DALLAS - David Stern said Saturday the NBA is projecting league-wide losses of about $400 million this season and has lost hundreds of millions in each previous year of the current collective bargaining agreement.
The commissioner said it has shown the players’ association those numbers in hopes of demonstrating why the league feels it needs “significant changes” in the next deal.
The NBA’s first proposal for a deal to replace the one that expires on July 1, 2011, was thrown out Friday after what players association director Billy Hunter called a “contentious” 90-minute meeting. Hunter said the proposal called for harsh changes that would affect every NBA player.
“The right adjectives were thrown around, and our proposal appropriately denounced. Our response is, ’You can denounce it, tear it up, you can burn it, you can jump up and down on it, as long as you understand that it reflects the financial realities of where we are,”’ Stern said during his annual All-Star press conference.
“And if you would like to have your own proposal, as long as it comes back and deals with our financial realities, that’s OK with us. That’s fine with us. In fact, that’s what we would like to do.”
Stern criticized the union’s behavior at the session, saying it earned “high marks on the list of theatrical negotiations.” He revealed that the players’ side brought in a lawyer who threatened that the union would be decertified, making negotiating more difficult.
He also had sharp words for his own side, denouncing anonymous comments made by team executives that served to inflame the bargaining process.
“If you know me, and you know our owners, that’s not what we do. That’s not us. And the players were upset with those quotes, which I find cowardly, if they were actually said,” Stern said. “And if I ever found out who said them, they would be dealt with; they would be former, former NBA people, not current. And we assured the stars of that.”
Stern refused to details specifics of the league’s proposal. A person who had seen it told The Associated Press on Thursday that it called for first-round picks to have their salaries cut by about one-third, would reduce the minimum salary by as much as 20 percent, and would guarantee contracts for only half their value.
Also, the total value of a maximum salary would drop sharply, as would the total years players could sign for, and the players would see a reduction in their share of the basketball-related income, of which they currently receive 57 percent.
Stern defended sending the proposal shortly before the All-Star break, saying the plan all along was to start the process early. Hunter said the league would like to get a deal done before this July, but the union won’t be in any rush to send its own.
“I never have told Billy how he should negotiate or how he wants to negotiate, any more than I tell his lawyer what words he uses to threaten us,” Stern said. “That’s their choice. We have been, you know, myself, I have only been at this since 1966. I started when I was in a crib.”
The sides met twice last summer and exchanged financial documents. Stern made it clear that the league has shown the players all the facts they need to understand the difficulties owners are facing, losses he estimated at “at least” $200 million a year for the first four years of the current deal.
“Our response to the players was: We don’t want to play any guessing games about that, all of the data which supports that will be made available to you,” Stern said. “Certified financial returns, whatever you need, so that we can have a robust and open dialogue about how we are going to develop together a sustainable business model.”
Hunter has argued that the league can fix its problems with expanded revenue sharing among teams. Stern said there will be a revenue sharing plan, but that needs to be implemented in conjunction with a new deal.
The recent economic downturn has been seen as a reason for the league’s financial woes, but Stern denied that things will improve just because the economy does.
“Based upon the last several years, we have seen that the — we have shown the players the facts, and at our current level of revenue devoted to players salaries, it’s too high,” Stern said. “I can run from that, but I can’t hide from that, and I don’t think the players can, either. Those are the facts, and that’s what we are dealing with.”
But he said the differences won’t prevent a new agreement, saying, “we will manage to get to a place where we always get to. There is always a deal and we plan to make a deal this time, too.”
Stern also predicted the Charlotte Bobcats would be sold in about two months.
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