Lockout prediction: Deal within 36 hours

NEW YORK — My gut feeling: We will have a settlement of the NBA lockout within 36 hours.

Why?

Because, folks, they are 99 percent of the way there. (You don’t pile all of the kids into the station wagon, tell them you are driving to DisneyWorld and then stop in the outskirts of Orlando and say you are turning around.)

The owners are at 50 percent on the revenue split. The players are at 51 — or ” fifty plus one” as they put it when talks broke off Saturday night, with that extra 1 percent representing $40 million that would be earmarked for improved pensions for both current and retired players.

If David Stern throws them some crumbs — say $20 million for improved benefits, plus a few tweaks to the system changes that players find so objectionable — they are 99.9 percent of the way there. I said all this on the radio yesterday, and I feel as strongly about it today as I did then.

Player reps from the 30 NBA teams have a 1 p.m. EST meeting scheduled today in Manhattan, and the smart money says they’ll emerge asking for one more meeting with the owners to try to move to a place just a little more palatable. Stern has nothing to lose by taking the meeting, everything to gain by taking it and sprinkling a few crumbs toward the players.

And if the players emerge from a bargaining sessions saying they are now prepared to put the offer up for a vote, voila! The season will start in the second week of December.

Yes, it’s that easy.

There was always going to be an endgame in this fight, and it has arrived. There was always a secret watch in Stern’s pocket that showed when the true 11th hour would arrive, and it is here. As I said during that radio interview in Detroit: Are the players really going to walk away from $2 billion in guaranteed money of the upcoming season? Hell, no. If they let that money fly out the window, it will be gone forever.

The owners have been ruthless, hardheaded, stubborn and disciplined in this negotiation, and they won it a long time ago. But they still have to get it to the finish line, and that is why there is still has to be a little extra give left in their arsenal after keeping it in reserve for more than four months.

And although there is a core group of 10-14 hardliners that wanted an even better deal, that does not constitute a majority. A majority is 16, and David Stern can get 16 votes if he can coax the players into putting the deal up for a vote.

So today is a big day, and tomorrow is a bigger one. Stern’s deadline is 5 p.m. EST Wednesday. And even if an agreement in principle is reached at 7 p.m., Stern can channel Jimmy Buffett and say it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

So they’ll get it done.

With that, let’s have a look around to see what the top NBA labor writers are reporting today:

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports: “As David Stern tries to hold off his most rabid hardline owners, the NBA’s commissioner has expressed a willingness to meet with the Players Association with the possibility of relenting on some system issues that are important to the union in reaching an agreement, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. Nevertheless, union executive director Billy Hunter was still deciding late Monday whether he wanted to take the meeting, two sources involved in the talks told Yahoo! Sports. The reason for Hunter’s hesitation was unclear. As one ownership source told Yahoo! Sports on Monday night, “If there were a couple of tweaks needed around the edges – not fundamental deal points – I believe there could be a deal if everything else is agreed upon. But there needs to be a meeting with David and Billy for anything to happen.” Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant also has urged owners to resume talks with the players union and complete the labor agreement. “We need for the two sides to get together again before Wednesday, because we’re too close to getting a deal done,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. “We need to iron out the last system items and save this from spiraling into a nuclear winter.”

Chris Broussard, ESPN.com: “A group of disgruntled NBA owners held a conference call Monday to express their displeasure with the 50/50 revenue offer commissioner David Stern has presented to the players’ association, according to sources with knowledge of the call. The deal, which the union sees as an “ultimatum” offer, calls for players to receive anywhere between 49 and 51 percent of basketball-related income, but the group of displeased owners, the sources said, are hoping the players reject it. … Stern was not on Monday’s call, but the sources said that up to 11 owners took part, including Charlotte’s Michael Jordan, Portland’s Paul Allen and Milwaukee’s Herb Kohl. … “There are at least 15 owners who are praying that the players say no,” one source said, “because then they’ll get the deal they want.”

Ken Berger, CBSSports.com: “Nothing will be known for sure until the player reps meet with union leaders Tuesday. And to some extent, further conversations will be required between the NBPA and NBA negotiators to clear up certain technical aspects of the proposal — such as a provision the league has asked for to account for a scenario in which player salaries exceed their 50 percent guarantee by more than the 10 percent escrow withholding in the proposal, up from the previous level of eight percent, sources said. Indeed, while no meetings between the two sides were scheduled as of Monday night, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com that NBPA executives were hopeful that further conversations could be scheduled with the league before the Wednesday deadline. While union president Derek Fisher and outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler excoriated the league’s latest proposal after talks broke down early Sunday and executive committee members are not in favor of presenting it to the rank-and-file for a vote, union negotiators believe that some minor tweaks to unresolved system issues could make the deal more palatable. Among the issues, for example, would be permitting teams above the luxury-tax line to execute sign-and-trade transactions — a detail the two sides are at odds on despite it only occurring five times during the previous six-year agreement.”

Jerry Zgoda, Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “Pretty much everything is split,” (Timberwolves player rep Anthony Tolliver) said on his way to the airport after playing in a charity game in Salt Lake City on Monday night. “Half of the people want to decertify. Half the people want to vote on it.” His unofficial polling includes some teammates and other players in the league. … Just like them, Tolliver also said he’s not sure yet what to think. “Probably my best bet is to sit down and figure out what’s really important,” he said. “I don’t want to make any outlandish comments about it right now. I want to see what everybody else has to say before I decide what I want to do. At this point, I’m split down the middle like everybody else. I don’t know what I want to do.” Tolliver suggested the best option is to try to talk more with owners, who have offered a 50-50 split of basketball revenues and perhaps more importantly a more restrictive system that would prevent the league’s richest, highest-pay teams from far exceeding the salary cap to pay players. … “I think if we get a chance to get back to the owners and adjust the deal a little bit one way or the other, possibly we can vote for it,” he said. “They might force our hand the other way. We’ll see.”

 

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  1. I hope you're right mah brotha says

    I like your analogy and I hope you’re right but the only thing is that the station wagon is driven by Paul Allen, MJ and David Stern and the kids want to see Mickey mouse for a week but daddy’s being a lil bitch and only wants to stay for 5 days.

  2. says

    All you can do is guess…it’s all any of us can do. In the meantime, have fun making predicitions and enjoy the added traffic of folks reading your articles…

    I know that’s what I’m trying to do as well.

  3. says

    Chris, I want to believe you, but for what you’re saying to happen, owners and players would have to act rationally, and we haven’t seen much evidence to suggest they’re likely to do so. I doubt Stern gives them a single crumb, so I think our only hope is if the players cave.

    • Matt says

      agreed. there is no way the owners will accept anything less they’re way to greedy
      the players are our only help i think

  4. Guest says

    There is a reason that players rarely guarantee a victory, and it’s because they will look foolish if they lose.

    Here, it’s like Sheridan’s team is down 3-0 in the Finals and he is guaranteeing victory for the 4th straight time. In other words, even if he is right, it’s meaningless given how many times he has been wrong. Enough with the predictions.

  5. Memphis Mark says

    I really don’t care how they get it done now. Just get it done. Here in Memphis we’ve waited many years to have the kind of hope and optimism we have heading into the next season. Now, it’s been nothing more than this ‘posturing crapola’ for four months. Players association: you’re basketball players, play ball! Take the deal. When they do settle this Chris, come on down to Memphis and get you some real BBQ.

  6. FrankVogelisGOD says

    Have you ever heard the story of the boy who cried wolf, Chris? You might want to read up on it, because you, sir, have cried wolf so many times that it is impossible to take any prediction you make seriously. From reading your article I get that you think all this doomsday talk is just posturing and that both sides will come to the table ready negotiate, but it hasn’t been just posturing so far and I’m not sure why you are so confident that both sides want to get a deal done. I think the owners really are that greedy and are ready to kill this season to put more money in their pockets. I think the players really are this out of touch and even though most of the arenas they play in are empty and contracts like Eddy Curry kill any chances for their team to improve they think nothing is wrong with the NBA business model. I think Billy Hunter and David Stern really are this incompetent and have never had any control over their constituents. I also think this deadline is complete BS. Why this arbitrary date in November as doomsday? To save the month of December? Why should we believe the sides are so interested in saving December when they couldn’t care less about losing November? I say the union turns down the deal tomorrow and decertifies. The real deadline will then be 45 days from then when the players will be allowed to vote for decertification which will still allow plenty of time to save a 50 game season. That will actually give the players their needed leverage to close this deal, but you are relying on Billy Hunter to close this deal which should scare everyone who is a fan of NBA basketball.

  7. Will Johnson says

    The Harold Camping of Basketball reporting. Nevertheless, you once again present a good argument. Thanks for providing me hope from the start, Chris. Even if it was false hope.

  8. MP says

    Sure, Chris. There’s going to be a deal much like the previous 4 times you’ve already predicted. Much like when you said this in early Oct.–

    “So I’ll say it again: The deal will get done, and no regular season games will be lost. That has been my prediction all along, and I ain’t budging. I’ll leave the budging to the guys in the negotiating room.”

  9. Adrian says

    a deal is definitely doable. Its been within striking distance for the last 2 or 3 weeks, but one or both of the sides need to go into that room saying they really want to walk out with a deal. I dont think there is a strong enough desire to get this thing done by either side, and Im not sure whats gonna push that.

  10. Mike says

    I like the updates and the new site chris, but enough with the the predictions already…you may finally be right this time, but how many times have you said a deal was done?

  11. says

    I don’t know what to think anymore. I appreciate your optimism Chris, but I’m going to go 51-49 in favour of no deal so I’m not disappointed again.

    P.S. Mark, Konajinx – those comments are about as useful as a hardline owner.

  12. Konajinx says

    Who cares? The new Call of Duty is arriving at midnight and that’s infinitely more impressive than any of this.

  13. Frank says

    As bleak as things sound a part of me thinks that a deal can get done with just a few tweaks. I don’t think a deal would have overwhelming support from either the players or the owners but I do think that deal that gets 51% from each side is doable. I also think the articles we are seeing regarding the hard line owners have been floated to insure that the players know they are serious. Notice at the same time that there is a faction of “hard line” players that favor decertification. The reality is that Billy Hunter did his players a disservice by not taking a decertification vote at the beginning of the process.

    • Adrian says

      the decertification vote likely wouldnt have passed at the beginning of the process. A lot of the players talking about it now… are talking that way because of how things have gone the last few weeks.

      Even now though, the decertification vote isnt a gaurentee, infact- i think a lot of players are using it more as a threat than actually pursuing that rout. Its a drastic move with no gaurentees and there is a very reasonable chance that the whole process of it would wind up being nothing but a complete waste of time.

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