Representatives for the NBA owners and the players’ union will have another bargaining session on Tuesday, and agent David Falk believes that both sides need to reach an agreement soon or risk losing the entire season.
The NBA has already announced that it would have to postpone training camps and cancel 43 preseason games from Oct. 9-15 as a result of the labor quarrel. Falk disputes the widespread notion that if talks continue to stall for several weeks that the league would have another abbreviated season as it did in 1998-99, when he was the most powerful agent in the business, representing, such stars as Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo. “It’s time to stop fooling around and make a deal. The waiting out period is over,” Falk said. “I can’t prove this and I may be wrong, but if I had to bet a lot of money I would bet that if we miss one game – one – the season will not happen. There are going to be no do-overs this time. That’s what I believe.”
Commissioner David Stern, National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter and other top negotiators have been meeting each week this month, and have made minimal progress as it relates to revenues from basketball related income. Players received 57 percent of the revenue — or $2.167 billion — last season, but may have to settle for something closer to a 50-50 split with the owners. They remain far apart on the owners’ demand for a hard salary cap, which the players are dead set against, but Falk believes that the situation can still be resolved.
“They have to negotiate. They have to horse trade,” Falk said. “If the league wants to reduce the percentage of revenues that the players receive, like they did in football, I understand it, then why do you need a hard cap? You don’t need both. If the owners can only spend so much money then why go through the emotion of saying you need a hard cap? They don’t need a hard cap and they know they don’t need a hard cap. Lets get over the wish list and get on the real list and get the . . . thing done.”
Falk added that the players have to realize that they have more to lose than gain with an extended fight. “The owners are saying we’re losing tons of money and we have to dramatically change the system. The players are saying, ‘I don’t believe you. I don’t really think you’re losing that much money.’ ” Falk said. The owners will say, “I’ll tell you what, you guys are making $2.167 billion. I’ll bet you the whole thing. Play Texas poker, let’s go all in. All in. We’ll bet you the whole thing. If you’re wrong, it’s going to cost you $2.167 billion dollars and if you’re right, you’ll make a couple extra $100,000.”
Falk has not been as vocal about the situation as he was in 1998, but he doesn’t feel that he should take a similar role this time around. “My political days are over,” Falk said. “It’s now time for the younger guys to step up and educate their players, and I’m not interested in doing that anymore. I think the most important thing everyone has to understand [is]: What is the economic climate that we are operating in? The average fan is not worried about this. They are worried about having a job. The amount of Americans below the poverty level is at 15 percent. If you think people are going to give a flying whatever that a bunch of billionaires are losing some money or some rich athletes that want to make $7 million instead of $6 million – they don’t care at all. We have to understand how silly this makes us look, particularly after the NFL made a deal. No one is going to have any sympathy. We’re going to make college basketball bigger than ever. We’ll watch [Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski] set the record [for Division I victories] and who knows if we’ll get them back.”