Stern wonders what to do about ‘this big mess’
NEW YORK - Anyone who has been to a car dealership or bought a home understands how negotiating works.
One side offers a number, the other counters, and they meet somewhere in the middle and make a deal.
That’s not the way it’s working in the NBA’s labor standoff - even with potentially $2 billion at stake for each side.
Owners and players keep insisting they are ready and willing to make the necessary financial step for an agreement. Yet talks have broken down each of the last two weeks with little movement and the same type of answer: “We’re here, they’re there, and that’s that.’’
That won’t get players back on the court or fans in the seats.
And with both sides so entrenched, it might be a question of when, not if, another round of cancellations will be necessary.
“I don’t know,’’ commissioner David Stern said Friday when asked about the next deadline. “We just had a difficult day. We’ll go back, we’ll go to the office Monday and see what to do about this big mess.’’
They could start with a phone call to the Players Association to schedule more talks, and the sides likely will meet again soon. But it will remain pointless if neither side is prepared to offer compromise.
The losses already have been piling up. Stern said wiping out the preseason schedule, which would have ended Friday, cost the league approximately $200 million. The first month of real games adds another couple hundred million, and Players Association executive director Billy Hunter has said missing a month would cost the players about $350 million.
But that’s not enough to make players agree to a deal they say would cost them money and limit their options in free agency.
“We think we gave more than enough, and that’s what we constantly said to them: ‘Look, we did what it was you said you needed, we did it,’ ’’ Hunter said.
“And now all of a sudden, every time we did it, it’s like their eyes got bigger and they wanted more and more and more. So finally we just had to shut it down and just say it can’t be.’’
There had been a sense of optimism going into Friday after both sides acknowledged progress on the salary-cap system over the previous two days. But they hadn’t talked about the split, and sure enough, once they did, things fell apart again.
Wasted was the meeting room the NBA had reserved through the weekend at a top New York hotel, where it hoped to be announcing a deal by today.
The next talks haven’t been scheduled, but the sides reconnected quickly after the last breakdown.
“Each time I come here, we’ve come in thinking we may be here for weeks and we’re not going to leave the room,’’ union president Derek Fisher said.
“But sometimes they end and you assume you won’t talk again for weeks and you’re back the next day.’’