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A 50-50 split may be best offer players get

A 50-50 split may be best offer players get

(AP & Staff) – NBA players could have a choice Saturday: Accept a 50-50 division of basketball-related income or risk having more owners join the hardline faction that wants a 53-47 split in its favor— and a hard salary cap. When talks resume, they may quickly break down unless the sides can compromise on positions that seem to be hardening by the minute. A person briefed on the owners’ position Friday told The Associated Press that there were many hardline owners who want a deal at 53-47 in their favor as well as a hard cap, and that the rest wouldn’t go beyond a 50-50 split. Players have been seeking 52.5 of revenues in their favor — leaving a gap of about $100 million annually vs. the owners’ proposal — and there is a group of players who have discussed decertification of the union if they are forced to accept less than 52. Both sides return to the bargaining table Saturday with federal mediator George Cohen, with some salary cap system issues still unresolved along with the BRI split. Only one thing appears certain — the threat of losing the season has never been greater. Two people with knowledge of the negotiations told the AP that the divide between the sides could grow wider if serious progress isn’t made this weekend. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the negotiations. “Both sides started out with everybody together. Everybody was together because both sides were asking for the world,” one person said. “Now we’re into real life, and neither side is going to get everything we want.” At issue from the beginning has been the division of about $4 billion in revenues, along with a system makeover that Commissioner David Stern insists must happen to fix what he considers a broken economic model. Owners are determined to reshape the league by creating a system like the NFL or NHL, where spending is capped and small-market teams truly can compete with the big boys. But reforming the NHL’s financial structure wiped out the entire 2004-05 season. And the NFL is making money, not losing it. The players have offered to reduce their guarantee of BRI from 57 percent to 52.5 percent, a concession they feel is more than enough to cover their end of the league’s stated $300 million in annual losses. [...]

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Hawks will not be sold to Alex Meruelo

Hawks will not be sold to Alex Meruelo

ATLANTA (AP & Staff) — The Atlanta Hawks will not be sold to California developer and pizza chain owner Alex Meruelo. In fact, the NBA team is no longer on the market. The Hawks’ ownership group, headed by Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon Jr., said Friday that the agreement for Meruelo to buy the team had been mutually terminated by both sides. Just last week, there were reports the NBA was delaying approval of sale because of concerns about Meruelo’s finances, though he insisted he had enough money to purchase the team and run it in a first-class manner.. Meruelo, the son of Cuban immigrants, was poised to become the NBA’s first Hispanic team owner and acquire operating rights to Philips Arena, with Levenson and Gearon remaining in a minority role. Instead, the group known as Atlanta Spirit will remain in charge of the team it has owned since 2004, when it acquired the Hawks and the NHL Thrashers from Time Warner. The group stepped in after a proposed deal with Dallas businessman David McDavid fell through. “The Atlanta Hawks are no longer for sale,” Levenson said in a statement issued by the Hawks. “We’re excited to remain as owners of the Hawks and are committed to building on our string of four straight playoff appearances.” The owners came under heavy criticism in Atlanta after they quickly worked out a deal to sell the Thrashers to a group in Winnipeg for a reported $170 million. The team moved to the Canadian city and is now known as the Jets. The Hawks said there would be no additional comment on why the purchase agreement announced in August had been terminated, citing a confidentiality clause. Neither Levenson nor Gearon immediately responded to e-mails. Meruelo issued a statement indicating that the ongoing labor dispute between the owners and the players, which delayed this week’s scheduled start of the regular season, helped scuttle the deal. “I want to thank the Atlanta community who welcomed me with open arms. I am humbled and blessed by their warmth and hospitality,” Meruelo said. “Basketball is my passion, but professional basketball is a business. Although all parties negotiated in good faith, we were not able to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement on some key issues given the current uncertainty surrounding the labor issue. As a result, we mutually decided to terminate the deal effective immediately.” Meruelo hasn’t given [...]

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New talks set, but decertification reports surface

New talks set, but decertification reports surface

NEW YORK (AP & Staff) — Talk about a backdoor cut. The announcement Thursday that negotiations to end the NBA lockout would resume were followed by reports that some players are investigating the possibility of decertifying the union. The NBA players union said it would begin negotiating with the owners again on Saturday, maintaining that the players are unified as they seek to end the lockout. Union president Derek Fisher, executive director Billy Hunter and executive committee members said after meeting for about three hours Thursday that there was no truth to reports of a rift among them. “We’ve had no problems, and that’s the reality,” Hunter said. Hunter said they spent no more than 10-15 minutes total on a conference call earlier this week and during Thursday’s gathering discussed the reports questioning Fisher’s allegiances. “The battle is not within our union,” Bucks guard Keyon Dooling said. “Derek Fisher’s the best president our union has ever seen. We’ll stand as committee members — I’m the first vice president and I stand behind him.” Later Thursday, however, there were reports that a group of about 50 disgruntled players held a conference call with an antitrust lawyer about the possibility of pursuing decertification of the union. Yahoo! Sports and The New York Times reported that the players would consider employing the tactic if union leaders made more concessions in negotiations. Thirty percent of players would have to sign a petition and then a majority would have to vote in favor for decertification. Mere talk of decertification could give the players’ side leverage in negotiations. On Wednesday, the NBA had asked federal Judge Paul Gardephe to rule that the NBA’s lockout will not be considered an antitrust violation if the players dissolve the union. Gardephe did not immediately rule, but appeared skeptical of the arguments made by league attorney Jeffrey Mishkin. Owners and players haven’t met since talks broke off last Friday. Hunter said federal mediator George Cohen contacted him earlier this week about possibly rejoining the negotiations. The conversation led to Hunter calling Commissioner David Stern on Wednesday about resuming talks, though it has yet to be determined whether Cohen will be involved. Hunter said union leaders had spent the last several days cautioning players that the sides were still far apart on several system issues, so completing a deal was not as simple as a compromise on the revenue split. “Our [...]

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No movement on day NBA season would have started

No movement on day NBA season would have started

NEW YORK (AP & Staff) — No KD vs. Kobe, no championship banner in Dallas. The original start date to the NBA season arrived Tuesday with progress still stalled in the negotiations to end the lockout. No further talks have been scheduled, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans have not been made public. Players and owners made progress on a number of issues related to the salary cap system over two days last week. But the negotiations fell apart again on the third day, when the sides decided to revisit the revenue sharing split. Owners are insistent on a 50-50 split, while players have proposed reducing their guarantee from 57 percent down to 52.5, which they say would transfer more than $1.5 billion to owners over six years. Three games had been scheduled for Tuesday. The Mavericks would have opened the defense of their first NBA title at home against Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls. Houston was at Utah, with Kevin Durant’s Thunder at Kobe Bryant’s Lakers. Most of the league would have started Wednesday. Instead, TNT was airing a “Bones” marathon Tuesday night. Commissioner David Stern canceled games through the end of November on Friday. The first two weeks of the season already had been lost to the lockout, which began after the old collective bargaining agreement expired June 30. A day after union president Derek Fisher sent out a letter to players assuring them of leadership’s unity, players’ association executive director Billy Hunter did the same. In the letter, obtained by The Associated Press and other media outlets and first reported by ESPN.com, Hunter contended a 50-50 split “does not adequately compensate the players for our services to the NBA.” “We will not be intimidated by public threats, ultimatums and manufactured drop dead dates,” he wrote. The letters came as a response to a report on Foxsports.com on Saturday titled “Is Fisher in Stern’s pocket?” Fisher released a statement Tuesday saying his lawyers were demanding a retraction. With no NBA games to play, Durant was still finding ways to compete and challenge fellow hoops stars. Durant tweeted Monday he was interested in playing flag football. When fans at Oklahoma State University offered an invitation, he showed up in Stillwater that night to play. He tweeted later that he threw four touchdown passes and [...]

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Stern places hefty fines on defying loyalty _ $500K

Stern places hefty fines on defying loyalty _ $500K

(AP & Staff) — NBA commissioner David Stern slapped Miami Heat owner Mickey Arison with a $500,000 fine for denying its loyalty to the owners’ circle. If canceling opening night and the rest of the NBA calendar for November failed to prove how serious David Stern is about saving his owners money, there’s this: The commissioner reportedly fined Miami Heat honcho Mickey Arison a cool half-million for a tweet suggesting he wasn’t one of the owners willing to sacrifice games to save money. In response to someone who labeled the parties involved in the lockout “greedy … pigs,” Arison tweeted, “Honestly u r barking at the wrong owner.” That’s a lot more per letter than anyone has ever paid on “Wheel of Fortune.” And speaking of game shows, the closest thing to a competition involving an NBA player anywhere on TV came Tuesday when New Orleans Hornets star Chris Paul showed up with his relatives in tow for an episode of “Family Feud.” It was a poor substitute for watching the Dallas Mavericks raise last season’s championship banner into the rafters before taking on the Chicago Bulls, one of three games originally on the schedule. On the bright side, Robin Paul demonstrated where her son gets some of his fire from. “We all are competitive,” she said. “Very, very, very.” The same could be said about both sides in the lockout, though at this late juncture they seem just as interested in cannibalizing their own as the other side. Stern’s levy on Arison marked the third time he’s lightened an owner’s pocket for talking out of school about the lockout — Charlotte’s Michael Jordan and Washington’s Ted Leonsis had already contributed $100,000 each to league coffers — but the extra-heavy hit might reflect more than the commissioner’s growing impatience with rule breakers. Though Arison later endorsed the league’s party line about the tweet being taken out of context, it’s clear that his real sin was exposing the owners’ less-than-unified stance. Arison paid plenty to bring LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami and made plenty in return, not just for his franchise, but everywhere the Heat played last season. Even if the league’s claim that 22 teams are losing money is correct, successful teams such as the Heat, Knicks, Lakers and Bulls can’t be thrilled with the prospect of losing an entire season of profits to help the poorer franchises squeeze a [...]

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NBA cancels all games through Nov. 30

NBA cancels all games through Nov. 30

NEW YORK (AP & Staff) — As NBA players and owners wait to see who will blink first, fans are stuck staring at a blank calendar. NBA Commissioner David Stern canceled the rest of the November games Friday, saying there will not be a full NBA season “under any circumstances.” The move came about after labor negotiations broke down again when both sides refused to budge on how to split the league’s revenues, the same issue that derailed talks last week. Now, a full month of NBA games have been canceled, and Stern said there’s no way of getting them back. “We held out that joint hope together, but in light of the breakdown of talks, there will not be a full NBA season under any circumstances,” he said. “It’s not practical, possible or prudent to have a full season now,” added Stern, who previously canceled the first two weeks of the season. And he repeated his warnings that the proposals might now get even harsher as the league tries to make up the hundreds of millions of dollars that will be lost as the lockout drags on. “We’re going to have to recalculate how bad the damage is,” Stern said. “The next offer will reflect the extraordinary losses that are piling up now.” Just a day earlier, Stern had said he would consider it a failure if the sides didn’t reach a deal in the next few days and vowed they would take “one heck of a shot” to get it done. Instead, negotiations broke off again over the division of basketball-related income, just as they did last Thursday. Union executive director Billy Hunter said the league again insisted it had to be split 50-50, while Stern said Hunter just walked out and left rather than discuss going below 52 percent. Owners are insistent on a 50-50 split, while players last formally proposed they get 52.5 percent, leaving them about $100 million apart annually. Players were guaranteed 57 percent in the previous collective bargaining agreement. “Derek (Fisher) and I made it clear that we could not take the 50-50 deal to our membership. Not with all the concessions that we granted,” Hunter said. “We said we got to have some dollars.” Instead, they’ll now be out roughly $350 million, the losses Hunter previously projected for each month the players were locked out. He believed a full season could be [...]

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NBA sides eager to get deal in next few days

NBA sides eager to get deal in next few days

NEW YORK (AP & Staff) — NBA owners and players called it an early night Thursday, with both pointing toward Friday as a decisive day for big moves to end the 119-day lockout. Or not. After two days of talks about the salary cap system, they will turn their attention back to the division of revenues, which derailed the negotiations last week. This time, Commissioner David Stern said the talks had produced enough familiarity and trust “that will enable us to look forward to tomorrow, where we anticipate there will be some important and additional progress — or not.” “But I think (union executive director Billy Hunter) and I share that view, and we’re looking forward to seeing whether something good can be made to happen.” The sides again said there was some minor progress on the system issues after about 7½ hours of talks. They decided to wrap it up and get some rest following a marathon 15-hour session Wednesday, and with union economist Kevin Murphy unavailable Thursday to discuss finances. Hunter said he thought the sides were “within striking distance of a getting a deal” on the system, but there’s still no indication either side is ready to make the big move necessary to settling the BRI split. Owners have insisted they’re not going beyond 50-50, which means the sides are still about $100 million apart annually, based on last season’s revenues. Players have proposed reducing their guarantee from 57 percent down to 52.5, but they’re unlikely to go much further without some concessions on the system issues. “I think we’re within reach and within striking distance of getting a deal,” Hunter said. “It’s just a question of how receptive the NBA is and whether or not they want to do a deal.” Asked when the significant move would happen, Hunter noticed Stern sitting in the back of his press conference and said to ask the commissioner. “Tomorrow!” Stern yelled out. “There are no guarantees that we’ll get it done, but we’re going to give it one heck of a shot tomorrow,” Stern said a few minutes later in his press conference. “I think that Billy and the union’s negotiators feel the same way. I know that ours do.” If they don’t, Stern will have to decide whether to add more cancellations to the two weeks that have already been lost. A full season might be difficult even [...]

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NBA marathon session ends after 15 hours

NBA marathon session ends after 15 hours

NEW YORK (AP & Staff) — NBA owners and players made progress toward a new labor deal during more than 15 hours of talks and will return Thursday, still hoping an 82-game season is possible. The talks Wednesday into Thursday morning were about the salary cap system, and Commissioner David Stern said they likely will stick with that issue when they resume. “We were able to work through a number of different issues today regarding our system,” union president Derek Fisher said. “We can’t say that major progress was made in any way, but some progress was made on system issues. Obviously enough for us to come back.” And enough that the focus was more on games to be played, not canceled. Though the remainder of the November schedule is already in jeopardy, Stern said he had no plans to cancel any more games at this moment. Instead, union officials said they believed a full schedule — and the crucial first paycheck they seemed to have already lost — was possible if an agreement is reached by the end of this weekend. Stern said it would be difficult, but that the league intends to play as many games as possible. “Whether that gets to be 82 games or not is dependent upon so many things that have to be checked,” he said. “We just think we’ve got to do it soon.” Less than a week after perhaps the low moment of the lockout, when talks broke down last Thursday with some nasty talk afterward, the process seems back on track. “There’s no question that today was a better day than last Thursday,” Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said. “I think it’s too early — not just in the morning — but still in the negotiations to express confidence that we’re at a deal. But there’s no question though that we did make progress on some significant issues, but there are still some very significant issues left.” Neither side would offer specifics or quantify the progress, but Fisher and union executive director Billy Hunter said they might be in a better position to do so after talks later Thursday. Stern would only say that “the energy in the room has been good; the back and forth has been good.” The sides did not deal with the division of basketball revenues, the other big obstacle to a deal and the one that ended [...]

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NBA: Union, not Cuban, proposed eliminating cap

NBA: Union, not Cuban, proposed eliminating cap

NEW YORK (AP & Staff) — The NBA players’ association, not Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, proposed the elimination of the salary cap during negotiations aimed at ending months of labor strife, a league official said Tuesday. NBA senior vice president Mike Bass said union executive director Billy Hunter made “several misstatements” during an hour-long podcast with ESPN.com on Monday. Among them was the revelation of the salary cap plan, which Bass said was actually an exception to the cap, not the elimination of it. Hunter said that, during a meeting last week, Cuban proposed what he called a “game changer” — a plan to replace the salary cap with a heavy tax for teams that spent to a certain level. Hunter said the players were interested in discussing it further and that two or three other owners in the room were really excited about it, but then were told by the owners they wouldn’t pursue it. “On behalf of the league, Mark Cuban proposed adding a new salary cap exception, not eliminating the salary cap,” Bass said. “It was the union that, in response, proposed eliminating the salary cap, a proposal that was even worse for the NBA than the union’s prior proposals.” Hunter speculated during the podcast that owners backed away from the idea of eliminating the salary cap because it had been implemented under Commissioner David Stern long ago. “And so I don’t know whether there’s any pushback because of that,” Hunter said. “But we were prepared to pursue that whole idea of going into a different direction, where we would be able to, wouldn’t have to worry about a cap. So the exceptions, salaries, all of that would be, there would be no limit with the exception of there being obviously a cap at the top, i.e., a quite heavy tax that teams would have to confront if they went above a certain number. “But what happened was the owners decided, at least the leaders of their delegation, decided they had to take it back in a different direction. They said we don’t want to address that.” The NBA does not allow owners to comment on the negotiations. A person briefed on the content of the meetings said Cuban’s actual proposal was much different than what Hunter suggested, and was surprised the union ignored it given that it would have met much of what players were [...]

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NBA owners’ dual wants put more games in jeopardy

NBA owners’ dual wants put more games in jeopardy

NEW YORK (AP & Staff) — NBA owners have their priorities, and playing games isn’t first on that list. Instead, the league is looking beyond this month — and maybe beyond this season, if that’s what it takes — to implement an extreme financial makeover after years of sizeable losses. The goal, in the words of Spurs owner Peter Holt, “an opportunity to make a few bucks.” Owners are determined to reshape the league by creating a system like the NFL or NHL, where spending is capped and small-market teams truly can compete with the big boys. But reforming the NHL’s financial structure required a lengthy lockout, wiping out the entire 2004-05 season. And the NFL is making money, not losing it. After NBA labor talks broke down Thursday night, Holt was asked if owners might be willing to sit out a year to get the changes they crave. “The competitive issues and the economic issues, certainly we don’t want to lose the season, I don’t think the NHL did either. It ended up happening,” said Holt, chairman of the owners’ labor relations committee. “There are certain things that we feel we must have.” And that makes a lost NBA season a possibility. That comes as no surprise to players’ association executive director Billy Hunter. He started to believe two or three years ago that owners intended to lock out the players so they could force through the changes they wanted. Now he doesn’t see enough owners who can stop it from happening. He identified big-market owners Jerry Buss of the Lakers, the Knicks’ Jim Dolan, Miami’s Micky Arison and Dallas’ Mark Cuban as owners he believed were open to anything that could lead to games, but there were many more from the small markets “that were dug in, and I think they’re carrying the day.” “And unfortunately. I think what we have to do is we have to miss more games for it to really set in,” Hunter said. “And that’s what I kept trying to tell them is that this thing is on a slippery slope and we’re already losing games, the first two weeks, and if we continue to go in that decline, it may become intractable to get people to move from their respective positions.” The first two weeks of the season — 100 games in all — already have been canceled. And it won’t be [...]

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NBA labor talks turn nasty as negotiations end

NBA labor talks turn nasty as negotiations end

NEW YORK (AP & Staff) — NBA labor talks turned nasty and broke off Thursday when three days of meetings failed to yield a deal to end a 112-day lockout, raising the likelihood that even more games will be canceled in an already fractured season. After 30 hours of negotiations before a federal mediator, the sides remained divided over two main issues — the division of revenues and the structure of the salary cap system. “Ultimately, we were unable to bridge the gap that separates the two parties,” NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We understand the ramifications of where we are. We’re saddened on behalf of the game.” Without a deal, NBA Commissioner David Stern, who missed Thursday’s session with the flu, almost certainly will decide more games must be dropped. The season was supposed to begin Nov. 1, but all games through Nov. 14 — 100 in total — already have been scrapped, costing players about $170 million in salaries. Stern said previously that games through Christmas were in jeopardy without a deal this week. Silver said the labor committee would speak with Stern on Friday about the future schedule. The union said owners essentially gave it an ultimatum to accept a 50-50 split of revenues, and president Derek Fisher accused management of lying to the media. “We’ve spent the last few days making our best effort to try and find a resolution here. Not one that was necessarily a win-win. It wouldn’t be a win for us. It wouldn’t be a win for them. But one that we felt like would get our game back … and get our guys back on the court, get our vendors back to work, get the arenas open, get these communities revitalized,” Fisher said. “And in our opinion, that’s not what the NBA and the league is interested in at this point. They’re interested in telling you one side of the stories that are not true and this is very serious to us. This is not in any way about ego. There are a lot of people’s livelihoods at stake separate from us.” Billy Hunter, executive director of the players’ association, said the union made “concession after concession after concession … and it’s just not enough.” “We’re not prepared to let them impose a system on us that eliminates guarantees, reduces contract lengths, diminishes all our increases,” he said. “We’re saying [...]

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Ailing Stern to miss Thursday negotiations

Ailing Stern to miss Thursday negotiations

NEW YORK (AP & staff) — The marathon NBA bargaining sessions have taken their toll on Commissioner David Stern. Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver says Stern was sent home Thursday by his doctor with the flu and will not be available for afternoon negotiations with players. Trying to end the lockout, owners and players met with federal mediator George Cohen for 16 hours Tuesday, ending around 2 a.m Wednesday, then returned eight hours later and spent another full day in discussions. Silver said the 69-year-old Stern would still be working from home and would be an “active participant.” Owners met Wednesday and Thursday and discussed their plans for expanded revenue sharing, which they plan to implement after they have completed the collective bargaining agreement.

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NBA owners, players plan 3rd straight day of talks

NBA owners, players plan 3rd straight day of talks

NEW YORK (AP & Staff) — After another long day of negotiations, NBA players and owners left with nothing more than plans for another meeting. That’s not what Commissioner David Stern had in mind, but it’s better than the game cancellations that could have come if talks had fallen through. Both sides seemed to have plenty to say. An eight-hour meeting Wednesday brought the talk total to 24 hours over two days, and federal mediator George Cohen said bargaining would resume Thursday afternoon. “Everyone is extremely focused on the core issues, the difficult issues that confront them,” Cohen said. Talks broke for the night so owners could have separate meetings at another hotel. Stern left negotiations after seven hours to join the owners for a presentation on revenue sharing. The sides have been divided over two main issues — the division of revenues and the structure of the salary cap system. League officials originally said they wouldn’t be available for talks Wednesday or Thursday because of board meetings. Stern wanted to bring a deal to them, at one point saying that if an agreement wasn’t reached by Tuesday, Christmas games could be canceled. Instead, the talks continue. Owners will meet with players again Thursday after their board meeting, the first time during the 111-day lockout they will have bargained for three consecutive days. “The discussions have been direct and constructive, and as far as we are concerned, we are here to continue to help assist the parties to endeavor to reach an agreement,” Cohen said. Cohen said players and owners met in a variety of settings during mediation, sometimes in subcommittees, other times in groups as large as 40 people. Flanked by deputy mediator Scot Beckenbaugh, Cohen made his statement to reporters and did not take questions. Neither side commented, honoring Cohen’s request that the sides keep mum. Without a deal this week, Stern might have to decide when a next round of cancellations would be necessary. The season was supposed to begin Nov. 1, but all games through Nov. 14 — 100 in total — have been scrapped, costing players about $170 million in salaries. Talks resumed Wednesday morning, just eight hours after a 16-hour session. And they continued even after Stern left with Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, the planning committee chairman, and NBA president of league and basketball operations Joel Litvin. Stern has said owners will have an [...]

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NBA negotiations last 16 hours; more talks planned

NBA negotiations last 16 hours; more talks planned

NEW YORK (AP & Staff) — NBA players and owners spent a marathon 16 hours meeting with a federal mediator and planned to return early Wednesday to continue the talks. They didn’t emerge with the deal Commissioner David Stern wanted Tuesday, but things went well enough that owners decided to alter their plans after previously saying they weren’t available Wednesday. The sides met beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday and went late into the night, finally breaking after 2 a.m. Wednesday. It was more than twice as long as any previous negotiating session since owners locked out players when the old collective bargaining agreement expired June 30. Both sides left the meeting without commenting at the request of federal mediator George Cohen. Owners originally ruled out labor talks for Wednesday and Thursday because they have two days of board meetings planned, but the labor relations committee that was set for a morning presentation will instead return to resume discussions with the players. Owners still will meet later in the day to discuss plans for expanded revenue sharing among teams. Players have wanted that as part of the CBA process, believing it’s a way for the league to address its losses. But Stern said it can’t come until after the labor deal, so they first know what savings are coming from there. Although the fact that talks didn’t break off is good news, one person with knowledge of the process said not to presume there was any serious progress. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of Cohen’s request. Joining Stern, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver and other top league officials Tuesday were 13 team executives making up the labor relations committee, including Dallas owner Mark Cuban, Lakers owner Jerry Buss, Knicks owner Jim Dolan, Spurs owner and committee chair Peter Holt and Heat owner Micky Arison. The players had their entire executive committee, led by president Derek Fisher of the Lakers, except for Bucks guard Keyon Dooling. The sides have been divided mostly by two issues, the division of revenues and the structure of the salary cap system. Players oppose a hard salary cap, and they believe owners’ attempts to make the luxury tax more punitive and limit the use of spending exceptions will effectively create one. Also, each side has formally proposed receiving 53 percent of basketball-related income after players were guaranteed 57 percent under the previous collective bargaining [...]

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Bologna still working on deal for Kobe Bryant

Bologna still working on deal for Kobe Bryant

BOLOGNA, Italy (AP & Staff) — The Italian club Virtus Bologna says “unexpected engagements” have made it impossible to sign Kobe Bryant this month, but both sides will keep working toward a deal in November. Bologna President Claudio Sabatini told The Associated Press this month he had reached a tentative deal with Bryant’s agent or a 10-game contract worth more than $3 million. Any deal with Bryant would allow the Los Angeles Lakers star to return to the NBA once the lockout ends. A statement on Bologna’s website says “the sides will continue to work toward arranging Kobe Bryant’s arrival in Italy for mid-November.” Bryant spent part of his childhood in Italy and has said it would be a “dream” to play in the country.

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NBA players, owners meeting with mediator

NBA players, owners meeting with mediator

NEW YORK (AP & staff) — NBA players and owners are meeting with a federal mediator, and Commissioner David Stern believes more games could be canceled if there isn’t movement toward a new labor deal. George Cohen tried to resolve the NFL’s labor dispute. Now he’s overseeing basketball’s negotiations for the first time. Stern wants immediate results, saying during interviews last week that proposals could get worse and more games could be lost without a deal Tuesday. “If there’s a breakthrough, it’s going to come on Tuesday,” he told NBA TV. “And if not, I think that the season is really going to potentially escape from us because we aren’t making any progress.” Tuesday was the 110th day of the lockout. In another interview, Stern told WFAN radio in New York that his “gut” was that there wouldn’t be NBA games on Christmas if it ended without a deal. But large gaps remain between the sides, with both seeking 53 percent of basketball revenues and players opposing owners’ attempts to significantly change the salary cap system. Cohen met with the sides individually at their offices Monday before both brought their full bargaining committees to a hotel Tuesday. The union said it wanted to have the whole week set aside for negotiations, but owners have two days of board meetings beginning Wednesday. Stern wants to be able to bring them a deal. If not, they may have to discuss further cancellations after the first two weeks of the season were already wiped out. Cohen was appointed director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service by President Barack Obama in 2009. He was present for talks between NFL owners and players for 16 days in February and March before that mediation broke off. He previously helped broker a deal between Major League Soccer and its players and was lead lawyer for the baseball players’ union when it won an injunction against its owners in 1995, ending the 7½-month strike.

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Stern doubts Christmas games if no deal Tuesday

Stern doubts Christmas games if no deal Tuesday

NEW YORK (AP & Staff)  — Commissioner David Stern said his “gut” tells him there will be no NBA basketball on Christmas without a labor agreement by Tuesday. That day, when owners and players are scheduled to meet with a federal mediator, is a “really big deal,” he added. Owners will then open two days of board meetings Wednesday, and without an agreement to bring them, Stern believes further cancellations are coming. “Right now, Tuesday, Tuesday, Tuesday, just before my owners come into town, having brought in the labor relations committee and Billy (Hunter) having brought in his executive committee, it’s time to make the deal,” Stern said Thursday. “If we don’t make it on Tuesday, my gut — this is not in my official capacity of canceling games — but my gut is that we won’t be playing on Christmas Day.” Stern canceled the first two weeks of the regular season on Monday when the sides couldn’t reach a deal before a deadline he had set. Christmas is traditionally the first big day of the NBA season. This year’s three-game schedule features the NBA finals rematch between the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat. The sides will need to act quickly to save it. The talks have stalled over the structure of the salary cap system and the division of revenues between owners and players. They will meet Tuesday with George Cohen, the same mediator who tried to resolve the NFL’s labor dispute months before it eventually ended. Asked if Cohen had the ability to move the sides toward a deal, Stern said: “I’m hoping he does because I think that if we don’t make a deal by the time my owners meetings come in Wednesday and Thursday, after we’ve met with the mediator on Monday and then met with each other on Tuesday, then I despair. “Because we will have lost two weeks for sure on our way to losing more games, offers will get worse, possibly on both sides, and the deal’s going to slip away from us, as may the season,” he added. “So this is the time to make a deal.” In a separate interview with NBA TV, Stern said he thought one was in reach Monday. The sides met for more than 12 hours over two days before talks broke down, and he says despite frequent meetings lately that “we aren’t making any progress.” “How [...]

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Anthony doesn’t want return to Denver canceled

Anthony doesn’t want return to Denver canceled

NEW YORK (AP & Staff) — Carmelo Anthony was eager to return to Denver next month. Now not only could that game be lost, but the Knicks’ All-Star is concerned there may not be any basketball at all this season. “Right now, anybody would be,” he said Wednesday. “They cancel the first two weeks of the season, maybe in a couple of days they cancel another two weeks of the season. So I don’t know how to feel right now.” He wanted to play in Denver on Nov. 16, just to get the trip to his first NBA home out of the way. He knows it could be a “circus” when he does go back, but said: “I can’t shy away from that. I’ve got to deal with it.” “Obviously once they said the first two weeks was going to be canceled, of course the Denver game was highlighted on the calendar, not just for me but for everybody. So right now, that has a chance to be up in flames now.” The current season opener is Nov. 15, but games slated for the rest of that month could be gone if there is no collective bargaining agreement soon. The schedule will be rewritten whenever the NBA does return, so it’s unknown if the Knicks would still end up in Denver on Nov. 16. “Looks like everything is up in jeopardy,” Anthony said. Anthony released his Melo M8 on Wednesday, his eighth Jordan sneaker and first since being traded to the Knicks in February. Anthony said the sneaker, with a suggested retail of $135, was his lightest model by far. The move to New York has given him more opportunities for exposure, part of the reason he was looking to leave Denver. He could have become a free agent this summer and left through that route, but pushed for a trade to get it done during the season so he could get under contract under the old rules. And though he took some criticism from Knicks fans who would have preferred getting him for nothing instead of a costly trade, he made the correct financial decision given the current lockout. “I think I did the right thing. For the average person out there who really thought I was just trying to get up and just leave for no reason, that really was a big key in my decision,” Anthony said. [...]

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No Deal: NBA cancels first two weeks of season

No Deal: NBA cancels first two weeks of season

NEW YORK (AP & Staff) — Two weeks of NBA games are lost. Many more could be in jeopardy. There’s a “gulf” that separates owners and players, and they will have to close it quickly to avoid further damage to the schedule. Sticking to his deadline, Commissioner David Stern wiped out the first two weeks of the season — exactly 100 games — after more than seven hours of negotiations Monday failed to produce a new labor deal and preserve the Nov. 1 season openers. The cancellations mark the NBA’s first work stoppage since the 1998-99 season was reduced to 50 games. Clashing more over the salary cap system than economics — but still far apart on both — Stern said the sides are “very far apart on virtually all issues. … We just have a gulf that separates us. “With every day that goes by, I think we need to look at further reductions in what’s left of the season,” he added. Stern said last week that he would cancel the first two weeks of the season Monday without a new collective bargaining agreement to end the lockout. The two sides expect to remain in contact, but no additional formal talks have been scheduled. Stern said he was “sorry” and “sad” to report the cancellations. “We certainly hoped it would never come to this,” he said. “I think that both sides worked hard to get to a better solution. We think that we made very fair proposals. I’m sure the players think the same thing. But the gap is so significant that we just can’t bridge it at this time.” Union president Derek Fisher agreed, emphasizing that missing any games puts the season in jeopardy. He also stressed this was a lockout, not a strike, and that it was the owners’ decision not to be playing basketball. “This is not where we choose to be,” he said. “We’re not at a place where a fair deal can be reached with the NBA.” The cancellation includes all games scheduled to be played through Nov. 14, and affected arenas have been authorized to release those dates. Based on last year’s average announced attendance leaguewide (just over 17,300 per game) and the average ticket cost last season, those now-canceled 100 games represent nearly $83 million in lost ticket sales — before the first concession or souvenir is sold and before the first [...]

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Negotiators meeting on deadline day in NBA talks

Negotiators meeting on deadline day in NBA talks

NEW YORK (AP & staff) — Facing a Monday deadline to reach a deal or have regular-season games canceled, NBA owners and players have resumed talks toward ending the lockout. Commissioner David Stern said last week he would cancel the first two weeks of the season Monday without an agreement on a new labor pact. Opening night is scheduled for Nov. 1. Top negotiators for both sides returned about 14 hours after ending talks Sunday night. They are still apart on the main issues of the division of revenues and the salary cap system, with many lesser items not even discussed. Owners locked out the players July 1 when they couldn’t reach a deal before the expiration of the old collective bargaining agreement. The revenue split has been such a headache that the sides didn’t even discuss it Sunday night. Players were guaranteed 57 percent of basketball-related income in the previous deal and have proposed going as low as 53 percent, a reduction they say would transfer more than $1 billion to owners over the course of six years. The league has asked for a 50-50 split, which the union rejected last Tuesday. After that meeting, Stern canceled the remainder of the preseason schedule and set the deadline for losing regular-season games. Stern, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, owners Peter Holt of San Antonio, Glen Taylor of Minnesota and James Dolan of New York, and senior vice president and deputy general counsel Dan Rube met with union executive director Billy Hunter, president Derek Fisher of the Lakers and vice president Maurice Evans of the Wizards, and attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and Ron Klempner. The NBA hasn’t lost games to a work stoppage since the 1998-99 season was reduced to 50 games. The cost of cancellations would be staggering. Silver said the league would lose hundreds of millions of dollars, while Hunter estimated players’ losses at $350 million for each month they were locked out. The league and union would probably need close to a month between the time of an agreement and the moment games could be played, leaving time to draft the new labor document and vote on it, have a free agency period, then open training camps and schedule perhaps a couple of preseason game per team. Neither side would say if there was any progress Sunday, when they focused on cap issues. But the union postponed a regional meeting [...]

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Deadline: NBA, players in danger of cancellations

Deadline: NBA, players in danger of cancellations

NEW YORK (AP & Staff) — Derek Fisher emerged from a meeting with NBA officials and, as he as all summer, reported no breakthrough on a new labor deal. Do that again Monday, and the start of the season is expected to be called off. Negotiators for owners and players will meet again Monday, the deadline Commissioner David Stern set for when there must be a deal to avoid canceling the first two weeks of the regular season, scheduled to begin Nov. 1. The two sides met for more than five hours Sunday, but didn’t even touch perhaps the biggest issue dividing them. “We’re not necessarily any closer than we were going in tonight, but we’ll be back at it tomorrow and we’ll keep putting time in,” said Fisher, the union president. Neither side offered any specifics, but a person with knowledge of the talks told The Associated Press that they did not discuss the split of revenues. The person was granted anonymity because the details were supposed to remain private. When they last met on Tuesday, league officials asked the union if they would consider a 50-50 split of basketball-related revenues. The players, guaranteed 57 percent under the previous collective bargaining agreement, rejected that and said they were not prepared to go below 53 percent. The salary cap system is the other big issue remaining. Numerous other items remain untouched because the negotiators have spent so much time seeking compromise on the main two. Fisher also said the union would postpone a regional meeting scheduled for Monday in Los Angeles so he and other officials could remain in New York for more talks. He and executive director Billy Hunter had been scheduled to fly out in the morning, and he had sent a letter to players encouraging them to attend for an update on the negotiations. “We feel like our time, and our guys would want our time, to be used in meeting and try to get closer to getting a deal done,” he said. “So instead of going forward with that meeting, we’re going to put it off and then we’ll reschedule it accordingly depending on what happens tomorrow and into the week if we continue to meet.” No further talks had been expected this weekend. On Friday, a person close to the union told AP that players had been seeking a session before the deadline, but were [...]

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Wade, James get to play in Miami again

Wade, James get to play in Miami again

MIAMI (AP & Staff) — Dwyane Wade treated Saturday like a normal game day. Pregame meal, massage, long shooting workout on the court more than two hours before tip-off. When he’ll do all that again remains anyone’s guess. Wade and Heat teammates LeBron James and Chris Bosh were among the headliners Saturday night in the South Florida All-Star Classic, an exhibition game featuring nine NBA All-Stars at Florida International. On the 100th day since the NBA lockout was announced — and with Commissioner David Stern having said the first two weeks of the regular season may be canceled as early as Monday — fans and players were both jittery over the immediate future. “This is very unfortunate, this situation, to be in when you have two sides that at the end of the day have the same goal, just two different ways of getting there,” Wade said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We both want to grow this game. We both want the NBA to be as good as it can. We want everyone to succeed. But we both have two different ways of getting there. “To know that you’re close but you’re so far away is sad in a sense,” Wade added. “But that’s the nature of business. The only thing we can do is keep plugging at it.” A person familiar with union matters told The AP that the NBA players’ association is trying to schedule a regional meeting in Miami on Sunday and another Monday in Los Angeles, though cautioned nothing was finalized. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because most details related to labor talks are being kept private, said players received no formal briefings from union officials Saturday. Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony was blunt after the game: He expects the NBA to cancel games soon. “They’re going to cancel the first two weeks of the season,” Anthony said. “We’ll see what happens then. If they want to lock us out, lock us out. We’re going to stick together.” James and Wade said this game wasn’t about the lockout, but about fans. That’s why the Heat duo were able to secure commitments from stars like Anthony, Chris Paul, Amare Stoudemire, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, Rudy Gay and a slew of other NBA players. “We’ll play any day, any time,” said James, who organized much of the game. “That’s why we’re [...]

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Union questions put 2011 testing in jeopardy

Union questions put 2011 testing in jeopardy

(AP & Staff ) — Blood testing for human growth hormone is going nowhere fast in the NFL. Everyone says they want it — so much so that it was included in the collective bargaining agreement struck between the league and players this summer. That, however, is where any agreement ends. The odds of implementing tests this season dwindled as the union raised objections to detection methods and scientists dismissed those concerns as invalid. Testing that was to be in place at the start of the season was delayed while the union tried to gather more information about a blood test that the World Anti-Doping Agency, which is responsible for the data, isn’t willing to provide. Even if the program does get under way, the fact that the test in question can only detect HGH in a person’s system for about 24 hours means only the sloppiest of dopers would have the chance to get caught. “Every test has some sort of politics,” said renowned anti-doping scientist Don Catlin, who runs his own lab in the Los Angeles area. “This is the same test they’ve been using all along. It’s not a great test because a great test has more longevity than 24 hours.” Still, Catlin has no problem with using this particular method — because there’s nothing better out there — though he says WADA’s reluctance to turn over data on the seven-year-old test, or to have information about it published in peer-reviewed literature, “is a tough position to justify in this day and age.” Promoted by both sides as a sign of their commitment to a drug-free game, blood testing for HGH made it into the new contract — but only if the union agreed to the methods. That hasn’t happened and no meetings are scheduled. Last week, Congress invited the NFL, union and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to Washington to discuss the issue, but that hasn’t been scheduled yet either. The NFL said it wants to start the testing immediately and is satisfied with the validity of the test, which has been used at the Olympics since 2004. Even with its shortcomings, the league considers the test a good deterrent. “I’m still hopeful that it can occur,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said earlier this week. “The testing is there.” The union, however, wants more scientific information about the test so it can do its own analysis. One of [...]

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NBA’s labor fight approaches its biggest deadline

NBA’s labor fight approaches its biggest deadline

NEW YORK (AP & Staff) — NBA owners, losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year, wanted an overhaul of the financial system to ensure themselves a chance to profit. Players, believing they were the driving force behind record TV ratings and revenues, wanted to keep what they felt they deserved. Now, negotiations that have lasted nearly two years need to end in the next few days. Commissioner David Stern said he will cancel the first two weeks of the regular season if there is no agreement on a new deal by Monday, costing both sides money and driving away some basketball fans who might never come back. “There is an extraordinary hit coming to the owners and to the players,” Stern said. Not to mention the people who work in the game and the businesses that depend on it. Stern has repeatedly said owners had two goals in the talks: a way to escape losses and a system where all teams could compete equally, noting that the NBA’s small-market clubs aren’t nearly as successful as Super Bowl champions like Indianapolis and Green Bay. The problem, they said, was a system that guarantees players 57 percent of all basketball-related income, which includes gate receipts, broadcast revenue, in-arena sales of novelties and concessions, arena signage revenue, game parking and sponsorship dollars. Another problem is a salary cap structure that allows teams to go well beyond it if they were willing to pay a luxury tax, which the big spenders in big markets such as Los Angeles and New York could easily afford. The sides are still divided over the revenue split and the cap, and players insist they would rather sit out games than take a deal that would eliminate gains they fought for years ago. “They’re going to sacrifice — if they lose games, they miss money and all that. They feel they have to take a stand the same way players took a stand for them before they were here. It’s actually quite inspiring to listen to them articulate that,” said players’ attorney Jeffrey Kessler, who also represented NFL players during their four-month lockout this summer. “I think they saw how the NFL players stood together through tough times and ended up with a deal the NFL players thought was fair. They’re thinking they’re going to do the same thing.” The cost, for both sides, would be staggering. Stern [...]

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NBA talks break down over money, games in jeopardy

NBA talks break down over money, games in jeopardy

NEW YORK (AP & Staff) — Unable to reach a deal, NBA owners and players walked away from the table and don’t know when they will meet again. If it’s not in the next few days, they can forget about playing 82 games. Without an agreement by Monday, the beginning of the regular season will be canceled, and both sides will lose millions of dollars and perhaps countless fans. “We’re ready to meet and discuss any subject anyone wants to talk about,” Commissioner David Stern said. “We’d like not to lose the first two weeks of the season, but it doesn’t look good.” Though the financial gap closed slightly, once the players’ association said it wouldn’t entertain the idea of a 50-50 revenue split, the league canceled the remainder of the preseason Tuesday and will wipe out the first two weeks of the regular season if there is no labor agreement by Monday. “We were not able to make the progress that we hoped we could make and we were not able to continue the negotiations,” Stern said after nearly four hours of talks between owners and players ended without gaining ground on a new deal. No further meetings are scheduled — union executive director Billy Hunter said it could be a month or two until the next one — making it even more likely the league will lose games to a work stoppage for the first time since 1998-99, when the season was reduced to 50 games. Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said owners offered players a 50-50 split of basketball-related income. That’s still well below the 57 percent that players were guaranteed under the previous collective bargaining agreement, but more than the 47 percent union officials said was formally proposed to them. The only numbers that matter now, however, are the millions that stand to be lost when arenas go dark. “The damage will be enormous,” Silver said. Players had offered to reduce their BRI guarantee to 53 percent, which they said would have given owners back more than $1 billion over six years. They say they won’t cut it further, at least for now. And they insist the 50-50 concept wasn’t an even split, because it would have come after the league had already deducted $350 million off the top. “Today was not the day for us to get this done,” players’ association president Derek Fisher [...]

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