The NBA lockout has already resulted in the cancellation of the first month of the regular season, with more games expected to get erased if the players’ union rejects the last offer from the owners before Wednesday’s deadline. But NBA Commissioner David Stern has not targeted a date for when he’ll cancel the entire 2011-12 season.
“I don’t want to say when we could call off the season because clearly we’re not there yet,” Stern said in an interview on Monday on ESPN’s SportsCenter, “and I don’t want to make an idle threat.”
Stern has made a firm dare to the players’ union about accepting the league’s latest offer, since he refused to characterize his take-it-or-take-something-much-worse proposition as an ultimatum. The latest proposal is essentially a 50-50 split of revenues, with the possibility of the players receiving 51 percent if the league exceeds financial projections and 49 percent if it falls below. Stern sent the players’ union a letter on Sunday detailing the harsher alternative, which would reduce the share of basketball-related income to 47 percent, include a rollback of current player contracts, impose a hard salary cap and reduce contract lengths. The New York Times first obtained of the letter and a league source close to the union confirmed that the terms reported about Stern’s “reset” proposal are correct.
“Rather than simply proceeding, as we could have, to offer a less favorable proposal at this time, the NBA is providing an additional period of time for the players association to consider our 50/50 proposal,” Stern wrote in the letter addressed to National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter. “We are hopeful that the prospect of a less favorable outcome for the players will prompt the players association to realize that the best deal that can be reached is the one the NBA is prepared to make right now.”
Stern concluded, “Billy, I sincerely hope that we can reach an agreement over the next few days.”
The players’ union’s executive committee members held a conference call on Monday and the 30 player representatives for each team – including Wizards player representative and union vice president Maurice Evans – will convene in New York at 1 p.m. to go over the next strategy.
“The most important thing time-wise is for them to focus on our current proposal,” Stern said, adding that the league used five of the six recommendations of “President Obama appointed” federal mediator George Cohen. “We think there is a great offer on the table and what we told the players is, ‘It’s getting late. The only rational thing to do is for us to make that deal. Because given what’s going on in our business and our industry, it’ll get worse from there.’ ”
Kevin Durant, the player representative for the Oklahoma City Thunder, will be New York for the union meeting and has already expressed his frustration about the proposal offered by the NBA.
“Sickening, man, just sickening,” Durant told reporters in Portland at LaMarcus Aldridge’s charity game on Sunday. “Us players, we’ve sacrificed, we gave up money. We did what we have to do, now it’s on the owners. It looks like they’re not going to give in.”
Yahoo Sports reported that Kobe Bryant wants to avoid a “nuclear winter” and urged the owners and players to come together and make a deal before the deadline. His Los Angeles Lakers teammate, former Wizard and Maryland star, Steve Blake is also pushing for players to take a vote on the league’s current proposal, according to the report.
Several players and agents have pushed for the dissolution of the players’ union. If 30 percent of the players voted in favor of decertification, it would take 45-60 days for the National Labor Relations Board to approve a formal election (which would require a majority). The players would then file an antitrust lawsuit in federal court.
One prominent agent who supports decertification said on Monday that is the “only threat the players have. The biggest problem now is Stern is forcing the players to jump off the cliff. Decertification is the parachute. The owners will have to analyze their vulnerability, which could be immense.”
Stern didn’t sound too concerned about the players utilizing that option, since the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit concluded that the NFL could conduct an injunctive-proof lockout under federal law. “I just don’t know what they’re thinking,” Stern said. “Decertification would be a long process. It would certainly be a while until that happens. Time is of the essence.”