By Matt Moore
In this week's edition of the Friday 5, we take a look at what the odds are of losing the season, check in on how the Joe Dumars reclamation project is going, and ponder if there's anything to move the negotiations on the new CBA forward.
1. Well, it's been a downright depressing week on the labor front. Billy Hunter says he'd "bet" on losing the whole season. You've been more optimistic like me that the season will be salvaged, but I'm losing hope. What's a percentage you'd put on missing the whole year at this point?
KB: The whole season? I'd say -- and I'm just pulling this number out of thin air based on a gut reaction -- 25 percent. When I laid out my timeline for the lockout, I predicted this would be settled by Oct. 15 -- just in time to avoid the cancellation of any regular season games. Now, I'm almost certain that prediction will be wrong and that some games will be lost.
2. Whatever happened to "we both want to keep this out of the courts?" If both sides have known the other's position for months, why the increasingly antagonistic tactics from both sides? Is there any way to defuse this situation?
KB: Well, even with the lockout well into its second month and with lawsuits and labor charges flying back and forth, the two sides can continue to negotiate. And both sides know, despite the litigation, that the only way this is going to be solved is at the bargaining table. They can do that now, next month, in October, in January, or next July -- but that's where it's going to be solved. The legal tactics are efforts by each side to gain leverage and pressure the other side to move off its bargaining position. So the only way to get closer to a deal was to escalate the legal battle and see if one side or the other can win a small battle that will bring everyone closer to a deal.
3. Let's say before the lockout is one round, the first 30 days after are another, and the last week is a third. Score the rounds for the union and the NBA.
KB: OK, pre-lockout goes to the owners, 10-8. They got their lockout, which is what they wanted all along. The month of July was a draw; nothing happened, nobody won or lost anything, and Deron Williams' foray into Turkey did not open the floodgates for other stars to leave. This past week was a decisive victory for the owners, who beat the players to the legal punch, got a Republican-appointed judge in district court, and chose a venue with an appeals circuit where the law is heavily favorable to them. Also, they exposed a rift within the players' association -- the influential agents who are clamoring for decertification vs. union officials are want to wait for this to play out with the NLRB.
4. Joe Dumars called Lawrence Frank his "mulligan" this week. Do you think the hire will wind up getting the second crack Joe's looking for at success, or is the roster too far gone?
KB: There's actually a lot to like about the Pistons' roster. I like Monroe and Jerebko, love Stuckey and Gordon, and really love the Brandon Knight pick. But as has been the case for some time, it's a matter of fit. Whenever the free-agent floodgates open, Dumars will have to move Tayshaun, Rip or preferably both. L-Frank is a solid coach, and his defensive principles will get the Pistons back to their roots. But he's wired, high-strung and emotional -- all traits that will play better with the younger core than with the old guard. So nothing's changed in that respect; the old guard has to go for the Pistons to truly turn the page and move on.
5. Tell me why the endorsement money, not the salary, but endorsement money in China and overseas isn't enough to tempt players with the lure of being a "global brand."
KB: Well, several top stars already have significant endorsement deals in China. Signing there and playing there for a while certainly could enhance that. But this isn't really the question to be asking. Every move by the players should be viewed through the prism of the lockout, and what helps their bargaining position. I disagree with the NBPA over how much an overseas exodus of stars would help the union's bargaining position. I don't think a handful of stars "getting theirs" in China or anywhere else helps the union at the bargaining table. Even if 20 stars sign there -- and that would be a lot -- where does that leave the other 400 players? True, you can't have an NBA without the stars, but you can't have a powerful bargaining unit without them, either. And since they'll all have out clauses to come back when the lockout ends, what are they really accomplishing there, anyway? One last point: If the best the NBA's top players can do is $1 million a month to play overseas, what does that really tell the owners who were paying them many multiples of that under the previous CBA? As one front office executive told me recently, "I think Dr. Buss would kill to pay Kobe $1.5 million a month." Look at it another way: If a $17 million player like Deron Williams goes to Turkey and the best he can do is get $5 million, the owners respond, "Why don't you just stay here for $10 million?" That's the clearest explanation I've heard for why this overseas stuff doesn't make sense for the players.