The 2011-12 NBA season has received another major setback.
NBA commissioner David Stern said late Saturday night the National Basketball Players Association has until "close of business" Wednesday to accept a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) proposal that includes a 51-49 band on basketball-related income (BRI) and several system concessions made by owners.
If the union doesn't agree to the offer, owners will follow Wednesday with a much stricter proposal: a 53-47 BRI split that favors the league, which includes a flexible salary cap the union has long equated to a hard cap.
Stern said owners put their initial offer which was spurred by compromise suggestions from federal mediator George Cohen in writing Saturday during a CBA meeting in New York.
According to Stern, NBPA lawyer Jeffrey Kessler "rejected" it.
Stern added that he and NBPA executive director Billy Hunter shared "frustration and sadness" about Kessler's decision.
"Hope springs eternal, and we'd love to see the union accept the proposal on the table," Stern said.
Kessler's response, according to Yahoo! Sports: "[Owners] came in here with a pre-arranged plan to strongarm the players. The players will not be intimidated. It's not happening on Derek Fisher's watch; not happening on Billy Hunter's watch."
Fisher was even more direct.
Not only will the NBPA decline the owners' offer, Fisher said, but there is nothing on the table to even present to the union. Fisher added that the league's Wednesday deadline was an "ultimatum"; players will only receive a 50-50 BRI split with the band proposal; and there's no reason for the sides to meet before Stern's deadline since the NBA intentionally broke off negotiations Saturday.
The owners' second offer highlighted by a pro-league 53-47 BRI spit will clearly not be accepted by the union this early in the NBA's calendar year.
Thus, the sides are farther apart than ever despite again coming within striking distance of a deal. The rhetoric has also reached an all-time high, while Stern acknowledged he was "tired" and Fisher appeared exhausted during a post-meeting press conference. And with entrenched owners digging in further and players refusing to give back any more, the entire 2011-12 season suddenly hangs in the balance just four days after it was supposed to tip off Tuesday.
"We for sure unequivocally made good-faith efforts to get this deal done [Saturday]," Fisher said. "We're at a loss to why we could not close it out."
He added: "We were prepared to stay here until the sun came up to get this deal done. â¦ We'll, as a group, assess the situation."
Decertification by players is expected to become a pressing topic as a union lacking leverage and momentum consider its remaining options.
Meanwhile, owners have only strengthened their position. And the onus is now on the NBPA to either accept a deal it says doesn't even exist, or prolong an already bitter 128-day lockout.
"There's not a deal we can present to take a vote on," Fisher said.
2011 NBA lockout
Started • July 1
Lasted • 128 days (ongoing)
Missed Jazz games • 3
Canceled • 2011-12 training camp, preseason, regular-season games through November
Status update • Representatives for NBA owners and players met Saturday in New York with federal mediator George Cohen. The meeting marked the first time the sides converged after talks fell apart last Friday and commissioner David Stern canceled more games.
Remaining issues • The split of basketball-related income (BRI), and system-based topics such as a more punitive luxury tax and whether teams in the tax are allowed to operate as freely as those that aren't.
Breaking ranks • Nearly half of NBA owners entered Saturday's meeting sticking to a 50-50 BRI take and pushing for an even more favorable split. Meanwhile, some key players were open to the idea of decertifying the union if no progress was made this weekend during talks.