Tag Archives: NBA collective bargaining

Official terms of NBA’s tentative agreement

Sports Illustrated has obtained a copy of the official 8-page “summary of principal deal terms” that is being circulated to NBA owners and players this weekend.  This is the deal the players will hold a ratification vote on.

Summary of principle deal terms.

It’s much the same as initially reported Saturday, with one concession to big spenders like the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs:   They get a reduced mid-level exception of $3 million to sign a free agent every year.  Previous proposals had limited the exception to $2.5 million, then $3 million, to be used every other year.

This fuels speculation that many of the new MLE rules had been constructed to level the playing field for the big spenders, not to improve competitive balance.  The owners did concede on the MLE rules for teams at the edge of the tax cliff.

The Mavs and Heat, for example, will be able to use the full MLE without paying the double penalty of  1) Losing the full MLE and having to resort to the $3m MLE, and, 2) Paying luxury tax.  Previous proposals by the owners would have treated all teams nudging into luxury tax land the same as the Lakers and Celtics, which could have cut a large share of team options and salary for middle class payers.

Under the tentative agreement, teams can use the full MLE, go into tax territory up to $4 million and be only penalized the luxury tax amount.

The new tax rates are steep.  The Lakers payroll in 2011-12 will be about $25 million above the tax theshold, making them the lone team in tax tier 4.  In this new incremental system, the Lakers would pay about $50 million in taxes above their $95-$100 million payroll.

But the Lakers get a break:  The tax rate for the next two years will be dollar-for-dollar, meaning the Lakers will pay an estimated $25-$30 million in taxes.  Even with a prorated 66-games, the Lakers will pay over $100 million in player salaries and tax to play the season.

The player payroll cost to the Bucks 2011-12 will be about $55 million.

Before the parties can vote, the players and owners will need to withdraw their respective lawsuits, and the players must reform their union.  If approved, the owners will lift the lockout, a training camp and free agency period will open and the league will play a 66-game season beginning Christmas Day.

The NBA could, of course, lift the lockout now, and could have lifted it at any point during the 149 days of negotiations that led to this point.  

Deal!!! NBA players, owners reach tentative agreement

NBA players and owners came to their senses during ten-hour settlement talks Friday, and will advance a tentative agreement to their respective memberships for approval.  No, the lockout’s not over, not yet.  But the lawsuits will be withdrawn, the players’ union will reform, and approval of the deal is expected from all parties.

Many reports cite “significant concessions” by the owners.  Whether that happened is highly suspect, considering that objective observers at Yahoo Sports, The New York Times and CBS Sports had weeks ago decided that the divisive issues were relatively minor.

The real issue at stake here was respect.  NBA commissioner David Stern had made too many ultimatums, issued too many deadlines and given us all the high hat.  The players responded by disclaiming interest and filed an anti-trust.  This tentative settlement, ten days later, was more of an apology from the NBA than a compromise. 

Some of the details as reported HERE and HERE:

  • The split of Basketball Related Income was set at a “band” of 49-51 percent.  This reflects the 50-50 agreement that had been previously reached.  One percent will go to the fund for retired players, a nice play by the union and a swell gesture by the owners.  Apology accepted.
  • The “Carmelo Anthony rule” was dropped by the owners.  This would have prevented players from exercising their Larry Bird contract extension rights in “extend-and-trade” deals like the one that sent Anthony from the Nuggets to the Knicks last spring.  It’s very unclear as to why the owners were trying to stop these deals, which amount to a player limiting his own movement in deals that all parties have to agree to.  This was never a sensible bargaining item, and not much of concession.  Shrugs all around.  The OK City Thunder are still stuck with Kendrick Perkins (also an extend-and-trade deal last season).
  • Mid-level Exception (MLE) contracts for teams over the salary cap were set at four years.  The owners had wanted to alternate four-year and three-year deals, but what was the point?   There’s no rule that says a team has to use its MLE at all.  Don’t want a player for four years?  Don’t sign him.  And how was a team limited to three-year deals going to compete with a team that could offer four?  More shrugs at the bargaining table.
  • Sign and trade deals by teams paying luxury tax would be allowed but “limited,” according to reports.  Huh?  These types of deals occur too rarely to figure out what that means.
  • Qualifying offers to restricted free agents would be raised.  Aha.  The Bucks had two restricted free agents, Luc Mbah a Moute and Chris Douglas-Roberts.  Because they were 2nd round draft picks, their pay scale was low and the Bucks only had to commit $1 million to retain their rights to the players.   That’s pretty low risk, especially for Luc, who’s due to get a raise.  The Bucks decided not to retain rights to CDR, despite the low financial commit.  Raising the qualifying offer would not necessarily drive salary higher for a player like Luc, whom the Bucks want to keep.  But it would make it more difficult for teams to restrict players they have little interest in retaining.   Freedom! – but not necessarily for players in high demand.
  • The owners conceded on when to assess the Mid-Level Exception (MLE).  Teams not paying luxury tax will be allowed to use the full $5 million MLE, regardless of whether, on paper, the MLE nudges the team into tax territory.  This keeps any number of improving teams in small and big markets from being penalized as though they were repeat tax offenders like the Lakers and Celtics and Spurs, which is what the owners wanted to do.  I’ve wondered why Herb Kohl or any small market owner agreed to this and questioned whether this was a clause to level the playing field for the luxury tax payers, contrary to the owners’ rhetoric about “competitive balance.”  If the owners actually conceded on this, I can finally stop blogging about it.

“Yessssssssss!!!!!!!!!!” – Andrew Bogut tweeted this morning.  

“Does the beard and mullet stay or go?” wondered Jon Brockman.

“Es finalmente todo esto verdad o sigo soñando ???”  That was from Carlos Delfino.


Climbing out of the Abyss: NBA and players’ union lawyers work to save season

The shuttle diplomacy between lawyers for both sides in the broken mess of contract negotiations between NBA players and owners began on Tuesday, continued Wednesday and will resume today on Black Friday.  Yahoo Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski broke the story Wednesday afternoon, right about the time most anybody with hope for a season had given up looking for NBA lockout news until after Thanksgiving weekend.

The talks are aimed trying to resolve differences to the point where union lawyers and leadership can get a handshake deal, re-establish the union, draw up a formal proposal, vote on it and open a 66-game season Christmas Day — a televised feast of showdowns that NBA junkies look forward to every year.

The obstacles are many, and go a long way toward explaining why the players disclaimed the union.

  • Poor leadership by union chief Billy Hunter and union president Derrick Fisher.  They backed down and down again, all the way to a 50-50 split of revenue, and got very little in the way of concessions from the owners.
  • Poor bargaining management by Hunter, Fisher and union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler.  Of the six items identified as key negotiating points, only the mid-level exception (MLE) restrictions are highly relevant to player movement.  Does it matter to the vast majority of players how much the league decides to take from the Lakers and give to the Bucks?  Of course not.  Yet Fisher and Hunter put it and four other minor issues on their “A-list.”
  • 30-40 other proposed contract changes by the owners that are still unbargained.  While the union wanted to talk about rarely occurring issues such as sign and trade deals by teams in the luxury tax zone, they agreed to park a host of workplace issues such as drug testing, leaving those for later.
  • A lack of good faith bargaining from the owners.  Had they wanted to secure an agreement Nov. 14, owners would have agreed to at least one saleable concession that might have given the players reason to approve the deal.  Instead, the players saw only smug, insulting press interviews by NBA czar David Stern — who insisted the players vote on a proposal that the union didn’t agree to.  No deal.
  • Personal conflicts among the key negotiators.  Everybody seems to like union prez Fisher but there’s no love lost between Billy Hunter, union lawyer Kessler and commissioner Stern.  Stern and Hunter may have staved off retirement to negotiate one more deal, but their omni-presence has been a PR disaster for the league.  You’d be hard-pressed these days to find an NBA fan who likes the sight of either of them, especially not fans old enough to remember that  Hunter and Stern have been around since the 1980s.  Kessler’s the bad guy whom Hunter and Stern can blame for the acrimony before they retire on the heels of one more deal.  It won’t be true — but if reports that the two sides are making progress without Kessler in the room are true, the lawyer has served his purpose.
  • The double penalty “cliff” proposed by the owners.  The Lakers and Celtics and Mavs would lose their full mid-level exception (MLE – set at $5 million, $3 million for penalized teams), and pay a higher tax rate.  This reduced exception could be used once every two years.  But teams stepping into tax territory for the first time would also be penalized and it would be enforced right away, taking away the full MLE that nudged the team in tax territory.   The Memphis Grizzlies or Milwaukee Bucks would be treated like the Celtics or Lakers, albeit paying a different tax rate.   Does this benefit competitive balance?  It sounds less like something small market owners such as Bucks owner Herb Kohl or Grizzlies (they’d be competitively screwed) owner Michael Heisley wanted and more like a rule that title-contending taxpayers like the Lakers, Spurs, Celtics and Mavs demanded in exchange for agreeing to the double penalty (no – the Heat aren’t paying luxury tax with their roster yet, but this rule will limit what they could pay an MLE free agent).    If you’re looking for the one concession that will lead to a contract agreement, the rules on exacting penalties at the edge of the cliff is it.

Clear as oatmeal, right?  But make no mistake — one reason that small market owners are out to cut player compensation down to 47 percent of league basketball-related income (BRI) is that most of the other negotiating (if you can call it that) items aren’t very meaningful.  Here’s how The New York Times described it:

The parties essentially picked up where they left off Nov. 10, discussing a proposal that includes a 50-50 split of revenue, shorter contracts and tougher spending restrictions. The players rejected that deal, but on the basis of a half-dozen mechanical issues which, in the grander scheme, are fairly minor. They have already conditionally agreed to the 50-50 split and most of the new payroll restrictions.

It should be noted that the owners have made sure not to be too hard on themselves in these negotiations.  The 12% cut to the salary cap and luxury threshold won’t go into effect until the 2013-14 season.  And behind all of this has been an agreed-upon amnesty clause that would give teams a one-time “get-out-of-our-worst-mistake” card.  The player would be released with pay, of course, but his contract would not count against the salary cap number.

Gilbert Arenas (Magic), Baron Davis (Cavs), Mike Miller (Heat) — this means you.  For the Bucks that could mean Drew Gooden, whose contract won’t look so tradeable in 2013-14 when the salary cap and luxury threshold would be lowered 12%.

To boot, either side could opt out of the previously proposed ten-year deal after six years when a new TV deal will be in place.

The lawyers have called Derrick Fisher to New YorkA deal may finally be in the works.

Happy Thanksgiving.


“Disclaimer of Interest”: NBA players’ union walks away from the bargaining table

They gave, gave again and gave back some more, earning little in the way of contract concessions from NBA owners.   Something had to give and this time it wasn’t going to be the players of the NBA.

The 30 NBA players’ union representatives met today in New York and voted unanimously to file a “disclaimer of interest” notice to the league and its owners, putting an end to a collective bargaining process that led nowhere and had finally broken down. They didn’t really have a choice given the intractability of the league on a number of contract items of debatable importance to parties on both sides.

In addition, it was revealed last weak that 30-40 other, “B-list” items remained unbargained, a problem that doomed the latest incomplete league proposal before it was presented.  Further rumblings suggested that NBA commissioner David Stern lacked the needed support from owners on the latest proposal.

Somebody had to end this mockery to collective bargaining, and that’s what the players did today in the speediest manner available to them.  The incomplete and unbargained deal is in the trash.  The players union has walked out of the bargaining room for good and will take their chances in the New York branch of* the federal courts.

It was the only self-respecting thing they could have done.

ED. NOTE:  Players filed suit in Oakland, Calif., and Minnesota.  The Oakland case was moved to San Francisco Friday.

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 …

Is a deal between NBA players and owners finally brewing?

Today was the day.  The day NBA commissioner David Stern set as a deadline for the players to accept the owners’ most recent offer or contend with a new, less favorable proposal that cut the players’ share of revenue to 47 percent.

The players on Tuesday said they couldn’t accept the owners’ offer, but said they would lower their revenue split proposal to 50 percent, IF …   If they could get the owners back to the table to negotiate on other issues, such as the mid-level salary cap exception (the infamous MLE), penalties for big spending teams over the cap and other issues impacting free agent movement.

It worked.  As of 5:45 PM Central, the two sides have let Stern’s “deadline pass” and are at the negotiating table, talking.  (The deadline was 6:00 PM central.)  The hope is that they’re doing more than talking and reiterating their positions, and are actually negotiating.   If they are — a big IF — today could be the day this lockout ends.

The scuttlebutt this week has been that a deal is imminent, and that the threat of a new, harsher proposal from the owners was a ploy to get the players’ moving their offer, and get it moving now.   It seems to have worked.

Still, I’m sceptical that the owners will move all that much on the free agency issues for big spending teams over the salary cap.  If exceptions are allowed (the MLE) without stiff penalties for the big spenders, what’s the point?

And if small market owners such as the Bucks’ Herb Kohl are serious about competitive balance, what’s the point of fining, say, the New York and Los Angeles teams?   That would put money in small market pockets but wouldn’t necessarily impact play on the court.

And to a man, regardless of market, NBA owners have money to burn.

6:05PM Central … they’re still talking.

Contrary to some reports, the NBA’s most recent offer is still on the table.

The New York Times sounds hopeful, headlining a “possible breakthrough.”

They’re not joking: Nazr Mohammed and Andrew Bogut take aim at the NBA’s lockout-focused Twitter accounts

Retweeted on Twitter this evening by Bucks center Andrew Bogut:

Nazr Mohammed

@NazrMohammed Nazr Mohammed
.@NBA @nba_labor Don’t tweet me during this lockout! Isn’t that a fine or something lol?!?! #NBALockout
I think somebody’s getting restless to get back to work, possibly a hopeful sign that the “take it or leave it” games the owners and players’ union leaders are playing over “Basketball Related Income” are about to end.  Possibly.
The latest news has the players unhappy that union executive director Billy Hunter walked out on negotiations last week, taking a hard line at 52 percent BRI.  Seems there is now “an unmistakeable push,” according to Yahoo’s NBA columnist, to package a 50-50 deal and get back to work before another paycheck is missed.
But it also reminds me that the Bucks need a backup center for Bogut. Nazr Mohammed, veteran center, an unrestricted free agent, last seen in the 2011 playoffs with the OK City Thunder, having more impact than Kendrick Perkins, fits the bill.
Is it against the rules for NBA centers to make lockout jokes during the lockout?
(Ed. Note:  Upon further review, Mohammed and Bogut weren’t joking.  Seems they’re fed up receiving tweets from the new NBA twitter accounts, @NBA @nba_labor).
Rather hypocrtical isn’t it?   Lock the employees out, prevent them from any communication with their coaches or front offices, then tweet at them.

Schedule cancellations beg critical questions of Bucks owner Herb Kohl

The cancellation of the November schedule has cost the Bucks four Saturday night home games, including games against the Bulls and Knicks.  It also increased the degree of difficulty of the 68 games still on the calendar, based on the 2011 final standings.

The Bucks would play 55.88% of their games against 2011 playoff teams, assuming no more games are lost.  Prior to the cancellation that percentage was 54.88%.  If Bucks owner Herb Kohl thinks his team is playoffs-worthy, he would do well to consider how much steeper the road to the playoffs will be if and when the lockout ends, and how much steeper it will get if December games are lost.

What’s that?  The failure of the owners and players to reach a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) has caused a one percent increase in difficulty for the Milwaukee Bucks?  Boo hoo.  And isn’t that scheduling disparity partly the Bucks fault for sinking into sub-mediocrity last season and losing a playoff spot to the Pacers?

Yes, and the Pacers are part of the point — one of the games lost is a home game against the Pacers, a plum opportunity to begin righting last season’s failures.  Not-yet-cancelled are two games in Indy and a game in Milwaukee.  Ratchet up the degree of difficulty a bit more with Pacers home court advantage against the Bucks, something the Bulls will also enjoy if the games cancelled remain off the calendar.

And it only gets more weighted against the Bucks the closer one looks at what was lost and what remains.

  • The lockout has cheated Bucks fans out of a chance to see Steve Nash and the Suns at the Bradley Center Nov. 12 (another Saturday showcase). The game in Phoenix is still on the calendar. The Bucks have not won in Phoenix since February 1987, the last of the Bucks seven straight 50-win season, Don Nelson‘s last season as Bucks coach, Moncrief, Cummings, Pressey, Pierce, Sikma and John Lucas in the fold, and a rookie Scott Skiles, too.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge and the Portland Trailblazers have proven to be a nightmare matchup for Bogut and the Bucks. A Bucks-Blazers Saturday night game was one of those cancelled.  Still on is the game in Portland, where the Bucks haven’t won since 2006.
  • No, the Bucks haven’t yet had a road game against a Western Conference team cancelled. All 15 of those are still on calendar. The Bucks were 4-11 on the road in the West last season. Ratchet that degree of Bucks difficulty to about 60%.  The road to the 2012 playoffs will be a steep uphill climb for the Bucks.

If December is cancelled, the Bucks will lose only a single road game in the West, a trip to Memphis. That’s early in the month, following a trip to New York and a Saturday marquee featuring Milwaukee’s favorite ex-Buck, Ray Allen, and the Celtics, tough games all.

Kohl and the Bucks front office have got to be eyeing that Celtics game and rueing the day more games are tossed into the shredder.  A Celtics game is one of those money-making, potential sell-outs, an easy-marketing homecoming for Ray, one of the last chances to see the current Celtics before they rebuild (Ray and Kevin Garnett will be free agents after this season).  It’s a natural for the Bucks’ 2012 home-opener, ready or not.

The Celtics are followed by a string of five matchups that should give Bucks fans a good gauge on where their team is headed this season: at home against rebuilding Detroit and Denver in flux, on the road to Washington to play John Wall and the Wizards, home for Corey Maggette and Charlotte and then on to Indiana.

Playoffs?  Not if the Bucks can’t get it together enough to win some of those games.  They cannot afford another start like last season’s 6-wins, 12-losses disaster. The first 22-games of the schedule, prior to the lockout and the cancellations, provided a solid chance for a decent start — assuming only the 2010-11 records of the opponents.

Then Dirk Nowitzki and the champion Mavs come to Milwaukee for their only appearance, Saturday, Dec. 17, another candy marketing game the Bucks front office should be loathe to lose.  A tough opponent, of course, but the loss of this game would leave the trip to Dallas still-to-come.  From a competitive standpoint, the Bucks can ill afford the cancellation of the first three weeks in December.

All of which begs the questions:  How much does pro basketball game talk matter to many NBA owners?  Specifically, how much does it matter to Bucks owner Kohl, who has yet to play more than a supporting role to the small market hardliners in these negotiations?

Unlike small market hardliners in Cleveland and Phoenix (when Nash leaves or retires) and Boston (rebuild after 2012) and San Antonio (aging San Antonio) the Bucks aren’t rebuilding or looking ahead to a near-future rebuild.  Ostensibly, they have more in common with the Bulls and Knicks — the Bucks want to play and win now with Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings, and put a forgettable, injury-plagued 2011 season behind them.

But like Portland Trailblazers owner Paul Allen, the so-called “Grim Reaper” on the owners’ side, Kohl has spent years playing and paying big under the current system, and losing in a market much smaller than New York or Chicago.  There’s talk that Allen is taking a hard line in the negotiations because he wants to clamp down on player salaries and exceptions to position the Blazers for sale.

Kohl has lost more than Allen in the current system, and paid big in recent years for the likes of Michael Redd, Bobby Simmons, Dan Gadzuric, Corey Maggette, Drew Gooden, tax accounting write-offs in the flesh.  There’s been little or no recent talk of Kohl selling the Bucks, and the real politick in Milwaukee and Wisconsin says even discussions over a new arena are years away.

But rumblings of a sale could sound at any time.  Kohl isn’t getting any younger and will retire from the U.S. Senate next year at age 77, and, while Kohl has never made the Bucks books public,  it’s safe to assume his team has more in financial common financially with Allen than he does with the “play now” teams in Chicago, New York, Dallas, Los Angeles and Miami.

At some point — and we may have passed this point already — the “play now” owners are going to push hard for a resolution, to end the 50/50 or 48/52 squabbling over how much “Basketball Related Income” (BRI) the players should get.  The owners have already bettered their financial position by $200 million per year and about $1.2 billion over the next seasons.  That’s a tremendous giveback by the players at 52% BRI.

With the two sides so close on the BRI, it’s the “play now, win now” owners vs. “don’t play, write another season off” mode.

(Editor’s note: Not more than a few hours after this post went up, one of the “play now, win now” owners, Miami Heat owner Mickey Arison, was fined $500,000 by the NBA for tweeting that he wasn’t the owner fans should be upset about. “You’re barking at the wrong owner,” Arison tweeted in response to a fan who accused Arison of ruining the game.

“The response clearly fortified the belief Arison is part of a more moderate group of owners, mostly from big markets, who don’t share the opinion of the majority of hardliners who think the NBA needs to keep the players locked out to achieve financial concessions,” reported Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski.  That belief is certainly one held here.)

At what point does Kohl look at the first Saturday in December and say, “I need my team to be on the court against the Celtics” on that night?

Which kind of owner — write-it-off or play ball — is Kohl really?

One Meeting, One Time: Lockout Looms

It’s come to this.  The NBA owners and players will meet later today to try one more time — not to get a deal — but to make significant progress in their negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

There is no rule or law that says there has to be a work stoppage.  Both sides could continue on under the old CBA while they work to forge a new one.  The players won’t strike, and won’t even take the owners to court so long as the two sides are talking.  And the owners don’t have to lock the doors.

The best hope right now is that the owners decide they’d rather keep talking than lock the doors after a fantastic NBA Finals that set TV ratings records (in the cable age, at least).

But it doesn’t sound good.  The Associated Press is reporting the following:

There was an informal vote taken in the players’ meeting last Thursday in New York, where an overwhelming majority of the room insisted they would go the distance with the union. The owners want rollbacks on existing contracts, a hard salary cap and provisions that make owning and operating a profitable franchise a paint-by-numbers enterprise. The NBA and union will meet one final time on Thursday before a lockout comes on July 1, and there are many on the players’ side who wonder why they’ll even bother.

“Just look at the proposal the owners have made: How do you expect anyone to respond to that in good faith?” agent Mark Bartelstein said. “It’s laughable. GMs around the league have acknowledged that to me. Every GM has acknowledged that there’s nowhere for the players to go with what’s been proposed by the owners.

“The system doesn’t work for the players now, because it’s so restrictive. It doesn’t work for the owners because they’ve made a lot of bad decisions. That’s the reality. This is a horrible system for the NBA player, incredibly restrictive in every way you look at it. If the NBA owners can’t be successful in this system, blame that on nothing but poor management.”

Maybe the agents should shut up and stay out of it.  But their bread is buttered by the continuation of business, so what well-minded agent would stay out of it?  They have a role and they certainly talk to more of the league’s GMs than I do.

But I can say with strong confidence that I’ve been involved in more collective bargaining negotiations than most sports agents.  These days, employees do not get locked out.   The workforce doesn’t walk out and set up a 24-hour picket.  While the two sides in almost every contract negotiations negotiate, business continues until the differences are sorted out.

Or until the company heads to the deep South or Mexico, where there are no labor unions and management can do what it pleases in the “right to screw your employees environment.”

The NBA, of course, is not going anywhere.

And its employees (the players) are not going to strike.

So our best hope is that the owners realize that their product is better now than it’s been in over a decade, that the American and worldwide audience has registered and verified its interest in the product, and that business should continue while progress is being made.

It’s the American way these days.  It works.  It works every time.  Now we just need to see enough progress today to ensure that the owners see the folly of shutting down the game, even for a little while.