Posted on: November 1, 2011 11:16 pm

David Stern denies secretly meeting Derek Fisher

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

In case you were worried that representatives of the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association were actually meeting face-to-face, NBA commissioner David Stern is here to set the record straight. There were no meetings!

The New York Times reports that Stern flatly denied meeting with NBPA president Derek Fisher, although he was speaking about a reported secret meeting where a "side deal" was allegedly conducted without the consent of NBPA executive director Billy Hunter.
One report said that Fisher secretly met with Stern and the deputy commissioner Adam Silver in an attempt to make a deal.

“That would be false,” Stern said.

Fisher also denied the report that suggested he met with Stern in a letter sent to the NBPA on Monday. "Usually I wouldn't even dignify absurd media reports with a comment," Fisher's letter read. "But before these reports go any further, let me say on the record to each of you, my loyalty has and always will be with the players... There have been no side agreements, no side negotiations or anything close."

Meanwhile, Hunter also denied that there was a rift between himself and Fisher in a letter sent to the NBPA on Tuesday, but also tried to redirect the discussion to the current state of negotiations. "We will not be intimidated by public threats, ultimatums and manufactured drop dead dates," Hunter's letter read. "We will stand firm in our resolve to negotiate a fair deal for our current membership and those who will join our ranks in the future," Hunter said.

Well, we now have denials from all involved parties but are still left without actual discourse on the issues. Labor negotiations broke off last Friday and there are currently no new negotiations scheduled.

At this point, it would actually be more productive if Stern, Silver, Fisher and Hunter all set of a series of secret meetings with each other and then continually leaked the fact that they were meeting to the media. At least they would be meeting!

If there's any upshot here it's that Stern told the New York Times multiple times that he's still trying. 
“We’re trying very hard to get a deal done with the players, or we were, and we don’t need any external distractions to that focus.”

I believe that a majority of teams are in favor of making the deal that we were offering to the players,” Stern said. “And I’m trying very hard to keep that deal on the table.”
Just to boil all of this nonsense and hot air down to its core: nothing is being accomplished but they still claim they haven't given up. Fantastic news. Don't keel over in optimistic over-exertion.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 9:23 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 11:20 pm

Hunter slams NBA, backs Fisher in letter to NBPA

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

Another bleeping letter.

Yes, just 24 hours after National Basketball Players Association president Derek Fisher sent a letter to his union's membership urging solidarity and denying a report of a rift between himself and NBPA executive director Billy Hunter, Hunter has penned a letter of his own.

Hunter's letter comes just hours after a report that suggested some segment of the union's members are getting fed up with his hard-line stance in negotiations.

ESPN.com has the text of the letter. Here's an excerpt.
"We will not be intimidated by public threats, ultimatums and manufactured drop dead dates. We will stand firm in our resolve to negotiate a fair deal for our current membership and those who will join our ranks in the future," Hunter said.

"A move of this magnitude guarantees operating profits for all owners irrespective of quality of management and does not allow players to adequately share in the growth of the league."

Hunter, in the letter, said the NBA seems determined to use hard bargaining tactics to get the deal it wants.

"They have given us 'take it or leave it' ultimatums, threatened to end the season prematurely, reached out to players in an attempt to divide us, misled the press, and pre-conditioned further talks on our acceptance of significant concessions," he said. "This is an unacceptable form of negotiation, especially where the respective fates of the players and the owners are inextricably related. Moreover, it does nothing but damage the relationship between the league and union."
SI.com has printed the entire letter. Hunter concludes by stating that he is on the same page with Fisher. 
Contrary to what is being said in the media, Derek, myself and the Negotiating Committee are of one accord. Derek is a fearless defender of player rights both at the bargaining table and behind the scenes, and he carries out his duties as President with the same degree of courage, focus and tenacity that he has exhibited on the court as a five-time champion. We are all well served to have Derek in a leadership capacity during these negotiations.
The NBPA is clearly in full-fledged damage control mode now with two letters sent in the past 24 hours and no negotiation meetings scheduled. The spirit of Hunter's message is on point: unity, common enemy, etc. But, at some point, NBPA leadership will realize that the only letters their membership cares about are "C.B.A."

This was a no-win situation. Hunter had to say something to calm tensions, but his audience -- not to mention the media -- is demanding action, not words. You can't help but wonder how many of this letter's recipients hit the "delete" button before bothering to read it.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 8:06 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 8:13 pm

Reports: Federal Mediator won't rejoin NBA talks

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. 

Two weeks ago, Federal mediator George Cohen agreed to oversee more than 24 hours of negotiations between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association in hopes of ending the ongoing NBA lockout. He was not successful, throwing up his hands and bailing after talks broke down. "No useful purpose would be served by requesting the parties to continue the mediation process at this time," Cohen said in a prepared statement upon his depature.  

Apparently, Cohen still sees no useful purpose in his presence. 

Reports broke earlier this week that Cohen might re-enter the NBA's labor quagmire, but multiple reports on Tuesday indicate that will not happen.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that it "looks like the federal mediator will not be rejoining NBA labor talks. Nor are any (non-mediated) talks scheduled."

SI.com reported that Cohen's decision came after he conferred with both sides: "Source says federal mediator George Cohen spoke with both NBA and NBPA officials about another joint session but it will not be happening. No new meetings scheduled."

How to read this? The glass if half full approach would argue that a mediator is unnecessary because compromises have been forged on so many of the system issues and that the two sides, after a pretty active negotiating period, have a clear understanding of each other's positions. The glass is half empty approach would argue that a mediator who listened to the two sides state their respective cases for their stances on the revenue split might reasonably conclude that he would be wasting his time by showing up unless one, if not both, sides indicates to him they are willing to make a substantial move.

In that vein, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com wrote on Tuesday that the lockout won't ever be resolved by a mediator. Rather, an agreement will only come from the two central figures: NBA commissioner David Stern and NBPA executive director Billy Hunter. 
Posted on: November 1, 2011 6:43 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 6:54 pm

Report: NBA players fed up with Billy Hunter?

Posted by Ben Golliver


Taking a break during a protracted negotiation is supposed to allow for a reassessment period, to provide time for a rethinking of positions and, perhaps most importantly, to allow space for cooler heads to prevail.

Instead, tensions are reportedly mounting, with frustration and impatience threatening to boil over.

Yahoo Sports reports that some portion of the the NBA's players are growing increasingly disenchanted with National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter because he has not yet delivered a deal for the entire union membership to vote on. 
From superstars to midlevel players to rookies, there’s an unmistakable push to complete the final elements of the system and take this labor deal to the union’s 400-plus membership. Beyond that, there’s an even larger movement to push Hunter, the Players Association’s executive director, out the door once these labor talks are done. All hell’s broken loose within the union, and no one is exactly sure how they’re going to get a deal to the finish line.

“Billy can’t just say it’s 52 or nothing, and walk out again,” one league source involved the talks told Yahoo! Sports. “That will not happen again. It’s time that the players get to make a decision on this, and there won’t be another check lost before they do.”
The site also apparently confirms previous reports of a developing rift between Hunter and NBPA president Derek Fisher, a rift that Fisher denied in a letter to NBPA members on Monday night.
“Right now, everyone has to choose sides: Billy or Derek,” one player involved in the labor process told Yahoo! Sports. “How the [expletive] did it come to this?”
What to make of this? Well, in the absence of actual meetings, which provide the potential for progress and thus the comfort of optimism, there are going to be a lot of hurt feelings. Panicking isn't an unreasonable response, especially if a deal was relatively close but now feels far away. Union members demand action and results from their leadership. Both Fisher and Hunter signed up for that.

For months now, as far as anyone can tell, the NBPA's strategy was to not blink for as long as possible and hope that the NBA's owners were bluffing about being willing to lose games so that they could overhaul the system. The owners never blinked even though they had multiple opportunities to do so. The strategy didn't succeed and the players are now quickly reaching the point where holding out becomes solely about principle rather than about economics. 

Whether it's time for a leadership shakeup -- or for the current leadership to publicly mend fences -- is a sideshow to the larger issue for the players: It's time for a new strategy. Holding out for the sake of holding out is self-defeating and will be, ultimately, very costly. The NBPA should be using this time away from the bargaining table to take the temperature of its members. As the calendar has changed, so too might have opinions about whether holding out is worth it. If the majority of the NBPA's members continue to endorse the current strategy, then Fisher and Hunter, together, should blanket the airwaves spreading that message, rather than letting rumors and innuendo undercut their authority. If not, what are they waiting for? Call a meeting and get it done.
Posted on: October 31, 2011 11:38 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 11:41 pm

Economists: Lost season 'insane' for NBA players

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

Tuesday is November 1, meaning the NBA lockout will officially enter its fifth month. We've now officially reached the stage where we find out how much "principle" is worth to the NBA's players.

Why? Because paychecks will finally be missed. Because each wave of cancellations brings with it a known cost. Because the National Basketball Players Association will soon reach the break even point where it will be more beneficial -- purely in their financial best interest -- to cave to the NBA's revenue demands rather than to hold a hard line.

Put simply, the money lost in salary will soon surpass the potential money to be saved in continuing negotiations. Once that happens, this whole thing becomes about principle. 

Two economists writing on Grantland.com assert that the nuclear option -- a completely lost 2011-2012 season -- would be a financially "insane" eventuality for the players, even given the penny-pinching offer currently offered by the league's owners.
The split on BRI (Basketball Related Income) is supposedly the biggest point of contention. Players want 52.5 percent (down from 57 in the previous contract). Owners are “adamant” on 50 percent and started with an initial lowball offer of 37. Take the NBA’s 2009-10 BRI estimate of $3.6 billion; 2.5 percent of that is $90 million. Let’s say the life of the contract is 6 years. The total value of that over six years, with reinvestment, is around $500 million.

Is it economically worthwhile for the players to hold out for $500 million?

No. Total NBA salaries last year were over $1.5 billion, about three times the amount they are fighting over. Canceling a third of the current season would wipe out the gain of winning the extra 2.5 percent of BRI over the life of the new collective bargaining agreement. Canceling the whole season over 2.5 percent of BRI is insane for the players.

Can the players stop the owners from getting a deal that is much worse for them than the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement? No. What the players are willing to agree to is already materially worse than before. The only question that remains is how bad it will get. Does the players’ line in the sand over 2.5 percent of BRI make economic sense? No, not if they miss many games to achieve it.
The NBPA is being advised by a leading economist, so the union is not blind to this reality. In fact, despite all of their rhetoric about being willing to lose multiple seasons to preserve their achievements in previous negotiations, the example set by the financial overhaul of the NHL surely is fresh in their minds. The players will come down off of their current position. It's only a matter of when, and, also, how painful.

If the NBA makes anything more than a modest concession on the revenue split in the next two weeks or so, there's a solid chance this thing gets done. If not, things could get even uglier. The important takeaway point here though is that the NBPA's decision-making is still, after all these months, being guided by rational thought and not emotion. If we're still having this same conversation on Dec. 15, with no substantial movement from either said, then emotion will have won out. That would be terrible, horribly frustrating news for all involved. 
Category: NBA
Posted on: October 31, 2011 11:15 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 11:20 pm

Fisher denies rift with Hunter in letter to NBPA

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

Derek Fisher grabbed a pen, tooling up to reclaim his corners.

Over the weekend, a report surfaced that the National Basketball Players Association leadership team of executive director Billy Hunter and Fisher, the NBPA's president, might not be seeing eye to eye when it comes to recent negotiating positions.

FoxSports.com cited a source who said that Fisher was amenable to a 50/50 revenue split with the NBA in their ongoing labor negotiations, while Hunter was not. The report also noted that there had been some sort of confrontation in which Fisher's allegiance had been questioned by his fellow players.

On Monday, Fisher sent a letter to the NBPA membership assuring them that the report is false and that he and Hunter are on the same page. ESPN.com obtained a copy of Fisher's letter.
"Usually I wouldn't even dignify absurd media reports with a comment. But before these reports go any further, let me say on the record to each of you, my loyalty has and always will be with the players.

"Anyone that questions that or doubts that does not know me, my history and what I stand for. And quite frankly, how dare anyone call that into question? The Players Association is united and any reports to the contrary are false. There have been no side agreements, no side negotiations or anything close. We are united in serving you and presenting the best options and getting everyone back to work."
Hunter also issued a denial of the report on Monday.

Fisher probably should have just stopped after the first sentence, but he didn't, and the messaging that follows isn't surprising to anyone that's followed this lockout. Solidarity. Loyalty. Service. Honesty. Integrity. United. Etc.

This is not the first correspondence from Fisher to his membership. Earlier in the fall, he sent a letter critical of agents who he saw negatively influencing the process, another one to urge unity, another one to launch a social media campaign, and he also gave a speech critical of Washington Wizards center JaVale McGee after McGee said that some NBA players were "ready to fold."

We've reached the point where there are only two letters from Fisher that anyone -- even those sympathetic to the NBPA's cause -- actually wants to read. The first begins: "I'm happy to announce that we have reached a new collective bargaining agreement." The second begins: "I'm happy to announce my retirement from basketball."

Fisher's response to the charge of disunity came on the same day that NBA commissioner David Stern fined Miami Heat owner Micky Arison $500,000 for comments made on Twitter that appeared to reveal a fissure in ownership's negotiating positions.
Posted on: October 29, 2011 5:32 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 5:35 pm

Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher want 50/50 BRI split?

Posted by Ben Golliver


Is the NBA's highest-paid player prepared to accept the league's offer so that he can get back to work?

FoxSports.com reports that Los Angeles Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant and his backcourt mate, National Basketball Players Association president Derek Fisher, are ready to accept a 50/50 split of Basketball-Related Income with the NBA's owners. The NBPA's official proposal as of Friday stood at 52.5 percent for the players.
The belief that NBA Players Association president Derek Fisher has been co-opted by commissioner David Stern — and promised the commish he could deliver the union at 50-50 — caused NBPA executive director Billy Hunter and at least one member of the union’s executive committee to confront Fisher on Friday morning and make him reassess his 50-50 push, a source familiar with the negotiations told FOXSports.com Friday afternoon.

According to my source, at least one five-time champion, NBA superstar with the initials K.B. was on board with Fisher’s push for a 50-50 split. Hunter is firm that the players should not accept less than 52-48. According to my source, Hunter and a member of the executive committee convinced Fisher to stand firm at 52-48 after they questioned the Lakers point guard about his relationship with Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver.

According to reports, Hunter ended Friday's negotiating session, telling Stern the union would not budge on 52-48.
An ESPN Radio host also reported that Bryant and Fisher are open to a 50/50 split. 

In recent press conferences, Fisher has actually played the "bad cop" to Hunter's "good cop," keeping a dour expression even when Hunter exchanges laughs and jokes with NBA commissioner David Stern after Thursday's day of progress. Bryant, meanwhile, has preached union solidarity multiple times over the last year.

Circumstantially, both Fisher and Bryant have more motivation than most players to get a deal done. For Fisher, he must deliver an agreement or he will catch major Heat if a season is lost. For the aging Bryant, every season from here on out counts. He's chasing Michael Jordan for rings and for the all-time scoring mark, and a lost season at this stage of his career would be a fairly major setback in both quests. Bryant also possesses a no b.s. personality and a killer competitive instinct; both traits have to be raging any time the NBA cancels games or whenever lawyers prevent him from practicing his craft.

But, at least for now, the reporting is thin. With offers on both sides constantly in flux over the last two weeks, and with those positions likely to continue to see significant change during the next two weeks, it will take more than this to make reports of a divide among the NBPA's leadership stick. 

Hat tip: IAmAGM.com and HoopsWorld
Posted on: October 28, 2011 10:58 am
Edited on: October 28, 2011 10:59 am

NBA Lockout: A striking distance primer

By Matt Moore

There is a perfect storm of circumstancial information brewing Friday to suggest that the NBPA and NBA are on the verge of completing a labor agreement to end the 2011 lockout and being the 2011-2012 NBA season.

Here's where we're at as Friday's meetings get underway:

The New York Times is reporting that the league has contacted arenas to urge them to hold April arena dates. In short, they're working to secure an 82-game schedule as discussed Thursday, by extending the season and filling in games.
League officials, anticipating a resolution, are quietly preparing for an 82-game season. The N.B.A. has begun calling arenas across the league, asking them to keep dates open in late April, according to arena officials.

Each team would lose about 12 to 15 games with a Dec. 1 start. But they could reclaim a half-dozen or so games by extending the season through the end of April, two weeks past its usual conclusion. The rest of the games could be made up by adding an extra two to three games per month.
via For the N.B.A., Negotiations Are Taking ‘Baby Steps’ - NYTimes.com

Trust us, we'll have a lot more to say about the merits and detriments of trying to force in an 82-game season after missing a month if we get a season. But the bigger story right now is that the league isn't dragging its feet on setting up for the future. It's getting out ahead in anticipation of a deal being struck. This is the new reality after this week's meetings. As Billy Hunter put it Thursday night, the two sides are "within striking distance." 

Meanwhile, the breakthrough that has lead to all this goodwill going into Friday's talks? From Sports Illustrated:
Perhaps more important as a sign of progress: The source told SI.com the league has indeed come off its proposal to triple and quadruple penalties for annual taxpayers. It still wants to punish such teams somehow, and it has proposed doing so via increasing the tax rates by a set dollar amount rather than a multiplier. Both sides are mum on the precise details, but the effect would be to limit penalties in the highest tax bracket to something like $4 to $5 for ever $1 over a certain threshold. That’s still quite high — the Lakers last season could have paid as much as $60 million in tax, rather than $20 million, under such a system — but it represents a step down from the harsher system, where ratios could have hit 10-to-1 and beyond for repeat payers.

Also, the league has agreed that even teams who pay the tax should share in the revenue the tax generates, a source said. Under the old system, if a team went even $1 over the tax threshold, it forfeited its right to a share of the total tax pot — a check that can range from $2 million to $3 million in a typical season. The two sides are still working out the details, but that represents an important concession to the union.
via The Point Forward » Posts Deal is near as players, owners return to table «

To boil this down: the players were concerned that a punitive tax system which essentially discourages all spending over the cap would significantly limit players' earning potential. And that's a big deal for them. So the fact that the league has come off it and is working to keep the spending down without lowering a concrete ceiling is huge. Yahoo! Sports reported Friday morning that the "the tax isn't the issue" according to a source, that the debate has come down to the exceptions. Those are things which can be finagled and managed. 

So what's the deal with the exceptions? SBNation's Tom Ziller does a great job breaking it down:
But the creation of a second cap at the luxury tax line opens up a whole new zone of negotiation. Should the new collective bargaining agreement contain clauses that allow teams over the actual salary cap to do certain things (like use the sign-and-trade and mid-level exception) but don't allow teams over the luxury tax line to use those tools, the luxury tax line will become a huge deal. Flexibility is king in the NBA, and by creating separate sets of rules for teams over the cap and over the tax line, you do more to tamp down payrolls than any sort of graduated tax could.

It's no wonder that the players' union is fighting the last battles of the system negotiations along these lines. Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the hang-ups on system issues at this point revolve around rules for using the mid-level and bi-annual exception, as the owners want to limit the use of those for tax-paying teams and the players want to keep the exception open to everyone. This is why the battle has settled here: threatening high-spending teams with limitations to their flexibility is more powerful than making them pay a 200 percent tax.
via NBA Lockout On Verge Of Deal Creating Two Salary Caps - SBNation.com

In essence, the system that's starting to take shape doesn't prevent teams from being able to spend a ton of money, which is what the players want, but punishes them by removing their ability to make moves after spending that much, which is what the owners wanted. It disincentivizes teams from spending unless they absolutely should. Which is what everyone wants in the first place. It's almost like... a compromise! So glad it only took us two years and a month of canceled games to get here. 

ESPN's TrueHoop brought in a buried lede that has significant impacts in figuring out the dynamics of what's going on with the negotiation. Paul Allen was reportedly the hard-hand brought in to bust the union in last week's doomsday Thursday meetings which broke down. But...(from TrueHoop):
NBA sources, however, say it was nothing of the sort. In fact, they say, he was there at the invitation of the NBA's negotiators to watch Kessler. Allen was one of several owners who thought Stern and Silver had made players an overly generous offer of 50 percent of basketball-related income. The league's lead negotiators essentially replied: go see for yourself. You think you can get Kessler to go for 47 percent? Good luck to you.

In the ongoing dance between Hunter and NBA agents -- many of whom feel Hunter is soft, risk-averse, or ineffective -- Kessler has been seen as something of a shield for Hunter. If a tough lawyer like that will go for Hunter's deal, who are the agents to complain?

But that shield has been out of action and not, sources insist, because he is in the doghouse.
via Three reasons for the new mood - TrueHoop Blog - ESPN.

Kessler stands as the leverage for the players, proof that while the union membership may be weak and fractured, the leadership is not. That's a monumental game changer, considering that days after that meeting of disaster, we're here, again, "within striking distance" of a deal. 

And finally, a word of caution. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that while progress has been made, the two sides are closer than ever, the tone has shifted, and beams of sunlight are creeping in, we're still in the dark, and with both sides expected to tackle BRI first on Friday, the whole thing could collapse at any moment. From Berger:
But while Hunter said the two sides are "within striking distance of getting a deal" on the system issues and moving on to BRI, Silver cautioned that the two sides are "apart on both" the system and the split. Asked about the gap on the system issues, Stern said, "We are not close enough right now. But I expect with a good night’s sleep, we’ll both come in with resolve to get closer."

But team executives who've heard this twice before, only to see the talks blow up -- on Oct. 4 over the BRI split and Oct. 10 over the system -- remained cautiously optimistic Thursday. One executive confided that his gut tells him "this will blow up one more time." "

"There’s no guarantees we’ll get it done," Stern said. "But we’re going to give it one heck of a shot (Friday)."
via Stern on labor deal: Friday's the day - CBSSports.com.

The momentum boat has never had more speed for shore. The two sides have never been so laughy and smiley with one another, to their faces. The league is planning for a deal to be had. The union's description of the talks has altered dramatically, from "concepts" and "ideas" to "the deal" and "within striking distance." 

Friday's not the last day, and we've seen this process go awry too often to feel safe. But there's light at the end of the tunnel for the first time since July 1st, and for once, it's not a train.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com