At a certain point, the sides had to start talking again, right?
And after two dozen negotiating sessions that played out in public, with both sides issuing their spin in comments to the media afterward (with the exception of sessions mediated by George Cohen), we are now learning that secret meetings have been taking place yesterday and today — presumably in an effort to settle all matters related to the NBA lockout, which would include litigation and collective bargaining matters.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports broke the news on his Twitter feed, noting that Derek Fisher, president of what used to be the players’ union, is not taking part in the discussions. Howard Beck of the New York Times says the league is eyeing a 66-game season that would begin on Christmas Day, Dec. 25. Beck also says the sides will met again Friday after taking a day off for Thanksgiving.
So there is some renewed hope, but it should be tempered with a cautionary word: Talking in private, and keeping word of the negotiations out of the public eye, can only be helpful to the process if there is a concerted effort and willingness on both sides to push this negotiation over the finish line. During the 1998-99 lockout, it was far more common for the sides to meet discreetly, but those sessions proved to be as fruitless as the larger, more public negotiating sessions.
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com had been getting wind that something was afoot, writing about how Jim Quinn, the former law partner of players’ attorney Jeffrey Kessler, had emerged as a back-channel facilitator. Things were otherwise quiet Tuesday, too quiet some might say, and now it turns out we know the reason.
NBA commissioner David Stern has not spoken publicly in eight days says lamenting that the union had opted for a “nuclear winter” after filing a disclaimer of interest. The last public word from anyone associated with the players’ side came Monday night when new lead attorney David Boies met with the media for a litigation update that turned into a debate over what harm could be done by being the side that picks up the telephone first to re-engage in dialogue.
Well, it looks like a phone call was made by somebody, and as Wojnarowski is reporting: “We should know more by tonight.”
League spokesman Mike Bass said the NBA remains in favor of a negotiated resolution, but he declined to comment further.
Beck weighed in with some details late Wednesday night:
“The parties essentially picked up where they left off Nov. 10, discussing a proposal that includes a 50-50 split of revenue, shorter contracts and tougher spending restrictions. The players rejected that deal, but on the basis of a half-dozen mechanical issues which, in the grander scheme, are fairly minor. They have already conditionally agreed to the 50-50 split and most of the new payroll restrictions. Neither side has tried to put any new issues on the table, or backed away from previously negotiated points, according to those informed on the talks. That gives the parties hope that a deal not only can be achieved, but can be consummated quickly. “Both sides could fairly say that it’s crazy to blow the deal up over these remaining issues,” one person close to the talks said Wednesday. Still, no one is ready to espouse optimism, given how many times the talks have collapsed in the last two months.”