This post is what happens when I'm stuck in a NYC lobby for 15-hour increments spread across three days. For anyone not yet following the NBA stakeout via Twitter, which is much more interesting than following the NBA stakeout in person, you can do that here: Deep Sixer. Today's meeting started around 10:30 a.m. If everything is going well, this session should last an absolute minimum of 10-12 hours. Both sides said last night -- post is here: Thursday night update -- that they'd come to Friday's session prepared to stay as long as necessary to get a deal.
In talking with those around the 76ers organization, there's a decided sense of optimism that today (and by "today" we mean "today" as a starting point and likely stretching through the weekend) is the time for a deal. And that's the first time it's been that way. Both the NBA and the union have said a lot of things the previous two days to excite the fan base. Things like, "A deal is within reach if both sides show some flexibility," and, "We're preparing to negotiate over everything," and even admitting that they're considering ways to still play a full 82-game schedule. Stripped down, what each side is saying is that a new collective bargaining is possible, and the only way things fall apart this time is if one side (or both sides) refuse to display the necessary flexibility. It's no longer a matter of a ridiculously un-closeable gap, it's a matter of stepping to the plate and saving the game.
In the last three days, because of the odd hours, I've been Tweeting and interacting with a different segment of the Sixers' fan base: fans located overseas. All of us here at the stakeout have been reminded of the global reach of this game. Even if there's a certain sense of apathy in the U.S., and certainly that apathy exists in Philly (go ahead and post another "Who cares?" comment!), there is a notable following overseas. The NBA is risking a heck of a lot during this lockout, even if many downplay the game's relevance domestically.
For those of you desperate for the gruesome details of what these guys are hashing out, here's the quick-hit synopsis: the split in basketball revenue (BRI) and the luxury tax system. This is a generalization because there are smaller system issues as well, and more nuisances than I'd ever be able to comprehend or convey surrounding issues like the amnesty clause (read HERE for my discussion of this clause and Elton Brand), the mid-level exception, the contract lengths, etc. But to be able to discuss the issues intelligently (although I'm unsure anyone is really discussing this lockout), the two main things are the percentage of BRI split and the details of the luxury tax system. Last we've heard, the union was willing to accept around 51.5-52.0 percent of the BRI. The owners have formally proposed a 50-50 split. The BRI (according to what union chief Billy Hunter told Chris Sheridan of www.sheridanhoops.com) will be the first issue on today's agenda. Also important is the luxury tax system. The owners want a hard-hitting luxury tax enforced on teams (it used to be $1 for every $1 over the soft cap) that spend over the salary cap. This is the crucial "system" issue, while the split of BRI is the "economic" issue.