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Steve Aschbruner

Owners' conference call provides update, no next move

Posted Nov 17 2011 5:58PM's Labor Central

The conference call by NBA commissioner David Stern and owners of the league's 30 franchises Thursday provided an update on the failed negotiations and resulting litigation being pursued now by the players, learned.

The call, which reported as lasting only 20 minutes, was said to have produced no plan of action or timeline for the owners to initiate settlement talks. No further calls or meetings of the owners are currently scheduled.

Negotiations of a new collective bargaining agreement broke off Monday when the players rejected the owners' most recent proposal and disbanded their union. They filed anti-trust lawsuits in California and Minnesota on Tuesday, a move that the NBA is challenging in New York in a pre-emptive suit filed in August claiming that the union's disclaimer of interest is a negotiating tactic to gain leverage.

The players, represented by attorneys David Boies and Jeffrey Kessler, argue that the NBA ended the negotiating process last week with its "last, best" offer. Their lawsuits will seek triple damages based on the salaries lost by players during this lockout, which reached its 140th day. Based on the $2.17 billion of the players' BRI (basketball-related income) share in 2010-11, the owners' liability could top $6 billion.

But the outcome is uncertain and the duration involved in taking the cases to their completion is daunting. Any hopes of salvaging a shorted 2011-12 NBA season -- and maybe even a 2012-13 season, given the months and years required by litigation -- would likely depend on the parties agreeing to an out-of-court settlement.

Many players missed their first paycheck Tuesday, based on the traditional November-through-April schedule on which most are paid. In 1998-99, the only previous time in which a labor dispute cost the NBA regular-season games, the two sides -- without pursuing the legal remedies in play now -- reached a handshake agreement on Jan. 6 and began a 50-game schedule on Feb. 5.


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