Labor talks focused on mid-level exception, 66-game season
The goal — to reach a deal in the next few days, one that can have the NBA starting games on Christmas Day. That’s the day seen as the NBA’s second opening day by many around the league, the day of the first games on national broadcast television when more casual fans start to really notice the league. It’s a day of marquee matchups — the scheduled ones this season were Boston at New York, Miami at Dallas (a finals rematch) and finally Chicago at the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, this week’s talks are a little different than previous ones — were always a lot of attorneys in the negotiating room, but now they are the ones driving the bus. The question becomes are they able to drive it to a deal?
Here are three update notes out of the talks.
First, David Stern is canvasing owners to see if he can offer the full mid-level exception to all teams regardless of where they are on the luxury tax scale, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.
The MLE was a sticking point in the last talks. The players want higher spending teams — the taxpayers such as the Lakers and Mavericks — to have the ability to spend the MLE to bring in role players to go around their stars. The owners did not want that — the hardliners want to rein in the spending of the bigger market teams and saw this as a way. The owners proposal called for a mini mid-level of $3 million that could not be used every year.
The second note is that if a deal can be struck this weekend and games would start Christmas day, there would be a 66-game season, according to Howard Beck of the New York Times.
That would be a more condensed schedule than the 50-game one of the 1999 season, which saw back-to-back-to back games for teams. Teams will get tired and worn down in that schedule.
Third, and finally, remember that this is not a labor negotiation any longer. It is a bit of semantics, but this is now a lawsuit settlement conference, the sides are talking about the terms to settle the NBA players’ antitrust lawsuits against the league.
Bottom line, if the attorneys can find a compromise on the key issues — division of revenues, structure for the salary cap and exceptions, etc… — then the union will be reformed (and the lawsuits dropped), the “B list” issues (draft age restrictions, drug testing, and the like) will be hammered out and the deal will be voted on by both sides. Games would start in a month.
For the fan, the function is the same, these are negotiations. But the language is different. It’s a bunch of lawyers.