Players get a new deal, and a break to ponder it

Nov 11 2011 - 12:03am

NEW YORK -- A 72-game season starting Dec. 15 is there for NBA players. All they have to do is say 'yes' to a revised proposal.

If not, they get a far harsher offer, and then who knows if there would even be an NBA season.

"I would not presume to project or predict what the union would do," Commissioner David Stern said. "I can hope, and my hope is that the events of next week will lead us to a 72-game schedule starting on Dec. 15."

The league presented the players' association with the new offer Thursday after nearly 11 hours of bargaining, hoping it would be enough to end the lockout. But union president Derek Fisher said it doesn't address all the necessary system issues that are important to the players.

"It does not meet us entirely on the system issues that we felt were extremely important to try and close this thing out, and so at this point we've decided to end things for now, take a step back," Fisher said. "We'll go back as an executive committee, as a board, confer with our player reps and additional players over the next few days. Then we'll make decisions about what our next steps will be at that point."

And that could include disbanding the union, too.

Union executive director Billy Hunter said the hope was to get the player reps to New York for a meeting by Monday or Tuesday, then discuss whether the new proposal was good enough to present to the full membership for a vote.

They can say yes or no, but they shouldn't bother asking for another meeting.

"There comes a time when you have to be through negotiating, and we are," Stern said.

Stern said if there's another bargaining meeting, it would be off the proposal in waiting: a 53-47 split of revenues in the owners' favor, a flex cap with a hard ceiling and salary rollbacks.

That leaves the union to decide if it could convince its members to accept the revised offer. The league has been willing to offer a 50-50 split of basketball-related income, and Stern said the proposal put in play Thursday night attempted to meet the union on its system issues.

Hunter provided only one specific change, allowing the "mini" midlevel exception for teams over the luxury tax to be for three years at $3 million a year, as opposed to two years at $2.5 annually.

"It's not the greatest proposal in the world, but I have an obligation to at least present it to our membership and so that's what we're going to do," Hunter said.

Stern said he didn't expect the players to like every aspect of the revised proposal, saying there were many teams, too, that didn't like aspects of the revised offer.

But he said he can get it passed, even with some hardline owners preferring to go to the 53-47 deal already.

"This is the best attempt by the labor relations committee and therefore the NBA to address the concerns that the players expressed coming out of their meeting of the player representatives," Stern said.

Beyond the salary cap system issues that divide the sides, said there were six pages of what Hunter called ancillary items, such as the draft age and the commissioner's disciplinary rights, that still must be addressed before a deal.

"There's not enough progress to get a deal done," Fisher said. "That's the disappointing part. We want to get back on the court."

The union had nearly its entire executive committee in attendance, with Fisher and Hunter joined by players Chris Paul, Maurice Evans, Roger Mason Jr., Keyon Dooling, Theo Ratliff, Etan Thomas, Matt Bonner; attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and Ron Klempner, and economist Kevin Murphy. Management stuck with the same small group as Wednesday: Stern, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, Spurs owner Peter Holt, the chairman of the labor relations committee, and attorneys Rick Buchanan and Dan Rube.

"It's been a long haul," Hunter said.

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