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Bill Russell: Hard-liners jeopardizing NBA

Posted on: November 10, 2011 3:19 pm
Edited on: November 10, 2011 4:05 pm
NEW YORK – Hall of Famer Bill Russell said a solution to the NBA lockout is being jeopardized by hard-liners on both sides, and urged the parties to put aside their differences and reach a compromise “they can live with.”

“As a very interested bystander, I just hope they get a deal,” Russell told in a phone interview. “And it will not come from the hard-liners on either side. I think they all know that. I have this theory that hard-liners are like true believers. And true believers think that any compromise is a retreat. And moving forward, that doesn’t cut it.”

Russell’s words carry weight – and not just because he is the most decorated champion in NBA history. The former Celtics’ star was among a group of 20 All-Stars who threatened to boycott the 1964 All-Star Game in Boston unless the NBA recognized the newly formed players’ union.

“Basically I was one of those guys that helped get the players’ association started,” Russell said. “And they've done wonderful things. I knew David Stern before he was commissioner, when he was associate attorney for the NBA. And if I remember correctly, he said, ‘I do not consider the players' association my adversaries. They're my business partners.’

“That's where, a lot of the things that David has done -- and I’ve known him up close -- have been beneficial for both sides,” Russell said.

Russell, 77, winner of 11 NBA titles, wanted to speak with after he learned of union attorney Jeffrey Kessler’s comments in which he referred to NBA players being treated like “plantation workers.” Kessler, who made the comments to the Washington Post Monday night, apologized to several outlets Wednesday.

“I think that's an invalid accusation,” Russell said. “I think the whole deal is not about black and white. It's about money, OK? I don’t see any signs of being greedy. It's a typical negotiation and that's all it is. And there are a couple of reasons it's difficult, because there's hard-liners on both sides.

“But to me, the name-calling or vilifying the other side is a non-issue,” Russell said. “All that is is a distraction -- a distraction from the task at hand, which is reaching an agreement that neither side will probably be completely happy with. But that's the art of compromise.”

Russell said both sides “have their points,” but he views the key stumbling blocks as owners as trying to “protect themselves from the owners” and a battle between “the small-market teams and the big-market teams.”

“The players want their fair share of the business and the small-market owners don't want to keep losing money,” Russell said.

Russell said he hasn’t kept up with the details of the negotiation, but cautioned both sides that there’s “more to the agreement than just money.”

“I told Billy Hunter a few years ago: Bargain as hard as you can and make a deal,’” Russell said. “I really like and respect David Stern, and I really like and respect Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher. My whole life I've had a love affair with the NBA, and we've had some tough negotiations over the years. But I don’t think we ever vilified the other side. We just had tough negotiations.”

I thanked Russell for his input, wished him well, and told him I hoped to see him soon – at a basketball game.

“I'd like to see a basketball game right now,” he said.

Since: Dec 18, 2006
Posted on: November 13, 2011 1:41 am

Bill Russell: Hard-liners jeopardizing NBA

Just cancel the damn season. I stand to save $500 already for sure, and that is just from fantasy basketball. And not having to hear the Miami Heat fans talking about LeBron and not having to hear the "Dream Team" predicting how many championship rings they're going to win and to hear their excuses as to why they fall short in winning the title again this year is a blessing.

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: November 12, 2011 10:04 pm

Bill Russell: Hard-liners jeopardizing NBA

I was all for the players in the NFL lockout, this one seems to be of equal blame on both sides, maybe a little more for the players. They might need to ax Billy Hunter to get a deal done.

Since: Apr 22, 2008
Posted on: November 12, 2011 7:46 pm

Bill Russell: Hard-liners jeopardizing NBA

Players make NO sacrifices at all, none, nada, zero.  Players are employees and if they do not like to work where they are, then they can go get another job, just like the rest of us. Players collect an outrageous salary for playing a game and think they are being underpaid. Let the NBA just vanish, and every other pro sport. Then start over with common sense.

Since: Nov 7, 2008
Posted on: November 12, 2011 6:42 pm

Bill Russell: Hard-liners jeopardizing NBA

Hopefully the NBA will go the way of the USFL and the NASL in soccer.  Fans are sick of the obscene tickets prices to watch a bad version of basketball.  And they see the players as greedy petulant children who are not deserving the insane amounts of money they make for playing a kids game while the rest of the economy tanks.  As much as people want to side with the "worker," it is hard to side with a group of them that wants more than 50% of the income, no financial risks at all, and are willing to take their ball and go home instead of taking these deals.  How long until we have scabs?  Bring in the D leaguers and try and get some fans back instead of nuking the season.

If not, NCAA viewership will go up, the same with hockey, and the already booming NFL.  Maybe in February, after the Super Bowl, fans might start to jones a little for the game, but not as much as before.  

If this thing drags out and cancels the season, a good chunk of fans will be lost.  They are already losing the foreign markets who are now watching their own teams instead of the NBA.  And with Yao gone, so is China.  And casual fans like myself are gone too...  

Since: Dec 24, 2006
Posted on: November 12, 2011 12:06 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Dec 22, 2006
Posted on: November 12, 2011 4:03 am

Bill Russell: Hard-liners jeopardizing NBA

This season is lost.  Both parties waited too long to start full negotiations.  The NFL started their talks immediately after their season ended and got their business done, but the NBA dragged their feet until about 2 months before their season was supposed to start.  The NHL missed a season, got their act together, and came back with a better product.  The NBA should do the same and take the next few months to work on a deal that will work for both sides.

Since: Aug 20, 2007
Posted on: November 11, 2011 11:55 pm

Bill Russell: Hard-liners jeopardizing NBA

Heck with NBA, I firmly belive if the current deal proposed by the owners isn't accepted there would be no hope to salvage the 2011-2012 season.  The players union will not accept a 53-47 revenue split in owners favor, no chance at all.  Their pride wouldn't stand for it.  They sacrificed too much to see everything they worked hard to get where they are to see it flipped over.  Granted, I'll agree that both owners and players are greedy, equally one way or another.  But still, the players are the ones that make all the 'real' sacrifices', not the owners.  I say screw the NBA and form a new basketball league with more favors in players, and see how the owners like that.

Since: Nov 7, 2011
Posted on: November 11, 2011 9:04 pm

Bill Russell: Hard-liners jeopardizing NBA

Maybe they "cna" (I think you meant "can") read if you learned how to spell!

Since: Oct 8, 2011
Posted on: November 11, 2011 8:49 pm

Bill Russell: Hard-liners jeopardizing NBA

They were supposed to have mede him coach because he was uncoachable.

Since: Jan 28, 2011
Posted on: November 11, 2011 8:10 pm

Bill Russell: Hard-liners jeopardizing NBA

Prior to 1987 no one was interested in basketball. Michael Jordan changed all that, along with Bird and Magic. Basketball has only been popular less than 25 years and these prima donnas think the American Public can't live without them? If any of you cna read (and that is probably a minority) realize that if you cause this season to disappear, Joe Six Pack will make you disappear when you come back to the court. I, for one, am joining a huge group of fans that have decided to boycott the NBA if this season is cancelled because of your selfishness and greed. There are more of US than you know exist out here. We have lives outside of bouncing a round orange ball.

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