Memo to Stern: Pick up the phone

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NEW YORK — At a certain point, this game of telephone chicken has to end.  I made that point yesterday on NBCSportsTalk in the video posted above, and I’ll make it again on Day 141 of the NBA lockout (or “boycott” if we use David Boies’ preferred term.)

NBA commissioner David Stern spoke on the phone yesterday with the league’s Board of Governors, and Stern can wake up this morning patting himself on the back over the fact that no details of what transpired on that call have leaked yet. (Except that it lasted 20 minutes, according to Chris Broussard of ESPN.com).

Now, it is time for a suggestion to Easy Dave (that was the nickname Stern gave himself when he was feeling chipper one day during the 1998-99 lockout): Show a little humility, pick up the phone again, call Jeffrey Kessler and/or David Boies (or have an intermediary do it), and set up a meeting to settle the lockout and the lawsuits. And this time, keep it a secret to keep external forces from intervening.

It has to be done at some time, so why not today?

“They’ve got my number,” Boies said earlier this week.

As someone close to this whole process told me yesterday: Sometimes things have to get darkest before brightness arrives again. And with Billy Hunter saying that players might start their on league and play at St. John’s instead of Madison Square Garden, it’s looking pretty dark.

A few items from around the Web:

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: A procedural but interesting wrinkle in the players’ antitrust lawsuit in Minnesota emergered Thursday. In addition to filing the complaint in district court, the plaintiffs’ attorneys served papers via first-class mail on all 30 NBA general managers, according to court documents in the case. The certificate of service was amended in the court records Thursday to add the Miami Heat. When the lawsuit was filed Tuesday, the Heat were left off the list of team general managers served with the complaint. For unknown reasons, the attorneys served the papers on Heat executive and salary cap expert Andy Elisburg, rather than team president and Hall of Famer Pat Riley. Also, the Knicks’ copy of the lawsuit may get lost in the mail. It was sent to Donnie Walsh, who is no longer the Knicks’ team president. Sending the complaint to team general managers does not mean they’re liable in the lawsuit. It’s simply a procedural step, and also one of many ways that attorneys can and do annoy defendants in civil lawsuits.

Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:  Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant told Yahoo! Sports last Saturday he would seriously consider making the move overseas if the lockout wasn’t settled soon. He has drawn interest from Maccabi Tel Aviv, Besiktas, Istanbul’s Anadolu Efes, Spain’s Valencia Basket and Germany’s BBC Bayreuth. “It’s going to be open for guys whether they want to go long term or for a month,” said Durant’s agent Aaron Goodwin. “I believe there will be some opportunity.” Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry told Yahoo! Sports he is now open to playing overseas after Monday’s action by the players’ former union. “I just opened the doors and I don’t really have any clue as to a team or country,” said Curry, who has experience playing against international competition with USA Basketball. “Technically, this is Day 1 for me. I know it’s not an easy transition, but if the situation is right I can’t resist the feeling of playing and competing again.”

Tom Ziller of SBNation: “Now, in the vacuum of the NBA’s own creation, there exists the opportunity for the players to take ultimate power by waiting these lawsuits out. By holding the owners themselves hostage. By forcing Jerry Buss to watch the value of his prized possession, the Lakers, eat itself away slowly. By forcing David Stern to see his legacy lose its luster, inch by inch. By forcing Peter Holt to watch Tim Duncan’s wrinkles form, by forcing to watch Wyc Grousbeck see his championship core turn gray, by forcing Donald Sterling to think about his golden idol risk his health in pick-up games in empty gyms. In 1999, because of the lack of sophistication most players had about wealth and how to handle it, time was on the owners’ side. Things are different now. Robert Sarver and the Maloofs and Joe Lacob have a helluva lot of skin in this game to watch their investments get chewed up by Father Time. They all need and deeply desire a new system. But what good is a new system without a league to employ it in? Make no mistake: with this week’s moves by the players, the scales have evened. The players are no longer content to negotiate from the corner David Stern put them in. They looked Stern and MJ and Paul Allen and Dan Gilbert right in their gold-specked eyes and they waved a middle finger and they said, “No mas.” That’s what David Stern has to deal with now, if this ever gets back to the negotiating table: a collection of players that have had enough. And if it doesn’t get back to the table, and the players continue to hold strong — certainly not a given, but much more plausible because of the new money standards — then the owners’ fates will be decided by judges. Billionaires aren’t used to being told what to do, so it’ll be a nice new perspective on what the players have been through the last five months, should the courts go the athletes’ way. Let’s see if the owners have the stomach to accept their own medicine.

 

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  1. I know that many of the ball fans on here are massive fans of the players themselves and not so much the NBA.

    Myself I am a Knicks fan and always will be REGADRLESS of who is playing for them.

    Point being, the NBA NOT the players have all the control here!

    Go start your own league? hahaha…. give me a break… have at it lads… fill your boots!

    It will not succeed… everyone including the owners and David Stern know this!

    The league holds ALL the power!

    I have said it many times… if the NBA kicked ALL these players out and started again… within ONE season… new super stars and all stars would take the place of the bums who left… and even the MOST die hard player fan out there would not miss them!

    Time for the players to realize the “GIFT” they have being able to play in the NBA and get back to playing ball!

    • If the NBA kicked out all the current players and replaced them it would become nothing more than the d-league. Who watches the d-league now?

      And whoever replaced those current players wouldn’t be considered superstars as long as Lebron, Kobe, Dirk, Wade, Paul, etc are still alive. Give me a break…

      • It WOULD NOT be the D league… it would be the NBA and have ALL the financial backing of the NBA and as such they would promote these players and these players would become the next ALL Stars… and within ONE season the present players would be forgotten!

        Plus as new draft players came in, the level of play would go right back to where it was!

        • And then when the Olympics or World Championships come, and all of these so called “superstars” and “NBA players” are getting cut what will the NBA say then? What will the NBA say when the best players on the face of the Earth are no longer playing in their league? The NBA without the current pro’s is a semi-pro league. Nothing more, nothing less.

          I couldn’t care less who is playing in the NBA if the players left. Just tell me which teams Dirk, Howard, Kobe, etc are playing on, and that’s who I will watch along with the rest of the basketball fans in this country.

          • Sorry Michael my man, you are dead wrong sir!

            Having said that I do appreciate your dedication to the players, but it is not what the rest of the MAJORITY of basketball fans in the country (or world wide for that matter) would do at all.

            First off the new league would be worse then the d league… the conditions would be pathetic, they would be playing in much smaller arena’s, probably university and high school gyms as it would be all they could afford… no fans would go to the games as was evident when they tried the little Vegas league deal… and as such they would make no money (in comparison to the NBA salaries) and would come crying back to the NBA within one season.

            No TV networks would ever pick up any of the games and they would most definitely continue to boradcast the NBA games, so you would not have a clue when or where the OLD players would be playing… they would in fact disappear from the main stream professional ball scene altogether…

            The majority of basketball fans would be watching the NBA per usual… possibly some of the die hard groupies of the “old” players would follow these present players around and have no problem getting front row seats in the high school gym they would be playing in… but that would be it bro! (whether you choose to believe it or not… and this is exactly why eventually the present players will cave and come to their scenes and accept a deal from the owners!)

            It is what it is man!

          • Michael: I appreciate your defense of the players. I, too, would support them if I thought they had a reasonable position. Someday they all will look back and wonder what the hell they were thinking giving up precious time in their career.

            I hope we can all agree that the players should have an opportunity to vote on the latest proposal. I think it would pass easily.

          • Corbie- Who says all the players would start a new league? Some might. Others would go overseas where they would make guaranteed millions. Heck, Calvin Darden was prepared to offer some of the best players in the league 6/7 figure contracts for like a 5 game world tour. To assume all players would just want to start a new league shows your flawed understanding of the current professional basketball landscape in the world today.

            Bottom line is wherever they go, it would be a far superior quality of product than whatever the NBA could offer with its d-league lineup.

          • Michael, and using that same logic, some, perhaps many, of the current NBA players would turn around and join the “new” NBA where many would make more money than they’ll make elsewhere. The NBA still has the best coaches, best trainers, best TV contracts, arena deals, and everything else that puts them two legs up on any other alternative in the USA, where most players want to play. As for that “world tour”, that’s a lot different than running a full league schedule. Besides, that didn’t happen did it? Was it blowing smoke? Or do you know different?

    • No doubt about it Mark… the proposal would have passed if ALL the players were permitted to vote on it!

      • 30 player reps who have a much better understanding of their teammates feelings on the matter says otherwise.

        Heck, the lack of public disagreement of the decision by players demonstrates it was an easy decision for those involved.

        And also, regarding the union not holding a vote, its apparently standard operating procedure.

        There is a quote from Kessler from an ESPN article on the lack of vote- “That’s not how any union in America, that I’m aware of, operates,” said Kessler. If the NBA is just going to send offers straight to the players, why even have a union? The idea is that the union is savvier, and knows a good deal when it sees one. And only when the union is sure that the deal is in players’ best interests will they present it to the workers.”

        Plus another one, can’t find the exact article, but it says if the measure had passed only 60/40 or 70/30, it would place the union/players in a position of weakness because they are demonstrating publicly that they are not in complete agreement. It’s basically divisive and can be used against them in the future.

        The idea here is that the lack of union vote has more to do with how unions operate in general, than anything that the player’s union itself did wrong.

        It’s frankly more of a political/philosophical discussion with regards to the role unions should play, and as someone who is naturally unsympathetic to unions in the first place, it’s not really an issue I care to discuss much further.

        • MIchael: you are defending not allowing the players the right to vote?

          A lot of these guys have really harmed themselves financially. They should have had that choice.

        • Regarding how in touch the reps are with their teammates, have a look at what Simmons says in todays article:

          “Anyone who commends the players for standing up for themselves should mention that, during those five days — which doubled as the five most essential days in the recent history of the players association — many players couldn’t even get in touch with their team reps (much less Hunter or Fisher). Those players were standing up for themselves, all right — they were standing up to make sure they had cell phone reception because nobody was emailing them any updates. What a mess. “

  2. Stern will not pick up the phone because he has instructions from the owners that this season has to be lost. Those owners are the ones we’ve read about, the so called hard-liners whose goal is to miss the whole season, make players lose year’s salary, make players lose the court case, and after everything they want them to agree to a the worst possible deal. The owners are pissed-off because players refused their last offer and now they won’t budge before they completely destroy the players.

  3. Another question to those of you who supported the NBA’s economic proposal.

    Last year, the NBA in a record year for revenued had a BRI of $3.8 billion. Let’s say using that information, a single BRI point equals $40 million (it’s actually less as the BRI number indicates, but it’s the standard measure used for BRI by many accounts). If the players were to give a 7 point BRI concession to the owners, that would result in a $280 million concession. However, the NBA says it lost $300 million last year.

    So my question is, why did David Stern propose a 50/50 split (since June this past summer) if by any calculation, the NBA would not only not break even in Year 1 of the new CBA, but actually lose money?

    Further, since NBA salaries have been a fixed expense since 1998, and NBA losses have increased since that time dramatically, this would lead one to believe these expenses will further increase resulting in significantly more losses in Year 2 of the CBA and so on for the remaining years.

    Can someone explain this to me? I’d like to see how people justify this proposal. Is David Stern being a nice guy to the players with this proposal? Is my math wrong? Or, is this the biggest indictment yet that the NBA’s losses are vastly overstated since they are proposing a plan that would lose them more money?

    • Michael: it’s not a 50-50 split. Read the entire agreement and you will see 1% was devoted to payer annuities. Since that section of the proposal was separate from the section identifying 50-50, one should be able to assume that the 1% is in addition to the 50. Of course, no one discusses this and I have yet to get a definitive answer.

      The overall premise of your inquiry shows how good of a deal the players are getting. Guaranteed contracts, guaranteed benefits, a share of the revenue in a league that will market your individual talents thus allowing you to secure endorsement deals.

      The owners own the teams, the players are employees. So the question is: are the employees happy with the offer they received. We don’t know because the employees have been deprived an opportunity to vote. However, the employees are welcome to seek other avenues to make money and they are. Stoudamire and Anthony, for example, have discussed forming a new league. Other players are getting paid in leagues overseas.

      • First of you’re wrong with regards to your assumption that the 1% would come out of the owners share (how does that even make sense if they are offering a 50/50 split). But even if you were correct that the 1% comes out of the owners share, that means the league would be $60 million in the red, instead of just $20 million.

        So no Mark, no matter how you look at it you still haven’t answered my question. Why would the league propose a deal that results in the league losing money in Year 1 of the agreement?

        • Because that’s the best deal they think they can get? Some owners are upset that that was offered, which is why Stern said that it would fall back to a 47% offer if this one was turned down.

          • “Because that’s the best deal they think they can get?”

            How does that make any sense? Let’s make a deal that will result in us losing a minimum of $20 million next year, and in all likelihood over $1 billion by the time it is completed.

            How can David Stern offer a deal that will result in the NBA losing money in Year 1? If that’s the best he can get, a losing deal, why would he offer it at all?

          • The 50/50 isn’t Stern playing hardball. It’s him trying to find a happy middle ground between the hardline owners and the hardline players. The players response is to give the KG bully staredown, threaten to start their own league (I’d love to see them try) and lawsuits. Good luck in court when the owners present their case that the offer still accepted losses on their part.

          • So the middle ground is the NBA losing a minimum of $20 million and probably a over a $1 billion over the next 10 years? That’s the middle ground? Really?

            What kind of business plan is that?

          • You don’t get anything that counters your own perception, do you? Cheers.

          • They have a new business plan to present now, that includes 47% for the players. Happy with the plan now?

          • You haven’t answered my question. Your whole point is that David Stern would propose a deal that results in the NBA losing money because 1)he is trying to find a “happy middle ground” and 2) Because that’s the best deal they think they can get.

            Take a step back, read what you’re writing and ask yourself “does this make sense”? I think you will find it does not.

            What business owner makes a deal with his “employees” that will result in the business losing money given the reasons you have stated?

          • @p00ka- No of course not. It still will result is drastic losses for the league. But, that still doesn’t answer my initial question

          • Michael: since no one talks about the 1% going to players annuity, how can you assume that is part of the 50-50. It might be but none of the reporters covering the league have mentioned it. My suggestion to them: get off the talking points and find out the real facts.

          • um, correct me if I’m wrong, but with the numbers you’re using, 3% (50-47) makes up $120 million, which one may say covers that $20 million loss you speak of. Neither you or I know exactly why Stern didn’t stick to the hardliner’s 47% and offered 50%. It’s a moot point now because the offer is 47%

          • @p00ka- you are correct. But as I’ve stated a million times on here, player salaries have been a fixed expense. Cutting a fixed expense to prevent increasing losses is not logical, which is what the league is doing.

            I think it is fair to speculate as why Stern offered such a puzzling deal of a 50/50 split. It speaks to one of the central issues of this CBA, is the league really losing money, and if so how much?

            Offering a deal that results in the league losing money in year 1 indicates to me the league’s losses have been overstated by quite a bit.

          • Well Michael, you’re certainly free to read whatever indications fit your theory, but it’s still theory. There are other possible explanations, but you don’t seem able to wrap your head around such radical thought such as further reducing expenses by limiting the big spenders’ ability to artificially drive up prices. They hope this will be a result of the system changes they seek. As they’ve said to the players, if they can’t get the system changes, the offer resorts to 47%.

          • What does anything you just wrote have to do with the question I am asking?

            When will you wrap your head around the “radical thought” that system changes and the disagreement over the BRI split are two completely separate topics?

            It’s impossible to “reduce expenses by limiting the big spenders’ ability to artificially drive up prices”. Why is that concept so hard for you understand. Players are guaranteed a certain amount BRI REGARDLESS of whatever system you implement. Whether that’s one where you think will limit spending by big spenders or one that does not do that.

          • Michael, I guess you know better than the owners. In any case, whatever reasoning allowed Stern to offer 50%, one could say the profit conscious owners now have their way with a 47% offer. Loss problem solved.

          • Where did I say I know better? This whole thread is to gain a better understanding of why they would they offer such a deal. I’m trying to learn. If I’m trying to get an understanding of their thought process, how could you possibly conclude that I know more than them? Your logic and reasoning skills are piss poor frankly.

            And no, the loss problem isn’t solved. But that’s a discussion that’s already been had.

          • Well Michael, I tried to give you an alternative to the “50% makes no sense if it still results in a loss. They must be overstating their losses” statement of yours, but you’ll not have any talk about compromise. We don’t know what else is on the mind of owners, but I’m guessing $20 million overall loss looks a hell of a lot better to them than $300 million loss. I’m thinking they figure they can find a way to make up 1 million a lot easier than 10 million. Personally, I’d change hotels to Hyatt instead of Ritz, but they may have other things in mind.

      • @Mark- well it could come out of league revenues as a whole. Recall that the owners take over $500 million off the top before you get to what they deem to be BRI. It could come from there. But I don’t see how it could possibly come from owner’s share of BRI. The way they phrase the proposals, it wouldn’t make sense.

  4. Chris, Mr. Grantham explains the situation so understandable, knowledgeable in simpleenglish that I have to ask the question: Why are most of the NBA writers so far off ?

    And Your silly “memo”, David Stern is not going to cave in, not now. The owners can not end this mess without landslide victory. A compromise under litigation and next time there will be the same procedure with decertification and litigation. So there is no chance whatsoever for 2011-2012, but I have some doubts if there will be 2012-2013.

  5. Doubt we will see this reported by the basketball sportswriters:

    Ex-union chief Grantham talks about the players with USA Today: “They’re employees. They’re not partners.”

  6. Funny how now all the superstars seem to be going to Europe to get their money, not only leaving their fellow players behind, but also taking jobs away from those already playing in Europe. I guees staying strong together isnt any fun when you dont get your money.

  7. Chris: do you actually think before you write ? You thoughts/writings are juvenile and laughable…. Do you have a filter or better yet an editor? You have been on the NBA beat too long to put such naive utter BS crap out there….much less to send commissioner a memo., are you kidding ?

  8. paulpressey25 says:

    We’ll see more of these articles from the NBA writing brethren in the days and weeks to come. Keep calling out the owners and Stern to cave.

    Too hard to blame the players or agents. That is the source material for 80% of their articles.

    They also see nothing wrong with the current system. I’d equate most of these guys (Haberstroh, Bucher, Berger, etc) with former wrestling announcer Mean Gene Okerlund. If those guys really were worried about issues to make the game better, they would have created a firestorm during the Tim Donaghy ref scandal and held Stern accountable to replace all the refs.

    They reality is they are too wedded to their prior jobs covering the “WWE” enterprise known as the NBA to point out any of the problems in the current system.

    As someone noted a few weeks back, if you were creating the NBA system from scratch, would you come up with the ridiculous “Rube Goldberg” version of the CBA we currently have? No. You’d model right after the NFL and NHL with a simple hard cap. And then use the NFL’s franchise tag while also dumping guaranteed contracts in place of signing bonuses.

    But none of these writers are able to think outside the box they know. And that is understandable. But I think NHL fans are generally very happy with the out of the box system they ended up with. And the league appears to be growing because of the new system.

    • I don’t know enough to critique the writers, but spot on regarding the system issues. The issues the players refuse to address in their short-sighted selfishness. They want to keep it all as is, so other superstars can go the Lebron or Melo route. Leave those doors open and there will be an avalanche of those moves over the next few years, resulting in only 6-8 teams worth watching. This is no longer the Celtics/Lakers era where 20+ cities are going to spend their money at the rate they do now, to watch the Washington/Milwaukee/Sacramento/Etc. Generals get beat up every game. Revenues go down, player salaries go down,,,,,,,, but they’ll play where they want.

    • @paul- There’s actually nothing wrong with the current NBA system with regards to “system issues”. The current system led led to this past year when revenues were higher than they have ever been.

      @p00ka- The NBA has always been a league where there are only 6-8 teams competing for a title (or worth watching to the casual fan). In the early 90s, one could say there was a only one team worth watching and the NBA may have reached its peak in popularity back then. In the 80s, the Lakers/Celtics won 8 out of the 10 titles that decade. Once again, the NBA had a “rebirth” in popularity back then. The NBA could very well be experiencing this same rebirth with the Miami Heat, but the owners don’t want that. They want a league where San Antonio and Cleveland have just as much a shot at the title as the Lakers/Celtics year in and year out. And as the NBA has already seen, when that happens the results are disastrous for the league economically. What you and the owners are proposing is something that 1)doesn’t make sense economically and 2) goes against everything that has made this league successful for the past few decades.

      • Saying a formula worked 20-30 years ago, so is best today, doesn’t fly. In so many respects, we live in a different world today. To begin with, there are more teams. All those gains of fans weren’t gains of diehard bball fans, but more of the casual fans that want to cheer for their team, rather than see Lebron vs Kobe every year, while their team gets beat up on, or worse be feeder teams to the big markets/deep pockets.. Seeing Lebron, Melo Bosh make a mockery of the teams that invested in and pampered them for 7 years, swayed an awful lot of fans too. In my opinion, it’s a big mistake to get caught up in “well, it worked before”, without recognizing the different landscape. Just read the posts in various forums around the web. There’s an awful lot of fan support for the owners’ attempt at leveling the playing field. That’s current reality, not what was happening 20-30 years ago.

        • “Saying a formula worked 20-30 years ago, so is best today, doesn’t fly. ”

          Um actually it does, especially when revenues are HIGHER than ever before. Like I said, what you’re advocating for is based on zero evidence except “posts in various forums around the web”, as if that is any indicator. Yeah, let’s take their opinion instead of the $4.3 billion the NBA generated last year.

          • And 22 teams lost money. Where’s the wisdom in chasing that model. How long do you think 450 players will be employed chasing that?

          • You realize though that system issues, that being a soft cap/hard cap, more or less restrictive movement, etc, has nothing to do with league losses, right? Player salaries are a fixed percentage of BRI, so no matter what system the league implements, the league still owes the players a fixed sum of money. The system changes (which this thread is about) would only result in more or less revenues (tickets sold, viewers, etc). And as we can tell, the NBA doesn’t have a revenue problem

          • You brought up the record revenue to support moving forward with the current system. I pointed out that looking at league wide revenue/profit is simplistic and doesn’t take into account that 22 markets aren’t supporting the league in record numbers. Before you get nit-picky about “proven” opinions, the basic premise is that you can’t say that the landscape as it currently stands, will support a team of 8 super teams and 22 feeder teams for very long. The landscape is different now, and the current mood amongst fans indicates that.

          • That’s what revenue sharing is for. Something that plays a central role in MLB and the NFL, but is done very little in the NBA. The Knicks, Heat and Bulls for example, didn’t have to share a penny last year.

  9. Um..puleeeze!
    Stern did not do the latest refusals.
    He did not cancel the union.
    He did not file the initial lawsuits.
    In fact it is the new union attorneys that have been pushing hard to get the negociations to this point.
    Si, i fact, THEY should be the ones making the first phone calls, not Stern.
    Pretty weak.

    • Agree. I like Chris but he and other sportswriters really don’t get it. Read the proposal offered to the players. The owners added a new annuity program (1% of BRI) that would assist players once they retire. This is EXACTLY what Hunter and Fisher claimed they wanted. NO ONE has mentioned that. The proposal would provide players with roughly 5.5 million dollars in contracts with all expenses paid. How about the per diem deals they get when they are on the road. I doubt the owners will reduce the luxury hotel stays they afford the players or the chartered travel.

      The players got a good deal. People like Matt Harpring get it. The sad part is that the players are really getting bad advice and apparently they have enough shills in the media to support them.

      • Where did yo see the Harpring interview? I’ve always liked him.

        • This is what Matt Harpring said on his twitter account. Don’t expect this to be reported anywhere.

          MattHarpring15: read the NBA proposal- Not only would i vote yes, i would be calling all my friends around the league to do the same

      • I remember hearing about that 1% I never understood if it was on top of the 50% or included. But I also heard that it was to be used first if the escrow wasn’t enough to keep the player’s share below 50%. So potentially it could have just been lumped into the 50% with no skin off the owners cut or maybe it was actually a 51% BRI deal which I haven’t heard.

        • illyb: Great point. Shouldn’t the reporters cover the league at least find out where the 1% annuity program fits into the deal? If it is in addition to the 50-50, than it’s not a 50-50 deal.

          • The 1% is part of the 50% given to the players. So the owners get 50%, the players’ benefit plan gets 1%, and 49% goes to the player salaries.

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