It’s all happening. Or, it’s all close to happening.Following two days and more than 22 hours of meetings, NBA players and owners stood behind a microphone late Thursday evening to announce that a deal ending the NBA lockout is close.
“I think we’re within reach, within striking distance of getting a deal,” NBAPA executive director Billy Hunter told reporters following seven hours of meetings in a Manhattan hotel.
The optimism felt by owners and the union was palpable. This was never more evident than the scene of Hunter and commissioner David Stern laughing during the press conference in the back of the room.
If progress continues as planned, both sides believe a deal could be reached as early as this weekend. Why the sudden reason for optimism?
Reports are that legitimate progress was made on the luxury tax issue. Owners wanted teams spending over the salary cap threshold to pay a more significant tax, while players resisted change. The sides are reportedly close on settling the punitive tax issue while allowing players to maintain exceptions like their “Bird rights,” allowing them to re-sign with teams over the salary cap.
But it’s not that simple. The biggest issue remains: how to split basketball related income.
Splitting the revenue on everything from ticket sales to television deals to pizza slices hasn’t even been discussed the past 48 hours. The union had to wait for their economist – and resident genius – Kevin Murphy to arrive from Chicago.
Players are willing to go as low as 52.5 per cent (down from the last collective bargaining agreement’s 57 per cent) but the owners had been adamant about a 50/50 split – a difference of about $100 million annually. Owners have since moved off that hard-line stance, but there is no indication of how much farther they’re willing to budge.
Stern told Chris Sheridan BRI would be the first thing discussed when the sides reconvene at 10:30 Friday morning.
Other “lesser” issues, like the age limit rule and rookie wage scale, must still be reached. But items like these are believed to fall into place quickly after the bigger issues are resolved.
“There’s no guarantee that we’re going to get a deal done but we’re going to give it a heck of a shot,” Stern said.
Optimism rings even truer Friday morning as reports leak that the NBA is asking arenas to hold dates in late April, which would allow for a full 82-game schedule.
But if Friday’s meetings progress as planned, and both sides remain sane, organised basketball – with real teams, in actual arenas and no barking MC’s – may actually be on the horizon.
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