Sunday evening saw the NBA and the NBPA sit down for further negotiations. Earlier in the week, talks had been broken off, with what looked like little hope of resuming, over the lingering issue of Basketball Related Income. However, as the deadline to cancel the first two weeks of the season, set for Monday by David Stern, quickly approached, the two sides sat down for what is their first round of eleventh hour talks.
The meeting in New York lasted for roughly five hours, finishing just before midnight on the East Coast. As with all previous negotiation sessions between the league and the players’ union, those who were involved were tight-lipped over what, if anything, was accomplished. What is known about the meeting is that the two sides discussed system issues; the salary cap, length of contracts, and the luxury tax for example. BRI was allegedly not a subjected that was broached during the meeting.
Another meeting is scheduled for Monday afternoon at 2 P.M. Eastern Standard Time. Union president, Derek Fisher said after the meeting Sunday night that the players and the owners were “not necessarily any closer than we were going in tonight, but we’ll get back at it tomorrow and we’ll keep putting time in.” Yet, time is something that both sides have little of if they hope to salvage the beginning of the season.
Due to the importance of Monday’s meeting in New York, the players canceled a union meeting scheduled in Los Angeles for Monday.
Before negotiations resumed on Sunday night, owners and the league had seemingly issued an ultimatum, according to the union, to the players that they must accept a 50 percent split on BRI before negotiations could resume. The owners reject the union’s assertion that they established any preconditions. Nonetheless, the owners made it clear that no further meetings would occur because they would not go beyond an even split in revenue sharing.
All along, the players have been holding steadfast at their mark of 53 percent of BRI. They were receiving 57 percent of basketball related income under the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement. Many of the league’s marquee players were not present at the meeting on Sunday night as they were playing in the rematch of the Drew League and Goodman League in Los Angeles. However, they were very cognizant that the meeting was taking place and held rank when they spoke about the labor dispute.
“We’re going to stand firm no matter what,” Kevin Durant said. “If we miss games we miss games. We might have to sacrifice a few for the betterment of the league, but I don’t think we’re going to give in just because we missed a few games.” He added, “We moved down from 57 to 53 and I think the owners got to work with us.” Other players echoed those remarks.
It has been the players who have given up the most in the labor negotiations so far. The owners, and Stern, will be quick to point out that a hard cap is no longer on the table and that they have moved their demands that the players accept just 42 percent of BRI all the way up to 50 percent. In terms of monetary losses, however, it is the players who have sacrificed. Dropping from 57 percent to 53 percent represents a cumulative loss of approximately $160 million in player salary. If the players were to move down to the 50 percent that the owners want their losses would increase to $280 million. The owners have yet to concede one dime.
With the players and owners holding firm, the two sides have reached an impasse. Monday’s meeting could tell a lot about where the two sides stand or, more realistically, if either side will flinch. Monday will be the sixth time that the NBA and NBPA have met in the past eleven days in an attempt to resolve their issues. During the lockout in 1998, the league and the union only met once before regular season games were canceled. At least this time the two sides appear to be trying.
However, they will have to try harder. That will not be an easy task as the owners have a proposal for an amnesty clause to be included in the new CBA. The clause, nicknamed the Gilbert Arenas Clause, which would allow teams to shed a bad contract in which a team sees no dividends but is paying an exorbitant amount for a player. Essentially it would allow the owners to wipe clean their bad business decisions. In the real world only a government bailout can save a business from itself, bad business decisions are rarely rewarded with a provision to erase mistakes. Owners also want to do away with a player’s “Bird rights.”
The owners are asking for a considerable amount from the players but the amnesty clause and the Bird exception are not the elephant in the room. BRI is the point of contention. If the two sides cannot come to an agreement on it then the likely hood of the season starting on time is nil. The players have drawn a line in the sand at 53 percent and, judging by what has been said leading up to Monday’s meeting, will not move from it. For the players, this is their Alamo, they are taking a stand against a larger and more powerful foe, intent on extracting as much from them as possible. Hopefully for the players, this scenario turns out better for them than it did for the men inside the mission in San Antonio. If they are forced to capitulate, however, they will be the rallying cry at the next CBA negotiations.
No matter the outcome of the meeting Monday, it is unlikely that the NBA season will start on time. The two sides would need time to draft the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Then there would have to be a week of free agency, which would likely be one of the most frantic weeks that the NBA has ever seen. Beyond that, there needs to be time set aside for training came and the possibility of a few preseason games. In total, it would take and estimated three to four weeks, and that is if all matters were to be resolved Monday. The regular season is scheduled to begin on November 1.
Games will be lost, there is no doubt about it. Neither side has shown a willingness to compromise as the clock strikes eleven. Everything could change after the meeting on Monday, but why should it? The closest whiff of a deal between the two sides was “How u.” Get used to more exhibition games because they will be the only games that players will take part in for the foreseeable future. At least most of them are streaming online now.