Owners putting ball in players’ court

Facing an ultimatum from league owners and dissension within its membership, the leadership of the Players Association will conduct a conference call today to consider its options.

Spurs forward , a member of the union’s executive committee, said he expects a wide-ranging discussion. One topic will gauge the level of player interest in signing a petition to force a vote that could decertify the union.

The NBA late Saturday night gave the union a formal proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement that Bonner characterized as “basically another 50-50 split” of basketball-related income. It included some changes in the luxury tax system he said represented little change from the owners’ previous positions.

The union rejected the offer on the spot, but commissioner said it would remain on the table only through the end of business Wednesday.

Details of the league’s offer, which Stern promised to put in writing for the union to assess ahead of the deadline, include:

A “band” of revenue for the players between 49 and 51 percent, depending on revenue growth.

Restrictions on teams over the luxury tax threshold, including a ban on both sign-and-trade deals and full use of mid-level salary cap exceptions. The full mid-level would be replaced for tax-paying teams by a “mini” mid-level that would start at $2.5 million, half of the full mid-level.

An added penalty for teams that exceed the luxury tax threshold three times in five seasons.

If it is not accepted by Wednesday, Stern said the offer would be withdrawn and replaced by a much worse deal, with a revenue split giving the players only 47 percent of BRI and a “flex” salary cap system the players already have characterized as an unacceptable hard cap.

Lakers guard , the union’s president, told reporters in New York on Saturday that the NBA deal was not one the executive committee could take to its players for a vote.

Bonner said every member of the executive committee is behind the decision to reject it.

“We’re all on the same page,” he said.

Saturday’s session, which was conducted under the guidance of , head of the , was frustrating for the players.

“Saturday sucked,” Bonner said. “The way we saw to save the season and get a deal was by saying the system was more important to us, BRI more important to them; we can compromise on BRI if they can come more to us on the remaining system issues.

“That’s what we were hoping would get a deal, and we really thought the approach we took was going to get it done. But when George came back after taking our offer to the owners, what he came back with was five or six changes in system things, and all but one were what the owners wanted. It was basically their deal.”

Disbanding the union would allow players to file an anti-trust lawsuit against the league. The more important, immediate result would be some leverage for the union during the roughly 45 days it would take for the to arrange a vote of all 450 members of the union.

The threat of decertification and the uncertainty that comes with it could give the union the leverage it needs to coax a better offer from the league than the deal it rejected Saturday.

“I’m sure we’ll talk about everything on the call,” Bonner said.

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