Tag Archives: Adrian Wojnarowksi

Negotiating Nowhere: How the NBA players’ union unbargained itself to the edge of the abyss

First, a definition of terms.

1) Abyss:  Whereby the 2011-12 NBA season is lost and the union decertifies and/or fires union heads Billy Hunter and Derrick Fisher.

2) Negotiating/Collective bargaining:  The process in which workers, constitutionally certified as a bargaining unit and their employers hammer out a contract that stipulates wages, benefits, workplace conditions, disciplinary process, sick day and attendance policies, grievance procedure, hiring/firing rules, drug testing/substance abuse policy, seniority and severance pay rules, and other agreed upon workplace issues.

3) Unbargained or unbargaining:  The process in which workers and their employers meet, talk and talk, and fail to hammer out a contract on most of the workplace items noted above.

Now digest the following note from The New York Times report on the current status of NBA player-owner negotiations:

It is unclear whether the union could call for a full membership vote, since the deal is technically not complete; there are 30 to 40 “B-list” items – such as drug testing, player discipline and days off — that have yet to be negotiated.

That’s a troubling note, raising serious questions about what the NBA and the players union have been talking about ad nauseum for the last two months – and 23 hours this week when Commissioner David Stern let on to the media that there was a laundry list of issues to discuss other than the previously identified “A-list” issues.

Sure, there’s been a lot of posturing about those “A-list items — the all-important split of basketball related income (BRI) as well as some “system” and “competitive balance” issues that are not as important, systemic or balancing as Fisher and Hunter and the league made them out to be.*

While all parties involved were busy posturing, it apparently didn’t occur to anyone to bargain on anything else.

Whether a vote of the full membership now is possible, however, is much clearer than The NY Times suggests.  Yes, union membership can vote on an incomplete agreement, and there is often little legal recourse if items change in the final contract, according to the site UnionDemocracy.org.

It’s a trust thing.  Membership trusts its elected leaders and bargaining team leaders to do the right thing and communicate the important changes to the contract.  Other member ratification rights and voting rules are outlined in each union’s constitution, on file with the federal government.  If union leadership betrays that trust, the law says it’s not the employers problem and the contract typically stands until the next bargaining opportunity.

The problem here is that the NBA membership is not likely to appreciate voting on an incomplete agreement, especially not after Fisher and his bargaining team backed all the way down to a 50-50 split on BRI — and failed to win big concessions to trumpet to the 450-member players association.  You don’t need a Harvard Law degree to understand that more unbargained contract items mean less chance of approval, or that no meaningful concessions are a hard sell.

This was a grave miscalculation by Hunter and Fisher, who are being picked on here — instead of the owners — because Hunter and Fisher accomplished so little during negotiations.

Here we have one monumental change — players will get 50% of BRI instead of the current 57%.  Unfortunately for Fisher and Hunter, the owners refused to back down on the one free agency issue that would have benefited improving small and medium market teams — the ability to nudge into luxury tax land while using the full $5 million MLE.  According to CBS Sports, the amount available to sign a free agent would be the reduced $3 million MLE, certainly not the end of the world for smaller market teams but a nice equalizer for big spenders like the Lakers.

(See Hoopshype 2011-12 team salaries page).

This could be an immediate problem for the Miami Heat (payroll $5 million under the luxury limit), the Hawks and Trailblazers; and a problem for many teams, Milwaukee Bucks included, when the 50% cap goes into effect.

Right now, it’s a problem for Hunter and Fisher and everyone who cares whether there is an NBA season this year.  The union leadership allowed the owners to back them to the edge of the abyss, failed to get solid concessions and then allowed a woefully incomplete contract proposal to be presented to their members via player agents and the media.

“Trust us.  This was the best we could do,” they might be saying to members and their player reps.

“How quickly does Billy (Hunter) get fired after we sign this bullshit,” one veteran player texted to Yahoo NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski.

NBA player reps will decide on Monday-Tuesday whether to go to a full membership vote on Hunter and Fisher’s largely unbargained contract mess.

Bullshit better fly.
*******************

*Note:  The actual impact of the much-discussed “A-List’ system issues is debatable with the one notable exception discussed above on the MLE vs. luxury tax calculation, which does impact competitive balance and the free agent market.  Hunter and Fisher couldn’t win this concession.  Under the owners’ proposal small market teams would not be able to improvea without being treated like repeat tax offenders (Lakers, Celtics currently).  This is being referred to as a “tax cliff.”

The other “A-List” items are all fairly minor, considering that repeat tax offenders have been rare in the history of the current cap rules (since 2005).   (See Hoopshype salaries page).  Luxury tax revenue sharing doesn’t impact competitive balance on the court.  Sign and trade deals are rare.  Big spenders will still have an MLE.  Etc. etc. etc.  

Other than the 50-50 split on BRI, there’s not much new here for either the Miami’s or Milwaukee’s of the NBA.  No, the new proposal is not worse than the last one, as some agents are suggesting.  But hey — if they don’t like it, either party can opt out after six years. Not much of a selling point but the best card Fisher and Hunter managed to negotiate for their members.

To be continued …

It’s sucking time at Basketbawful

If the streaking-for-the-playoffs Bucks 101-93 loss to the Clippers in LA didn’t bring Bucks fans down to earth, or at least out of the clouds, how they did it might. After Brandon Jennings scored 14 points in the 3rd quarter to pull the Bucks back into the lead after they had fallen into a 16 point hole, the Clips came out in the 4th playing a 2-3 zone.

That’s right, the Bucks were down 16 to Chris Kaman and the Clippers. Bogut!

The Bucks couldn’t solve the zone or shoot the Clippers out of it. Playing without forward Carlos Delfino and with Charlie Bell relegated to the bench after a poor first half (Charlie started at guard and Salmons moved over to Delfino’s forward spot) the Bucks rimmed 6 three-pointers in the first six minutes of the 4th, two by Jerry Stackhouse, two by Luke Ridnour and one apiece by John Salmons and Royal Ivey. Suddenly they were down 86-78 and couldn’t claw back. Unfortunately, this is why some of our guards (Stackhouse, Ridnour) are 30% in their careers from Downtown.

Kaman had 20 pts and 7 boards, all of them excruciating to watch. Did I mention Royal Ivey? I did. Ivey came in for Bell in the 3rd and sparked the Bucks’ comeback with some rabid D (two steals) and a much needed 3-pointer. Nice to have Ivey back … and wouldn’t it have been great to have him around last season?  It sucked that we didn’t …

BASKETBAWFUL‘s “30 reasons this kind of sucks”: Is it that time of year already?  With the Bucks winners of 12 out 13 going into the Clippers game, losing just once since John Salmons joined the club, Andrew Bogut realizing his All-Pro potential, Rookie of the Year talk for Brandon Jennings and Coach of the Year talk for Scott Skiles, is this really the time to think about the bad stuff?

11. The Milwaukee Bucks: They fleeced the Bulls out of John Salmons, immediately went on an 11-1 run and moved from sub-.500 to the fifth seed in the Leastern Confernece. Andrew Bogut took a break from high-fiving himself to become one of the better centers in the league, Brandon Jennings is learning to pass the ball, and the Bucks as a whole are buying into Scott Skiles’ “bust your ass on defense and outhustle the other team” system. It’s all clicking in Milwaukee, which will inevitably lead to unreasonable expectations for the 2010-11 season. Just wait. It’ll be all, “Once they get Michael Redd back, they’ll be even better. This was a season to build on!”

But no, no it won’t be. Look, I’ve seen this before. Hell, the same thing happened last season when the Bulls obtained Salmons and then rocketed into the playoffs. This chemistry spike won’t last. Michael Redd, once he returns from yet another knee surgery, still won’t be a true franchise player. Salmons — assuming the Bucks hold onto him — will revert to form. Bogut, for all his improvement, probably won’t be a franchise player. And the Milwaukee players will eventually tire of Skiles’ taskmaster tendencies. It’ll happen. It’s just a matter of time.

You’re right, Bawful, that did suck, and here’s why:

Brandon Jennings will become a great point guard in the NBA. The Rookie of the Year talk you’re hearing isn’t in Italian (Jennings played in Italy last year), it’s in English. Kid Money really is that good, and will only get better.

Andrew Bogut is a franchise player. He will very likely be an All-Pro this season, and the Bucks have not had an All-Pro center since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the early-mid 1970’s. We’ve had an All-Star center, Bob Lanier one time, and a very good Jack Sikma, but they were nearing the end of their careers on those great 1980’s Bucks teams. Bogut is 25 and hooking left, hooking right … into his prime.

Sure, it’s taken a while for Bogues to realize his All-Pro potential, but now he’s playing with teammates who aren’t fighting it and has a coach that expects franchise-defining play out of him. He’s putting up a strong 16.2 pts, 10.5 rebs per game, and there’s nothing flukish about those numbers, nor anything stopping him from adding a bucket or two to the scoring average.

No, those aren’t Jabbar-like numbers, and they’re not as good as Dwight Howard‘s, but, like Howard, Bogut is defined by his defense. AB is second only to Howard in NBA defensive rating. In other words, the Bucks play the best defense in all of basketball when Bogut is on the court and Dwight Howard is sitting … or eating, exercising, napping or doing anything other than playing in an NBA game.  AB’s right behind Howard in blocked shots, too, at 2.5 per game.

The Scott Skiles defense, the constant pressure D that wears opponents down,  it eventually wore out Skiles’ players at his previous stops in Phoenix and Chicago. The idea that Skiles will wear on his players to the point where they tune him out is nothing we haven’t heard before. Bogut addressed this in a long Wojnarowski article at yahoo NBA this week, affirming that the Bucks are very much in tune with Skiles. In fact, Bogut said there is nothing “wearing” about Skiles at all.

This could change, of course, but Skiles’ is in just his second year with the Bucks. It took him four years to wear out the Baby Bulls. If Skiles’ run in Chicago is any indication, the Bucks should hit their peak with the coach over the next two seasons. We’ve got some time. And Bogut and Jennings, too.

The chemistry spike and Michael Redd, however, is right on the money, Bawful.  It’s not clear what will happen with that situation. Will Redd come back next season? Can he fit in if he does, despite all evidence to the contrary? The Bucks have proven perfectly willing to put their fans through this tired drama over and over again, and I like it a lot less than you don’t. Now that you mention it, I can already hear the wheels squeaking down in St. Francis … “We can move Salmons to forward, start Redd at guard with Jennings and Bogut and The Prince.” … It sucks, it really sucks.

And we don’t know if John Salmons will stick around or opt out this summer. It’s a cause for concern, and I’m not trusting anything anybody says on the matter right now, least of not Bucks GM John Hammond, who’s been known to say one thing, do another. You’re right, Bawful, that does suck.

On the plus side, Hammond has stocked up on draft picks and the Bucks have three of them this summer, barring any further deals. They’ll have the Bulls 1st round pick, a 2nd rounder from the Sixers and their own pick.  You forgot to mention that, Bawful, because draft picks don’t suck at all. They’re good, and with three of them, odds are the Bucks should be able to find some additional help for next season, maybe even a power forward to help us break the Bob Boozer Jinx.

Maybe … But next year at this time, I do expect the Bucks to be a little further down the Eastern conference “things that suck list” — and I don’t think that’s an unreasonable expectation.

Quote of the day:  “What we have here are a bunch of guys with a chip on their shoulders, with something to prove. We’re a bunch of underdog guys, in an underdog city. Milwaukee is the butt of a lot of jokes and on TV and the movies, but we’ve got a bunch of hard-workings and that suits this city, the people here.” — Andrew Bogut to Adrian Wojnarowski in this week’s feature article at Yahoo.com.