Two weeks from Friday, the NBA may officially be in a lockout. It is getting to crunch time for the league to avoid a work stoppage of any kind and the owners, David Stern, Billy Hunter and the players union have been meeting to try and prevent it from happening.
A couple meetings during the Finals and meetings earlier this week seemed to create no movement. Coming out of Friday’s negotiations though, a significant piece may have been put on the table.
The Associated Press reported Friday that the owners have softened their stance on non-guaranteed contracts in the new collective bargaining agreement. This has long believed to have been something the owners required in a new collective bargaining agreement as a way for them to get out of bad contracts. If this is really off the table or not as important moving forward, then a major hurdle to getting an agreement may be gone.
Or it may not. It may be a concession the owners made to get the players to give them something they value more. Something like a hard salary cap. Stern told ESPN.com’s Chris Sheridan that the onus will be on the players during their next collective bargaining session Tuesday to make what Sheridan described as a “new economic proposal.”
Sheridan characterized the owners’ move of backing off non-guaranteed contracts as a conciliatory move. There is still a wide gap that needs to be bridged before June 30.
The players still do not seem warm to the idea of a hard salary cap as that will keep salaries down so teams can come in under the cap. And without non-guaranteed contracts, one bad decision can be extremely debilitating. It is kind of hard to see a hard salary cap existing without non-guaranteed contracts.
“Every move is important, but if there is still a hard cap, it is not as significant,” union attorney Jeffrey Kesler said.
There should be some optimism that the owners seem willing to leave this position behind, but it does not mean the league is any closer to solving this labor dispute before the expiration date on June 30. But the league DID announce that it has canceled the Las Vegas Summer League in preparation for the upcoming lockout. It definitely still looms over the offseason.
If a deal is not reached before June 30, the two sides may not have the motivation to get a deal complete until the next deadline. That deadline is, of course, the opening of training camps.
June 30 is the focus of both sides moving forward now.
“Everyone is a little frustrated,” said Maurice Evans of the Washington Wizards, a member of the union’s executive council, to Sheridan. “We feel like they’re trying to give us things that we already have. But are we committed to trying to hammer out a deal and see their perspective? Yes, we are.”
The two sides will meet again Tuesday for another negotiating session. David Stern said this meeting should be important with the NBA Draft coming up as the last major event before the lockout and the actual deadline for a new deal looming on June 30. This meeting Tuesday could tell the league whether there will be a lockout or not.
Again, though, it is good to see movement. But there is no agreement until there is an agreement. And there still is a lot to figure out between these two sides in a very short amount of time.
Photos via DayLife.com.