Lawyers for the NBA and the league’s players will spend Black Friday trying to find a deal before Christmas (see what I did there?) in the latest effort to save a season and start basketball before New Year’s.
Since the players have already dissolved the union and filed a couple of lawsuits against the NBA, the negotiations Friday will operate as lawsuit settlement talks until the two sides reach a verbal agreement, in which case the players will reform the union and cast a formal vote on ratification of a new collective bargaining deal.
In order for that to happen, however, the players and their representation are going to be looking for the owners to finally make a move towards the middle in regards to concessions on system issues like the mid-level exception (players want four-year contracts available for the mid-level every year), maximum salaries (players want max contracts to be 30 percent of the cap, as opposed to the 25 percent proposed by the NBA), sign-and-trades, escrow, and other items.
Derek Fisher, though no longer union president as of now (because there is no union) will be present and involved in the talks Friday, which creates the guarded optimism that a deal may be close. Having Fisher negotiate on behalf of the players could help validate the NBA’s argument that the union dissolving was a “sham” negotiating tactic if the two sides actually end up in a courtroom opposite each other.
A verbal agreement on a new CBA today would leave precisely a month for the NBA to set the stage for a season to start on Christmas Day, the day the league usually trots out the first of its marquee national television schedule, which have proven to be major ratings bonanzas. That creates at least some pressure for the league to make a deal as soon as possible. Can’t let all that ABC vanish into thin air.
So while there is reason to feel good about the prospects for a NBA season in a month, remember that these talks have blown up before after both sides seemed to be on the brink of a deal. If they do beat the odds and come to a compromise today, it could definitely add new definition to the Black Friday legend, as the NBA will finally start to move out of the red.