Commissioner Silver says new labor deal getting close
BRIAN MAHONEY | Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — This season hasn’t started and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver already has good news about next season.
It appears there’s no chance it will be affected by a work stoppage.
Silver said Friday the league and players have made “tremendous progress” toward an extension of the collective bargaining agreement, saying he hoped a deal would be completed soon.
“We are not done, done as we say as bargainers in terms of ultimately having a completed collective bargaining agreement, but we’re on our way towards getting an extension done of this collective bargaining agreement,” Silver said. “I’m very pleased to report that.”
Silver said the process was far different than the contentious negotiations of 2011, which led to a lockout and a 2011-12 season that was shortened to 66 games.
This time, the sides have been meeting for a few months and seem eager to make a deal long before Dec. 15, when either side can notify the other of its intention to opt out of the 10-year pact, which expires in June 2021.
If either side chooses to opt out, the deal would end on June 30, 2017.
The sides met Wednesday, the day before owners began their two-day preseason meetings. They received an encouraging report on the status of the talks.
“We’ve made tremendous progress and I’m pleased to report that,” Silver said.
An agreement wasn’t reached in 2011 until Thanksgiving weekend, and 16 games from each team’s schedule had been shaved before the season opened on Christmas. The players’ guarantee of basketball-related income was reduced from 57 percent to about 50 percent.
The sides aren’t fighting over money this time, not after the national TV deals worth more than $2.6 billion annually sent revenues soaring and the salary cap skyrocketing.
Silver credited union executive director Michele Roberts for the more cordial tone of these talks and noted the role on the negotiating committee of Hall of Fame player Michael Jordan, now owner of the Charlotte Hornets. Silver said Jordan’s relationship with players has “added an enormous amount to the atmosphere in the room.”
“For players to see him in that position, it doesn’t mean if Michael says it, it necessarily means that they should accept it as the position they should take,” Silver said, “but I think that’s really added a special element unique to this league to have a superstar player like that owning a team now.”
Longtime Commissioner David Stern led owners and former NBPA executive director Billy Hunter represented players in the last few negotiations, and the league lost games in both 1998-99 and 2011-12. Silver said both sides feel that the most recent deal has been working.
“I think the fortunes of the league, the fact that there is more money to distribute among our players and teams, has created an atmosphere that makes it more conducive to continue a deal that looks a lot like the current deal,” Silver said.
And because they are working to extend it, rather than negotiate a new one, Silver said there would be more tweaks than wholesale changes.
Silver and Roberts appear to have developed a stronger working relationship than their predecessors, and players have long looked up to Jordan for what he accomplished on and off the court.
All-Stars Chris Paul, the union president who took part in this week’s meeting, and vice presidents LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are among the players thinking business as well as basketball.
“I’ll say that when you have someone like Michael Jordan now on the owners’ side of the table, we all remember the old slogan from when Michael was a player of `Be like Mike.’ I think there’s the sense now for the players that that’s yet another area where they want to be like Mike,” Silver said. “Look what he’s done, taking sort of his success on the floor and translated that into being an incredibly successful businessman.”
Silver didn’t want to comment on specifics of the deal since it had not been completed, though it’s expected to include new league-funded programs to help retired players with education and medical expenses, and an increase in the rookie salary scale.
But he’s optimistic he’ll be able to discuss them soon.
“Hopefully, we will be back to all of you in the not-too-distant future to say that negotiations have been completed, but we’re not quite there yet,” he said.