Players receive last NBA proposal

By Mike Monroe

NEW YORK – After another 10-and-a-half hours of talks on the 133rd day of the NBA lockout, a revised proposal from the league to its players’ union brought a halt to negotiations so the players have time to consider a proposal that appears to be the last, best hope for an agreement that would save a relatively full NBA season.

Commissioner David Stern said if the union agrees to the proposal offered them Thursday a 72-game season would begin on Dec. 15.

Should the union reject the proposal, Stern said the “reset” proposal that has been hanging over the negotiations all week – an offer that will be much worse than that which the league offered Thursday – will become the league’s position.

That offer, Stern said, will be at a 47 percent share of basketball related income for the players and will include a much harder salary cap.

The executive board of the National Basketball Players Association has summoned the player representatives from all 30 teams to return to New York, hopefully by Monday, for a meeting to decide what to do about the proposal that Stern said has gone as far as the league can go in meeting the players’ demands.

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

Union president Derek Fisher, the Lakers guard, gave no indication what he thought the player representatives would decide.

“(The revised proposal) does not meet us entirely on the system issues we felt were extremely important to close this deal out,” Fisher said, “so at this point we’ve decided to take a step back.

“We’ll go back as an executive committee, as a board, confer with our player reps and some additional players over the next few days and then we’ll make decisions about what our next steps will be at that point.

“Obviously, we’d like to continue to negotiate and find a way to get a deal done, but right now it’s not that time.”

If Fisher is hoping rejection of the proposal by the player representatives will produce more talks, Stern made it clear it won’t happen.

There are ancillary issues – union executive director Billy Hunter identified age limit for draftees and disciplinary issues among these – that will have to be negotiated even if the union accepts the league’s revised offer, but Stern stressed that the owners have gone as far as they will go on the “A list” issues that have consumed the last week.

Asked if the league’s offer was indeed a “last, best” proposal, Stern didn’t equivocate.

“We took pains, out of respect to the efforts of everybody, not to characterize it precisely that way, but if this offer is not accepted then we will revert to our 47 percent proposal.”

Hunter said the player representatives will determine the union’s next move.

“There has been movement by the NBA,” he said. “Obviously, not enough. The question is how will those reps respond when we sit down with them next week. We want to get them in here next week, hopefully Monday, Tuesday at the latest.

“Now let’s decide what we are going to do: Engage the NBA again or what are our other options.”

The player representatives could decide to put the proposal to a vote of the entire membership of the union, but at least one executive committee member, the Spurs’ Matt Bonner, would oppose such a move.

Bonner, who prefers that the union’s board ask the league to continue negotiating, said he would vote against a proposal to submit the league’s proposal to the full membership.

One of the union’s other options could be a disclaimer of interest in continuing as the bargaining entity for the players or the movement, already underway by some players, to decertify the union by a vote of all players. Either action would clear the way for an anti-trust lawsuit by the players against the league.

Disclaimer of interest would allow for an immediate filing; decertification is a much longer process that would allow negotiations to continue in the interim.

The owners were represented Thursday by the same five men who were in the room Wednesday: Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, Spurs owner Peter Holt, and attorneys Dan Rube and Rick Buchanan. The NBPA team on Thursday grew, Bonner, Chris Paul, Theo Ratliff, Keyon Dooling, and Roger Mason of the union’s executive committee joining Fisher, Hunter, outside attorney Jeffrey Kessler and economist Kevin Murphy.

Leave a Reply