Monday, January 23, 2012


The Thunder have locked up Kevin Durant (left) and Russell Westbrook with well-timed contract extensions.
Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

With the team finally built, now comes the hard part for OKC

Posted Jan 23 2012 9:17AM
The Plan culminated in a community center that had once been an incubator for their dreams, when they were 3-29 and nobody thought the Oklahoma City Thunder was anything but an interloper, a franchise whose ownership had stolen the dreams of fans in one of the NBA's most loyal cities.
But Sunday, in what used to be the Thunder's practice facility, on the outskirts of town, Russell Westbrook officially signed his five-year, $80 million extension, cementing the Thunder's status as its own franchise, with its own future.
There is also the matter of being the standard all other rebuilding franchises emulate. Which Sam Presti, the Thunder's GM, hates.
"We're not up here taking bows," he said Sunday, sounding exactly like the former Spurs executive that he is.
In San Antonio, they say it all happened because of Tim Duncan, and that's true -- but only to a point. The OKC Corrolary is Kevin Durant, of course, and his single-mindedness to stay in a small market instead of looking to a big city to validate his sense of self-worth. Now he will spend the bulk of his career playing alongside Westbrook, their supposed fussin' and feudin' apparently not enough to make either demand a separation.
The Thunder now have their franchise bookends, 23 and 24 years old, surrounded by role players who also want to be in Oklahoma City and see things through. Everything that Presti has tried to plan for since he took over in 2007 is in place.
"They really committed themselves to being part of the organization," Presti said of Durant and Westbrook. "Russell was here before there was a logo, before there was a team name. They took a lot of ownership of the situation. Kevin is uncommon. He's not someone who looks past the things that matter to him. I think he thought this was the place he wanted to play and continue his career."
Everybody has a plan. Most never can get it done. There is so much working against teams in the NBA: injuries, bad picks, inflexible agents, Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. Most teams fail to reach the top. And the Thunder aren't there yet, either. But they're much closer than most, with the league's best record, the league's top young combo and a fan base that sells out what is now called Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Now, though, comes the hard part.
The Thunder are no longer an up-and-coming team. They are here. This is the team. There is no more cap room to save. Presti has put his cards on the table; the Thunder have gone from one of the five lowest payrolls to a team that will now be over the salary cap for years to come. A championship is the only expectation left to fulfill.
"Right now, I think we're good as is," Westbrook said last week. "We do a good job of everybody knowing their role. We can get better, always, but I think we're in a good position now, especially the way we play defensively. Hopefully we can keep that going."
Of course, OKC's rise starts with Durant, taken second in the 2007 Draft. Nobody knew he'd be this good, just like nobody knew Westbrook could make the transition to NBA point guard so seamlessly.
"I had faith," Durant said. "I had faith in everything I did, all the hard work I did. I had faith in Sam, I had faith in Troy Weaver (Oklahoma City's assistant general manager), everybody. I might have some bad games, but I knew that if I come in to work every single day, we was going to get through it. And I knew it was a phase. Talking to guys in this league, you knew it was a phase that you can overcome ... you've got to have faith in the organization and the players around you."
Faith is not often found in someone so young, especially one whose teams go 43-121 in his first two seasons, and whose new general manager was a then 30-year-old with no track record, no background as an NBA player and a statistics guy way before such things became popular. It is even less often found when that new GM gets behind a man with no prior coaching experience, who was not a superstar as a player. But Presti sold Durant that a turnaround was possible. Even while enduring the understandable anger of fans in Seattle who were about to lose the team they had faithfully supported for four decades. Even as the Thunder were in the midst of firing P.J. Carlesimo in their inaugural season in Oklahoma after a 1-12 start to the 2008-09 season, replacing him with Scott Brooks.
"He just looks like a smart guy," Durant said of Presti, with a laugh, as if he was trying to explain why one might like chocolate ice cream. "He just looks like he knows the game of basketball. Since we traded Ray Allen to get Jeff Green, and they brought in myself, I knew that was a bold move. I knew he saw something. And ever since then, I've been a Sam Presti fan. Every person he's brought through here has been a class guy, and basketball-wise, a hard worker. He knows his stuff ...
"One thing I tried to do is try to be a leader and carry everybody with me. If I went to work out every single day, before and after practice, I wanted guys to come work out with me. It's more than just working hard for yourself. You've got to bring guys in. And I think that's what leaders do. And that's something I learned. It took me some time, but I learned that. Keep faith, man, and come to work every single day ... you work every single day, and things are gonna change."
There were no shortcuts those first two years. Brooks had been a finalist for the coaching job in Sacramento before the Kings hired Reggie Theus before the 2007-08 season. When Brooks didn't get that job, he went north to be Carlesimo's top assistant in Seattle. Brooks emphasized defense when he came in, but again, everybody emphasizes defense when they come in.
"I knew his basketball background and I knew how much he knew about the game," Durant said. "But to be honest, once they got rid of P.J., I didn't know he would be the interim coach. I didn't know they'd bring him in as a coach. But once they did, the concepts and the identity that he tried to bring to this organization was something I believed in, and I knew it was going to be good for our organzation. I always, since Day One, I believed in Sam Presti and the guys in our organization."
Young coaches who play young players usually get fired. Things didn't turn around immediately after the Thunder took Westbrook fourth overall in the '08 Draft. But Brooks wasn't fired, even after OKC started 2008-09 at 3-29 -- including separate losing streaks of 14 (although 11 of those losses occured under Carlesimo), eight and five games -- because Presti had his back, and because Durant trusted Presti. And thus, he trusted Brooks.
"It's funny he says that," Brooks says now. "I think it's ... the other way around. I trusted the guys. Because when we were 3-29, if you came to our practices, you saw how hard they worked. And that always kept me going. Because I know that if you work that hard, and you have a good talent base, it's going to improve. So I trusted Kevin and Russell and Nick (Collison), and the guys we had back then. And they came in every day.
"Some guys weren't in and weren't believing, and we knew who they were, and they're no longer here. It was tough on some guys, because the young guys were playing. But the young guys were better. They weren't given playing time. They were better than the veterans. And that's the difference."
So there was no deviation from the spine of the plan -- keep cap room, at all costs. No big expenditures for free agents; the Thunder's big ticket signings during Presti's tenure have been center Nenad Krstic -- signed to a three-year, $15 million deal in 2008 -- and backup guards Kevin Ollie and Royal Ivey, both of whom were signed because they seemed, according to Presti, like good guys (see below). He hoarded first-round picks, getting two firsts from Phoenix along with Kurt Thomas in 2007, then trading Thomas seven months later to the Spurs for another first. With those extra firsts, Presti was able to get Thabo Sefolosha in a trade from Chicago and take Serge Ibaka in the 2008 Draft, knowing he'd play overseas for a year.
But that cap room was sacred. It was earmarked from the time it became available --save it for the core group, the guys they'd drafted and nurtured and knew best, the guys whose character they trusted. That meant Durant and Westbrook, just as it surely now means James Harden and Ibaka. (At least OKC hopes that's the case; it will be difficult to stagger four big contracts, and the Thunder will have to negotiate parallel deals with Harden and Ibaka in the offseason to keep them from becoming restricted free agents in 2013.) Presti did use some of it to sign Collison and Kendrick Perkins to long-term deals, with a twist -- by giving each signing bonuses with some of the room, he was able to negotiate contracts that actually go down in future years, when the extensions for Durant and Westbrook kick in.
And there was never any doubt that Westbrook would get the deal. Like Durant, the Thunder don't think Westbrook -- with two Final Fours, a gold medal at the World Championships last year with Durant and their joint playoff appearances -- is anywhere close to his full potential. The contract is for future performance, not for his current resume.
The Thunder will never be a luxury-tax payer under primary owner Clay Bennett, but they could be among the recipients of the league's enhanced revenue sharing plan down the road. At the least, corporate dollars are plentiful in Oklahoma City, home of several Fortune 500 companies. The playoffs the last two years have provided incredible experiences -- seeing the Lakers bully them in 2010, seeing the Mavericks dissect them last season. They had to play smart against Denver and they had to slug it out with the Grizzlies. They are young, but seasoned. There are no excuses. The Thunder's time is now.
It was always just a matter of trust.
And Kevin Durant's faith.
"We've always tried to be straight with the players," Presti said. "We've always tried to be clear what we felt was important fo us to establish in our program, one that was capable of winning consistently. I think going through a lot of the ups and downs that you go through as you try to build an organization and sustain it, a big part of it is sticking together and continuing to support people and put them in positions to be successful."



Dwight Howard and Shaquille O'Neal, fake hugging (Getty Images)

Pointing out that Shaquille O'Neal needlessly prattles on about an endless array of perceived slights is pretty old at this point, but before this season we were only treated to that noise during the odd postgame interview. Now that Shaq is spending time in Atlanta, working on set for NBA TV and TNT, we're to be reminded of whatever's annoying Shaq that particular week. Sometimes, it's charming.
In the case of his inability to cede a slight amount of credit to Orlando Magic All-Star big man Dwight Howard? It's more sad than anything. Howard's the best center in the NBA by a country mile (you thought I was going to make a joke about free-throw shooting, didn't you?), and yet O'Neal still strangely goes out of his way to declare Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum as the best big man in the NBA.
Howard, as you'll see in this video from (which we hope to have embedded here at BDL soon), is as tired of Shaq's needling as we are. In the clip, Howard echoes our thoughts about apparent protocol behind nickname "ownership," and kindly asks Shaq to "sit down and get on with his life."
[ Related: Howard's big night carries Magic past Lakers ]

Dwight's production has jumped over the last week or so, but it is fair to point out that the man was essentially sleepwalking through games to start what will probably be his last season with the Orlando Magic. But even with that dodgy beginning and Bynum's fantastic start to 2011-12, Andrew still wasn't in Dwight's rarefied air. Now that things have settled a bit, Howard's overall Player Efficiency Rating of 26 still outclasses Bynum's 21 mark; and even if Kobe Bryant begins spoon-feeding Bynum look after look in the low post he'd still have a ways to go even considering those improved statistics.
Bynum is fantastic. He's the best center in the Western Conference, and his per-minute production has been stellar for five seasons now. He is, at times, an effortless scorer that can put Howard to shame with moves on either block, and the Lakers badly missed his defensive presence when Bynum sat out the first four games of the season due to an NBA suspension.
But, but … Dwight Howard, man. The guy is the best center in the game. Even when he's skulking around.
And Shaq, who chafed at Howard's supposed theft of his Superman persona years ago, just needs to get over it. The pampered, petulant athlete bit works when you're an actual athlete. But as a gabby wonk on a TV show? Silly biases and harbored grudges don't tend to go over as well. Especially when even fair weather NBA fans and viewers can see right through you.
We're enjoying the heck out of O'Neal's turn on NBA TV and TNT this year. Like Howard, even at his worst O'Neal still has quite a lot to offer, and his presence on the set far outshines ESPN's milquetoast coverage. He's at his best as the goofball, though, and not the spurned giant in winter. Let it go, man.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NBA LOCKOUT 11/16/11

Players put ball in owners' court

Rick Horrow explains why this season is now in serious jeopardy.
Rick Horrow explains why this season is now in serious jeopardy.
Billy Witz has contributed to The New York Times and covered a multitude of sporting events. A Tulane University grad, Witz has won Associated Press Sports Editor awards for investigative reporting, feature writing and game stories. He covered the Lakers' every move last season for FOX Sports West.
The primary tenet of successful deal-making – be it real estate, acquisitions or labor – is you can’t be afraid to blow up the deal.

NBA Lockout

What we learned Monday, when the NBA Players Association executive committee rejected the owners’ latest (and purportedly last best) offer, is that they’re sitting on a powder keg and just pulled a matchbook out of their pocket.
Rather than accept a deal that called for rollbacks in salaries, tighter restrictions on free agency and shortening the length of contracts, the union took a different course. It disbanded, an act that allows the players to sue the NBA over anti-trust laws, challenging the legality of the lockout.
The upshot: If that takes the season with it, so be it.
Since the lockout began, one side of the narrative has been that the owners were hard and determined to seize back control of their league. While the NBA enjoyed one of its most compelling seasons, many owners chafed at the players having too large a stake.
As some franchises were in the red – the league took over New Orleans when former owner George Shinn went into bankruptcy – 57 percent of revenues went to the players.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Hardline owners, led by Michael Jordan, could send lockout negotiations into a tailspin

NBA sides to resume talks, sources say The NBA ownership group's labor committee will reopen talks with the players' side Saturday afternoon, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard, a meeting one general manager, who has spoken with a few owners, described as "headed straight for disaster."

The talks will follow a meeting between the NBA's 30 owners Saturday morning in which they will discuss revenue sharing and the state of negotiations, sources told Broussard.
But optimism is not running high.
The players' growing interest in decertification almost ensures that the union will not retreat from its demand for a 52 percent revenue split, and league sources have told Broussard a significant number of owners are growing resistant to offering the players a 50/50 split.
Sources told's Henry Abbott that in a Thursday evening conference call among owners,
Michael Jordan of the Charlotte Bobcats was among a vocal group of owners upset at NBA commissioner David Stern for not driving a harder bargain to this point.
The New York Times reported that Jordan's group wants the players' share to be no higher than 47 percent.
Should Stern and the labor committee agree to a deal with the union, it would become official with ratification by simple majorities of owners and players. Both are in doubt. Sources with knowledge of owners' thinking say that if the NBA agrees to a 50/50 split, arm-twisting would be required to get the minimum 16 votes. The league has long sought far more than 16 votes as protection against lingering dissension.
Federal mediator George Cohen will also attend Saturday afternoon's meeting, according to league spokesman Tim Frank.

At least 50 frustrated players convened on a conference call Thursday with an antitrust lawyer to discuss the ins and outs of the decertification process, sources told It was the second such call this week, sources said, after a similar call Tuesday.

Although it was not immediately clear who arranged the calls, one source close to the process described them as "player-driven" and "player-centric."

The two conference calls, sources said, represent the first formal step toward a decertification vote if this weekend's negotiations with NBA owners don't bring the sides any closer to a deal.

The New York Times reported on its website that the group of dissatisfied players, frustrated with both the pace of talks and the many concessions made by the union to this point, intend to push for the dissolution of their union if a new round of labor negotiations fails this weekend -- or if the talks generate what is deemed to be an undesirable deal.

The owners also show signs of not being on the same page.
Miami Heat owner Mickey Arison was fined last week for hinting on Twitter that he was ready to get a deal done while several smaller-market owners are said to be holding out for more concessions from the players. The owners are scheduled to meet Saturday before resuming negotiations to affirm their bargaining position, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the meeting.

At issue from the beginning has been the division of about $4 billion in basketball-related income, along with a system makeover that Stern insists must happen to fix what he considers a broken economic model.

Owners are determined to reshape the league by creating a system like the NFL or NHL, where spending is capped and small-market teams truly can compete with the big boys. But reforming the NHL's financial structure required a lengthy lockout, wiping out the entire 2004-05 season. And the NFL is making money, not losing it.

The players have offered to reduce their share of revenue from 57 percent to 52.5 percent, a concession they feel is more than enough to cover their end of the league's stated $300 million in annual losses. Owners have offered a 50-50 split, along with significant changes to the system that include a more punitive luxury tax on teams that exceed the salary cap, shorter contracts and a lower mid-level exception.

"When people hear 50-50, they think, 'Oh, it's going to be a partnership. That's half,'"
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade told the AP in a recent interview. "No. It's not. That's not how it works."

NBA players need 30 percent of their membership to sign a petition saying they no longer wish to be represented by a union, which would be submitted for approval to the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB then would conduct a vote, which would require 226 players to approve the decertification.

Even if players do go forward with decertification, their chances of success in the courtroom could be harmed by the NFLPA's experience there this summer. A federal judge in St. Paul, Minn., initially ruled that the NFL union's antitrust case had merit and issued an injunction that forced the league to lift the lockout.

But that ruling was overturned on appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court in St. Louis, and the two sides came to agreement on a new deal in July after losing only one preseason game.

The NBA already has filed a lawsuit seeking to retain their antitrust exemption even if the players dissolve the union. Federal Judge Paul Gardephe did not immediately issue a ruling when the two sides met in court this week.

While both players and owners have expressed a desire to play this season, both sides also are determined to get a "fair" deal -- at any cost.

"This particular collective bargaining agreement will forever impact the circumstances of NBA basketball players," NBPA executive director Billy Hunter said earlier this week. "We can't rush into a deal we feel is a bad deal just to save this season."

Friday, October 28, 2011


Hunter: NBA lockout is possible

By Chris Sheridan
NEW YORK -- In response to NBA commissioner David Stern's assertion that the league lost $370 million last season, the head of the players' union claimed Wednesday that Stern's numbers are as much as $370 million off base.

Union director Billy Hunter made that statement in a telephone interview with, saying the commissioner's assertion of the severity of the owners' financial woes "just doesn't hold water."

Hunter I'm preparing for a lockout right now and I haven't seen anything to change that notion. Hopefully I'll see something over the next several months.
-- NBA union director Billy Hunter

His comments illustrated the fundamental differences the sides are facing as they work to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the one due to expire next June 30.

In a nutshell, the union feels the current system is working well for everyone, while the owners feel the labor agreement needs to be drastically overhauled to enable teams to operate profitably.

The sides have started negotiations toward a new agreement but remain far apart, creating fears of the first work stoppage since 1998-99.

"I'm preparing for a lockout right now and I haven't seen anything to change that notion. Hopefully I'll see something over the next several months," Hunter said. "As of this moment, it's full speed ahead for me in preparing the players for a worst-case scenario."

Hunter, who also spoke Wednesday to several other news organizations, said the players do not believe the owners' claim that they lost a combined $370 million last season -- a statement Stern reiterated in public comments Monday following an owners meeting in Las Vegas.

"There might not be any losses at all. It depends on what accounting procedure is used," Hunter said. "If you decide you don't count interest and depreciation, you already lop off 250 of the 370 million dollars, and everything else was predicated upon what they were projecting, which was a decline in attendance that didn't happen. Attendance was the second-highest ever."

But NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said expenses were up, too.

"Part of the problem with the existing system is it's based largely on revenue, not net revenue," Silver said Monday. "Although our actual revenue numbers were better than what we projected, it came at a large cost. Our teams did a spectacular job in a down economy of increasing ticket sales, but that came at the cost of additional promotions, additional marketing, additional staff."

In defending his position that the current system is working, Hunter said player salaries decreased 1 percent in 2009-10 after five consecutive years of growth, at a time when overall league revenues reached an all-time high.

"The projected losses of $400 million were based on revenue projections made last summer, and in fact revenues did not go down, they actually increased. So for them to say there has been no shift in the environment, it just doesn't hold water," Hunter said.

"We have little confidence in their projections, because obviously the league's performance demonstrated their projections were off. We had the best Finals in years, Game 7 had the highest TV rating in 12 years, the '09-10 BRI [basketball-related income] was the highest in NBA history, player salaries went down, and right now we're experiencing an all-time high in season-ticket sales coupled with the fact that the interest being demonstrated by the public is unprecedented.

"So I can't imagine at a time like this, when the league is sort of riding the crest of the wave, that there would be a desire on anyone's part to want to disrupt that," Hunter said. "What we should be doing is trying to come to some arrangement that both of us find to be mutually beneficial and acceptable."

Hunter was already wary of the league's projections after the NBA warned its teams last July that next season's salary cap could fall as low as $50.4 million. It was set last week at $58.0 million, even higher than this season's.

"Clearly it causes us some concern, causes us to question their numbers," Hunter said.

Hunter said the players will offer their interpretations of the league's finances at the next bargaining meeting. He said he hasn't heard anything from the league since the union submitted its proposal for a CBA earlier this month.

Stern said that proposal basically embraced the current system, but the league believes that changes are necessary and that the teams which spent freely during free agency did so because it was the only way they could win. Hunter disagrees, saying owners want a system where they can spend and "receive guaranteed profits unlike any other industry in America."

Stern also said the higher-than-expected cap didn't mean things were better than they were a year ago, but Hunter points to huge increases in season-ticket sales in New York, New Jersey, Chicago and Charlotte as proof otherwise.

The union is calling for expanded revenue sharing among teams, with Hunter noting that a group of small-market owners recommended it to Stern a couple of years ago. Stern has said it will come after the new agreement with the players, but Hunter said it should come as part of the deal.

"Revenue sharing has to be part of the process, has to be part of the total package," Hunter said.

Hunter thinks owners who lived through the 1998 lockout won't want to risk shutting the league down again, but he wonders if some newer owners might be willing to sit out for a year or two. Just in case, he's telling players to save their money and stay united.

Hunter hopes "cooler heads prevail" and it won't come to that point.

"This is a high time for the NBA, a time for celebration," Hunter said. "So we're going to do everything within our power -- I can't underscore that enough -- to try to reach an agreement."

Monday, October 24, 2011


NBA owners’ dual wants put more games in jeopardy

NEW YORK (AP)—NBA owners have their priorities, and playing games isn’t first on that list.
Instead, the league is looking beyond this month—and maybe beyond this season, if that’s what it takes—to implement an extreme financial makeover after years of sizeable losses. The goal, in the words of Spurs owner Peter Holt, “an opportunity to make a few bucks.”
Owners are determined to reshape the league by creating a system like the NFL or NHL, where spending is capped and small-market teams truly can compete with the big boys. But reforming the NHL’s financial structure required a lengthy lockout, wiping out the entire 2004-05 season. And the NFL is making money, not losing it.
After NBA labor talks broke down Thursday night, Holt was asked if owners might be willing to sit out a year to get the changes they crave.
Derek Fisher fears the entire NBA season will be lost.
“The competitive issues and the economic issues, certainly we don’t want to lose the season, I don’t think the NHL did either. It ended up happening,” said Holt, chairman of the owners’ labor relations committee. “There are certain things that we feel we must have.”
And that makes a lost NBA season a possibility.
That comes as no surprise to players’ association executive director Billy Hunter. He started to believe two or three years ago that owners intended to lock out the players so they could force through the changes they wanted. Now he doesn’t see enough owners who can stop it from happening.
He identified big-market owners Jerry Buss of the Lakers, the Knicks’ Jim Dolan, Miami’s Micky Arison and Dallas’ Mark Cuban as owners he believed were open to anything that could lead to games, but there were many more from the small markets “that were dug in, and I think they’re carrying the day.”
“And unfortunately. I think what we have to do is we have to miss more games for it to really set in,” Hunter said. “And that’s what I kept trying to tell them is that this thing is on a slippery slope and we’re already losing games, the first two weeks, and if we continue to go in that decline, it may become intractable to get people to move from their respective positions.”
The first two weeks of the season—100 games in all—already have been canceled. And it won’t be long before more games are scrapped.
That’s in stark contrast to the NFL lockout, in which only the preseason Hall of Fame game was canceled. The NFL always insisted that it would play, a rallying cry that is absent from the NBA negotiations. Of course, the NFL players and owners were fighting over how to split billions of dollars of revenue whereas the NBA says it lost $300 million last season and that only eight of its 30 clubs made money.
“Different dynamic, I mean no doubt about it,” said Holt, who added his small-market Spurs lost money the last two years, which hadn’t happened before.
“We’re losing games, so there’s a cost to that. And we also were in a very different position. NFL essentially was fighting over how to divide more riches. We’re trying to figure out how to get our expenses down so we’ve got 30 teams that have an opportunity to make a little money, and so it’s a very different situation.”
One that could be crippling in many NBA cities, particularly a small-market one such as Memphis.
Ty Agee, president of the Beale Street Merchants Association, said the timing couldn’t have been worse for the city, Beale Street and the Grizzlies. After years of anemic play and small crowds, the team’s 2011 playoff run brought people downtown not only toward the end of the regular season, but into two rounds of the playoffs—an unexpected boost for a club that had never won a playoff game.
Now, instead of riding momentum and benefiting from more customers, businesses in the entertainment district are watching labor negotiations.
“I get nervous, and I get more and more frustrated,” said Agee, who owns Miss Polly’s Cafe. “All we want is for them to get their stuff together.
“It’s a double-edge sword for me because I’m a fan and a business owner.”
Commissioner David Stern has long warned that once games are missed, both sides might stiffen their proposals in hopes of recovering what’s been lost, which is why he said last week he feared games could be lost through Christmas without a deal this week.
After three days and 30 hours of meetings with a federal mediator, negotiations fell apart when union officials said they were told they must commit to a 50-50 split of revenues before owners would agree to discuss the salary cap system.
“Right now, they’re saying it’s got to be a precondition. If we’re going to meet, you’ve got to agree to accept 50-50. So as long as that edict is out there, then when are we going to meet?” Hunter said. “We’re saying we’re unwilling to meet unless we can talk about the system independent of the number.”
There is no indication owners will be prepared to go beyond a 50-50 split, and with players currently at 52.5 or 53, the sides are about $100 million apart on an annual basis.
Players seem willing to give on one of the issues if they scored concessions on the other—they’ve already offered to reduce their guarantee of revenues from 57 percent—but management has made it clear it must have both. That doesn’t leave much room for compromise.
Or a season.
AP freelance writer Clay Bailey in Memphis, Tenn., contributed to this report.
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NBA Lockout

Friday, October 21, 2011


NBA Lockout Illuminated with Optimism After 16-hour Meeting

The 2011 NBA Lockout is now 111 days old and for the first time in what seems like years, there's finally some sort of optimism about the sides coming to a collective bargaining agreement in the not-so-distant future.

After 16 hours of mediated labor talks, the two sides split shortly after 2 a.m. EST on Wednesday morning and are scheduled to resume talks at 10 a.m. EST. Meetings began at 10 a.m. EST Tuesday morning and caused a media uproar as negotiations dragged on throughout the night and into the next morning.

The mediator, George Cohen, met with both sides individually on Monday before bringing them together on Tuesday in hopes of ironing out the remaining wrinkles.

"WoW, 16 hours… I PROMISE we are trying!!!" New Orleans Hornets' star Chris Paul(notes) said via Twitter shortly after the meeting ended.

Cohen asked both sides to stay mum on the details of any progress made during the meetings.

Going into Tuesday's meetings, NBA commissioner David Stern made it clear that progress needed to be made if the league hoped to avoid cancelling more games beyond the first two weeks of the regular season, which have already been scrapped.

"If there's a breakthrough, it's going to be on Tuesday," Stern said. "And if not, I think that the season is really going to potentially escape from us because we aren't making any progress."

The aspects of this whole situation that have injected hope into the NBA community are that the meeting took so long and that another meeting is scheduled after a relatively short eight-hour break. The last meeting ended much sooner after talks broke down, resulting in the loss of the first two weeks of the season. If 16 hours and a scheduled meeting only eight hours later is any indication, we could have basketball sooner than initially expected.

Although Stern told WFAN radio in New York that he felt like there wouldn't be any NBA games on Christmas if a deal was not struck by Day 110 (Tuesday), there's still reason to believe that the no more basketball will fall victim to the lockout.

The players union is prepared to commit the entire week to negotiating. The owners, however, have two days of board meetings that start on Wednesday and will need to work quickly to find a solution once the sides reconvene later on today.

It's coming down to the wire. Luckily, both sides seem to be heading towards some sort of common ground that could have NBA games being played before the month of December is upon us.

Gil Alcaraz IV has been a diehard NBA fan since the age of nine. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @GilAlcarazIV as he provides insight and analysis on everything newsworthy involving the NBA.
Note: This article was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Sign up here to start publishing your own sports content.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


ESPN:Kobe Bryant recently said he was considering a season position on Italy’s Virtus Bologna after receiving a $6.7 million offer while Delonte West took a job at a furniture store to “make ends meet.”

NBA Lockout
With one month to go until the NBA season is slated to start the NBA players union and NBA officials met for 7 hours on Saturday to discuss salary cap issues, a discussion that is slated to resume on Monday.
When asked if each side made headway union executive director Billy Hunter told
“I wouldn’t say there was any progress. What happened was, they put some concepts up, we put some concepts up, and we’re still miles apart…There’s a huge bridge, gap, that I don’t know if we’re going to be able to close it or not.” Hunter added, “There’s a huge bridge, gap, that I don’t know if we’re going to be able to close it or not.”
Monday marks the first day when training camps would normally have begun with official games starting on November 1.
The 7 hour meeting was the longest since the lockout took effect on July 1 and focused on both an Owner driven “hard cap” and possible changes they would like to see to the “soft cap” which players say they want to keep in place.
Also still on the table is an issue with the division of revenues which wasn’t discussed because of the focus placed on caps during the meeting.
Speaking about a season cancellation NBA commissioner David Stern said:
“Our desire would be to not cancel, and we had been hopeful that this weekend would be a broader marker, but for reasons which we understand, the players suggested that we resume on Monday, and we said ‘fine.’”
On Monday smaller groups will meet to discuss plans and then on Tuesday they will come together once again to discuss their progress.
In the meantime Hunter says owners are still pushing for a trimming of a guarantee of basketball-related income for players from 57 percent to 46 percent. The 57 percent ceiling was agreed upon during the last collective bargaining agreement.
In the meantime players aren’t feeling all that great about their prospects of a 2011-2012 NBA season,
Do you think this issue will be resolved before the new NBA season is slated to begin?