NEW YORK — It is Black Friday, and the players are going bargain(ing) hunting at today’s NBA lockout negotiations.
If commissioner David Stern is willing mark down a few pieces of merchandise, there will be something under the tree for everyone on Christmas Day.
There is a deal to be done today, or later this weekend, if the owners are in a giving mood, but the players had better realize that they are not going to get everything on their wish list. That became apparent to them two weeks ago at the last formal bargaining session when they couldn’t squeeze very much out of the owners, whose failed to get an endorsement out of Billy Hunter, leading us to the place we are today.
The anti-trust suit filed by the players on Monday in Minnesota has given them some additional bargaining leverage — although exactly how much is open to debate. Technically, today’s talks will be settlement discussions, because the players’ union no longer exists as a formal entity. The New York Times is reporting that the sides have agreed in advance that nothing in these talks would impact the litigation or be used to prove either side’s case in court.
There will be new lawyers in the room, and there will be an understanding that the calendar is impacting everyone’s position. We are 30 days away from Christmas, and commissioner David Stern has said it will take 30 days from the time a handshake agreement is reached until the season can start.
So here is a look at what is on the players’ wish list. Remember, when the players offered to do a 50-50 split, they did so with the caveat that they’d need five or six key system changes to drop to that number. Thus far, they haven’t gotten enough of those changes.
_ The mid-level exception: The sides have already agreed on the max salary for mid-level free agents — a $5 million starting salary– who sign with teams that are beneath the luxury tax threshold. The owners want teams to be limited to offering a four-year mid-level contract one year, then a three-year mid-level the next, then back to four, then three, etc. In numerals, it is 4-3-4-3-4-3. If the owners go to 4-4-4-4-4-4, one item is off the table.