Bargaining: Blink and you'll miss it
Posted on: July 28, 2011 3:44 pm
NEW YORK -- Owners and players finally will get together for a full-fledged bargaining session Monday, one month to the day since the NBA imposed a lockout.
Don't get your hopes up.
During the 1998-99 lockout, which killed the All-Star Game and nearly half the regular season schedule, NBA owners and players reconvened on Aug. 6 for a bargaining session that didn't last long and didn't go well. The owners got up and left upon receiving the players' new proposal.
I can't predict whether Monday's session -- the first including commissioner David Stern and union chief Billy Hunter since the lockout was imposed July 1 -- will be similarly dramatic and unproductive. Well, unproductive, yes. If we've learned anything over the past two years, it's that these negotiations are going nowhere fast.
Monday's session will be good for business at the Omni Berkshire Hotel, but that's about it. It'll be like Seinfeld -- a show about nothing.
For one, the pressure of losing regular season games isn't real yet for either side. Neither is the threat of losing money, especially after it was revealed last week that not only will the players get their $162 million escrow withholding back because salaries did not exceed 57 percent of BRI, but they also will receive an additional $26 million because salaries came in slightly lower. That's $188 million deposited into the players' lockout warchest, paid out according to salary.
But the real issue, which we'll explore further on Friday, is that no legal threat or leverage has emerged to force either side to move significantly off its position and bargain -- no, compromise -- for a deal. As of now, the players are waiting for the National Labor Relations Board to decide whether to issue a complaint against the NBA based on their charge of failing to bargain in good faith, among other things. Most legal experts believe the players will be waiting another 30-60 days for that decision, at least. But if it results in a complaint, the NLRB could ask a federal district court for an injuction suspending the lockout -- an outcome that wouldn't be likely if the NBPA decertified and filed an anti-trust lawsuit like the NFLPA did. Just something to keep in mind for those clamoring for the NBPA to decertify. It isn't time for that yet.
Eventually, both sides are going to have to solve this at the bargaining table. But as you'll see in Friday's column setting the stage for the next bargaining session, the pressure to do that is only going to come from a judge, a court, or the NLRB. Until then, enjoy Monday -- opening day in this summer of pointless negotiations leading nowhere.