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NBA lockout: Can both sides agree on basketball-related income?

October 28, 2011 |  8:42 am

David SternIn hopes of ending this prolonged NBA lockout, both the league owners and players union adopted what most do when working on a long-term project.

They start on the easy tasks, hope that builds momentum and then move on to the more difficult responsibilities. That meant halting discussions regarding how to split up basketball-related income. Instead, both sides this week discussed the so-called system issues, ranging from luxury taxes, mid-level exceptions, guaranteed contracts and revenue sharing, in hopes they can find agreement in something. 

They remained mum on the details out of those discussions, but both the players union and owners beamed so much optimism regarding this week's talks that they believe they can reach a deal during Friday's meeting.

There's one catch, though; they're going to have to return to the scene of the crime that caused so much division in the first place.  They will talk about BRI.

The interpretations vary on exactly how this issue led to talks breaking off last week. NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver and Spurs owner Peter Holt said the players union offered a decrease from 53% to 52.5% in BRI but wouldn't discuss anything further if owners wouldn't offer more than 50%. Meanwhile, National Basketball Players Assn. President Derek Fisher told the media "you guys were lied to" in reference to the owners floating the notion that the players had been dragging their feet in negotiations. The union's executive director, Billy Hunter, stated that the players were willing to accept a band between 50% to 53% based on the success the league proves in bringing in revenue. Hunter also maintained that the league’s owners considered a 50-50 split an ultimatum.

In the previous labor deal, the players' union made 57% of the BRI, worth about $2.17 billion in total salaries. They initially proposed a drop to 53%. Three weeks ago, NBA Commissioner David Stern raised the idea he'd ask league owners for approval of a 50-50 split, but the players' union rejected that offer.

But even with all that division, both sides hope progress on the other issues may convince the other party to be flexible on BRI. With so much optimistic rhetoric falling flat before, it's hard not to remain skeptical. With one BRI point representing $40 million, it'd be much more logical for either side to take that hit instead of the $160-million loss for another week of cancelled games. Then again, it was never logical to have this lockout in the first place. 


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-- Mark Medina

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Photo: NBA Commissioner David Stern speaks to reporters in New York on Oct. 10. Credit: David Karp / Associated Press