a more balanced team approach – a la Billup’s Pistons, none of whom were superstars but all of whom were very good. As a fan, I’d like to see a team of good quality players beat a team led by a superstar every day of the week.

        If the small market owners really want to fix the talent leak, they need to eliminate the max salary cap. Pay the superstars and leave everyone else the scraps – that’s the fairest way to do things. It’s not like any of us buy tickets or tune in to see Trevor Ariza.

    • says

      paulpressey25 – I think you might have missed the nuance in Thomsen’s point. Basically, it goes like this: Player X can’t get any more money from Team A than he can from Team B. So, rather than return to Team A for the sake of loyalty, he heads to Team B where he’ll work in a much larger media market, raise his profile, sign more endorsement deals, etc.

      Now, insert “Melo” for X, “Denver” for A, and “NY” for B, and you see how this happens regularly in the NBA.

      So long as players are able to earn slightly more in major markets via endorsements (not to mention enjoy a much more entertaining lifestyle), major markets will ALWAYS win the negotiations when dollars are the same.

      Thomsen’s point is that small-market owners are trying to engineer cost controls to prevent talent flight, but it’s a flawed concept. What small-market owners need are tools that allow them to always offer their own players top dollar even if it puts them over the tax. Too bad the current proposal all but eliminates the likelihood small markets will retain their players once they’re bumping up against the tax. Only the big markets will be able to afford that luxury.

      I feel sorry for OKC fans, because this new deal all but guarantees Harden and/or Westbrook are leaving town. There’s no way OKC can afford to pay the supertax they need to pay to keep the band together.

      • paulpressey25 says

        Jason, I’m not sure that Thomsen phrased his argument that way.

        That said, I’d take exception with your point that the mid and small markets should be able to overpay their players as a way to solve this. They are already doing that. The prior CBA’s all allowed extra years and larger raises for Bird level free agents. And in the process it has resulted in a lot of players getting way overpaid as small markets try to keep their talent. We know this in Milwaukee as we’ve always got to overpay for guys like Michael Redd or Mo Williams. Or it could be a ton of other teams and instances like Atlanta having to way overpay Joe Johnson to keep him from the Heat, Bulls, Knicks, etc.

        Thus allowing the less attractive and smaller markets the right to “overpay” is exactly why we are here in the first place.

        And putting in a less restrictive luxury tax doesn’t do anything for the non power markets. Most of the bottom 15-20 NBA markets can’t afford to pay a $68 to $80 million dollar payroll to begin with, even without taking into account the luxury tax. The really good Indy team of a few years back had to jettison Brad Miller because they couldn’t afford to run a $65 to $70 million dollar payroll period. The Lakers could, so they don’t have to break up anything and can double down with Pau’s salary.

        I agree with your comments on OKC needing to break it up eventually. But that is an ok thing, as long as a talent like Harden doesn’t find his way to one of the big markets that is in the luxury tax.

        A hard cap solves all these problems. Players should turn the tables on the owners and offer up a hard cap but with the players keeping 54% of BRI. That would flush out which owners care about $$ and which about competitive balance.

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