TORONTO - The NBA lockout will last at least a few more days.
Another 10-plus hours of talks on Thursday failed to result in an agreement, but NBA commissioner David Stern gave the NBA Players Association a new offer to chew on.
The union said it would put the proposal to a vote of player reps either on Monday or Tuesday and Stern said he would hold off on putting his hard-line ultimatum back in play until after that vote.
That restrictive proposal was supposed to go into effect at 5 p.m., on Wednesday, but 12 hours of talks that day led to an extension.
Stern’s new offer was based on the progress that had been made over the past two days and not on his ultimatum.
The NBPA didn’t appear to be overly enthused at the new deal, but seemed resigned to the fact that this might be the best chance to get something done.
“It’s not the greatest proposal in the world, but I have an obligation to at least present it to our membership,” said NBPA executive director Billy Hunter.
“If this is the league’s last, best offer, we’ll have to take that into consideration,” said union president Derek Fisher.
“It does not meet us entirely on the system issues that we felt were extremely important to close this deal out.
“Obviously, we still would like to continue negotiating and find a way to get a deal done, but right now is not that time.”
Hunter added that “30 or 40 issues remain unresolved.”
Still, Stern struck a more positive tone, saying that he hoped the offer would be accepted so that a 72-game schedule, starting on Dec. 15, could be played.
“We don’t expect them to like every aspect of our revised proposal … I would say that there are many teams that don’t like every aspect of our revised proposal. But I did tell Billy that that proposal has the support of the chairman of the labor relations committee, Adam (Silver, the deputy commissioner), me and the labour relations committee itself.”
Fisher admitted that the NBA’s new olive branch was better than the previous one.
But with both sides believing they have given up too much already, signing off on an agreement has been incredibly difficult.
There is a split among owners between the rich (Miami’s Mickey Arison and New York’s James Dolan, most notably) who have long been ready to take a deal because they make piles of money and small to mid-market owners such as Michael Jordan (Charlotte) and Robert Sarver (Phoenix) who want a total system overhaul.
Under the previous collective bargaining agreement signed in 1999, players received 57% of basketball-related income. The owners originally wanted to drop that number to 43-45%, but negotiations are now centred on a 50/50 split.
According to multiple sources, including one with knowledge of the thinking of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s board, many owners were incensed that Stern has not held out for 52% or more of BRI and therefore were less willing to be conciliatory on system issues.
In particular, agreeing on the limitations luxury-tax-paying teams would be bound to (in terms of free agency and trade options) has proven troublesome.
Stern had warned that under his ultimatum, owners would get 53% of the BRI, contracts would be rolled back and a hard cap would be put in place.
In response, the players would likely move to decertify the NBPA. Though the two sides could still negotiate during that process, if it is seen through, the season will be cancelled.
However, Thursday’s update delayed that doomsday scenario for at least another day.
Players were to receive their first paycheques (besides some escrow money owed from last season), early next week.
The 50-game 1998-99 season started on Feb. 5, 1999.