NBA and union meet for 12 hours, break without agreement to end lockout
By Amy Shipley,
NBA officials and player representatives met Wednesday afternoon in New York and talked until about 1 a.m. Thursday, but walked out of a Manhattan hotel after 12 hours of negotiations without an agreement and no indication that a deal was close at hand.
The sides agreed to resume talks at noon Thursday. NBA Players Association president Derek Fisher cautioned that “we can’t say there was significant progress made.” Both declined to provide details of the discussions.
The sides blew past the 5 p.m. deadline NBA Commissioner David Stern had set for the players to accept the owners’ take-it-or-leave-it proposal on a new collective bargaining agreement. Stern indicated that the deadline had been extended, saying the sides had agreed to stop the clock.
“I would not read into this optimism or pessimism,” he said in a televised interview, flanked by deputy commissioner Adam Silver. “We’re just continuing to negotiate.”
The meeting came a day after player representatives from 29 teams rejected ownership’s proposal but requested further discussions in the hope of bringing a quick end to what has at times been a contentious four-month-old dispute. Games through Nov. 30 have been canceled. Every lost month of the season costs the players and owners about $800 million.
It was unclear whether a deal could be reached Thursday.
“We spent a lot of time covering the issues we still have remaining,” Fisher said. “We can’t say that there was significant progress made today but we’re going to meet again [Thursday], I think at 12 p.m., and see if we can continue to make the efforts, at least, to try and finish this out.”
Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, labor committee chairman Peter Holt and attorneys Rick Buchanon and Daniel Rube represented the owners. National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter, Fisher, vice presidents Maurice Evans and Roger Mason Jr., economist Kevin Murphy and attorney Jeffrey Kessler represented the players’ association.
After talks collapsed early Sunday morning, Stern had told the players they had until the end of business Wednesday to accept the owners’ proposal, which calls for a 50-50 split in revenue and a soft salary cap. If the deadline passed without a deal, Stern had said, the offer would be pulled from the table and replaced by an earlier version that called for a 47-53 revenue split and a hard salary cap.
Fisher said after Tuesday’s players’ meeting that owners must concede on certain “improvements to the system” or no deal could be reached, but suggested the players might be able to swallow the 50-50 economic split — they had wanted no lower than 52.5 percent.
Hunter said the players were not concerned about Stern’s arbitrary deadline, but many believed the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting would determine whether most of the NBA season could be salvaged. The players have threatened to decertify the union and challenge the league’s owners in court if progress is not made, a move that could lead to a months-long deadlock.
Stern told The Post on Tuesday some owners thought he had already given up too much to the players in talks, and that many would be happy to go back to the earlier proposal, with a hard salary cap that would force all teams to stay within $5 million of a designated cap number. Teams could sign players with a $3 million mid-level exception.
Besides the 50-50 split, the new proposal calls for a luxury tax with penalties in proportion to how far teams exceeded it. Teams between $0 and $5 million over would pay a 1-to-1 tax for each dollar; teams between $5 million and $10 million would pay a 1.5-to-1 tax, on up to 3.25-to-1 tax for teams between $15 million and $20 million over. Teams would have a $5 million mid-level exception, except for teams over the tax limit, which would have a $2.5 million exception.
In other news Wednesday, Kessler issued an apology for telling The Post on Monday that the league’s owners had treated the players like plantation workers rather than partners. He called the description “inappropriate.” The remark infuriated Stern, who blamed Kessler for the stalled talks and described his conduct as “despicable.”
“The comments that I made in The Washington Post took place in an interview late at night Monday after a very long day,” he said in a statement. “Looking back, the words that I used were inappropriate; I did not intend to offend. I was merely passionately advocating for the players. I intend to call Commissioner Stern and offer my apologies for the remarks. It is very important that there be no distractions now and that the parties try to make a deal to save the season.”