NEW YORK, USA, November 9 – NBA players won’t accept the latest contract offer from owners, but will try to meet with them again before a Wednesday evening deadline in a bid to avert the cancellation of more games.
“The players are clearly of the mind that it’s an unacceptable proposal,” Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBA Players Association, said on Tuesday after a meeting of union leaders, including president Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers, and 43 players.
That included the union representatives from 29 of the league’s 30 teams.
The meeting was organized after NBA commissioner David Stern said Sunday that the players had until Wednesday to reconsider the owners’ latest proposal.
Hunter said he had heard through the “underground” that the league is prepared to cancel games through Christmas if no deal is reached by then.
The league has already wiped out all of the games scheduled in November — a month’s worth of action in a season that was to have started November 1.
A key issue under discussion remained the division of some $4 billion in annual revenue.
Players received 57 percent of basketball-related income under their previous contract, but have said they would be willing to drop that to 52.5 percent.
The latest offer from owners would have given the players between 49-51 percent of basketball-related income, depending on revenue growth.
Players said the terms meant they almost certainly would not receive more than 50.2 percent.
“The current offer on the table from the NBA is one that we cannot accept,” Fisher said.
With the sides still divided on other issues such as salary structure, Hunter said he would try to arrange for another meeting with owners before the Wednesday deadline.
Stern has said that if the players don’t accept the current offer by then, the next offer from the league will call for a 53-47 revenue split in favor of the owners, reportedly along with salary rollbacks and a stricter salary cap.
“The players are saying that we understand their position, but unfortunately we’re not intimidated by that,” Hunter said.
Players appeared to be willing to negotiate further on the division of revenue issue, if they get concessions on the salary cap.
Otherwise, Fisher said, “we don’t see a way of getting a deal done between now and end of business” Wednesday.
League officials say they lost $300 million last season. Stern has said the NBA thinks it can make a profit at a 50-50 basketball-related income split with players and with expanded revenue sharing among its teams.
However, a group of owners of less well-off teams from smaller markets are reportedly adamant that the league not make too many concessions to players.
There have also been reports that some players are exploring the possibility of decertifying the union, which could open the door for players to take legal action against the league.
Hunter said there was “very little discussion” at Tuesday’s meeting about possible union decertification.