NEW YORK – Promising a 72-game season that would start on Dec. 15, NBA commissioner David Stern delivered the Players Association a revised proposal that union officials will evaluate and present to player representatives early next week.
With the owners threatening to revert back to a draconian offer without a deal soon and with the players threatening union decertification, the proposal could be the best, final chance to save much of the NBA season. Stern said the offer – which includes a 50-50 revenue split for the players and owners – was made in the context the season would begin on Dec. 15 and have 72 games. The start of the playoffs and NBA Finals would each be pushed back a week under the revised schedule.
"It's not the greatest proposal in the world, but I have an obligation to at least present it to our membership," union executive director Billy Hunter said.
Hunter said the union will wait until Monday or Tuesday to bring the player representatives to New York. The representatives face a difficult decision in whether to reject the offer or put it to a vote of the union's full membership.
Hunter and union president Derek Fisher(notes) are uneasy with recommending the deal to the players, and appear to be willing to let the players make the decision without much resistance, sources said.
Some in the union were frustrated with the union waiting until early next week to gather the player representatives back in New York, but there was a sense the players would still be too raw over how little the owners amended their offer to quickly sign off on it. Several players privately expressed frustration with the union's leadership.
"Why do they keep scrambling us to New York for these meetings when they never listen to us?" one player representative told Yahoo! Sports. "We told them not to go past 53 percent. They did. We told them we're not taking this deal. Why waste our time?"
With the owners appearing to have made only minor improvements to some of the key system issues the players wanted resolved, union officials admitted the proposal didn't do enough to entice them to immediately endorse it. This deal isn't much different than the proposal that team reps roundly rejected Tuesday in New York. Nevertheless, the owners feel a sense of weariness and defeat in the union leadership, and believe they've worn down the players enough to get them to take the deal, management sources said.
Stern said the owners don't plan to improve the proposal and will deliver the worse "reset" offer the league had previously threatened if the union doesn't accept the deal.
"There comes a time when you have to be through negotiating," Stern said, "and we are."
Several agents told Y! Sports they have more than 200 player signatures on a decertification petition to force a vote to dissolve the union. The paperwork could be filed before Monday, even though it doesn't preclude the players from accepting the league's offer.
The union wanted to see the owners move on several system issues, including the midlevel exception for teams that cross the luxury-tax threshold. CBS Sports reported the owners appeared willing to raise the midlevel excepton for tax-paying teams to three years with a starting salary of $3 million a year. Teams above the salary cap can use the exception every other year. The owners had previously offered a two-year midlevel with a beginning salary of $2.5 million.
"I don't know if they characterized it as their last, best offer," Fisher said. "But it is clear, this is where they are right now."
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