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NBPA says NBA 'lied' as talks break down, lockout continues (video)

Published October 23, 2011 12:55 am

Lockout • Players say NBA, owners "lied" in presenting their side.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The NBA labor war continues and the 112-day lockout marches on.

Collective bargaining agreement negotiations between representatives for league owners and players broke off Thursday after a contentious meeting in New York. No new discussions are scheduled, and the NBA could soon be forced to cancel more regular-season contests.

"We understand the ramifications of where we are," NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said. "We're saddened on behalf of the game."

The 2011-12 preseason and training camps have already been canceled, and regular-season games previously scheduled Nov. 1-14 have been erased from the calendar.

NBA commissioner David Stern, who did not attend Thursday's meeting due to illness, said he expected owners to cancel games through Christmas if a new contract wasn't reached by Tuesday. Silver said the NBA plans to regroup and then make a decision about where negotiations go from here.

"It sounds like the league is going to wait [the players] out," said Larry Coon, an NBA salary cap expert and ESPN.com contributor.

Not only does the NBA not have a new contract, but also any remaining optimism that the entrenched sides could soon reach a deal was erased during a fiery post-meeting press conference - one that saw NBA Players Association (NBPA) president Derek Fisher assert that Silver and San Antonio owner Peter Holt "lied" when speaking to the media.

"[The NBA] is interested in telling you one side of the story that is not true," Fisher said.

Thursday's fracture occurred despite the presence of federal mediator George Cohen, who presided over 30 hours' worth of meetings this week, including a marathon 16-hour session Tuesday.

Some believed Cohen would be able to bridge the deep divide between players and owners. He'd previously been involved in successful labor negotiations with MLB and Major League Soccer, and had recently helped mediate the NFL lockout.

NBPA executive director Billy Hunter praised Cohen's efforts. But by the time Hunter and Fisher took the stage for the union's interview session, it was clear that Cohen's impact had been minimal and the parties were again at war.

"I'm sure George Cohen did a very good job and I'm sure he tried his best," said Michael McCann, director of the Vermont Sports Law Institute. "But one person can't reconcile two very different views about the economics of the game,"

Silver said the NBPA ended negotiations after the league proposed a 50-50 split of basketball-related income (BRI). The union was willing to lower its BRI take to only 52.5 percent, Silver said, after entering this week's meetings pushing for 53. The NBPA received a 57-43 split in the last contract.

"They made it clear if we wouldn't move off 50 percent, there was nothing else to talk about," Silver said.

Hunter responded by saying the NBA's 50-50 proposal wasn't an offer but an "ultimatum." When the union questioned whether the league really wanted to take such a hard-line stance, Hunter said the NBPA was informed that it was being presented with an all-or-nothing deal.

"Unless the system is right, there is no way we're willing to come off 53 [percent]," Hunter said.

The system isn't right for both sides, either.

Hunter said owners are simply trying to put money back in their pockets, and asserted the NBPA will not give in to the NBA's desire for everything from a stricter salary cap to restrictions on player movement.

"We fought too long and made too many sacrifices to get where we are," Hunter said.

Meanwhile, Silver and Holt said owners will not agree to a new contract unless all 30 NBA franchises have an equal chance to compete for a championship. Silver specifically pointed toward the NFL's hard cap and the NHL's flex cap, saying the more restrictive systems have been crucial to improving competition and revenue in football and hockey.

"Odds are this is going to be a prolonged lockout. … This is in contrast to the NFL lockout, where the parties were arguably in striking distance for some time," McCann said. "Here, they have two very different philosophies about how to distribute revenue and how to contain costs."

Broken-off negotiations about the BRI and salary cap paled when compared to the NBPA's fiery rhetoric. Fisher and Hunter went on the offensive in a manner previously unseen during a lockout that started July 1 and has been building toward this moment for more than two years.

Hunter said Portland owner Paul Allen was used by the league Thursday to send a "message" that teams had already given back too much during previous negotiations. Hunter also revealed that Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert insisted the union "trust" him rather than continue to negotiate system issues.

It was too much for the longtime NBPA leader to take.

"We're not here to spin it," Hunter said. "We're speaking truth to power."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.

bsmith@sltrib.com

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