David Stern’s 5 p.m. deadline came and went yesterday and the commissioner did not follow through on his promise to remove his current deal for a much less attractive one that would have cut further into the players’ share of basketball related income, rolled back current salaries and more.
Instead the sides kept talking. And talking. And talking. They eventually emerged around midnight with the plan to get back to the negotiating table at noon Thursday. So was progress made? All indications are that the answer is yes, although we’re not out of the wood quite yet. With the owners’ side already lobbying to kill the current 50-50 deal in favor of a 47-53 version that favors owners and another gathering signatures to decertify the players union, I think every knew it was going to be now or never if anybody wanted to see semblance of a basketball season.
So now both sides appear to be willing to accept the 50-5o split, but the players only agreed to entertain the idea if the owners were willing to give on some so-called system issues, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski. And what are those issues? It’s hard to pinpoint exactly, but they seem to hinge on sticking with a soft cap system that allows teams with deep pockets to pay a luxury tax. And another big sticking point is the mid-level exception. While it has been a dangerous weapon in the hands of teams (remember Nazr Mohammed?), the players view it as the best way for average players and longtime veterans to continue to be paid well and to play on competitive, tax-paying teams. They argue that if you severely limit who can use the MLE and what it is worth, it will just mean more money for superstars and less money for roll players.
I’m not sure I buy the argument completely but it is understandable that players are willing to fight for the MLE, for most of the players, after all, getting an MLE contract could prove to be the biggest payday of their short careers.
According to NBA.com’s David Aldridge, both sides have made progress on three of five of the big system issues, but not on the mid level exception problem. Hopefully that can be resolved today and we can get back to some basketball.