Marathon session for NBA sides
Stern deadline passes but labor talks go past 11 hours
NEW YORK - NBA owners and players were engaged in another marathon negotiation session yesterday, meeting for more than 11 hours in an attempt to end the lockout.
Talks went past midnight, seven hours after the deadline commissioner David Stern set for players to accept the league’s latest proposal or have it replaced by a much harsher one that would drive the sides even farther apart.
He has set other deadlines during the work stoppage, and players said they wouldn’t be intimidated into taking a bad deal by his threat. They said Tuesday they wouldn’t accept the current proposal as configured and suggested another negotiation session.
It became another marathon in a 132-day stalemate that recently featured a 16-hour meeting. But lengthy talks often have meant little to no progress, though there was motivation to push through and get something done this time.
Failure to make a deal likely would increase the calls for the union to decertify so the players can file a lawsuit against the league in court, a risky and lengthy tactic that probably would doom the 2011-12 season. Union officials have downplayed the idea, but players might have no other leverage once the more severe proposal is put into play.
The current offer calls for players to receive between 49 percent and 51 percent of basketball-related income, though the union said it would be impossible to get above 50.2 percent. Players were guaranteed 57 percent of BRI under the previous collective bargaining agreement.
Though they called this deal unacceptable, they might not see another one nearly as favorable.
The next proposal would call for a 53-47 revenue split in the owners’ favor, essentially a hard salary cap and salary rollbacks, which the league originally sought but had taken off the table. Both proposals were sent to union executive director Billy Hunter Sunday.
The meeting featuring small groups from both sides was arranged yesterday morning.
Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver were joined by Spurs owner Peter Holt, the chairman of the labor relations committee, and lawyers Rick Buchanan and Dan Rube. Besides Hunter and president Derek Fisher, vice presidents Roger Mason Jr. and Maurice Evans, economist Kevin Murphy, and attorney Jeffrey Kessler represented the union.
Kessler took part just hours after saying he regretted telling the Washington Post that owners are treating players like “plantation workers’’ during the ongoing lockout. He said he planned to call Stern and apologize.
Besides the revenue split, the sides still are divided on elements of the salary cap system, mostly relating to the spending rules for teams that are over the luxury tax level. Players want those teams to remain options for free agents, whereas the league thinks talent would be more evenly distributed throughout the league if payrolls were more balanced.
Players indicated after their meeting Tuesday that they would be open to reducing their BRI take if owners made some changes on the system issues. Players offered to go to about 51 percent Saturday, with 1 percent going into a fund for retired player benefits.
But the league has placed as much importance on the system as the split, making it difficult to find compromise on the handful of items that remain unsettled. Owners believe there won’t be the competitive balance they desire until payrolls are more equally balanced.
A month of games already has been canceled. Hunter said Tuesday he had heard Stern also planned to cancel games through Christmas without a deal yesterday, though Stern later told NBA TV that “we have made no such plans, and we have had no such discussions.’’