When NBA labor talks resume Friday, NBA commissioner David Stern is planning to threaten players with the cancellation of the entire 2011-12 season if the sides have not made major progress toward a deal by the end of the weekend, according to sources close to the talks.
Although sources said the union views such an extreme stance as more of a negotiating tactic than a legitimate threat, Stern went almost that far in his comments to reporters in New York on Wednesday after a second straight day of negotiations.
Referring to meetings scheduled Friday that are expected to attract as many as 15 owners and star players such as the Heat’s LeBron James, Stern said: “I’m focused on let’s get the two committees in and see whether they can either have a season or not have a season, and that’s what’s at risk this weekend.”
The owners put forth a new number on the split of revenues, or basketball-related income, on Thursday, a step that could help propel the talks forward, according to a source.
“It’s moving,” said another person with knowledge of the talks.
“Not as fast as some people would want, but it’s moving.”
After signaling last week that the players’ offer to move lower than the 54.3 percent share of BRI was a starting point that could lead to a deal on economics, league negotiators came back with their own number. The union found the number “unacceptable” and both sides addressed the media with pessimissm.
The owners’ number, one of the people familiar with the details said, represented a willingness to move off their most recent formal proposal to cap player salaries at $2 billion a year for the bulk of a 10-year proposal.
A high-level meeting of top negotiators for both the players and owners will take place next week, a person with knowledge of the meeting revealed today.
The plan is to limit the number of people in the room, with commisioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, union chief Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher, the person said. Also possibly in attendance could be Spurs owner Peter Holt, the chairman of the owners’ labor relations committee.
The two sides want to limit the amount of attention given to the talks.
That meeting will take place next week, barring some unforeseen scheduling issue, according to two sources familiar with the matter. It could take place as early as Monday, depending on how the schedules of a few key figures shake out, according to one of the sources.
Staff members from each side, including some top officials, have met twice since the lockout took effect on July 1 to finalize the 2010-11 basketball-related income figure, discuss possible structures for a new salary cap and schedule future meetings. But those sessions have not involved several key players, including NBA commissioner David Stern, union executive director Billy Hunter and top outside counsel for both sides.
Experts consider the two sides to be far apart in a dispute that centers on how the league should split its revenue pie with players.
Stan Van Gundy
Stan Van Gundy hosted a clinic Thursday, not only in basketball, but also the fine art of walking a thin line. Most hardcore Magic fans know this, and Van Gundy reiterated it on Thursday: He does not like mid-range jumpers.
He said free-throws, layups and three-pointers are the three types of shots he wants his team looking for, because those are the most efficient ways to score.
Van Gundy, aware the Orlando Sentinel was in the audience, made a clarification early in his speech. “Because of NBA rules and David Stern’s fondness for taking my money — 100 grand in each of the last two years — my biggest goal is that I don’t lose any money,” he said, referring to the NBA’s mandate that coaches do not publicly talk about the lockout or mention the names of any players.
The NBA lockout will soon be nearly three weeks old, but the league office is going ahead Tuesday with the release of its full 2011-12 schedule.
A league spokesman on Sunday confirmed an NBA.com report that the schedule will be released Tuesday afternoon. NBA TV will broadcast a schedule show starting at 2 p.m., with the schedule to be sent out at 2:15 p.m.
The Miami Herald reported in Sunday’s editions that the Dallas Mavericks have been tabbed to play host to the Miami Heat on Christmas Day in an NBA Finals rematch, but that’s almost certainly contingent on the lockout being lifted in time for the regular season to start as planned on Nov. 1.
Sources told ESPN.com that the schedule, as it stands, calls for the Mavericks to open the season Nov. 1 at home against the Chicago Bulls and raise their championship banner.
In 2010, NBA.com took in nearly $22 million in advertising revenue, according to estimates provided by Barclays Capital.
It is an 88% increase from a year earlier, when NBA.com produced $11.7 million in ad revenue. In 2008, it took in $6.2 million.
In addition, traffic on NBA.com has grown steadily.
In May, NBA.com attracted 12.2 million unique visitors, up 47% from May 2009, when it had 8.3 million, according to research firm comScore Inc.
Update: Union spokesman Dan Wasserman says the NBA projected a decline in revenues during the 09-10 season but they actually rose, so the final losses should have been much less than the league said.
The NBA is disputing a report questioning its financial losses, saying the estimates used as the basis of the article “do not reflect reality.”
David Stern, Mike Bass
A New York Times blog post Tuesday titled “Calling Foul on NBA’s Claims of Financial Distress” called the league “fundamentally a healthy and profitable business” with an estimated operating income of $183 million in 2009-10, making a 5 to 7 percent profit during the life of the collective bargaining agreement that expired last week.
The story was based on estimates prepared by Forbes and Financial World magazines. NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the information was inaccurate, saying Forbes “does not have the financial data for our teams and the magazine’s estimates do not reflect reality.”
“Precisely to avoid this issue, the NBA and its teams shared their complete league and team audited financials as well as our state and federal tax returns with the players union,” Bass said. “Those financials demonstrate the substantial and indisputable losses the league has incurred over the past several years.”
The league has projected losses of $300 million last season after losses of several hundred million dollars in each season of the CBA, which was ratified in 2005. Owners locked out the players last week after they could not agree on a new deal.
According to NBA executives, once the lockout is in place, the owners will push for a hard salary cap of $45 million, the elimination of guaranteed contracts and ask that the players swallow a 33 percent salary cut.
The concessions made in recent weeks, including the “flex cap” of $62 million and a guarantee of $2 billion in annual player payroll, will be off the table.
If this seems certain to guarantee the loss of the entire 2011-12 season, it is because there are owners who think it is necessary for the long-term viability of the league.
Repeating the words several times, David Stern made it clear: NBA owners and players are “very far apart” on a new labor deal.
And with the union saying the league has not moved off its harshest demands, it may be difficult to get closer in time to prevent a lockout next season.
“I think one of the owners indicated at the conclusion of today’s meeting that he was very pessimistic as to whether or not they’d be able to reach an accord between now and the end of the month, and I’m forced to share that sentiment,” union executive director Billy Hunter said Wednesday.
“I think maybe it’s going to be a difficult struggle.”