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Sunday, November 13, 2011
Updated: November 15, 8:49 AM ET
Sources: Union has issues with offer

By Ric Bucher
ESPN The Magazine

The NBA players' union requested the weekend to examine the owners' latest proposal. The feedback as of Sunday night: Not good.

The players union executive committee met for two hours Sunday night to examine the proposal before deciding whether to present it to all 400-some players for ratification Monday. The committee will first meet with player reps Monday morning, but one of the new wrinkles that the committee is finding difficult to accept, sources said, is an unlimited escrow system.

The escrow system would assure that owners would be reimbursed for however much they exceed the negotiated amount of basketball-related income allowed to be spent on player salaries.

In the current seven-page proposal, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN The Magazine, the players have a choice of selecting a 50-50 split of BRI or a 49-51 band.

If teams spend more than the allotted percentage, they not only retain the 10 percent of each salary held in escrow, but if that 10 percent doesn't cover the excess then the additional funds can be deducted from a one percent of BRI dedicated to "post-career player annuity and player benefits."

If the excess still hasn't been satisfied, future benefits and escrow funds can be utilized to cover it. In essence, it assures the owners that no matter how much they spend in any one season, they will not have to pay more than the stated percentage.

Another source of contention from the players side, according to sources, are triggers that would implement a hard cap on any non-taxpaying teams that use an exception to sign a player.

With reports of player dissatisfaction and a growing push to decertify the union coming out shortly after the owners' latest proposal was presented, the league office has made a concerted effort to address some of the hottest topics. One such issue is a clause that would give teams the right to send players down to its developmental league and pay them at a drastically reduced scale.

The NBA, via its NBA Labor twitter feed and in a question-and-answer session on Twitter with commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver, denied that the owners ever proposed that teams have the right to send players down to the NBDL during the first five years of their career and receive a pro-rated contract of $75,000, rather than their NBA salary. A league official said the topic was on "a B list" of issues that were still negotiable.

Union sources, however, reiterated that in Thursday's negotiations the two sides selected the B-list items that they considered essential to any new collective bargaining agreement. The owners told the union that both year-round drug testing and the ability to send two players down to the D-League and pay them the aforementioned pro-rated salary were essential elements to them, sources said, positions that were particularly upsetting to the players' executive committee.

Other elements in the deal that the union finds objectionable, a source said, are 12 percent reductions in both the minimum salary and the first-year salaries of first-round picks.

Ric Bucher is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.