Will it be enough?
NBA players – 43 of ‘em – emerged from a three-plus hour meeting in New York City and indicated for the first time in this 4 ½ month lockout that they’re willing to accept the owners’ demand for a 50-50 basketball revenues split.
If the owners compromise on “system” demands – limits on mid-level exceptions and prohibition of sign-and-trades for tax-paying teams and a “repeater” penalty for teams that reach the luxury tax three times in a five-year period – that players believe will significantly limit the movement for veteran free agents.
Now will the owners throw the players a bone or two on Wednesday, enough to finally put all this pettiness and silliness behind us?
Tuesday’s meetings drew superstar (Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook) and player reps from every team except the Celtics.
Included was Wolves player rep Anthony Tolliver, who took a red-eye flight from a charity game in Salt Lake City overnight Monday and arrived in time for the afternoon meeting.
“The BRI won’t hold up the deal,” Tolliver said, referring to the split of basketball-related income that has been a sticking point throughout this lockout. “It’s 100 percent the system. As many concessions as we’ve made on the economics…it doesn’t make any sense. They’re basically wanting to walk away with 95 percent and expecting us to take the deal. We’ll walk away with 30 percent of what we want but we’re not walking away with 5 percent. That’s why we’re in a stalemate. We refuse to get taken completely to the house on every single issue.”
NBA commissioner David Stern’s facial expressions and body language didn’t look too hopeful during an evening interview with NBA TV as Wednesday’s 5 p.m. Eastern time deadline for his ultimatum offer approached. Stern has said the players will receive a significantly worse offer – 47 percent of the split and a hard “flex” cap – if they don’t accept Sunday’s offer by then.
Asked if there was wiggle room to negotiate on system issues in that offer, Stern said, “As of Sunday morning, there was none left.”
So will this thing once again blow up even though the two sides are so close to finally bridging the money-split gap?
“If we’re going to address every single penny through givebacks, we feel like it’s only good faith at least to allow some of the system things we’ve had in the past,” Tolliver said. “We’re not asking for more of anything. We’ll give you the money you’ve come after, but we want the system we’ve become accustomed to.”
So the players ultimately rejected that ultimatum offered made early Sunday morning and deemed it unacceptable and not worthy of being brought before all 450 players for a vote.
Union executive director Billy Hunter said he heard through the “underground” that the league will cancel games through Christmas if a deal isn’t reached or is approached by that deadline, although Stern said that hasn’t been decided.
Hunter also said there was “very little talk of decertification” among the 43 players, although he did say a faction of players say they will well more than the 130 signatures required to produce a decertification vote within 45 days if a deal isn’t soon struck.
“We’re not going to accept a bad deal,” Hunter said. “That’s the message we have to send to the other side. The players are saying we understand their position, but we’re not going to be intimidated by that. What we’re saying is, `Let’s sit down, let’s take care of business, let’s not blow up the game, let’s not lose a season, let’s not lose any more game, let’s get back on track.’ And we’re prepared to do it.
“We’re prepared to negotiate openly and fairly, but we expect the same thing from our adversary, from the NBA and their representatives.”
So what might Wednesday bring?
“I hope they meet and everybody comes to their senses and we get a deal,” Tolliver said. “Do I think it’s possible? Yes. Do I think it’s going to happen? Ehhhh, I’m a little more pessimistic on that. From what they’ve shown so far, they’d have to change their attitude on the whole thing. Crazier things have happened.”
Yes, they have and maybe crazy things will happen on Wednesday.
As for Tuesday, well, it will just have to settle for something odd.
That’s when union president Derek Fisher had a chance encounter at the Manhattan hotel where the players met with Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States.
Fisher met Clinton years ago when he was a teenager growing up in Little Rock, Ark.
On Tuesday, they were reunited when they met again as Clinton swirled through a hotel-ballroom hallway on his book promotional tour.
The book’s title?
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