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Bluffing or not, David Stern gets his deadline

Nov 9, 2011, 12:54 PM EDT

NBA And Player's Association Meet To Negotiate CBA Getty Images

For all of the emphasis on David Stern’s recent ultimatum to the members of the National Basketball Players Association, this is hardly the first time he’s issued a deadline threat against the union. The lockout has been laced with cancellation dates, each with the accompanying acknowledgement from Stern that the league’s offers would reflect the damage of games lost. That doesn’t seem to have been the case thus far, as the league’s stance has remained more or less the same. If anything, the offers have become more favorable for the players in recent weeks.

With all of that in mind, it’s natural to wonder if — as Henry Abbott discussed earlier this week on TrueHoop — Stern and the owners will actually follow through with their most recent threat: a reset to a 47-53 proposal that the union would likely never agree to. Stern’s threat record speaks pretty clearly, but there’s always the chance that this is where Stern and the owners legitimately draw the line. There’s a chance that for whatever reason, they’ve picked today, an otherwise nondescript November 9th, as the day when the fate of the basketball universe will be decided.

For all of the rhetoric about the union “calling Stern’s bluff,” this ultimatum has created a sense of urgency. The players may not have accepted the deal the NBA put on the table, but they’re still granting the ultimatum its gravity by rushing to scrap together a last-ditch attempt to negotiate out some system-related kinks.

Late Sunday night, Howard Beck of the New York Times wrote:

The union regards the deadline as artificial and believes the N.B.A. will return to the table.

If the players truly believe that, their actions betray their belief. The NBPA has responded to the NBA’s arbitrary deadline by formally meeting with the entire body of player representatives to discuss their options, and by returning to the table to discuss the league’s latest offer in an attempt to get the owners to move from their positions on a few holdout issues. The players have done a terrific job of flipping the lockout narrative in the process, but they’ve also made the deadline anything but artificial. Stern aimed to make today a critical point in the negotiations when he made his ultimatum, and it has become just that. At this point, no one can say how this otherwise nondescript November 9th will actually turn out, but a threat — legitimate or not — has pushed both parties back into the negotiating room to stave off an “artificial” deadline. Here’s hoping that we’ll never learn the substance of that now infamous ultimatum.

  1. yournuts - Nov 9, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    Cancel the season, teach the players a lesson on economics. We could use a year off of NBA. Start again next year with replacement players or anyone that will accept a 47/53 BRI split. The fans are so tired of the players thinking their bigger than the game.

    • fouldwimmerlaik - Nov 9, 2011 at 1:13 PM

      I absolutely agree with the replacement players part. I cheer for my team. True, I cheer for the players on my team but if they went somewhere else, I wouldn’t cheer for them. If there were replacement players, it may take a few years, but there would be just as much interest as there is now because we cheer for our teams.

      Maybe the new players would be a little less arrogant and self-entitled, too.

      • brooklynbulls - Nov 9, 2011 at 2:16 PM

        But its ok for the owners to be arrogant and self-entitled….

      • fouldwimmerlaik - Nov 9, 2011 at 2:37 PM


        The owners aren’t self-entitled. They are the ones with money at risk. They are the ones who, when the superstar player leaves, have to rebuild the team and suffer the consequences. They can’t just go and do whatever they please. They are hardly self-entitled.

      • kinggw - Nov 9, 2011 at 2:44 PM

        I dont understand how the players fighting for a fair deal makes them arrogant or self entitled. I think that description better fits the owners, many of which fell into to large sums of money without doing any hard work.

        Why would the owners use replacement players? They would have to pay them and would have less than half full arenas. Fans dont care about the teams they care about they players on the team. You think Lakers fans are going to continue to sell out the Staples Center without Kobe and Gasol?

      • fouldwimmerlaik - Nov 9, 2011 at 2:50 PM


        I never said that the players fighting for a better deal makes them arrogant or self-entitled. Their arrogance and self-entitlement goes WAY beyond this situation. Now, I will say that feeling as if they are entitled to a certain percentage of profits IS a self-entitled attitude. Will they agree to not get paid if the team looses money? I doubt it. They don’t want the risk, just the reward. Why? Because they are self-entitled.

        But, as I said, the reason I feel they are arrogant and self-entitled goes far beyond this labor dispute and it has been going on for years. If you don’t see it, okay. I can’t make you.

    • rbrown4495 - Nov 9, 2011 at 1:54 PM

      What if your boss treated you in this manner sir? I believe this is excatly what corporate america is attempting to do to unions right now who represent blue collar workers, rob them of any voice that can protect their right to a fair and equitable wage. I would hope that you would have some objections to this, maybe you are actually David Stern under cover . Regardless of the fact that athletes make alot of money, the owners have always and will always make alot more. So what is your point with teach the players a lesson sir? This is america where free enterprise allows for negotiations when you bring a product/service/commodity to the market.

      • yournuts - Nov 9, 2011 at 2:59 PM

        Get a grip man. These are hardly blue collar workers, and their wages are more than fair and equitable. They are fight for BRI. The owners own the rights to the BRI.

    • n2thaizzo - Nov 9, 2011 at 4:23 PM

      Replacement players? Are you kidding me? What person in their right mind is going to attend (or watch for that matter) a professional basketball game with replacement players? You think the owners are losing money now, ha! Their income might be zero if they did that.

      • fouldwimmerlaik - Nov 9, 2011 at 4:31 PM

        Are the players the same persons today as they were 15 years ago? Nope. Every rookie is a replacement player. In three years, no one would notice. In the meantime, yes, attendance would be down, but the owners would be paying less, who knows, maybe tickets wouldn’t cost so much And, IMHO, in three years, attendance would recover, new “superstars” would emerge, and a good number of the current players would be back happily playing the game but for less money, and maybe, just maybe, with a little less arrogance once they realize it is the TEAMS we cheer for.

  2. thetooloftools - Nov 9, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    I PROMISE you. David Stern is not bluffing.

    • rreducla1 - Nov 9, 2011 at 9:52 PM

      Hmmm. And yet they are still talking past 5 pm EST.

  3. leearmon - Nov 9, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    If there is a cancelled season. You have to truly question the business savvy of these owners. Unlike when the NHL cancelled their season a few years back, the NBA is the second most popular pro sport in this country coming off of an immensely popular season. The NHL was at the bottom of the barrel. So there was only one direction to go after a lost season. Up. Add to that, the owners and the players equally have left a bad taste in many of the public’s mouths by the way they’ve been acting. As the above post states, the NBA has done a terrific / awful job of painting the NBA players as “bad guys”. So whenever the league resumes, you will have lost the momentum of last year, and painted your #1 assets (the players) in an ugly light. Who will want to spend their money on high-priced tickets in a struggling economy to see that?

    Not to mention players will feel a certain way about some of the hardline owners, and probably make competitive balance even worse. How many elite players do you think will go to Charlotte now? So the Bobcats will have plenty of money to spend, while the top tier talents will do what the Heat did – three stars and a bunch of vet minimum guys and rookies join together in a desirable city and not hit the luxury tax. Then that leaves M.J. with tons of money to spend (due to the salary floor) and no top guys to spend it on. Guess what happens then? Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, Eddy Curry, Elton Brand, Larry Hughes, Rashard Lewis. NBA – Where overspending on high volume, low efficient scorers happens!

    Guys will get overpaid still, because GM’s in the NBA are the worst and they will have money to spend, with not a lot of top guys to spend it on. Its so obvious where this is headed. No matter what the new CBA looks like there will only be about 4-5 champions in the next 8-12 years. History tells us all that. Congrats Lakers, Thunder, Bulls, Heat, Knicks (I hope).

    So sure, cancel the season. Why not fight for 80% of the BRI owners? Crush the union no matter the cost. Cancel as many seasons you need, costing your staff, and the people who work at the arenas, networks their jobs and means to support their families. By any means necessary to break the players. And when you return, you’ll see that no one will want to spend their money on a product that left, to return with a bunch of disgruntled workers, who you essentially cast as money hungry thugs.

    I must say, great business acumen owners!

  4. packhawk04 - Nov 9, 2011 at 2:46 PM

    Nfl owners always have and will make money. Not nba owners. A person saying nba owners make money and always will is a person very misinformed.

  5. yournuts - Nov 9, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    As a fan I care about the team, not the player. It’s a team game, not a player game. If your cheering for a player and he’s not on your team your not a fan of the team. Your a jockstrap sniffer.
    T together
    E everyone
    A achieves
    M more

    There is no I in team.

    • rreducla1 - Nov 9, 2011 at 9:49 PM


      That is why the owners need to stop being greedy. and work WITH the players and make a deal, for the good of the game and the fans.

      7 points of BRI over a long deal is a couple of billion or more the owners are getting back. Should be enough, don’t you think?

  6. brooklynbulls - Nov 9, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    @ fould….. How can any corporation expect to see steady profits when they routinely overpay and reward employees who have not proven their worth? I remember the ridiculous rookie contracts of the 90’s….hundreds of millions of dollars pledged to employees who had’nt shown they were even capable of performing on a professional level in any capacity. So they smarten up regarding rook contracts but these owners, their legal team and economists could not foresee that AGREEING to give up 57% on the last bri was going to bring about this disaster they claim they’re experiencing?
    Its called accountability. The lockout might as well be known as the bail out. They overspent and want the players to make all the concessions to make up for it.
    And yes these players are arrogant and entitled and have proven so on many occasions. Although I feel no sympathy for them, I cant blame them. Since when do you point the finger at the employee for being overpaid?

  7. dysraw1 - Nov 9, 2011 at 4:51 PM

    I also think some players have a selfentitled dispositions. But that is beside the point, david stern needs to have someone run a seminar on how to run a franchise. these owners hire people to spend their money wisely, then when they go out and get players that they know they cant afford its the players fault, bad management has nothing to do with it. greed & competition, has nothing to do with it yeah right

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