Players unhappy with owners' new offer

NEW YORK -- NBA players are not happy with the latest formal collective bargaining proposal from the league's owners, saying the new offer of a 10-year deal is only marginally different from the original one the owners made.

"Unfortunately, the proposal is very similar to the proposal the league submitted over a year ago," union president Derek Fisher told ESPN.com. "This last proposal doesn't look close to what we were expecting."

NBA spokesman Tim Frank said the league delivered its offer to the union last week.

It is the second formal offer made by the owners, who are seeking significant rollbacks in existing contracts, a hard salary cap and a larger share of basketball related income -- 57 percent of which is guaranteed to the players under terms of the existing labor agreement, which expires June 30.

Union director Billy Hunter previously has said the players are willing to give up their 57 percent guarantee, but he wants to keep most other elements of the existing deal. But the owners have taken a hard-line stance in arguing that a new economic operating system is needed to give all 30 NBA teams an equal chance to be profitable and to contend for a championship.

In their initial proposal, the owners sought a reduction of nearly $800 million in salaries for the 2011-12 season. Players were paid a total of approximately $2.1 billion this season, and commissioner David Stern said last month that the league is projecting a $300 million loss for the current season.

The union has disputed that number, saying a majority of those costs are attributable to depreciation, along with interest payments on loans used to finance the purchase of teams.

The owners' new proposal still seeks a similar financial cutback, though it would be phased in during the first two seasons.

"We are taking a close look at each piece of the proposal, and I along with my players and executive committee will be determining what next steps best move this process forward," Fisher said. "I continue to work on this daily, take this very seriously, and have a responsibility to my players to try and get a deal done."

Hunter, who has said publicly in recent months that there is a 99 percent chance of a lockout if the owners insist on sticking to the terms of their original proposal, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The NBA has not had a work stoppage since 1998, when the league lost games because of a labor dispute for the first time in its history. But the owners emerged from that fight with two significant cost-control mechanisms -- the luxury tax paid by the highest-spending teams, and the escrow tax withheld from players' paychecks to ensure that the owners do not pay out more than 57 percent of designated revenues.

The escrow tax is in lieu of getting a "hard" salary cap to replace the existing "soft" cap system in which teams can exceed the salary cap through several means, including the Larry Bird exception (which allows teams to exceed the cap to retain their own free agents) and the mid-level exception (which allows over-the-cap teams to acquire an additional free agent at a price equal to the league's median salary).

The union made its only formal proposal to the owners last summer, and the sides have engaged in numerous informal meetings since then. Currently, both sides are keeping a close eye on developments in the NFL labor stalemate, where the players' union has decertified and sued in federal court to have the lockout lifted, although an appeals court has issued a temporary stay that has effectively re-imposed the lockout until the matter is further reviewed.

"With the recent news that Round 1 ratings are at an all-time high, the popularity of the game globally has never been higher, we have to work to keep this going in the right direction," Fisher said. "I will continue to urge our players to be prepared in the event of a lockout, but will remain steadfast in my efforts to drive this process forward."

Chris Broussard covers the NBA for ESPN The Magazine. Chris Sheridan is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.