Another weekend. Another failed effort at the negotiating table.
What will it take for players and owners to reach an agreement and end the NBA lockout? What will it take for the two sides to end a meeting without one group prematurely walking out?
An agreement is nearly in place, says the New York Times’ Howard Beck.
“You wouldn’t know it from the headlines, the dour news conferences or the apocalyptic rhetoric spilling from league officials,” Beck wrote. “But the deal, in practical terms, is about 95 per cent complete.”
He’s right about the practical part.
Owners and the players union have agreed to system issues like contract lengths, luxury-tax rates and a multitude of exceptions and clauses concerning individual player deals.
Beck is also dead-on about the depressing mood pervading both sides following Friday’s failed meetings. Glum faces. Hushed tones. And accusations of feeling “snookered.”
The problem is that final five per cent is preventing the two sides from even scheduling further meetings. That final five per cent is the argument over two and a half per cent. Of basketball related income.
Owners want a 50/50 split of the league’s $4 billion in revenue. Players aren’t willing to go lower than 52.5 per cent. It’s a separation of nearly $100 million annually.
The player’s willingness to concede any more percentage points is also a matter of contention. Reports have surfaced that player president Derek Fisher – and an “NBA superstar with the initials K.B.” – is willing to agree to a 50/50 split. That Fisher has promised commissioner David Stern he could deliver on the owner’s demands.
Fisher and union head Billy Hunter said in the moments following Friday’s negotiations that they made it clear to the owners “we cannot sell a 50/50 deal to our membership.” Whatever Fisher personally believes, the player’s stance will not change unless the union agrees to it.
Unless one side softens its stance, there’s little hope for basketball.
November is gone. So is the chance at a full 82-game schedule.
Yet there is still belief that much of the season can be salvaged. Talks persist about back-to-back-to-backs and extending the regular season into late April.
The parameters of a deal are in place. But the biggest hurdle remains. And until the sides agree to even sit together again, there will be nothing to jump through, around or over.
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