In a lockout scenario that has frustrated even the most dedicated NBA fans, there is still a possibility that talks on Black Friday could lead to the NBA starting on Christmas. It's a redemption story that almost writes itself. Over the past few days, legal representatives for the NBA and the players' trade association have been quietly meeting to work on a settlement that would bring back a 66-game NBA season by Christmas.
At first, the talks were merely called "back-channeling" by NBA insiders, but now talks have evolved to the point that President of the Players' Association Derek Fisher has returned to the negotiating table. It is a bit of a strange move considering the union disclaimed interest several weeks back, which would cast doubt on the actual formal power of Fisher at this time and would lend credence to the owners argument that the disclaimer was a "sham" negotiating tactic from the beginning.
However, the union would have to reform before any deal was approved and consummated between the league and the players anyways, so this might be a sign a deal is very close. Once again, the deal is hanging on the thoughtful resolution of some key "system issues," as explained by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
The deal still centers on agreeing upon several key issues, including the escrow system and the use of full midlevel exceptions for tax-playing teams. The players are willing to agree to a 50-50 revenue split with the owners, provided some system issues are resolved. The owners appear to have again backed off their threats to return to a "reset" offer of a 53-47 revenue split in the owners' favor and a hard salary cap.
Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com believes the most difficult issue left on the table is the structure of the escrow system, which withholds a percentage from player paychecks to ensure a proper allocation of total Basketball Related Income at the end of the season. With the BRI split shifting down to 50-50 (from 57-43), the players stand to have more money withheld to make the whole mechanism work. Sheridan explains more:
Escrow funds are withheld from players' paychecks to ensure that total salaries do not exceed a pre-determined percentage. The players are willing to have 10 percent withheld, but there is a question of what will happen if those funds do not reduce the players' share to 50 percent of BRI. Does the shortage carry over into the next season? Do the players have to dip into a different pool of money (pension benefits, group licensing revenues) to make up the difference? This will be a tough nut to crack.
With players getting restless, including Chicago Bulls' forward Luol Deng, who is exploring his overseas options and trying to navigate costly insurance issues, perhaps the time for a resolution is now. The NBA might be able to give fans the greatest Christmas present of all by finding a great Black Friday deal at the negotiating table.
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