NBA Commissioner David Stern may have managed to stop the clock on his ultimatum, but the league and the National Basketball Players Association have been unable to stop the lockout. After another marathon 12-hour bargaining session, the two sides made enough progress to warrant the need for more discussions, beginning at noon.
The players’ union called Stern’s bluff that he would issue a “reset” proposal if they failed to reach an agreement by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, but after going eight hours beyond the artificial deadline, Stern told reporters in New York that he would remove the deal for 50-50 split of revenues with a soft salary cap and offer the players 47 percent of basketball-related activity and a hard salary cap if talks collapsed again. And if a satisfactory deal is n't reached, players are reportedly prepared to quickly move toward the dissolution of the union or possibly file a disclaimer of interest, with either path allowing them to pursue antitrust litigation that would put the season in jeopardy.
Yahoo! Sports and NBA.com both reported that the two sides made some progress on three of the five system issues that have divided them. Stern and players’ union president Derek Fisher, reflecting the fragile nature of the negotiations, provided little encouragement from the talks.
“Nothing was worked out today,” Stern said.
Fisher said, “We can’t say that significant progress was made today.”
Union executive director Billy Hunter said the two sides didn’t even discuss the economics of a new collective bargaining agreement, with the negotiations centering on the salary cap and luxury tax rules that determine how teams can spend. After meeting with 29 of the 30 player representatives on Tuesday, the union determined that it would be willing to accept 50 percent of the nearly $4 billion in basketball-related income if the league made enough concessions with the system.
The union rejected the proposal that Stern made early Sunday. That deal included additional penalties for teams that repeatedly are above the luxury tax, the prohibition of sign-and-trade deals for tax teams and restrictions on mid-level free agent signings. When asked if the NBA had shown enough flexibility on the system, Fisher responded by saying, “not as much as we’d like,” which led to a huge smile from union vice president and Wizards free agent Maurice Evans.
“Obviously we’d have a deal done if the right flexibility was being shown [by owners],” Fisher said. “The fact that we don’t have a deal obviously lets you know that there’s still a lot of work to be done on the system. We’re going to meet again to give it our best effort, but we’re not sure if it will be enough.”
The NFL lockout last 132 days and resulted in the cancellation of just one exhibition game. The NBA lockout has now gone 133 days and led to the loss of the preseason and 221 regular season games in November. In order to ensure that no more games are lost, a deal will likely need to be reached by the end of the week.
“We’re not failing and we’re not succeeding. We’re just there,” Stern said.