NBA Players Association president Derek Fisher, right, NBA union chief Billy Hunter, left, and LA Lakers' Theo Ratliff arrive at a midtown hotel for a meeting with the NBA on Monday. (Photo: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
NBA officials and players met Monday for the first meaningful talks since the lockout began July 1.
The end result of a three-hour meeting: reason for despair.
Apparently the two sides, which included commissioner David Stern, Los Angeles Lakers guard and union president Derek Fisher and union executive director Billy Hunter, left the session in New York as far apart as they were when they entered.
“I don’t feel optimistic about the players’ willingness to engage in a serious way,” Stern said.
The reason most believe this current lockout will force games to be missed--and possibly the entire 2011-12 season to be lost--is money. The NBA owners are adamant there needs to be a drastic restructuring of salary to make it work; they say more than 21 teams lost money and the league teams combined to lose $300 million last season. To that end, the owners want the players’ 57 percent take of the league revenue slashed to about 40 percent. The players offered to cut it to 54.3 percent prior to the strike and were basically laughed at by Stern.
The owners also want some type of stricter salary cap in place, which the players are dead set against.
So the two sides left Tuesday meetings without much progress aside from making an agreement to clear their calendars to meet again later in the month, according to the Associated Press report.
“It’s a tough position to be in,” Fisher said. “I think Peter Holt [San Antonio Spurs owner and head of the labor negotiating committee], Glen Taylor [board of governors chairman and Minnesota Timberwolves owner), Commissioner Stern, Adam Silver [deputy commissioner] are articulating certain things in the room, expressing their desire to get a deal done, but where their proposal lies makes it hard to believe that."
“So we’re continuing to try to work around what’s been said and really focus on the deal on the table, and right now we’re still a very, very long way from getting a deal done.”
Both sides are using the recent settlement of the NFL’s fourth-month old lockout as examples of how things can get done. The problem is that the NFL’s differences were minor in comparison to the one that exists between the NBA and its players.
“From where we sit, we’re looking at a league that was the most profitable in sports that became more profitable by virtue of concessions from their players,” Stern said, “and with an average salary of $2 million. Our average salary is $5 million, we’re not profitable and we just can’t seem to get over the gap that separates us.”