Meet the Mediator; An Alternative NBA?; Kobe in Italy? And Lebron in...

Meet the Mediator; An Alternative NBA?; Kobe in Italy? And Lebron in the NFL?

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NBA and NBPA to Meet with Mediator in Attempt to Save Season

After countless meetings spread out over several weeks with no real progress, NBA players and owners have decided to use the same federal mediator that the NFL used during its lockout.  Maybe, just maybe, a deal can be reached this round.

This week, members from both the NBA and Players Association will meet with George Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, to bring an end to the 105-day lockout that has already canceled two weeks of the season.  Cohen said that he has been in contact with representatives from both sides, seeking to offer his assistance in brokering a deal that could save the season and bring labor peace.

“It is evident that the ongoing dispute will result in a serious impact, not only upon the parties directly involved, but also, of major concern, on interstate commerce — i.e., the employers and working men and women who provide services related to the basketball games, and, more generally, on the economy of every city in which those games are scheduled to be played,” said Cohen in a statement.

Commissioner David Stern placed even greater urgency on the upcoming mediation in a recent interview, reminding kids that a new collective bargaining agreement must be agreed to on Tuesday – or there will be no games through Christmas.  This will have a huge impact on ABC, ESPN and TNT, who all own the national broadcast rights to NBA games.  The networks pay the NBA around $930 million for the TV rights to NBA games, receiving around $1.25 billion in ad revenue.  The two-week cancellation has already cost the networks 100 games, with more to follow with further delays in the season.  Christmas is usually the first time NBA games are shown on ABC.

So Tuesday is the day.  Union head Billy Hunter feels both sides were closer than Stern let on last week.  The real question is whether or not Tuesday is long enough to allow the two sides to overcome all issues that separate them from getting a deal done.

Meanwhile, check out the contingency plans players are coming up with in the event that more games are canceled…

Amare Stoudemire Says Stars have Talked about Starting their Own League

New York Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire says that if owners and players can’t get it together and Commissioner Stern is forced to cancel the entire season, then players will give serious consideration to starting their own league.  There are many obstacles in front, but it shows that at least some of the players are united in sitting out the entire year to get the right deal. “If we don’t go to Europe, then let’s start our own league; that’s how I see it,” the forward/center said in an ESPN interview.

The players of course would have to find funding and broadcasting rights for a new league, organize teams in different cities, and venues to play the games in.  The logistics alone on an undertaking this big could take several months to put into place.  The players would also be playing for much less than their NBA salaries.  Stars such as Stoudemire, who signed a 5-year, $99 million dollar contract with the Knicks in 2010, can absorb a year away from basketball at a reduced rate better than the rank and file, mid-tier players can.

Would there be a spot for these players in the new league?

In his interview, Stoudemire reiterated that the players’ league would be a last resort if the season were canceled.  As noted previously, players have very little leverage in their negotiations with the owners.  If they were able to find funding and put together a successful league, it may entice the owners to agree to a deal—next season.  However, the owners must realize that players have sold-out arenas during the lockout in many cities, playing in front of game-hungry fans.  Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that and that a deal is reached Tuesday.

Kobe to Italy?; LeBron to the NFL?

The on-again, off-again talks between Kobe and the Italian team Virtus Bologna seem to be on again, with the team offering Bryant $1-2 million dollars to play in one exhibition game titled “A Tribute to Kobe.”  Bryant’s salary would be paid by the team’s sponsors.  Kobe grew up in Italy while his father played professional basketball before moving to Philadelphia at the conclusion of his career.  The “Tribute” would allow global broadcast of the game, with Bryant playing in a league game posing TV rights problems.

LeBron James caused playful speculation earlier this week after tweeting ESPN NFL insider John Clayton, asking when the NFL free agent period ended.  Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll added to the playful banter, tweeting LeBron a picture of a Seahawks jersey with LeBron on the back.  He said he envisioned LeBron as a touchdown-maker, much like he was in high school where the NBA phenom played wide receiver and caught 61 passes for 1,245 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior.  He quit football during his senior year to focus on basketball.  Good decision – or was it? LeBron probably wishes he could switch jobs right now.

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