Lakers' Fisher: Big salary hit not likely
BOSTON -- If NBA owners ask players to give back an inordinate amount of money in collective bargaining talks, those talks at All-Star Weekend probably won't last long.
That was the implication from union president Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers in the wake of a report on SI.com that owners will seek to cut the players' share of revenues from 57 to 45 percent.
"I don't foresee any situation where we agree to a deal that flips the percentage in that manner, but there are a lot of ways to get to a destination or a goal," Fisher told ESPN.com.
Owners are expected to make their first formal proposal to the players' union in the coming days, and the sides have scheduled a collective bargaining session for All-Star Weekend, Feb. 12-14.
It's a negotiation, so I don't think we'd be surprised if there's an overreach.” -- Lakers guard and union president Derek Fisher
The sides have met several times, formally and informally, but this will be the first time either side will have already put forth a formal proposal -- meaning a tenor will have been set.
A reduction from 57 percent of revenues, which the players are now guaranteed, to 45 percent would be tantamount to a 21 percent drop in player salary expenditures. Since 1997-98, the players have received at least 57 percent of basketball-related income, peaking at 65 percent in the 2000-01 season.
The NBA would not comment on the accuracy of the SI.com report.
"It's a negotiation, so I don't think we'd be surprised if there's an overreach," Fisher said. "So we'll see when we receive it how it looks, but I don't know if we should box ourselves in to just sending back our response to what they sent."
It is anticipated the NBA will seek shorter contracts (the maximum length is currently six years), mechanisms to make less of that money guaranteed, and a hard or harder salary cap to help stem leaguewide financial losses the owners claim are reaching hundreds of million of dollars annually.
The union is on record as saying it believes the current system is working for the owners, in large part because the structure of the labor deal negotiated in 2005 has steadily reduced the amount of future dollars committed to player payrolls.
Union director Billy Hunter has offered to extend the current agreement, though the NBA has strongly indicated that such an option is out of the question.
"In these meetings we've really tried to give them a feel for exactly what we are looking for in this deal, as well," Fisher told ESPN.com. "I don't think any side has any intentions on dragging it out unnecessarily, but at the same time we have year and a half [remaining on the current agreement, which expires at the end of the 2010-11 season]. We're serious in our approach to getting this started sooner than later, but we're not going to rush to judgment to things that are sent out this early in the game."
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.