After a lockout that has lasted more than three months, whether the NBA season starts on time could come down to one "very huge day" in labour talks.
Owners and players will be back Tuesday for a full bargaining session, knowing if they fail to produce results, there may not be enough time left to avoid cancelling regular-season games.
"A lot of signs point to tomorrow being a very huge day," players' association president Derek Fisher of the Lakers said. "There will be a lot of pressure on all of us in the room, and we'll accept that responsibility and go in and see what we can get worked out."
Addressing the troops
Text of a letter players' association president Derek Fisher sent to NBA players Monday that was obtained by The Associated Press:
I write to you from New York where we have had the most recent negotiating sessions, the latest one today. I wanted to keep everyone in the loop on the events of the past few days and since my last update.
Before I update you though, I must comment on a letter that has been brought to my attention and drafted by a handful of agents representing you. The letter which I personally read this morning is to their players and had planned to release this afternoon/evening. Your agents represent you, there's a loyalty there and I can appreciate that. I'll never question it, the work they do for you, or the decisions you and they make together. The letter however includes misinformation and unsupported theories.
As you would imagine, the agents are not aware of my seeing this ahead of its release. As a player myself, I know that each player should read everything we can. My emails, media reports, letters from their representation, to form an opinion on the situation.
Educate yourself, ask questions, do it all. But not all of what you read is fact, you know this, I know this.
One issue I need to again be very clear on…nothing can beaccepted without a vote by the players. If and when there is a proposal that we feel is in the best interests of us as players, each of you WILL have the opportunity to vote in person. It's in the union bylaws, it's not up for negotiation. You will have the opportunity to see the full proposal before you agree, you will be able to challenge it, question it, anything you feel appropriate in order to know that this is the best deal for you and your fellow players.
As far as the negotiations, quite a few guys came out for the meeting on Friday. We met as a group first where we updated the players on the league and owner's position which I have briefed you on previously. Everyone in the room was in agreement, we have been more than fair in our proposals.
We then continued into the meeting with David Stern, Adam Silver and the Labor Negotiations Committee including: Jeanie Buss, Peter Holt, Clay Bennett, Jim Dolan, Larry Miller, Robert Sarver, Bob Vanderweide, Glen Taylor and Mickey Arison.
It was there that we discussed details of proposals and continued to reiterate our position on several key economic and system issues. At the conclusion of the day's meetings, yet again, it was agreed by the players present, we will continue to negotiate in good faith but what we have offered thus far is fair and reasonable.
Talks continued Saturday and again today in smaller groups.
Tomorrow, as you may have read, will be another larger negotiating session. Everyone in the regional meetings, Friday's player meeting, and throughout this process has been in support of the position the NBPA has taken. We go into tomorrow's meeting strong, remaining steadfast on the issues we will not be able to move away from. Anyone saying different is not privy to the meetings and is uninformed.
Keep the questions, comments and suggestions coming. Stand united.
The sides met in small groups Monday for about five hours, a session that deputy commissioner Adam Silver said was mainly about "setting the table" for Tuesday. While careful not to put too much pressure on Tuesday's talks, he and commissioner David Stern made clear there had to be signs of compromise.
"Each side understands exactly what's at stake and where potentially there is movement in order to try to get a deal done," Silver said. "I mean, we can only say we're running out of time so many times.
"We both understand that if we don't make our best offers in the next few days, we're going to be at the point where we're going to be causing damage to the game, to ourselves, and they're going to be out paycheques," he added.
The regular season is scheduled to open Nov. 1. Players would have reported to training camps Monday, but those were postponed and 43 pre-season games scheduled for Oct. 9-15 were cancelled last month.
"We still are in the same position that we all wish we were starting training camp today and we know a lot of our fans in respective markets feel the same way," Fisher said. "So we're going to continue to work at this until we can either figure it out in a way that will spare us all a lot of collateral damage and games missed, or not, but we're going to put the effort and the time in as we have been doing and see if we can come to a resolution."
The league locked out players on July 1 after the expiration of the old collective bargaining agreement. Seeking significant changes after saying they lost $300 million US last season, owners want a new salary cap structure and are seeking to reduce the players' guarantee of basketball revenues from 57 per cent, to perhaps 50 per cent or below.
Fisher, who didn't take questions, said the sides still weren't close enough to be able to talk about major progress, but were aware of the calendar.
"We know that our backs are against the wall in terms of regular-season games and what those consequences will be," he added, "but we still have to be respectful to the process, not rush through this, realizing that there are great deal of ramifications for years to come. So we have to be responsible in that regard."
Celtics all-star Paul Pierce was the only other player to take part. Though not a member of the union executive committee, he participated in meetings over the weekend and Silver had singled him out as a player who had said meaningful things.
Fisher said he didn't know which players would come Tuesday. The sides will meet among themselves in the morning before the bargaining session follows in the afternoon.
"If it's a very short meeting, that's bad," Stern said. "And if it's a very long meeting, that's not as bad."
Stern had warned last week there would be "enormous consequences" to not making progress over the weekend, but he's since been cautious not to overstate anything.
"It would be great to be able to make some real progress tomorrow," he said. "Whether that's possible or not, I don't know, but we had a good meeting today defining the issues and the positions and we'll see how that works."
Stern said it would be difficult to have an 82-game regular season and not start Nov. 1, noting that arenas are already pressuring the league to see if they can schedule events later this year. Yet as much as the league wants the work stoppage to end, there still may be too many differences to make it happen quickly enough.
The revenue split and the cap structure have been such obstacles that the sides have hardly touched anything else that would go in the CBA. Perhaps that's why Stern and Silver referred to Tuesday being more a beginning than an end to the process.
"It can't end no matter what tomorrow, because even if we begin to make progress, I mean there are literally a hundred other issues that haven't even been addressed yet, so-called 'B-List' issues," Silver said. "So there's a long negotiation ahead of us no matter what."