Union, willing to give back more money, wants one more meeting

NEW YORK — NBA players want one more meeting with commissioner David Stern and the owners. And although they are probably not willing to say “pretty-please,” they are willing to pay for the privilege.

Making the surprising declaration that they are prepared to make further financial concessions (goodbye, 51 percent), team representatives from the NBA players union said Tuesday they still want to make a deal, and they still want to make it by tomorrow, as long as it is fair.

Union director Billy Hunter said he will likely call Stern on the phone tonight to ask for the meeting, which would be held — if Stern says OK — in the hours leading up to the commissioner’s “close of business Wednesday” deadline for the union to accept the current offer on the table or have it replaced by a new offer under which the players would receive only 47 percent of revenues.

Quite clearly, the union is anxious to give this one more shot.

What is unclear is whether the owners will be willing to budge on many of the salary cap system issues that are keeping the sides apart.

Those issues include:

_ A prohibition on tax-paying teams being allowed to use the full midlevel exception. Owners have proposed a mini-midlevel of $5 million for two years, which could be used only once every two years, for teams over the tax threshold.

_ The length of mid-level exception contracts. The players want those deals to be for four years, while owners have said they can be for four years the first time a team uses it, then for three years if a team uses the MLE the next year.

_ The amount of escrow funds that would be withheld from players paychecks to ensure their combined salaries do not exceed a specified amount (which looks like it will be 50 percent of basketball-related income). Players are offering to have a maximum of 10 percent withheld, the owners want an unspecified larger percentage.

_ The severity of the penalty for teams exceeding the luxury tax threshold, a.k.a. the cliff. Players do not want the tax system to act as a cliff if a team steps over it, asking that the harshest penalties be incurred when a team goes $10 million or more above the tax.

_ A prohibition on taxpaying teams doing sign-and-trade deals. The owners want it, the players do not. Also, the sides are at odds on the percentage rates of the punitive tax levies that would be paid by teams that repeatedly exceed the tax threshold.

_ A prohibition on teams doing extend-and-trade deals like the ones that sent Carmelo Anthony from Denver to New York and Kevin Garnett from Minnesota to Boston. 

If there is some give in these areas from the owners, there is going to be some get in their wallets.

Owners have offered the players a 50-50 split, and the players came down from their demand for 52.5 percent of revenues to 51 percent during last Saturday’s ill-fated bargaining session. The one percent difference represents $40 million annually in a business that brought in $4.2 billion in revenues last season.

“We’re open about potential compromises on financials, but there are certain things in the system we have to have,” Fisher said. “Of course players want to get a deal done, we’ve gotten thousands of those calls, but not by any means necessary.”

After the news conference, Stern went on NBA-TV with reporter David Aldridge and said he would gladly accept Hunter’s phone call. But he did not say whether he would agree to a meeting, saying he first wanted to speak to the owners’ labor relations committee.

So while it was clear the players were in dire and perhaps desperate straits, they remained steadfast in their assertion that they will not accept the terms that were offered Saturday night when the sides met with a federal mediator.

And while the owners have already won the financial battle, and won it big, they still stand to lose a combined $2 billion — the same amount as the players — if the entire 2010-11 season is lost.

The only leverage the players have left is that they are the product, and it would probably be fair to say they are pleading with Stern and the owners to respect their pride and make enough system concessions Wednesday to get the deal to the finish line.

“Players are clearly of the mind that what is on the table in an unacceptable proposal, but they said try to go back and get a better deal. Our willingness to compromise is predicated on getting the things we need in the system. We’re prepared to negotiate fairly on all issues, and we expect the same from our adversary,” Hunter said.

Union officials said there was little talk of decertification during the meting, and the most bombastic moment of the press conference came when Hunter was asked what he would like to say to Michael Jordan, who was a union hardliner during the last lockout in 1998 (he famously told Wizards owner Abe Pollin that if he couldn’t make a profit, he should sell his team) but is now a hardliner on the other side of the table.

“I would have him give the same advice he gave to Abe Pollin. I would tell him to take his own advice,” said Hunter, who also mentioned that the union was hearing “through the underground” that games would be cancelled through Christmas if a deal is not reached by Stern’s deadline.

Said Fisher of Jordan: “We don’t see eye to eye.”

So tomorrow (Wednesday) is shaping up as a do-or-die day.

Will a deal get done? I think so, but I already told you that this morning.

We shall see.

 

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  1. Anthony S says

    I really don’t understand how ppl complain about competitive balance. You have to manage your assets or else you will lose. Atlanta missed on Chris Paul AND Deron Williams, yet they’ve still been a competitive team for the past few yrs. Orlando went to the finals, but they’re not surrounding Howard with the right pieces so he wants to leave. The Suns gave up on Amare and gave that money to CHANNING FRYE and HAKEEM WARRICK!! Whose fault is that? How in the world can you make excuses for them???
    You’re honestly trying to make a case for Donald Sterling!!!!??? For Richard Sarver!!??? For whoever was running the Warriors???

    In my eyes there are only a handfull of teams that are in markets so bad that they can’t compete with the rest of the league. But no matter what kind of system or restrictions you try to enforce, the good teams will always find a way to be good and the bad teams will always find a way to screw it up… That’s true in EVERY SINGLE SPORT. Sure the smaller market teams have a smaller margin for error, but no matter the market size you have to make the right decisions when acquiring and managing talent.
    I honestly don’t understand the hate for the players. I’m sure most pro-owner ppl just want
    their teams to be competitive, but I cant help but think that most you (and definitely the posters on espn.com) are just racist.

  2. Joe says

    Shut the players the fuck up. Go for the fences. Don’t give shit it is the owners teams and league be happy you play in it players. I hope the players stay witha no vote. so the owners can offer 47% and get a hard cap. It works in tehg NFL why not the NBA.Crush those players David!!!!!

    • Anthony S says

      What works in the NFL??? The Pats constantly acquiring talent on the cheap? Philly working “salary cap magic” to form so called dream teams? Redskins over paying in free agency EVERY YR? Shut the fuck up. If you have a great coach, a great QB and a great TEAM around him, you have a great chance to win. Same in the NBA…Pistons, Spurs, Dallas, Lakers and Celtics proved you need a great team and great coaching not just a bunch of stars. Thats the formula in almost every team sport. Has little to do with what kind of market you’re in. This is a pure money grab by the owners.

  3. paulpressey25 says

    Chris-Ken Berger keeps tweeting that there have been few meaningful Sign and Trades.

    Does the prohibition on sign and trades for taxpaying teams include the taxpayer doing the signing?

    I’d argue there are two huge moves Berger forgot about. Mavs got Kidd by S&T with Keith Van Horn bird rights. Lakers did the same with McKie to acquire Pau Gasol. Great NYT article link below on how both lux taxpayers exploited the CBA this way in 2008.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/20/sports/basketball/20vanhorn.html

      • paulpressey25 says

        That NYT link needs to get out to these NBA media types who believe S&T prohibition on lux taxpayers a meaningless issue for owners.

        Berger obviously only focused on trades where the lux tax payer acquired a player via S&T. His research was poor and he forgot two key deals where Mavs and Lakers acquired all star players. As NYT article said, both teams drove a truck through CBA loophole.

        Or maybe Berger got his info from the union or player agents who didn’t want to disclose those other deals. And Berger took it as gospel.

  4. Clueless in NY says

    I believe Sheridan was the same guy who called for us playing preseason games in October.

    Once again, I hope he’s right, but I doubt it.

  5. Steve K says

    What the owners want to do does nothing for competitive balance on a year to year basis. Poorly run teams in poor markets still will never profit. Chicago wasn’t competitive for 12 years. Boston wasn’t competitive for nearly 20. The Lakers weren’t a threat through most of the 90′s. The Knicks haven’t really been a serious threat for the title in over 30 years. Teams in big markets aren’t guaranteed any competitive advantage.

    This has nothing to do with competitive balance. It’s only about trying to keep the teams that can’t profit from going bankrupt, and helping the league grow it’s revenue as a whole.

    • Clueless in NY says

      False, but thanks for playing.

      Of course teams in big markets are guaranteed competitive advantages. Ever heard of local TV contracts? There’s a reason they’re massive in big markets: lots of people.

      Big TV markets = bigger cash flow = bigger money to throw around = better team. Period.

      As previously discussed, the only small market team to win a championship in the last 30 YEARS was San Antonio. And the only reason they did was because they fluked Duncan by losing Robinson to injury for a year.

      • Steve K says

        Phoenix, Orlando, Denver, Utah, and San Antonio, and CLEVELAND have been more competitive than every big market team over the last 10 years except for the Lakers. Nice try though, buddy.

        I don’t care why they were competitive.

        Saying only big market teams win championships is also very stupid, congrats. Bulls never won before or after Jordan. New York hasn’t won in 40 years. Boston won 1 in 25 years. Detroit’s had 1 good team in 20 years. Houston isn’t a threat. The Clippers are in the second largest market and are the worst franchise in NBA history. That alone disproves your idiocy.

        Players make franchises.

        The KNICKS ARE IN THE LARGEST MARKET AND ARE NEVER COMPETITIVE. What does that mean? Use your brain.

      • Steve K says

        Big TV markets = bigger cash flow = bigger money to throw around = better team. Period.

        That’s your quote, though. And proves that the Knicks are a ‘better team’.

  6. MP says

    No reason to get your hope up, guys. There is NO WAY the owners are going to budge on their most recent offer. The hardliners already want to cancel the season so they can get 53% and a hard cap. This thing is going nowhere on Wednesday. Let the Nuclear Winter begin, because there will not be a season, regardless of Sheridan’s fearless predictions otherwise.

    • Clueless in NY says

      I disagree, but don’t think it will be on Sheridan’s Wednesday timeline. I think a season starts by Feb. 1. The only way something gets done sooner is if the owners allow Fisher and Hunter to save face. If not, cue the Counting Crows, cause it’s gonna be a “Long December”.

  7. Mark says

    Paulpressey25: you have focused on the competitive balance more than anyone else out there. It was clear from the beginning that the owners wanted to stop players from publicly announcing their intentions to leave (e.g., Melo, D. Williams, Howard, Paul etc.) and form mini all star teams and than allow these newly loaded teams from using the MLE to fill in the rest.

    This is what the lockout is about.

    • Byron Hauck says

      If that were what the lockout is about why did the owners spend the last two months cutting player salaries by 12%?

    • Clueless in NY says

      You’re right, Mark.

      And Byron, they spent the last two months cutting player salaries to restore profitability AND disallow the loopholes Mark mentions them closing.

      In the end, they will win both. It’s just a matter of when, and by how much.

      • Byron Hauck says

        They restored profitability, and then restored it again, and then restored it again. And then yesterday they did it one more time for good measure.

        • Clueless in NY says

          Absolutely. Like I said, just a matter of by how much. Players could have played a perfect game and still lost. Must be what the T’Wolves feel like playing the *INSERT LARGE MARKET TEAM WITH SUPERSTAR PLAYER HERE*

          Jokes on me, I’m a T’Wolves fan!

  8. Frank says

    I think this can get done. Clearly the players are reeling. Sheridan is right. A few tweaks on the system and this is done. Now let’s see if Stern can make these tweaks and hold enough owners votes.

  9. paulpressey25 says

    Hold tight owners. The system issues are huge. That’s why the players are fighting them.

    The union won’t blow it all up over the concept that Steve Blake and Derrick Fisher could sign their MLE deals with the Lakers.

    And the agents absolutely don’t want these loopholes closed. But that is why they need to be closed.

      • paulpressey25 says

        I am rooting for competitive balance. Does it happen with this CBA? Maybe, maybe not. Does it happen without revenue sharing? Perhaps likely not and that is all on the owners.

        But I know that if the status quo system stays in place, Dwight is headed for LA, Paul to NY and every good veteran taking MLE deals to bolster those teams. Cuban meanwhile keeps creating contract slots for him to buy another title. In the meantime every small or even mid market like Atlanta will have to overpay to keep their non superstar talent because those players and their agents will always leverage MLE or S&T deals from the big markets.

        I’ve got little interest in that version of the NBA, even though obviously the fans in the super 8 markets would love it.

        • Byron Hauck says

          I’m from Detroit over here, so not exactly a “Super 8″ market players are flocking to. At least Atlanta doesn’t snow.

          The owners decided they wanted to cut player wages by more than 12% instead of pursuing anything that would restore competitive balance, so I have no sympathy for the non-competitive bed the small market owners have made for themselves. I can understand how this would be frustrating for someone who hoped the lockout would be used to fix competitive balance and instead watched the owners try to leverage the players out of every dollar they could.

          Letting teams control players forever is one way to foster competitive balance, but at the expense of any fairness in dealing with the players we show up to watch.

          • paulpressey25 says

            Byron, I can’t relate to the morality plays of who is “right” and who is “wrong” here.

            All I want is my favorite form of entertainment since I’ve been a kid to remove some of the WWE elements that have. Pervaded the last 20 years and accelerated the past two.

            If the NBA provides the entertainment I want, I don’t care who gets the millions and who gets the hundreds of millions.

            I would agree with you though that the owners have disappointed as it relates to competitive balance issues versus BRI. That said, this is the last chance to get some meaningful changes. A team like the Pistons can then choose between giving the 50 million dollar deal to Lamar Odom or Tyson Chandler versus the now current system reality of Charlie Villanueva.

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