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David Stern aggressively urges NBA players to accept latest offer

Commissioner pleads league's case in 'Twitterview' before Monday's vote; indications are players will reject proposal to start season Dec. 15. Bickering centers on which side has given up more.

November 13, 2011|By Mike Bresnahan
  • NBA Commissioner David Stern, seen here during a press conference in New York, hopes to get the basketball rolling by December.
NBA Commissioner David Stern, seen here during a press conference in New… (David Karp / Associated…)

David Stern has been active on the airwaves, the Internet and, in a new one, on Twitter, trying to tell fatigued fans and an irritated set of NBA players about the need to sign on the dotted line.

Monday is the newest "most important day" of the 138-day NBA lockout. Player representatives for all 30 NBA teams will meet in New York and determine whether they will take the latest offer from NBA owners.

A majority of responses from players and their agents indicated there would be a rejection of the proposal that promised a 72-game season starting Dec. 15.

A lot has to happen this week for there to be basketball by Christmas. Stern knows it too.

The NBA commissioner lambasted player agents in a conference call with reporters Saturday and held a 90-minute "Twitterview" with players, fans and journalists Sunday, sending some final public thoughts in 140 characters or less.

He made some intriguing points, admitting that contraction of teams was discussed by players and owners but dismissed; all NBA executives took pay cuts of unspecified proportion; and players' contracts would become void if decertification occurred (more of a threat than anything).

He even got into minor Twitter twisters with players while fielding 29 e-questions jointly with NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver.

Philadelphia 76ers center Spencer Hawes asked, "Since we have covered all of your alleged losses (and more) why am I not getting ready for a game tonight?"

The answer from Stern: "[We] don't agree; season starts if union agrees to NBA's proposal."

Stern also took a question from Miami guard Dwyane Wade: "Why are all your 'system solutions' only impacting the PLAYERS?? What have the owners [been] giving up of significance?"

Stern's answer: "The economics & system favored the players in prior CBA — Teams lost over 300m last year."

An accord doesn't seem likely because players will make substantially less money compared with the collective bargaining agreement that expired July 1.

Players earned a well-documented 57% of NBA revenue last season but have agreed to retreat to 50%, a difference of almost $300 million next season.

Middle-of-the-road free agents would no longer enjoy the five-year, $29-million mid-level exception for teams over the luxury-tax threshold, the latest proposal outlining a three-year, $9-million contract for them.

The proposed offer capped the maximum player salary at $20 million by 2013-14, another would-be concession by players at a time in which Kobe Bryant was due to make $30.5 million that season. (Bryant's contract would not be rolled back, according to a league official. The new collective bargaining agreement would affect only new contracts.)

The maximum contract length would shrink from six years to five, and, according to the New York Times, there would be a 12% reduction on rookie contracts, bringing them down to 2007-08 levels.

The offer gives players some concessions, including a higher minimum team payroll that forces traditional light-spending franchises to dole out more money.

With such a disparity between the last deal and the new proposal, Stern can't be faulted for being an aggressor over the weekend, publicly prodding players to take the offer.

"I just think that the players aren't getting the information, the true information from their agents, who are banding together, sort of the coalition of the greedy and the mendacious, to do whatever they can … to make money," Stern said.

Agents predictably disagreed, though prominent ones contacted by The Times were not willing to go on the record.

"If the owners get to a point where they are taking a bad attitude, then maybe the only move the players can make is to [decertify] to get them to the table in the right way," said an agent who asked to not be identified.

Decertification would mean the dissolution of the union and the possibility of players' filing anti-trust lawsuits against the NBA, leading to more disorder in a season already delayed six weeks.

Stern had one last thing to say before signing off on Twitter: "There is a fair deal on the table that will allow the season to start on December 15. We want our players and teams to do well and we hope our proposal is accepted. Good night."

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.

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