Upping the Ante
Players Association tries to avoid CBA stand-off.
by Aggrey Sam / @CSNBullsInsider
“I come out of the meeting a little bit optimistic, though we’re very far apart on the system. We both made some moves on the economics, but we’re still far apart,” Keyon Dooling said Tuesday afternoon, after the most recent negotiating session to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. “But it’s positive and we still have time to keep negotiating to try to get a fair deal worked out.”
The Milwaukee Bucks veteran guard is being diplomatic, but as the June 30 deadline—the date when the current CBA expires—the current tension between players and owners could morph the cordial tone of quotes following these meetings into far less pleasant missives hurled at the respective parties.
“There will be a time for that,” acknowledged NBPA president and Lakers point guard Derek Fisher. “But right now, we’re focused more on the negotiations than the messaging and when we speak with you guys (the media), we try our best to say certain things.”
With the Finals over and every last LeBron-focused angle done for the time being, Tuesday’s meeting, at which the League proposed a “flex cap,” represented the first time the basketball-watching public had to fully digest the seriousness of the situation—stars such as Tony Parker and Al Horford attended to show support to NBPA executive committee members, like Dooling, Fisher and Chris Paul—even with tonight’s Draft approaching.
“We actually came back and upped the ante. They thought that the original proposal was not as significant as they would like and so while we didn’t go as far as they would probably like us to go, we obviously went far enough to whet their pallet, so it gave them something to think about,” said union executive director Billy Hunter. “They then came back and made a move—I don’t want to quantify and say how substantial it was or wasn’t—it was the first move of any consequence that they’ve made in the two years that we’ve been negotiating.”
Chimed in Fisher: “Except for one or two players—that’s just the reality of it—most players on a team will be forced into non-guaranteed situations in order for the top two or three players to get the money that they deserve to get. Even though it’s characterized as a move off of allowing guaranteed contracts, in a hard salary cap-setting, it’s not much of a move at all.”
“I won’t speak to the specifics about what we fully discussed in terms of offers and proposals, but we’re not giving on it, that’s for sure. We’re committed to this process. We’re going to continue to negotiate as long as we possibly can to get a deal done. That’s what our focus is.”
As successful as the past season was for the NBA, one would think not alienating fans of the game would be central on the minds of both sides, so as to avert the damage caused to leagues like Major League Baseball and the NHL in recent years.
“I think we have to factor that in. the fans are the lifeblood of our game and without them, you don’t have us, and so, the last thing we want to do is upset them in any type of way,” opined Dooling. “However, it is what it is. It’s the world that we live in now. It’s a part of the culture. Teachers have to fight for their rights and everybody has to fight for their rights, whatever your realm is and you’ve just got to do that. It’s a part of our culture. Hopefully, we could just build the momentum and keep this great game we have.
“It’s not about what I believe. At the end of the day, I just want a fair deal for both sides. I want our owners to profit and I want our players to continue to profit, as well, and I want our game to be the biggest game in the world. I want it to be global, I want it to be the most diverse and I want it to be a great game,” he continued. “I think that’s what everybody wants. It’s just how do we get to that point and that’s something we’re going to have to try to customize when trying to make this deal.”
Good intentions or not, with about a week left before the deadline, the situation looks mighty bleak, especially since an NBPA source told me that if a new deal isn’t reached by then, negotiations could remain dormant until late summer. Increasingly more anecdotes about the owners’ hubris is filtering into the news, but they’re the anti-LeBron in this saga, willing to play the villain and banking on the players to cave—the same source believes things could turn ugly if and when it becomes an issue of the haves and have-nots, since there are stark differences for max-contract players and mid-level exception or minimum-deal vets, let alone rookies—meaning an old-fashioned stand-off would truly jeopardize the season, as January or so is considered the cut-off date for canceling the season altogether.
Aggrey Sam covers the Chicago Bulls for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.