- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2011


The NBA players and owners will hold meetings this weekend in what could be the last opportunity to save the upcoming season. Both sides met Wednesday and agreed to extend the talks.

After two days of meetings with the key players from both sides, another meeting is set for Friday that will include the owners’ 11-member labor relations committee, and the full players’ union executive committee.

Several sources have reported that union president Derek Fisher has asked some of the league’s stars, including Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant, to attend the meetings.

“It points to the reality that we face with our calendar,” Fisher said. “If we can’t find a way to get some common ground really, really soon, then the time of starting the regular season at its scheduled date is going to be in jeopardy big-time.”

The two sides remain far apart on several key issues, with deputy commissioner Adam Silver stating that the two sides are not even close.

“There are enormous consequences at play here on the basis of the weekend,” said NBA commissioner David Stern. “Either we’ll make very good progress, or we won’t make any progress, and then it won’t be just a question of starting the season on time. It will be a lot at risk because of the absence of progress.”

The owners have recently backed off of their insistence on a hard salary cap, but would implement a more punitive luxury tax for spending beyond the cap, as opposed to the current dollar-for-dollar system. Beyond a certain dollar amount, the penalty would increase incrementally, up to as much as four-to-one. Last season, the cap was $70.3 million.

There also appears to be a division in the ranks among the newer owners, many of whom would sacrifice the season in order to get the deal they want, and the older owners, who want a deal done as soon as possible.

The division comes down to how much money each owner paid for their team, and whether they are among the supposed 22 owners who lost money last season or the eight who earned a profit. Last season, the NBA took in approximately $4 billion in revenue, but Stern estimated a net loss of $300 million.

An additional complication is the role of agents, with several sources reporting that five of the league’s top agents are in favor of decertifying the union to expedite the talks. In an open letter to the NBA players, Fisher addressed the agent-vs.-union situation.

“I have made myself available to each and every agent, but not once have I heard from them,” Fisher said. “It is because they have not come to me once that I question their motives.”

Wizards guard Mo Evans, the union vice president, called the presence of the agents “a triangle.”

“We’re all separate entities, where we all have different interests,” he said. “The union and the players are one entity, the agents are another and the NBA [owners are] another.”

A minimum of two weeks would be needed after a deal is reached in order to ratify the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), sign rookies and free agents, and conduct a brief training camp. With the NBA season scheduled to start Nov. 1, all sides are running out of time.

Owners’ proposal includes:
• A hard, or flex salary cap
• 46 percent of BRI, up from 43 percent
• A 10-year deal
• The Larry Bird rule to apply to one player per team per season
• The mid-level exception to be reduced in size and length
• A revenue-sharing plan to be separate from the CBA with players

Players’ proposal includes:
• A soft, or flex salary cap
• 53 percent of BRI, down from 57 percent
• A six-year deal
• Full disclosure on the owners’ revenue-sharing plan

• Carla Peay can be reached at cpeay@washingtontimes.com.

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