Friday might be a day when huge strides are taken to end the NBA’s three-month lockout, with both the league’s commissioner and the director of the players’ union indicating the sides are closer than ever to clinching a labor deal.
“I think we’ll get there tomorrow,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said Thursday, after the sides negotiated for 22 hours over two days, including a 15-hour session Wednesday.
The sides are meeting Friday in New York. Stern’s outlook was in stark contrast to the mood among union and league officials last week, when disagreements over how to split revenue between owners and players suspended the negotiations and had the league – which already had canceled the season’s first two weeks – threatening to call off more games. If a deal is struck on or near Friday, games could begin in early December, according to SI.com’s Ian Thomasen.
“I think we’re within … striking distance of getting a deal,” Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, told reporters after Thursday’s negotiations.
Here are just some of the issues separating the sides and an explanation of why the sides may be close to a resolution:
- The league says it lost as much as $300 million last season, with most of its 30 teams in the red. Team owners want to address this by keeping more basketball-related income for themselves. Last year, the players took 57% of the pool, with the owners keeping the rest. For the new deal, the owners want a 50-50 split, but the players haven’t offered anything less than 52.5% for themselves, CNN partners SI.com and NBA.com have reported. The gap equates to tens of millions of dollars.
- The sides are negotiating whether the league will solidify its salary cap or continue allowing teams to surpass it through certain exemptions. They also are discussing whether the luxury tax threshold – the point at which the league starts charging teams money for going well beyond the salary cap – should be lowered. The league generally wants this threshold lowered to create a more competitive balance, so that big-market teams with deep pockets will think twice about spending so much.
The players, though, are against a tougher penalty against big-spending teams, believing this will restrict their chance at a big payday with a large-market team.
“As (NBPA President) Derek Fisher continually says … he doesn’t want a system where players can’t go to the Lakers or go to the Knicks or go to the Bulls because the luxury tax is so high, those teams aren’t going to be willing to pay it,” TNT’s David Aldridge reported Thursday.
- Aldridge says he believes the luxury tax “is key to unlocking this whole thing.”
“They’re close on it. They’ve made movement on it,” he said Thursday night. “If they can get a system that they think those teams and those cities can live with, then they’re going to be willing, I think, to move on BRI (basketball-related income). I don’t have sourcing on that; that’s just the sense of the room that I have right now.”
- If the sides nail down the luxury tax issue, the revenue split still will need to be addressed, and that’s “the hardest move,” Aldridge said.
“It’s going to be extremely hard for the players to go below 52%,” he said. “I think they could go 52, (but) it’s going to be very hard for them to go below 52. Conversely, it’s going to be very hard for the league to come above 50, which is where they are.”
“If the league meets the union halfway on the luxury tax, I think the union can maybe do a … tougher lift with the BRI, and that could get this thing solved,” Aldridge said.
- Most important to keep in mind, according to Aldridge: The league hasn’t canceled any more games, despite previous threats to do so.
And The New York Times reported Thursday that the NBA has been asking arenas to keep themselves available to the league in late April, when its regular season normally is finished. That indicates the league could still be interested in a full season, according to NBA.com.
“We’ve got five or six guys in a room who are ready to make a deal, and if they can keep everybody else at arm’s length for another day, I think we might have it,” Aldridge said.