Blog Entry

Stern: Deal or despair by Tuesday

Posted on: October 13, 2011 5:49 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 11:18 pm

NEW YORK -- Setting another arbitrary deadline for more lost games, NBA commissioner David Stern said that without an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement by Tuesday, he fears there will be no games on Christmas Day.

"It's time to make the deal," Stern said, speaking deliberately and threateningly Wednesday in an interview on New York's WFAN radio. "If we don't make it on Tuesday, my gut -- this is not in my official capacity of canceling games -- but my gut is that we won't be playing on Christmas Day."

Tuesday is the day the league and players' association will meet with federal mediator George Cohen in an attempt to resolve their differences before more games are canceled.

"Deal Tuesday, or we potentially spiral into situations where the worsening offers on both sides make it even harder for the parties to make a deal," Stern said.

Stern confirmed that negotiating committees for the league and National Basketball Players Association will meet separately with Cohen on Monday and then will convene for a bargaining session under Cohen's supervision Tuesday. Why the deadline? Stern's Board of Governors is scheduled to meet in New York Wednesday and Thursday -- first for the planning committee to present its revenue sharing plan and then for a full board meeting.

Asked when more games could be imperiled after he canceled the first two weeks on Monday, Stern said, "I don't have a date here sitting at my desk. But if we don't have a deal by the time the owners are in, then what's the purpose of us sitting around staring at each other on the same issues?"

Sources familiar with the mediation process told that Cohen at first wanted to hold bargaining sessions at his Washington, D.C., office beginning Tuesday and continuing for the rest of the week. With owners headed to New York for the board meetings Wednesday and Thursday, that wasn't possible.

"We have owners meetings Wednesday and Thursday," Stern said later in another interview on NBA TV. "Each side’s going to meet with the mediator on Monday, and if there’s a breakthrough, it’s going to come on Tuesday. If not, I think that the season, you know, is really going to potentially escape from us because we aren’t making any progress."

Pressed by interviewer David Aldridge, Stern said, "How many times does it pay to keep meeting, and have the same things thrown back at you? We’re ready to sit down and make a deal, and I don’t think the union is. But hopefully on Tuesday, aided by the mediator, they’ll be ready to make a deal. And certainly, I’ll bring my owners ready to make a deal. Unlike Billy Hunter, you’ve never heard me say something is a 'blood issue.'"

Hunter, who appeared Wednesday on WFAN -- the nation's largest sports talk station -- was traveling Thursday to Los Angeles, where he will meet with players Friday to update them on the bargaining status.

In a work stoppage known more for catch phrases and YouTube moments than compromise, this will go down as Stern's "Grinch" moment. Placing that much importance on the first sit-down bargaining session with a mediator who has no binding authority felt like a negotiating tactic more than a realistic deadline or threat.

But in responding to assertions made a day earlier on WFAN by union chief Billy Hunter, Stern did by far his most effective, convincing job yet of laying out the owners' vision for a new system that would shrink payroll disparity and enhance competitive balance in a new CBA.

In meticulous, lawyerly fashion, Stern skewered the union's bargaining stance on the key system issues standing in the way of a deal -- the type of cap system and contract length. He also took Hunter to task for his characterization of a 50-50 split of revenues that had been discussed in informal side meetings during a key bargaining session on Oct. 4 -- calling it an idea first broached by the players and saying Hunter's characterization of it "caused my head almost to explode."

"The first time 50 percent was uttered was several weeks earlier, by the players' negotiator (Jeffrey Kessler), who said it's not an offer, it's a concept," Stern said. "He said it's a concept if everything else stays the same. And we said, 'No, no, no, no.'"

Stern said when each side was in its respective room during the Oct. 4 session, there was a knock on the door. 

"It was Derek Fisher, the president of the union, and Jeff Kessler, the lead negotiator, who probably does 70 percent of the talking for the union," Stern said. "And they asked us to come out into the hall, where I went with Peter Holt, the head of the labor relations committee, and Adam Silver, who's really our lead negotiator.

"Without trying to pin it on anybody in particular, all the parties to that conversation agreed that we would go back to our respective rooms and each promised to try to sell a 50-50 split," Stern said. "We were in the process of selling it, and there was a knock on our door. Kessler and Derek Fisher asked us to come into a room where they were with three other players -- not Billy -- and they said, 'We can't do it. We can't sell it.' And we said, OK, we get it.' Now it strikes me as strange that the union and the chief negotiator are being left out there because Billy wasn't in the room? I'm sorry."

Union sources have given a different account of the side discussions, saying the league at one point offered to try to sell a band of 49-51 percent for the players, while the players countered with a band of 51-53 percent.

"It was actually a union-initiated proposal, and it didn't fly, OK?" Stern said. "But Billy's ... you may have to have both of us in tomorrow with lie detectors."

In any event, Stern now considers the two sides to be six percentage points apart on the split of BRI, with the players asking for 53 percent -- a $1 billion concession over six years from their previous guarantee of 57 percent -- and the owners offering 47 percent. Stern made it clear that he believes the economic deal to be made is 50-50.

"When one side is at 53 and the other side is at 47, you have an idea of where this is going, OK?" Stern said.

While Stern's motivation to put another threat of canceled games out there was clear -- negotiating leverage -- it's unclear why he waited this long to give a thorough, persuasive summary of the system changes owners are seeking. 

"If you live in a market where you have a perception as a fan that it's only open to the rich teams to have the best players, then you're starting out in a bad place," Stern said.

On negotiations over the type of cap system, Stern said, "We proposed to the players that every team have the same amount available (to spend). That's what the NFL has. And the union said, 'No way. That's a blood issue.' So we said, 'All right, all right, you know, good ol' softees that the owners are, how about the flex cap like NHL has, where you agree upon a band between $52 million and $68 million -- because you can compress the difference? And they said, 'Blood issue. That's still a hard cap at the high end. Why don't you propose a punitive tax?' We said, 'OK, we'll propose a punitive tax.' And we did."

Stern described in detail how the owners' latest luxury tax proposal would work: It would tax teams $1.75 for every dollar of the first $5 million over the tax threshold, with 50 cents added for each additional $5 million. So a team spending $20 million over the tax would be charged $65 million, compared to the $20 million it cost under the dollar-for-dollar tax system in the previous CBA. The players on Monday rejected the owners' luxury tax plan because it was so punitive, it would effectively serve as a hard salary cap.

The league also wanted to impose even stiffer penalties for teams that failed to come out of the luxury tax after a period of time -- repeat offenders, so to speak. 

"We really have been reaching for the union here," Stern said. "... If anyone thinks we wanted to miss a single game, they are wrong."

UPDATE: In the NBA TV interview, Stern asserted that near the end of Monday's bargaining session, the union's tax proposal worsened from a $12.5 million tax on $10 million to $11 million.

"It was clear that they weren't ready to make a deal," Stern said. "And we didn’t know what else to do."

Stern didn't mention the aspect of the league's proposal that would forbid tax-paying teams from using the Bird exception to retain their own free agents, but did reveal that the league proposed a so-called "Super Bird" exception whereby teams could re-sign one designated free agent for a maximum of five years. Other contract lengths would be capped at four and three years under the league's proposal. Previously contracts could be no longer than six years for free agents who stayed with their teams and five years for those who left. The union has offered to cap contract lengths at five and four years, respectively.

"I was a participant in developing the Bird exception in 1983, so it doesn't break my heart to see it continued," Stern said. "But frankly, our owners went into this thinking that it was better to eliminate it so that teams could only keep certain players and the rest would be available to other teams."
Stern's spin on the league dropping its insistence on eliminating guaranteed contracts and rolling back existing ones was that, "We were anxious to save the season and make a deal." While the provision forbidding tax-payers from retaining Bird free agents would result in many of those players leaving their teams -- which is exactly what the exception was created to prevent -- he said the Super Bird provision would be "better for the players."

"The very good players will keep getting raises and new contracts, and the others, the money that becomes available by the expiration of the four- and three-year contracts will be available to the performers," Stern said. "That's what we call pay-for-performance. The union is not in accord with our view. They want longer contracts."

The luxury tax penalties and contract lengths will be the two most divisive issues when the parties meet with the federal mediator next week, Stern said.

"We really want the union and us to explain ourselves to a federal mediator," Stern said. "It may be that in the act of explaining, we will get a better reality check -- maybe of our proposals and our willingness, I accept that -- and maybe of the union's. We'll just see how that works out. So that's why, in some measure, both sides embrace the arbitrator."


Since: Sep 21, 2006
Posted on: October 18, 2011 9:47 am

Stern: Deal or despair by Tuesday

Stokomo- I took your advice and looked up basic economics. It says that the #1 controlable expense in ANY business is PAYROLL. It says that an owner has a right to run a business as lean as possible to make a profit. Last time I checked The Professional Teams of the NBA are all "for Profit" Busnesses. Therefore, I do not see a problem with the NBA owners position from a basic economic stand point; You shouldn't either.  In America, we have a Free market Economy and Indivduals are allowed to seek alternative employment if they feel the compensation they are receiving is not fair. No one is forced to work at any particular job. The NBA players have every right to find another way to make a living and refuse work those meek and meager wages they are ALL paid. They don't have to put up with that, "bull" for another second.
 That, is Economics 101!

Vis 20/40

Since: Jan 16, 2010
Posted on: October 18, 2011 8:28 am

Stern: Deal or despair by Tuesday

Kessler is involved in this??  Wow...the NFL nearly had to kick him out the room to make progress.  Don't really care about the NBA, but that name spells doom for all involved.  Never saw a guy who was so hell bent on stringing out the process to max out fees.  He doesn't give a darn about a deal.

Since: Aug 25, 2006
Posted on: October 15, 2011 7:44 pm

Stern: Deal or despair by Tuesday

For all those that keep saying "no one cares"....I care.  Lots of people in NBA cities do care.  Dallas fans care.  Oklahoma City fans care.  Chicago fans care.  We may not care so much about the PR poclamations, but we do care about the NBA and if there is a season.  Regardless of whether Stern says games will be cancelled, we all know that the season can start about 3 weeks after a deal is reached.  Threatening unnecessary cancellations of games is nothing but a negotiating and PR ploy that won't work.  Owners should just take the 53/47 split and tougher (but still not hard) salary cap, play the next deal out, see how it goes, then work on the next deal.

that was a heartfelt response...i suggest you and the other 13 nba fans move to turkey or italy...then you wont miss a single second of pure awesomeness from your hero' hoping for a complete fold job...but a couple of years would at least make sportscenter watchable again during whats supposed to be the nba season...stuart scott should start polishing up on his italian with some rosetta sure they dont have a dumber sounding commentator in italy and will feel compelled to bring him will be interesting to see how the former nba players react to foriegn prison systems..

Since: Oct 22, 2007
Posted on: October 14, 2011 2:08 pm

Stern: Deal or despair by Tuesday

@kash, I agree that Pete Rose should be in the HOF, but your challenge for people to show you proof that Rose intentionally lost games to win a bet is irrelevant. The issue is it is against the rules for MLBers at all levels to gamble on baseball. Asking whether his gambling influenced the way he played only distracts from the real issue. While I sympathize with Rose to an extent because I do think, as I said, he should be in the HOF, he has no one but himself to blame. He knew the rules then, for years, denied he broke any rules or gambled on baseball when everyone knew the truth.

Pete Rose is the only one to blame for Pete Rose not being in the HOF.

Since: Dec 22, 2010
Posted on: October 14, 2011 1:58 pm

Stern: Deal or despair by Tuesday

Every time, me, or anybody else in the nine counties in central Indiana, buys a Big Mac or a Shula's steak, 1% goes to pay for  Conseco Filedhouse, and 1% Lucas Oil Stadium.  In one swoop of David Stren's pen, not Ron Artest or Stephen Jackson's careers were not ruined, but the Pacer franchise was crushed for a decade.

For the most part, I hate sports' commissioners, going back to Bowie Kuhn vetoing  a Reds' trade, that made sure big market Dodgers played the Yankees in the 1978 World Series.  Michael Vick, the most overrated and overpaid player in sports, drowns dogs while Pete Rose will be dead before he gets a parole hearing.  To all you naysayer out there, show me proof thator manager, Rose, as a player intertionally lost games to win bets.  Like Artest's suspension was excessive, a lifetime ban without possiblilty of parole, when Gaylord Perry cheats his whole career, writes a book about it, only appears in one lost World Series and is in the Hall of Fame.

Stern is the only villan in this lockout, but he is part of the problem, and not part of the solution.

Since: Oct 14, 2011
Posted on: October 14, 2011 1:55 pm

Stern: Deal or despair by Tuesday


Since: Oct 12, 2006
Posted on: October 14, 2011 1:54 pm

Stern: Deal or despair by Tuesday

..he and Bettman should have a gay wedding..MAZELTOV!!!

Since: Oct 14, 2011
Posted on: October 14, 2011 1:53 pm

Stern: Deal or despair by Tuesday

David Stern may be a good business man or lawyer or whatever but his legacy with me will ALWAYS be tainted.  This is the same guy that blackballed Connie Hawkins in the 1960s when he was the NBA's General Counsel.  That's plenty for me. 

Since: Oct 12, 2006
Posted on: October 14, 2011 1:51 pm

Stern: Deal or despair by Tuesday

..exactly...they should start the game..give each team 90 points, and then just play a 5 minute game..the last 5 minutes are the only minutes that matter anyway!

Since: Oct 12, 2006
Posted on: October 14, 2011 1:49 pm

Stern: Deal or despair by Tuesday would think these balloonheads in the NBA would GET it!!!   This is NOBODY'S National Game!!  They lost a season in hockey, and people came back..did it in baseball-same Who needs ball is far superior entertainment..they better be careful..with this economy-this could be the first pro league to implode..would you miss it?

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