NEW YORK — He is a close-talker and a loud-talker whose voice can be the verbal equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard. David Stern has called his behavior “routinely despicable,” and on more than one occasion he has commandeered the post-meeting news briefings to incessantly spew vitriol at the NBA owners with whom he has been butting heads.
He is Jeffrey Kessler, the lead outside counsel for what used to be known as the National Basketball Players Association, and he is reportedly out of the picture now that talks between the players and owners have resumed with an eye toward reaching a settlement that would allow for the NBA season to begin on Christmas Day, Dec. 25.
Unless this is all a setup.
The NBA lockout took one of its strangest turns yet Wednesday with the news that secret negotiations between the sides had resumed on Tuesday and will continue on Friday after a day off for the Thanksgiving holiday being celebrated today in America. If a settlement can be reached by the end of the weekend, the union can be re-formed, a ratification vote can be taken, and everyone will having something other than presents under the tree to look forward to on Christmas.
But first they have to get to the finish line, and the past month has demonstrated that it is no easy task to do so.
A source tells SheridanHoops.com that the most significant impediment to a deal remains the owners insistence on an escrow withholding system that would ensure that the revenue split for each season ends up being 50-50. Players have offered to have 10 percent of salaries withheld, but a problem has continually arisen when the sides have discussed what mechanism would make up for the shortfall if the 10 percent withholding did not get the players’ share down to 50 percent. Would the shortfall carry over into the next season? Or would the players have to make up the difference in some other way to balance the books at the end of each season to provide for a fresh start at the onset of the next season?
Of all the system issues that remain in dispute, that is the most contentious one that could loom as a deal-killer.
So take your turkey with a grain of salt today, folks, and don’t get overly comfortable when the tryptophan kicks in and you lay down for that afternoon nap. There are still a lot of moving parts here, along with a level of mystery that is a new, added twist to this 147-day trip down misery lane.