NEW YORK — Billy Hunter is getting a break today from the cabal of agents who want to kick him out of his job. They are sitting on a decertification petition with more than 200 signatures, and a source in that cabal told SheridanHoops.com that it is highly unlikely the petition will be filed with the NLRB until Hunter meets with 30 team player representatives at a Times Square hotel.
So Hunter has bought some time. What remains to be seen is whether he has garnered any broad-based support — and whether commissioner David Stern’s unprecedented wekend public relations push through new media and old will have its intended effect.
Stern was on Twitter last night (words I never though I’d type) answering questions from players (Dwyane Wade, Spencer Hawes), fans and media, after which the league released a 92-second video on YouTube, which showed projections for a $7.7 million average salary for players in the 10th year of the current proposed deal and even had a hypothetical breakdown of what a team may look like in 2013-14, with a “superstar” making $17 million, an “All-Star” making $14 million, other starters making between $8-10 million and with a total payroll of about $77 million.
The proposal to the players also was leaked to several traditional news outlets. USA Today, posted the proposal online.
Finally, the league sent a memo to players and posted it on its Web site, asking players to “study our proposal carefully, and to accept it as a fair compromise of the issues between us.” Stern asked players to focus on the compromises the league has made during negotiations, such as dropping its demands for a hard salary cap, non-guaranteed contracts and salary rollbacks.
But one issue that was not highlighted in the memo could be the biggest impediment to a deal.
That is the provision that calls for what would basically be an unlimited escrow tax, a system under which 10 percent of players’ paychecks would be withheld each season to ensure than total player salaries do not come in higher than 50 percent of BRI. Additionally, if the 10 percent withholding did not get the players’ share down to 50 percent, the shortage would be obtained from the 1 percent of BRI that is being earmarked for improved retirement beneits. And if that didn’t do the trick, the players would have to fork over the remaining money in an as-yet-to-be-determined manner. In the previous labor agreement, the escrow withholding was capped at 8 percent in the 2010-11 season.
So the player reps basically have three options to choose from Monday.
_ Agree to put the owners’ proposal up for a vote of the entire player population. Such a vote would have to take place in person.
_ Ask that negotiations be re-opened on a limited number of system issues, with the understanding that the proposal would be put to a vote if those system issues are amicably resolved —a possiblity Hunter alluded to in a text message to Sam Amick of SI.com.
_ Reject the proposal, thereby opening the floodgates for decertification of the union and a long court battle that would empiril the chances of having any 2011-12 season.
So that is the lay of the land heading into Monday’s meeting. Now let’s have a look around the Web at what is being reported by various news outlets:
Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports: “Players had yet to hear of several “B-list” issues that could eventually doom the passage of a vote on both sides of the labor impasse, league sources told Yahoo! Sports on Sunday night. One of the most prominent issues that has been raised in talks includes the NBA’s desire to cut into the players’ share of the revenue split should owners decide to contract teams over the proposed 10-year deal, sources said. The owners are offering a 50-50 split of revenue, but the possible elimination of two teams would cause the BRI to be adjusted with a smaller percentage for the players, sources said. The NBA also wants to be able to contract teams without consulting the union. … Also, the NBA wants to conduct out-of-season drug testing of players, including testing for some drugs and performance-enhancing substances that could only be done through blood samples. Currently, the NBA does random in-season testing of urine samples for such drugs as marijuana and cocaine. If the players were to vote to accept the terms of the owners’ current proposal, the litany of B-list issues – including contraction, drug testing, Developmental League assignments and draft age eligibility – would still have to be agreed upon.”
Ken Berger, CBSSports.com: ” The widely circulated belief that the players shouldn’t even consider voting on this proposal because it’s worse than the previous one has two culprits who should be held accountable: 1) agents who were going to marshal all their power and resources to torpedo it no matter what; and 2) the league and union negotiators who allowed it to be portrayed publicly as an owner-generated, take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum. According to two people briefed on the negotiations, Stern and union chief Billy Hunter concluded Thursday night that they’d gone as far as they could go — and that the proposal Hunter and the entire executive committee agreed was worthy of presenting to the player reps was their collective work. Except the union made a tactical error by failing to publicly take ownership of it Thursday night, providing valuable time and momentum for those seeking to stop the deal. Also, Stern couldn’t bring himself to resist one more ultimatum — one more gun-to-the-head, strong-arm negotiating tactic — when he threatened once again to pull the proposal and revert to a far worse, 47-percent deal for the players including a hard cap and salary rollbacks if they didn’t accept it. … If league negotiators agree to discuss presumably minor amendments to the deal before Hunter agrees to send it to the full membership for a vote, they ostensibly would be standing down on the 47 percent ultimatum — at least temporarily. If they hadn’t presented the proposal that way in the first place, the visceral opposition to it probably never would have gained so much momentum.
Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald: “The reaction we’ve gotten here from players and agents has ranged from outrage to resignation. “This is crazy,” one agent said. “I’ve spent most of this process thinking that, if they weren’t ready to decertify at the start, they should just sign the damn thing, take your beating and get it over with. But after hearing about this offer, (expletive) them. You have to fight the league on this.” Added another agent: “Everyone knew the league was going to pull this crap from the start. So why are the players just realizing now what they’re up against? This has all been badly mishandled.” But one of the players who will be in the meeting today had a different take when reached by the Herald yesterday. “I know this is bad,” he said. “We all know this is bad. But what are we going to do? “Yeah, guys are talking about decertification and taking the league to court and all that stuff right now, but I talked to a lawyer, and he said there’s definitely no guarantee on what would happen if we made this a legal case. So we could be costing ourselves a lot. “I expect there to be a lot of (expletive) off guys in the room (this) morning. But when it’s all over, if we send this to the players for a vote, I think we’re playing games in a month.”
Howard Beck, New York Times: “In the reimagined, recalibrated NBA of the future, Carmelo Anthony would have a tougher time forcing his way out of Denver. LeBron James would take a steeper pay cut to flee Cleveland. Gilbert Arenas would be a free agent, instead of a payroll albatross. Contracts would be shorter. Players would become free agents sooner. Making trades would be simpler. The gap between rich and poor teams might be smaller. There might be fewer superteams and more parity, too. In theory, anyway. The truth is, no one knows precisely how the N.B.A. will change under a proposed matrix of new regulations, which are under review by the players union. But the goal — aside from slashing player salaries — is a more vibrant league with more player movement.
Marc Berman, New York Post: The new proposal helps the Knicks as it bars sign-and-extend trades. Free-agents-to-be Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Deron Williams wouldn’t be allowed to traded as anything but a rental, meaning they’d get to 2012 free agency when the Knicks should have significant cap space.