View Full Version : Labor peace likely but not a lock

Max Power
11-17-2003, 10:53 PM
Sunday, November 16, 2003
By Marc Stein

As of Saturday, there was exactly one month left for commissioner David Stern and his 29 teams to decide whether to exercise the league's Dec. 15 option to extend its Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players through the 2004-05 season.

The prevailing sense around the league is that Stern and the owners will indeed opt in for one more year, with the hope that the recent spirit of cooperation with the union -- since last All-Star Weekend -- will lead to terms being reached on a new long-term deal by next summer, before the current pact expires.

That, of course, is the best-case scenario ... and assuming the spirit of cooperation isn't just myth.

In a worst-case scenario, the owners would refuse to extend the current CBA -- and league sources say there are owners out there who favor this option -- and thereby put a clock on negotiations. "In that case," said one source, "there is the possibility of a lockout before the NHL has one."

The NHL's current labor agreement, amid forecasts of certain doom forthcoming, runs through Sept. 15, 2004. If the NBA option weren't invoked, owners and players would only have until July 1 to reach a new agreement.

After the damaging lockout of 1998, which cost the NBA its previously unblemished record of never losing a regular-season game to a work stoppage, all parties have been unusually willing to open talks well before any deadlines to guard against the prospect of losing games in the future. Yet there remains much to hash out even if the 2004-05 option is triggered.

Teams contend that their players take home too much of the league's revenue and dream of shortening guaranteed contracts, which can run for six or seven seasons in the NBA. Players complain about the increasing difficulty to change teams ... which is tied in to the dreaded luxury tax that neither side cares for. Among the teams themselves, the luxury tax has spawned numerous philosophical debates.

Stern has said that he's not married to the idea of a tax -- perhaps because it tends to pit high- and low-spending teams against each other, which could make it difficult to maintain a consensus among the owners. Stern has made it clear, though, that he will insist on some sort of mechanism that punishes overspending and ensures a level playing field for teams of all market sizes -- something baseball and hockey sorely lack.

The NBA's owners and players, mind you, have yet to exchange any formal proposals, so there have to be some serious negotiating in coming months -- with or without the option -- to secure a new deal by July.

11-17-2003, 10:58 PM
After seeing what MLB went through and the HUGE loss of their fans, the NBA would be stupid not to settle up something quickly.