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“It’s not practical, possible or prudent to have a full season now.”
Not exactly the words NBA fans were hoping to hear from Commissioner David Stern at the end of Friday’s meetings between the players’ union and the owners.
Following the latest breakdown at the negotiating table, Stern has officially cancelled games through November 30th, saying, “In light of the breakdown of talks, there will not be a full NBA season under any circumstances.”
After two intensive days of talk led to significant progress on so-called “system” issues, both sides refused to back down on Friday when it came to discussions over how to divide league revenue.
With so much optimism and energy generated over the initial two days of talks, how is it that the meetings fell apart so rapidly? SoB rewinds the tape to investigate.
The two sides reconvened Wednesday following 30 hours of discussions that broke off in dramatic fashion on Oct. 20. Both sides left that Thursday feeling as if the other were negotiating in bad faith, causing federal mediator George Cohen to remove himself from the proceedings entirely. This made the sudden turnaround for the most recent three-day session of negotiations all the more surprising.
The meetings lasted for over 22 hours from Oct. 26 to 27. With neither side willing to compromise on the division of basketball-related income (BRI), the two sides tabled the issue for the first two days and instead focused on a number of issues pertaining to the overall system. Talks progressed without a hitch (I can hardly believe I wrote those words, either!), and deputy commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged there was a “tentative agreement” on most of the system issues, which included maintaining the mid-level exception at $5 million, agreeing to contracts no longer than five years, and working towards a middle ground on a proposed salary cap.
Regardless of the specifics, the main takeaway at the end of Thursday’s meetings was a pervasive sense of optimism from both parties. Executive Director of the NBA Players’ Union Billy Hunter shared his view that the players and the owners were “within striking distance of getting a deal.” When asked when the next significant move would be made, Stern answered, “Tomorrow!” and insisted, “We’re going to give it one heck of a shot.”
Stern had also said that the players and the owners had bred enough good will and good faith over the first two days “that will enable us to look forward to tomorrow, where we anticipate there will be some important and additional progress.” But of everything anyone said after Thursday’s bargaining, the next two words Stern uttered may have been the most telling of all:
Sure enough, when the talks shifted to how to divide (though personally, I think the better term would be “share”) the league’s revenue between the players and the owners, neither side would relent: the players stood steadfast at 52%, while the owners insisted on a 50-50 split.
In the amount of time it takes for Kevin Garnett to drop an F-bomb during a game, the talks came to a screeching halt.
Just like before, no more meetings have been scheduled.
With a month of the season lost to the lockout, the NBA is looking at roughly $350 million in lost revenue. Stern said the owners’ next proposal “will reflect the extraordinary losses that are piling up now.” Needless to say, that does not bode well for an agreement.
The players will now miss their November 15th paychecks, although each player is due at least $100,000 since players’ paychecks from last season did not equal the 57% of BRI that they were due under the last collective bargaining agreement. That is also a bad sign for the ongoing negotiations, since players will be less likely to miss their income with a free 100 grand coming their way (and even though it’s almost Halloween, I’m not talking about the candy bar).
At this point, with both sides entrenched in their positions, lobbing sound bite grenades back and forth through the media, a deal doesn’t look to be coming around the corner any time soon.
Two developments give me hope (at least a tiny bit) moving forward, though. For one, they finally made some progress on some of the issues preventing the 2011-12 NBA season. (Hopefully we don’t reach the point where it just becomes the 2012 NBA season.)
Second, if the St. Louis Cardinals can overcome an 8.5_game deficit in September to win the wild card, beat the Phillies (only the best team in baseball through 162 games), top the Brewers (including two wins on the road at Miller Park, where the Brewers were only 57-24 during the regular season), and come back to hoist the World Series trophy after twice being down to their final strike in Game 6, then there must be some hope for an end to the NBA lockout after all.