The arenas are silent, except for maybe the odd rock concert; and the streets and pubs are empty of fan cheers. So, what exactly is going on in the NBA, and can we expect to see games any time soon?
Well, no one really knows just yet, with some people saying that talks are resulting in “something constructive” while others say that the two sides could be “derailed” once again. The problem? The NBA wants to get rid of the “Larry Bird exception,” the quasi-rule of the NBA stating that teams are allowed to resign their existing free agent players if that player has played for three years without being put on waivers or traded. This exception to the salary cap means that teams can currently go over the salary cap, as long as they sign existing players. It might be no surprise to find that the NBA doesn’t want this rule any longer, as it results in unequal teams and disadvantages. And it’s even less of a surprise that the players want to keep the exception in, and allow players to be paid what they have been.
So where do things stand now?
Right now, the same thing that’s been going on for months — the two sides are talking. The difference is that now they’re talking a lot — over 24 hours in 2 days, as a matter of fact. Both the NBA and the Players Association sat down with federal mediator, George Cohen, on both Tuesday and Wednesday. The meeting on Tuesday lasted for 16 hours, while the one on Wednesday was still lengthy, but halved that of the day before, being only 8 hours long.
One source was quoted as saying that the negotiations were bringing things close to “a 50/50 split,” while another source indicated that the key issue of the salary cap could stall things quite a while longer.
What we do know is that the owners left the meeting to go back to their board of governors. In that meeting, they drafted a revenue-sharing proposal that they will present to the Players Association in a meeting this afternoon. Although the two sides have been advised not to speak publicly about the negotiations or the meetings/ Cohen was only quoted as saying that “Everyone is extremely focused on the core issues that confront them.”
Right now the outlook certainly doesn’t look good, and the first two weeks of the season have already been cancelled. The earliest it seems like they might be back is the end of November, and that’s a stretch even if everything goes well in talks from here on in. David Stern has already said that he would seriously consider cancelling games throughout Christmas if that was necessary. And it looks like that might be exactly what ends up happening. Unless the players start getting really upset when those checks don’t come in the beginning of November.