The NBA resumed lawsuit settlement talks on Friday at noon with the hopes of resolving the nearly five-month labor dispute in time to start a 66-game season by Christmas.
Though the players’ union stopped existing when National Basketball Players’ Association filed a disclaimer of interest and disbanded in order to filed antitrust lawsuits against the NBA in California and Minnesota. Those lawsuits were consolidated into one on Monday and settlement negotiations were initiated a day later.
With the pressure to craft the framework of a deal this weekend — given NBA commissioner David Stern’s assessment that it would take 30 days for a season to begin after a handshake agreement — Derek Fisher has been summoned to the New York. The presence of Fisher, who served as union president before it became a trade organization, could be viewed as a sign that the two sides are closer to a deal or support the league’s claims that union dissolution was a negotiating ploy and “sham.”
According to several published reports, the NBPA has hired attorney Jim Quinn, who helped resolve the 1998-99 lockout. Jeffrey Kessler, who infuriated Stern by claiming that owners were treating players like “plantation workers,” will not be present at the negotiations, but Ken Berger of CBSSports.com is reporting that he will still be involved in discussions.
The two sides are expected to try and settle their differences over escrow, maximum salaries, the mid-level exception, sign-and-trade deals, restricted free agency and the luxury tax. ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard went to Twitter late Thursday to explain the players’ demands, which include having four-year full mid-level exceptions available every year, sign-and-trades for the life of the deal, maximum contracts for superstars to be raised to 30 percent of the cap, not just 25 percent, and higher qualifying offers for restricted free agents.
Chris Sheridan has a more elaborate breakdown, which explains the players’ concern over the escrow, with the league seeking to withhold more than 10 percent of player contracts to make sure that the players’ share of revenues does not go over 50 percent of basketball-related income.
Howard Beck of the New York Times is reporting that the settlement talks are picking up at where the two sides left off on Nov. 10 – with a 50-50 proposal on the table — and that the parties have also agreed that “these talks will not impact the litigation or be used to prove either side’s case in court.”