Tuesday, October 4, 2011

NBA owners, players’ union still far apart in labour negotiations

LOS ANGELES — A nearly five-hour labour meeting between NBA owners and players, including superstars Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, closed Friday with uncertainty over whether games at the start of the regular season would be canceled.

Talks are scheduled to resume in New York on Saturday at 10 a.m. Eastern time.

Derek Fisher, players’ union president and Los Angeles Lakers point guard, told reporters that no new proposals were exchanged during a sometimes contentious but "engaging" session that included NBA Commissioner David Stern and a dozen owners.

Wade — who reportedly shouted at Stern during the meeting — told Versus that players "might miss a year" rather than accept a bad labour deal.

Fisher said he was pleased that owners, who locked out the players three months ago, had the "opportunity to really see the emotion and focus in our guys’ eyes."

Stern warned earlier this week that "enormous consequences" would follow if the sides failed to make significant progress in talks this weekend.

At the end of Friday’s session, Stern slightly softened, telling reporters: "There’s no bad news.... Both sides expressed a willingness to make a deal." He added that the idea that he would accept a full 82-game regular season schedule or nothing was "ludicrous."

"Both sides agree that the consequences of not making a deal lead us to the prospect of possibly at some point ... losing regular-season games. We agreed that once you start to lose them and the players lose paychecks and the owners lose money, then positions on both sides are hardened. Those are the enormous consequences that I refer to in terms of trying to make a deal."

Asked whether a deal to end the lockout can be completed by the end of this weekend, Fisher told reporters, "I can’t answer that."

The NBA’s regular season is scheduled to begin Nov. 1.

At a news conference after Friday’s negotiating session, Stern disclosed the league’s plan to increase revenue sharing among teams.

The players have urged the owners to improve last season’s revenue-sharing pool of $54 million to better spread the riches of big-market local television deals — such as the Lakers’ new lucrative agreement with Time Warner Cable. The players’ union contends that a better revenue-sharing deal would help smaller-market teams become more competitive and help fix the league’s economic problems, given the NBA’s assertion that 22 of 30 teams lost money last season, with combined losses of $300 million.

The new plan, first reported by NBA.com, would make the revenue-sharing pool close to $180 million in the first year of a new deal, climbing to $240 million by the third year.

Stern indicated that the union is satisfied with the league’s plan.

That was Friday’s good news.

But the two sides are still trying to bridge vast differences over how to split up basketball-related income.

Players last season were paid with 57 percent of that pot — in excess of $2.15 billion — but owners want to trim the figure to below 50 percent while imposing a hard team-by-team salary cap or a prohibitive luxury tax on teams that spend the most for talent.

Players argue that will reduce the amount of guaranteed money they receive. Fisher told reporters the offer is "definitely not anywhere close to where we’d be able to agree to it."

Deputy NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said "there was a sense of urgency in the room (Friday).... We really need to push this weekend. Time is of the essence."


(c)2011 the Los Angeles Times

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