Reports out of New York where the NBA and the player’s association on Thursday were not encouraging. Nothing seems to have changed since last week’s meeting when cautious optimism turned into hard-line pessimism. Not much was expected on Thursday and apparently not much was given.
Now the clock is ticking quickly toward what would have been the opening of training camps and a preseason schedule that is in jeopardy. As commissioner David Stern told reporters, “the calendar is not our friend.” Stern is scheduled to talk with the owners on the labor committee on Friday and both sides said they would try to talk next week, but there appears to be little, if any, momentum toward a new deal.
The NBA is expected to announce as early as Friday that the opening of camps — set for the first week in October — will be delayed and the first stretch of preseason games will also be canceled. Yahoo! is reporting that preseason games will be canceled through Oct. 15 and then the situation will be reevaluated on Oct. 1.
Officially delaying the start of training camps and trimming the preseason schedule is only the first step, but it’s a meaningful one. It would be the first time that the league has lost games, preseason or regular season, since the 1998 lockout.
There is still some room to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement for the regular season to start as scheduled on Nov. 1, but not much. It will likely take at least four weeks from the time an agreement is reached to prepare for the beginning of the season and time is running out.
Neither Stern nor union president Derek Fisher would categorize Thursday’s meetings with reporters, but the lack of progress seemed evident. The union has offered to reduce their take of basketball-related income (BRI) from 57 to around 54 percent, which equates to more than $100 million in salaries, but not without retaining the current soft cap system. The owners have wanted a 50-50 split and a new structure with a hard cap.
The willingness to negotiate on the revenue split was the reason for the optimism, but neither side seems willing to concede on the cap question and it doesn’t appear as if the player’s proposal is enough to satisfy the owners, who have claimed losses in excess of $300 million.
Also left hanging in the balance are questions about whether the two camps are split internally. For the owners, it’s a matter of big markets vs. small markets, or more accurately hard-liners and those willing to find middle ground. There are issues of revenue sharing as well that have not yet been addressed publicly. And for the players, there have been reports of high-powered agents who are unhappy with the union’s direction. The word “decertification” hangs uncomfortably in the air, which would likely mean antitrust lawsuits.
The NBA and the union have been pushed to the brink and the deadlines become more real with each passing day.