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Where we stand with NBA labor talks. Besides screwed.

Oct 24, 2011, 1:01 PM EDT

Billy Hunter David Stern AP

The NBA owners and players will not be getting together on Monday to look for an end to the lockout. There are a few key things that separate the NFL from NBA lockouts — primarily that the NFL is a money making machine and the NBA’s profitability is questionable at best — but one key difference is that the NFL owners and players sat down for 16 straight days to make a deal happen. They wanted to make a deal, both sides.

The NBA has yet to get past three straight days of talks. And that took a federal mediator.

So where do things stand in this ugly, pointless stalemate? Here’s what we know.

• The big issue remains the money — the split of basketball related income (BRI). That’s basically all the money that comes into the league (ticket sales, national television deals, a piece of team sponsorship and on and on). In the last labor deal, the players got a whopping 57 percent. They have offered to come down to 52.5 percent, but the owners say they are not going any higher than 50/50 (and the owners want to take more off the top before that split). The two sides are only about $100 million a season apart, which is not that far all things considered (they started out more than $800 million a season apart).

But you only close that gap by talking. Right now, both sides are dug in on this like a World War I battlefield. Until this is solved nothing gets solved.

• Even if the owners got a 50/50 split, that would not be enough, they want to win a battle for a major restructuring the system. David Aldridge of brings us this quote from NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver.

“We did get a sense from the players in attendance that they felt, in essence, there should be a trade on those issues,” deputy commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday. “That if we were to reach a negotiated compromise on the split of BRI … that they, therefore, should get what they’re looking for on the system issues … as I’ve been saying now for a few years, it seems, there are two independent goals, both of which are critically important for our teams. One is to be economically sustainable. And number two is to have the ability to compete. And what we told the players today is we could not trade one for the other.”

That’s from the Attila the Hun negotiations playbook. It’s domination. The owners want a complete and total win or nothing, and they will shoot the sport in the leg to get it. The players give backs (in their offer) would amount to $180 million next season and well over a billion over the life of the agreement. The players are the ones making a sacrifice here. But the owners want more — they want to hurt the players, rout them. Just winning seems not to be enough. And it’s pathetic.

The owners keep preaching “competitive balance” but that is a flat-out myth. Actually, myth may be too kind, more like intentional deception. The NBA will never have the balance of the NFL because one player (Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Derrick Rose type players) dominates most contests. It will not work in the NBA. Besides, the NBA was at its most popular when Jordan dominated the league like no other, when competitive balance was laughable. But competitive balance is the flag the owners are flying.

• There are other things the two sides do not agree on. Chris Sheridan has a great breakdown over at his Web site of all the issues. Go read the whole post, but are a couple highlights.

Trade rules: Under the old system, the salaries of players being traded had to be within 125 percent of each other (if both trading teams were over the salary cap). This rule will be loosened considerably, although a final formula has not been agreed to. The players want the percentage to rise to 225 percent (whereby, for instance, a player making $1 million could be traded for a player making $2.25 million), while the owners have indicated a willingness to allow the percentage to rise to 140 or 150 percent — although teams paying the luxury tax would have a tighter restraint.

The “stretch exception”: Under this proposal, a team could waive any player and stretch out the remainder of the money he is owed, reducing the salary cap number for that waived player. For instance, if an underperforming player had three years left on his contract and was waived under the stretch exception, his remaining unpaid salary would be stretched out over a period as long as seven years. (Example: A player owed $21 million for three years who is waived under the stretch exception would still be paid his $21 million, but the cap cost would be spread over seven years, meaning he would count $3 million annually against the cap instead of $7 million.) In theory, this would free up more money to be paid to players who were worthy of the increased salary….

Maximum annual raises: There has been little movement here, with the owners asking that maximum raises be 4 1/2 percent for Bird players and 3 percent for others. The union wants to keep the current system of 10.5 percent raises for Bird players, with the caveat that the maximum raises would drop to 9 percent for a player signing a four- or five-year contract. For non-Bird players the union is asking for maximum raises of 8 percent in two- and three-year contracts, and 7 percent for players receiving four- or five-year deals.

A lot of these changes I like — things that bring more player movement can have advantages to fans. Undersand what the owners want is for more flexibility with role players but want to keep their stars from moving, but in general some additional player movement would be be good for fans.

For all their talk for two years — and 30 hours of meetings last week — there is still a big gap between the sides. There’s a lot of work to be done.

And they are not doing it. Both sides are dug in, nobody is moving. And the owners don’t want to give in, they want a rout, a bloodbath. The game itself is forgotten in all of this.

So where we stand with the NBA labor talks is that if they were really working on it they could get to a deal — they are not close, but they have made progress and a deal is there to be had. Except nobody wants it, both sides are stubborn and dug in.

So the lockout drags on. And on. And on.

  1. somekat - Oct 24, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    I love how much on the side of the players you are. “The owners want a blood bath” “they want domination” etc etc.

    Maybe the just want a business that is sustainable? Maybe even profitable? Heaven forbid. Most teams in the league are leaking money. 10’s of millions a year. Obviously there are a few exceptions, but that is the rule for the vast majority of teams in the league. What possible reason would the owners want to go back to that? There may be a few owners (Cuban for example), that just want to win, and don’t care about the money. That isn’t true for 90% of them, and is idiotic and unrealistic for anyone to expect. The gaul of people to think that people with hundreds of millions of dollars invested in a team should just eat the losses because you think they are being mean or unfair is amazing to me.

    Also, as a lifelong basketball fan (with no other sport even taking a close 2nd for me personally), I have not been impressed with the product that has been put out by the players for the last 10-12 years either. Players make 10x the money with 1/3 the skill as the last generation of players, then cry when, at least in large part due to their own performance, the league sinks in fans and income and they are asked to give some back.

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 24, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    “they are not going any higher than 50/50 (and the owners want to take more off the top before that split).”

    So doesn’t this essentially mean that the owners are offering a 50/50 split of profits? They take money off the top for expenses, which they pay to the players for benefits, etc, plus for renting arenas, paying for salaries of other people in the organization, paying in advance for supplies, etc, etc, etc. And then once all the expenses are cleared, they split the profits 50/50 with the employees. And that is unfair how?

    So basically, the players want 52.5% of the GROSS REVENUES that come into the NBA. Over half. Of all monies that come in, right? To me, that is ridiculous.

    “In the last labor deal, the players got a whopping 57 percent. They have offered to come down to 52.5 percent”

    There is no CBA!!! So the players aren’t giving anything back to the owners. There is no CBA. There is no CBA. There is no CBA. The owners started current negotiations at 43/57 split, hard cap and no guaranteed contracts. They are now at 50/50 no hard cap and guaranteed contracts still being used. Players are relying too much on the last CBA, which is no longer relevant to the conversation. Until they forget about the last CBA, there will be no deal. Maybe it takes a year off for the players to forget the last CBA.

    • texmex2 - Oct 24, 2011 at 4:15 PM

      Chris is dead on, there is no CBA any longer, there must be changes made to the old deal that was inherently unfair, nobody gets paid salary and compensations to the like of NBA mediocre players. Kurt is a pawn for the players and of courses his own JOB.

      • ghelton03 - Oct 25, 2011 at 1:59 AM

        Come on now!!!! Every CBA ends with the current one running out and then you renegotiate for another. To say there is no CBA or Chris is dead on, is just fluff, symantics, mincing words, irrelevant, blah blah blah. The players HAVE offered cuts to the CBA and the OWNERS have offred NOTHING but a big fat whopping 0 to the CBA!

      • ghelton03 - Oct 25, 2011 at 2:26 AM

        By the way, this old deal that is inherently wrong, was forced upon the players, by the owners. And I must say, the owners now, are very much less knowlegable about basketball and are much more suspect in their business dealings outside of basketball. At least one owner should be on trial for his business dealings. Don’t assume that if someone is a billionaire, that they know the tiniest bit about running an NBA team. let alone a league. NONE of these owners made their wealth in the NBA. NONE of these OWNERS should be trusted to do what is best for the NBA.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 25, 2011 at 9:51 AM

        But the fact remains that almost half of these owners bought the team this millenium. They want a new CBA that is structured for this economy and not the pre-2008 economy. They want a CBA that works for small and large market teams. And they do not want teams like the Lakers and Mavericks running up the salaries so that they can’t compete. Billy Hunter would have loved to see an NBA without a salary cap that was proposed by Cuban. Sure, Cuban would have a $300 million dollar payroll and nobody would want to go play for the Timberwolves or Cavaliers. Those teams were successful because of the draft…Garnett, LeBron…draft picks. What BIG time free agents ever went to Minnesota or Cleveland?

    • ghelton03 - Oct 24, 2011 at 11:06 PM

      Most people think of two parties in this, players and owners, so if you split 50-50 that MUST be fair. But there are a heck of alot more players than owners so 50-50 is a totally irrelevant number. As far as splitting profits, that would also encompass how much an owner pays for his franchise, interest payments, etc. All of which the owner have complete controll over and the players have no say in. For instance, the Wizards were recently purchased for over half a BILLION dollars. That is a rediculous amount of money and there is no way that franchise is going to make money even if their players work for minnimum wage. The decision to pay that amount of money was solely made by the Wizards owners. If they didn’t have that kind of money to spend, they shouldn’t have bought the franchise. But, there is no way that should become the problem of the players. The other issue is that the owners will not open their books, so who really knows what the owners expenses really are?

  3. chitownmatt - Oct 24, 2011 at 2:09 PM

    Time to bring in the Scabs!!! LOL (I’m just kidding.)

    It would actually be more fun to watch the owners put together teams from front office employees….

    PS: Kurt, I really can’t believe you put Derrick Rose in the same sentence with Kobe and LBJ… You would never have done that a year ago.

  4. bucsraysboltsfan - Oct 24, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    You are a shill for the players, plain and simple.

    • ghelton03 - Oct 25, 2011 at 2:30 AM


  5. bernie19kosar - Oct 24, 2011 at 7:58 PM

    Has anyone ever seen Kurt Henlin and Billy Hunter in the same room?

  6. jollyjoker2 - Oct 24, 2011 at 10:47 PM

    The players didn’t give anything back because there is no CBA .. It ended. For the owners, they gave thanksgiving money and turkey to the players and now they are trying to cut the benefit. Stern made a mistake last time giving them 57%. If I was the players, I would say okay. I will give you 4-5 year contract. (not a decade) at 48 % or whatever with a salary cap…. You will have to open your books and do 200 million in revenue sharing. At the end of 5 years, we get our fair share of 55% .

    • ghelton03 - Oct 24, 2011 at 11:29 PM

      Interesting, but you know the owners will never, ever open their books. It would just further expose their incompetencies and inability to manage a basketball franchise.

  7. ghelton03 - Oct 24, 2011 at 10:50 PM

    We are at this empass for the most part, because that the vast majority of owners don’t know how to run their own team or have over paid for their franchise. Why does anyone think that they are more capable of running the NBA? The players have already given enough in salary to make up for the owners alleged loses (I say alleged because they will not open their books to verify their claims. We are just supposed to take them at their word. Even though some owners previous ventures are shady at best.). The owners have made no effort to look for other ways to cut their losses, find new revenue streams, or share the wealth. They are placing their incompetence solely on the backs of the players. If the players give in to these $@!$$$, it will be a sad day for the future of the NBA. Basketball is ripe for another organization to form a new league of owners. The current players would jump ship in a heartbeat. What these dense owners should realize is that know one will be interested in their product without these players. No one will watch a league of fill-in or international players. I wish the players all the beast and hope that they are able to hold until these owners can come to their senses.

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