David Stern on CBA Talks, Free-Agent Summits and Instant Replay
"I would say it's No. 1 on our agenda,'' the NBA commissioner said before Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night about collective bargaining being the top issue facing the NBA.
The NBA's collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expires June 30, 2011. The sides are far enough apart that many believe it's likely no agreement will be reached by then, resulting in a lockout.
"I'm not sure we'll get it done this summer, but we have until July 1, 2011,'' Stern said before the Lakers played host to Boston at the Staples Center. "It's going to be a very high priority. We've had several meetings. We've provided an enormous amount of information, and we're awaiting for responses from the players' association.''
The sides met last February during All-Star Weekend, and it did not go well, with union director Billy Hunter saying the sides weren't close. Stern said that weekend the NBA teams will lose about $400 million this season, a contention that Hunter recently called "baloney'' in an interview with SportsBusiness Journal.
Regardless, Hunter said the union plans to deliver a counter-proposal to the NBA by the end of this month. Hunter had said during All-Star Weekend one would be coming.
"At least he said we're going to hear something by the end of June, and we're hoping to hear it,'' said Stern, who said the last discussions with the union were "about three or four weeks ago.''
"We have a lot of work to do. I know that," said Stern. "I don't want to pre-negotiate (on what the union might counterpropose). I read what he said and it's a little bit like tea leaves in the SportsBusiness Journal pages. But we'll see. There's no sense in getting too upset one way or another or elated. We'll just see how it plays out.''
In this current economic climate, NBA owners want to make sharp cuts in NBA salaries and in the length of contracts. Obviously, the players don't want to see that happen.
Despite Stern having talked about teams losing $400 million this season, he was asked why so many new owners have recently bought or are seeking NBA teams. Stern said it's a matter of good pricing and a belief in there being a new CBA that Stern believes will better fit these economy times.
"In some measure because they think we're going to get a new collective bargaining agreement to put in,'' Stern said. "That simple, No. 1.''
But, if there were to be a new CBA that Stern doesn't like, would he dissuade prospective owners?
"Yes,'' he said.
As for Hunter's claim that the NBA is exaggerating financial losses, Stern said the NBA has "given him our certified financial statements'' and "provided access to our tax returns.''
Despite the negativity surrounding collective bargaining looming, Stern, overall. offered his usual positive message from the Finals. He called this "about as good a time as any to be an NBA fan.''
Also Thursday, Stern said he has been told by top possible free agents "there is no free-agent summit'' to be held this summer. Miami guard Dwyane Wade offered indications last week about such a meeting, scheduled to include other such top likely free agents as Cleveland's LeBron James and Toronto's Chris Bosh.
"They can have it,'' said Stern, saying no order came from him that it might constitute tampering. "I was wondering whether they would get together, eight players and they'll all look at D-Wade's (championship) ring (from 2006). They'd be better off watching these Finals to see how you construct a team and how you play and the like. There's not going to be a summit.''
With Boston center Kendrick Perkins one technical away from getting his seventh of the postseason and earning an automatic one-game suspension, Stern also said he saw some merit in Celtics coach Doc Rivers having said it shouldn't count against the number if it's a double technical. Stern said the rules stand now as they are but the matter will be discussed during the offseason.
In light of clamorings in baseball about instant replay following umpire Jim Joyce blowing a call Wednesday at first base with two outs in the ninth and costing Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game, Stern also talked about how the NBA is adding nine new replay elements next season. But he said some restraint still must be used.
"Every year, we add more components through the competition committee, and I don't think we're finished,'' he said. "I think that's good but we don't want 3 ½ hour games.''
When all is said and done, though, the top issue facing the NBA now is collective bargaining. The next step will come when the union's counterproposal arrives at NBA headquarters.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson