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NBA labor negotiations end with an ultimatum

Commissioner David Stern says players' union has until Wednesday to accept an offer that could include up to a 51% share of basketball-related income..

November 05, 2011|By Ben Bolch

Setting the stage for four days of intense contemplation, NBA Commissioner David Stern late Saturday told players they had until the end of Wednesday to accept a deal that would provide them between 49% and 51% of basketball-related income as part of a new collective bargaining agreement.

Stern spoke at the end of an 8½-hour negotiating session presided over by federal mediator George Cohen, who made six compromise suggestions to players and owners. Stern said the owners were willing to adopt five of the proposals but that the players' union flatly rejected them.

Lakers guard Derek Fisher, president of the players' union, said players offered to take around 51% of BRI, down from their previous 52.5% demands. He said "there's no way in the world" players would receive 51% of the BRI under the owners' flexible proposal.

"We've made the effort," Fisher said. "It just doesn't seem to be good enough for this particular group of owners."

Player reaction to Stern's take-it-or-leave-it offer was swift on Twitter.

"U gotta love an ultimatum," tweeted San Antonio Spurs guard Steve Novak. "How does basketball ever even get to this point?"

The labor talks had resumed with behind-the-scenes wrangling among players and owners threatening to wreck the season.

A sizeable group of players had reportedly discussed the possibility of decertifying the players' union if negotiations remained unproductive, a process that could take months and potentially wipe out a season that already has been delayed by at least a month. Stern said Saturday those discussions had no impact on negotiations.

Owners continued to tussle over the division of BRI, with some reportedly unhappy with Stern's earlier proposed 50-50 split and others unwilling to budge any further. Players were seeking a 52.5% share of revenue.

Stern had indicated when the last round of talks broke off Oct. 21 that his next offer might be less favorable to players because of lost revenue from the cancellation of a month's worth of games.

All 29 owners gathered early in the day Saturday for a meeting among themselves, and Cohen met separately with players and owners before collective negotiations resumed.

Small-market owners in attendance included Charlotte's Michael Jordan and Portland's Paul Allen, believed to be among those wanting to hold the players' share of revenue to 47%. Among large-market owners were the Lakers' Jerry Buss and Miami's Mickey Arison, the latter of the recent $500,000 tweet claiming he wasn't the reason the lockout was lingering.

The discussions lacked star power on the players' side. Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who had attended earlier negotiating sessions, announced via Twitter that he had landed in Sydney for the start of an exhibition tour.

"Got off the plane in my jordan sweat suit," Wade wrote, "but as soon as I walked out the airport it felt like Miami."

Clippers teammates Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan exchanged trash tweets regarding their alma maters' Big 12 Conference football game in Norman, Okla. Tweeted Jordan: "Sorry but Texas A&M is going to smack OU today!!!"

Final score: Oklahoma 41, Texas A&M 25.

Jordan wouldn't find a happy ending with the proceedings in New York either.

Bolch reported from Los Angeles.

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