NEW YORK – Is the NBA’s highest-paid player prepared to accept the league’s offer so that he can get back to work?
FoxSports.com reports that Los Angeles Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant and his backcourt mate, National Basketball Players Association president Derek Fisher, are ready to accept a 50/50 split of Basketball-Related Income with the NBA’s owners. The NBPA’s official proposal as of Friday stood at 52.5 percent for the players.
The belief that NBA Players Association president Derek Fisher has been co-opted by commissioner David Stern — and promised the commish he could deliver the union at 50-50 — caused NBPA executive director Billy Hunter and at least one member of the union’s executive committee to confront Fisher on Friday morning and make him reassess his 50-50 push, a source familiar with the negotiations told FOXSports.com Friday afternoon.
According to my source, at least one five-time champion, NBA superstar with the initials K.B. was on board with Fisher’s push for a 50-50 split. Hunter is firm that the players should not accept less than 52-48. According to my source, Hunter and a member of the executive committee convinced Fisher to stand firm at 52-48 after they questioned the Lakers point guard about his relationship with Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver.
According to reports, Hunter ended Friday’s negotiating session, telling Stern the union would not budge on 52-48.
An ESPN Radio host also reported that Bryant and Fisher are open to a 50/50 split.
In recent press conferences, Fisher has actually played the “bad cop” to Hunter’s “good cop,” keeping a dour expression even when Hunter exchanges laughs and jokes with NBA commissioner David Stern after Thursday’s day of progress. Bryant, meanwhile, has preached union solidarity multiple times over the last year.
Circumstantially, both Fisher and Bryant have more motivation than most players to get a deal done. For Fisher, he must deliver an agreement or he will catch major Heat if a season is lost. For the aging Bryant, every season from here on out counts. He’s chasing Michael Jordan for rings and for the all-time scoring mark, and a lost season at this stage of his career would be a fairly major setback in both quests. Bryant also possesses a no b.s. personality and a killer competitive instinct; both traits have to be raging any time the NBA cancels games or whenever lawyers prevent him from practicing his craft.
But, at least for now, the reporting is thin. With offers on both sides constantly in flux over the last two weeks, and with those positions likely to continue to see significant change during the next two weeks, it will take more than this to make reports of a divide among the NBPA’s leadership stick.