NBA lockout: Steps to make a deal
1. Stop the in-fighting. I'm not in a position to assess the accuracy regarding the report from Fox Sports' Jason Whitlock that says NBA Players Assn. President Derek Fisher made a side deal with NBA Commissioner David Stern to accept a 50-50 split in basketball-related income. Nor am I going to try parsing the statements made from Fisher, players union executive director Billy Hunter and Stern. But the mere fact that these stories emerged indicates there's a split within the players union.
Fisher acknowledged to me weeks ago that it's harder to keep the players union more unified than the owners since he can't levy fans and has more constituents in players and agents to please. But the union's inability at least to make it appear they are on the same page hurts their cause for a CBA in their favor because the owners know more and more they can cause the union to crack even further.
2. Both sides need to be willing to compromise on basketball-related income. As the New York Times' Howard Beck recently noted, both sides are actually near a deal, but remain $100 million apart mostly because of their disagreement on how to split $4 billion in revenue. The players union made concessions starting from 57% to 53% to 52.5%, all the way to 52%, and Hunter refused to lower that number in Friday's meeting. Meanwhile, the owners have offered a 50-50 split three separate times, but the players union hasn't budged. Each BRI percentage point, as Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick notes, is worth $40 million for each season. Considering the both sides stand combine to lose about $800 million due to canceled games through November, it's simply illogical neither side is going to budge.
3. Iron out a few system issues. That proved to be the union's strategy last week when it devoted two days of avoiding talk about how to split up BRI. Amick reported both sides agreed on player contract length (shortened six to five years) and an amnesty clause (each team can waive one player under contract for CBA's duration). But there's still some unresolved issues. The league is reportedly proposing annual increases of 5.5% for Bird players and 3.5% for non-Bird players, while the NBAPA wants increases of 7.5% and 6%, respectively. Both sides disagree on whether to have early termination and sign-and-trade options. And lastly, the NBA wants a 10-year CBA with an option to terminate after the seventh year, while the players union want that option after the sixth and eighth year. Should any side make consessions on these issues, it might be easier to further bridge the BRI gap.
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Photo: Many fans blame NBA Commissioner David Stern for the prolonged lockout. Credit: Patrick McDermott / Getty Images / October 4, 2011