Stern Doesn't Expect Contentious All-Star Labor Negotiations
Still, NBA commissioner David Stern said he doesn't believe there will be a negative tone when negotiating committees set up by the owners and the players' union get together in Dallas.
"This meeting is going to be not contentious at all,'' Stern said Thursday. "We have a great community of interest together.''
Stern also made another prediction about the labor talks.
"This is not going to be a short process,'' he said.
In this faltering economy, the NBA is almost certain to announce by the Dec. 15 deadline it will not pick up the option to keep the current collective bargaining agreement for 2011-12. That means there could be a lockout when the CBA expires June 30, 2011.
That's a situation many expect. FanHouse recently spoke with six remaining players from the 1998-99 lockout, with four expecting there will be another, one believing not and one undecided.
The sides are holding a third negotiating session Friday, but this is the first since the owners submitted a proposal. The proposal includes owners wanting to go closer to a hard salary cap than the current soft cap, a desire to significantly reduce the 57 percent of basketball-related income players now get and the length of contracts wanting to be cut.
"It's just preliminary,'' Stern said of the meeting of about 10 owners on the negotiating committee with about the same number of players. "Every time we can gather people in the same place in the same city, that's what we do. We met in August (and) again in September. We agreed in small groups that we would get them a proposal before this meeting.''
Stern didn't go into specifics on the proposal. But union director Billy Hunter might Friday, having called a press conference to take place after the meeting.
"We're trying to come up with a system that rewards our players for being the great athletes that they are and set devices [for] our owners to make the investments they have [made in teams],'' Stern said.
Stern spoke of doom and gloom at last February's All-Star Game in Phoenix, but he said Thursday things have not been as bad as they could have been. Stern told the Dallas Morning News earlier this week that attendance will be down about 2 percent this season, believed to be a lesser decrease than in the NFL and baseball.
"The economic climate, we've taken much less of a hit than most businesses,'' Stern said. "So we're not complaining.''
A source close to the negotiations, though, did say 25 to 27 of the 30 NBA teams will lose money this season, and owners are willing to play hardball in negotiations because they would lose more money under the current CBA by playing a season rather than not playing.
The source called the teams making money the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls. The source said the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Clippers could also end up making money.
With the trade deadline next Thursday, Stern also was asked to clarify whether Washington could deal suspended guard Gilbert Arenas. While it's highly unlikely anybody would now take Arenas, suspended for the rest of the season along with teammate Javaris Crittenton for having guns in the locker room, Stern said he knows of no rule that would prevent it.
"I think the answer to that is yes,'' he said.
Cowboys Stadium. The only question is: By how much will the record of 78,129 -- set in a December 2003 college game at Detroit's Ford Field between Kentucky and Michigan State -- be crushed?
"There's the chance they'll let us get past the six-figure number,'' Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. "Once we get past the 100,000 number, there's no reason not to go for a million.''
Not to rain (or make that snow since the Dallas area was hit hard Thursday) on that parade, but Stern quipped, "I don't know. I think I'm going to tell (Cowboys owner) Jerry Jones I'll let it go to 99,999.''
Regardless, Stern loves the venue.
"It's great, and it's got a great video board,'' Stern said. "So we're going to get to see the game one way or another.''
Stern had some business to take care of Thursday. With Lakers guard Kobe Bryant dropping out of the All-Star Game due to a sprained ankle, Stern replaced him on the West with Mavericks guard Jason Kidd. In another nod to Dallas, Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki is expected to replace Bryant in the starting lineup.
And, with guard Allen Iverson bowing out due to the illness of his 3-year-old daughter, Stern replaced him on the East with New York big man David Lee.
"His daughter was readmitted to the hospital," said Stern, whose tabbing of Lee was no surprise.
But naming Kidd to his 10th All-Star Game was a bit of a surprise. He's averaging 9.3 points and 9.3 assists.
"Actually, he was the next up on the fan voting. I think he was sixth,'' said Stern about Kidd, who was sixth but was one spot behind Houston's Aaron Brooks. "The fans voted him. You looked at the balloting, and the additional balloting (by West coaches for reserves). That's why commissioners have choices.''
When the news was known, Cuban said Kidd was reached at a warm-weather spot.
"We got a hold of Jason and I didn't tell him what it was for,'' Cuban said. "He said, 'I'm golfing. It's 70 degrees. What do you want me to come back for?' ... 'It's like No. 10. I'm back. I'll be there.' ''
It sure wasn't 70 degrees in Dallas on Thursday as snow fell throughout the day. The weather is expected to get much better throughout the weekend, with the snow departing and temperatures in the 50s on Saturday and Sunday.
Nationally, though, the weather has been terrible. That will affect travel to All-Star Weekend.
"The airlines are going to be problematic,'' Stern said. "But we'll just have more intimate gatherings.''
Stern is optimistic Friday's labor negotiations will fall under the category of a cozy get-together.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson