NBA Players Association head Billy Hunter joined Grantland’s Bill Simmons for a hour-long podcast today.The two got into the nitty-gritty of the NBA lockout. Here’s what we learned:
- Mark Cuban floated a plan he called the “game changer” that involved no salary cap. The players liked it, some other owners liked, but it got squashed by the majority of owners. The plan essentially involved a luxury tax model that MLB uses. This plan would “eliminate all the concerns and issues” about mid-tier players being overpaid and star players being underpaid. Sounds like Hunter really likes it.
- Hunter says the clash between owners over revenue sharing is the principle obstacle to a deal. “It’s more about an internal battle that’s brewing between the big and small markets more so than proposition we’ve submitted to the owners.”
- Only four owners (Mark Cuban, Jerry Buss, James Dolan, Mickey Arison) “demonstrated a willingness to make a deal.”
- Interesting point by Hunter on how new business-savvy owners are making negotiations tougher. “David [Stern] has a new crop of owners. They just have a different perspective. They want the franchises to turn the same type of profit as their regular businesses.”
- He says talks were going good last week, and then Paul Allen blew them up. “Paul Allen came in to deliver the message from the general membership of owners. That they think they’re giving up to much, and they’re dug in, and we’re going to have to accept it. And they’re prepared to blow up the season.”
- These small market owners are prepared to sit out a year. “I think that there may be some owners in some of the smaller markets … who are obviously dug in.”
- The players have moved down to 53% of total revenue (from 57%). The owners want at least 50-50. Later in the interview, Hunter said that he proposed a “band” between 50% and 53% and guaranteed the players wouldn’t dip lower than 50%, but owners rejected it.
- Hunter framed the situation as consistent with income inequality that’s going on throughout the world. “The folks at the top who have the leverage and the power being able to impose on the workers of the world.”
- Hunter rejects the notion that he “beat” David Stern on the last two labour deals. This is one of Simmons’ pet arguments, but Hunter didn’t buy it.
- David Stern and Billy Hunter are fraternity brothers! Hunter and Stern were both in Sigma Alpha Mu at Syracuse and Rutgers respectfully.
- Larry Ellison wanted to buy the New Orleans Hornets and move them to San Jose. Old news.
- Hunter didn’t apologise for mid-tier guys taking huge, team-crippling contracts. They’re not the ones offering Rashard Lewis max deals, after all.
Simmons said on Twitter afterward that he went from 100% pessimistic to 75% pessimistic.
We felt a little better too. But it seems like the small market owners (hey, Paul Allen) are really torpedoing this thing.
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