NBA talks grind on
At this point in the NBA labor negotiations, even a lengthy meeting seems to carry little significance in terms of progress.
Last Tuesday in New York, the NBA owners and players met for seven hours, only to find that they couldn’t agree on anything substantial in terms of a collective bargaining agreement.
Yesterday, the sides met again in New York for more than 14 hours with federal mediator George Cohen.
The sides have met extensively for the past month and have made little progress on major issues such as basketball-related income, the luxury tax, and a salary cap. In addition to those issues, the league and players also have to decide the length and amount of maximum contracts, mid-level exceptions, and Larry Bird exceptions.
They also have to determine whether players will continue to be allowed to enter the draft one year removed from high school.
Cohen has experience working with professional sports leagues, having mediated the NFL labor negotiations in March, but in that case, the lockout lasted into August. Cohen also worked with the Major League Baseball Players Association during the 1994 strike.
While he comes with impressive credentials, Cohen may need more marathon meetings to bridge the gap between the NBA and its players. They remain far apart on basketball-related income. In the previous contract, the players received 57 percent of basketball revenues while the owners were given 43 percent.
The owners have demanded 53 percent of basketball-related income while the players have also offered to accept 53 percent. One percent equates to approximately $40 million per season.
The owners briefly floated the idea of a 50-50 split during last week’s negotiations, but that suggestion was quickly dismissed by the players, prompting commissioner David Stern to cancel the first two weeks of the season.
In interviews during the past week, Stern said he would be forced to wipe out more of the regular season if a deal wasn’t reached soon, and he added that he doesn’t see NBA basketball occurring before Christmas.
The sides agreed last week to meet with Cohen as a potential last-ditch effort to save a majority of the season. As of now, the Celtics have had seven games canceled.
Even if an agreement is reached soon, the NBA would have to hold a training camp, set a free agency period, and allow teams to play practice games. But talks grew contentious last week, when the players rejected the 50-50 idea and Stern then took a media tour to express the owners’ side.
Last Friday in Los Angeles, NBPA executive director Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher met with approximately 30 players as a sign of solidarity, but Washington center JaVale McGee set off a controversy when he told reporters that some players were ready to “fold’’ after leaving the meeting.
Fisher and Hunter spent extensive time disputing McGee’s claim, and even McGee took to Twitter to say he was misquoted.
But the fact that only 30 players - many in the NBA’s middle class, such as former Celtic Leon Powe - showed up to a meeting that was considered important by Fisher appeared to show a split or perhaps some apathy among the players.