Posted Jan 23 2011 1:34PM
National Basketball Players Association president Derek Fisher doesn't believe a lockout is necessary even if an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement can't be reached before the current one expires. Citing the difficulty of negotiating during the season, getting a deal done while games are being played is impractical, Fisher said.
So is shutting the league down.
"Getting the process started as early as we did has been a great thing, and even though there hasn't been much movement. I still think we're in a much better position in regards to what happens over the next few months going into the offseason when a lot of the heavier work will be done," Fisher told NBA.com recently.
"Unfortunately that leaves the NBA with a decision in terms of locking out or not on June 30th. It's a tough proposition during the season to make a lot of headway, but we're working hard and we'll keep trying to do the best job we can do."
The union would prefer the league keep operating as usual as long as progress is being made in negotiations. A league spokesman declined comment when asked if the NBA would consider not locking the players out if talks are moving forward, and continue such offseason activities as Summer League.
Deputy commissioner Adam Silver did say in Houston earlier this month that a lockout "isn't inevitable," adding there is enough time to work out a new CBA before June 30. The two sides remain far apart on most core issues, despite both the league and the union trading proposals over the last 11 months.
The league' offer, submitted during last year's All-Star week in Dallas, called for an overhaul of the economic system that includes a reduction in salaries of $750-800 million, a hard cap, the elimination of guaranteed contracts and revenue sharing. The players unilaterally rejected the proposal and the league's contention that more than $1 billion has been lost since the existing CBA went into effect in 2005.
The union countered this past summer with a plan that would reduce the percentage of revenues guaranteed to players, currently at 57 percent, without suggesting what that lower percentage would be. The NBPA's offer would also ease restrictions on trades, contains a second midlevel exception and sets the age limit back to 18. The league hasn't countered because Silver said the union proposition is too similar to the current CBA.
NBPA executive director Billy Hunter has said he's "99 percent" convinced a lockout is coming. Fisher maintained the players are committed to avoid the second work stoppage in league history to threaten regular-season games.
"I don't think that's any different than before," said Fisher, a Los Angeles Lakers captain in his 15th season. "Not just during this round of negotiations, but any round of negotiations. It's never been the Players Association's desire to have a lockout, but at the same time we have a responsibility to do what's right for everybody in the NBA in terms of players. We have to stick to those principles."
The league and union have agreed to meet next month during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles. There was some question last week as to whether a discussion would in fact take place, but both sides are now trying to nail down a date.
When it comes to avoiding a lockout, Silver said history can be a guide.
"We've only lost regular season games once in the 60-year plus history of this league," Silver said, referring to the 1998-99 lockout that reduced the season to 50 games. "So the fact that we don't have a deal yet or that we don't have any progress to report yet, to me is not an indication that we'll necessarily have a lockout.
"There's plenty of time to get a deal done. It's not a function of time. It's a function of movement by the parties. From the league standpoint, we believe we made a compelling case to our players why there needs to be reductions in salaries."
The union doesn't believe the financial state of the league is as dire as the owners claim. The players see a league thriving with record revenues and ticket sales.
"I think guys are all on the same page as far as continuing something that's going so well," Fisher said. "It's been difficult for all of our guys to process with everything you read, you see, you feel that this is why things are so bad and why things need to change so dramatically, not that there doesn't necessarily need to be some changes.
"We'll keep working at it and we're confident we'll be able to get something done. This is a great game and it's been great for a very long time. The fans and the people that support us deserve for the work to be done and get an agreement signed."
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