David Stern just gave a comprehensive interview with ESPN's Bill Simmons on his podcast, revealing many nuggets about the state of the NBA lockout, the specifics of the NBA's proposals, the future of negotiations, the league's stance on revenue sharing and the many different public statements made on both sides.
Perhaps the most important part of the interview came at the end, when Stern essentially listed Labor Day weekend as the deadline for when serious progress must be made. Stern said that if exhibition games must be canceled, then the owners' proposal may "be really ugly from an economic standpoint for the players, because it's going to be really ugly from an economic standpoint for the teams." He added that he fears the chances of a full season being missed increase dramatically if progress is not made by then.
"If Labor Day comes and goes without us ready to huddle in and kiss off our Labor Day weekend to make this deal, then we may be headed to a bad place," Stern said.
Here are the rest of Stern's key comments:
On the league's potential offer after Labor Day: "We're all going to understand that when we lose [the exhibition season], that's when the NBA's offer is likely to change because there are going to be economic consequences that we're tiptoeing through right now."
On his urgency to get a deal done: "I would say that I remain optimistic that we're going to make a deal, and I think that the urgency is set in a certain way by the rejection of our underlying premise. That is, this is the time to have a reset. This is the time to try to hold for the players most of what they have, and grow our way out of the situation we find ourselves in. The players very strongly disagree and to this point don't even want to discuss it."
On the players' reported proposal: "At some point, when the proposal is, in light of today's economics, we want to go in six years from a five-million dollar average to a seven-million dollar average salary, it really makes no sense. None. It doesn't even begin to respond to the issues."
On the owners' specific position: "We'd like to take out more expenses and then have a 50-50 split after the expenses. We said that, and the big issue is, we have asked the players to take an eight-percent cut. From the $2.2 billion total, our total was $2 million, and hold it from where we try to grow out ourselves. If we do very well, and we grow more than four percent, they'll do better than $2 million under our projections and theirs, and we'll start to grow."
On the theory of revenue sharing: "You could argue whether we lost $300 or $150 or whatever, but this is about profitability. We're going to make [the league] profitable. This is what you do in collective bargaining. After we make it profitable, there's a huge disparity in profits, so we're going to have revenue sharing. The idea that you can have revenue sharing help you when you are losing money doesn't make sense at all. There's not enough money to revenue share if the league as a whole is losing $300 million. You could take away money from the top teams and give it to the lower teams, but at the end of the day, with all the reshuffling, you're still going to be losing $300 million."
On the owners' reception to revenue sharing: "There is going to be a revenue sharing. I must tell you that our owners ... they're on board. The Bulls, the Lakers, the Knicks. ... I've never seen such unity of purpose amongst our owners. Yes, we need a new CBA, and we have to accompany it with more robust revenue sharing."
On the meeting Thursday that was canceled: "I spoke to Billy [Hunter], and in effect, they said it the same way. They said, 'Our guys don't want to have a meeting unless you're going to make a new proposal.' And we said, 'Too bad,' and we canceled the meeting ... But that's their right, and I understand it. It's not a big deal. They've got a lot of education to do with their players. You know that as well as I do."
On how to fix players underperforming their contract: "We said that if you have a contract that's too large that you want to get rid of because the player is not performing. What we should allow our teams to do is spread it over multiple years so that the player will still get his money, but there will be cap room to replace him rather than the system that we currently have where, because of the cap placement of that contract, they cannot get a better player to fill that spot because they have no money."
On the rhetoric surrounding the lockout: "The players throw around words like 'greedy' and 'arrogant' and a variety of other things that would tend to inflame things. I think our owners have remained remarkably calm because the logic of where we're going is hard to disagree with. We need a reset on the amount of compensation. We need shorter contracts so we can align pay with performance, and we need to get a little more competitive. It's not brain surgery."
"The NFL, the most profitable of all sports leagues, says it wants to be more profitable. Its players agree to a double-digit concession, and our players say, 'No, sorry, can't work.' There's something wrong with this picture, and that's why I think the picture will come into clearer focus as our players come to understand what our players are actually offering and what they've done to open their books and why they want to make the changes they want to make."
"I'm invested in keeping their rhetoric down so we can continue the growth our players have had. In this day and age, given the economic circumstances going on out there, with respect to the stock market, with respect to the European countries that look like they're falling with respect to economics and with respect to getting owners to buy teams and invest in them, lobbing grenades is not a good thing to do. It's not good for business, it's not good for sponsors and it's not good for fans. So we're trying to keep ourselves aligned in the right way, and we think Billy [Hunter] is going to do the same thing."
On reports that his salary is in the $23 million range: "If you guessed that I made half of that, you'd be way too high. If you guessed closer to a third, you might be in my range." Said he took a salary freeze in 2008. "It's just totally ridiculous" that salary was $23 million.
On the possibility of contraction: "The players have been heard to suggest that as well."