Evidently, Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher like writing letters. Because after Tuesday's labor meeting wrapped that potentially brought the two sides close to a deal, they sent out another one.
Obtained by Ken Berger of CBSSports.com (read the full thing here), basically it's this: Stand together, we're not backing down, we'll get the deal we want if we hold firm. It says, "Yesterday, the owners gave us an opportunity to back down. We refused."
Some could read that as, "Yesterday, the owners gave us an opportunity to make a deal and therefore save the season. We refused." Depends on your perspective, I suppose.
The letter really focuses on the crux of yesterday's negotiations: BRI (Basketball Related Income). Here's the player's offer that they like: They reduce their share of BRI to 52.4 percent and gradually increase that to 54 percent over the six-year deal, which would be an average of 53 percent. The letter makes sure to point out that this offer would shift an average of $185 million per year to the owners' side, which is $1.1 billion over six years.
"We feel this offer -- which would involve no rollbacks of existing contracts and maintain the current Salary Cap and Luxury Tax levels -- is fair and addresses the owners' complaints," the letter said.
The letter addresses the owners' original 47 percent BRI split, but then acknowledges the last-gasp 50-50 split that David Stern referenced in his presser.
"After seriously considering whether we should proceed down this path, our group determined not to do so," the letter said. "Recognizing all the owners' arguments about the state of the business and the condition of the economy, in our view, the owners can and should share more of the record revenues our players generate. Reducing our share of BRI by 7 points to 50% -- a level we have not received since the early 1990's -- is simply not a fair split. We refused to back down. As we have done since the beginning, we again indicated a willingness to compromise, and asked the owners to do the same. They refused."
So basically: We refused, they refused and basically, we have until Monday to un-refuse so that the season starts on time. Here's the thing: Someone's got to bend at some point. It will happen. Whether it's the players or the owners, someone's coming up or going down with their offer. It's not like there won't ever be basketball again. But the deeper it goes and once games start getting missed, the owners may try and go back to some of the bigger issues such as a hard cap, salary rollbacks or non-guaranteed contracts. So the negotiations have sort of hit a crucial point.
Here's how the letter concludes, which doesn't exactly make me jump for joy:
As the day ended, each side felt that they had gone as far as they could. We will continue to review the numbers and assess the various proposals, but we will hold firm until we can get a fair deal. While this negotiation is far from over, we cannot now say when it will resume again in earnest. For today, the players made a stand. It was the right stand to make, for ourselves and for the generations of players to follow. Hard work and sacrifice by both sides will hopefully end this soon, and the owners will open the doors and let us come to work. In the meantime, we ask you to maintain the same strength and focus you have exhibited since the beginning. We must demonstrate our unity, especially as we expect the league to announce the cancellation of the first two weeks of the season next Monday if no further progress is made. The owners must know that the players are firm, educated and resolved to getting a fair deal.By all appearances, the players aren't going to budge. Things change when money starts getting lost though. And that's what's going to happen if a deal isn't done by Monday. The stakes will be raised. It's just a matter of who's moving first. Clearly the players think it will be the owners.
As Berger has reported, the two sides are closer than they're letting on. A gap of only about $80 million per year separates them right now. That's $2.6 million per team, or in other words, the 12th man on pretty much every roster. This can be done. It should be done. They have less than a week to make it happen.