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NBPA shouts met with laughter by NBA owners

Posted on: October 2, 2011 1:56 am
Edited on: October 2, 2011 1:32 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver


Saturday essentially represented the eleventh hour if ongoing labor negotiations were going to progress enough to save the start of the 2011-2012 NBA season, and the league's owners responded with all the urgency other people their age bring to planning a 2 p.m. nap. The owners wanted to save the season so badly that they agreed not to even discuss the money issue because it was so clearly a waste of time. The owners were so committed to avoiding a true work stoppage that they used the oldest trick in the book, "working late" on Saturday as an excuse to take off Sunday. 

The lasting scene from the last two fruitless days of labor negotiations is not Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade standing up to commissioner David Stern on Friday. No, the image that will endure is billionaire Heat owner Micky Arison cracking a joke about the exchange and then treating himself to a New York steak on Saturday night.

Sure, imagining Wade sticking it to basketball's bellicose bully is a great picture, but if you zoom out you can clearly see the league's owners yawning, or perhaps even chuckling, at Wade's confident petulance, knowing that his outburst stems from a growing sense of outrage and frustration at the lack of progress in the talks. "If the superstars are getting this upset," you can almost hear the owners thinking, "just imagine how mad the mid-level players must be."

Once the natural sense of satisfaction and vindication caused by Wade's confrontation with Stern wears off among the league's rank and file, they will soon realize that the exchange of words and, really, the entire appearance of stars like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony at Friday's talks in New York was nothing more than a sideshow, a distraction from the fact that the owners have not meaningfully moved on the only topic that matters: the split of basketball-related income. Expecting Wade, James and Anthony to influence the mindset of owners dead set on a financial system overhaul is as ridiculous as the costume Cleveland Cavaliers guard Baron Davis wore to the proceedings. It didn't make any difference. The superstars, it turns out, are not a panacea. So, what next?

Aside from praying for a favorable ruling by the National Labor Relations Board and the longshot, that-ship-has-sailed option of decertification, the National Basketball Players Association is running fresh out of ideas. Patience has been the order of the day up to this point but panic seems like a more apt description of what should come next, given how unblinking the owners were this weekend. As a group, the owners have shown no real cracks and they even offered up a generous, expanded revenue sharing program to the surprise of many. Sure, they are getting killed for jeopardizing the future of their league and for being profit-hungry, and they deserve every word of it, but damned if they aren't unified in their questionable course of action. They are driving this season off the cliff in tandem. Thirty motorcycles will crash into the ravine simultaneously.

And that's why the month of October in these negotiations will be defined by the resolve of the other side, which already seems a touch shaky. NBPA president Derek Fisher and executive director Billy Hunter, despite their best efforts and tireless work, have struggled to maintain order and interest among their ranks. Only a few dozen players bothered to show up at a recent regional meeting in Las Vegas and the league's star players were virtually absent during this process until their brief cameo on Friday. The NBA's most popular player, Kobe Bryant, couldn't be bothered to break off from his overseas obligations. The NBA's MVP, Derrick Rose, has been seen fighting bullfighters in sneaker commercials but hasn't stepped into the labor ring. LeBron James, the league's biggest talent, is reportedly among a group of stars ready to dig in and take a hard line at 53 percent of the BRI, regardless of the consequences, but that's easy for him to say because he's made more money in a season, multiple times, than the average player will make in a career. He has copious, global endorsement opportunities to help ease the pain, too.

Dozens of fringe players have already bailed to play basketball overseas and, with the cancelation of regular season games just around the corner, middle of the road guys who had been weighing their options are likely to follow suit. Those who don't go will only get antsier and antsier, louder and louder, once this weekend's non-action sinks in and the missed paychecks become a reality rather than a threat. When that clamoring starts to pick up, we know where the owners will be: laid back with their feet kicked up, holding onto the same demands they've held since the beginning of the process, laughing all the way to the bank.

The owners are the perfect villians: rich beyond our wildest dreams and determined to squeeze out every possible penny, regardless of the collateral damage. The scary part is that they don't care how they appear to the public, the media or, even, to Wade. The terrifying part is that it's still not totally clear the players understand what they are up against yet.

Since: Aug 22, 2007
Posted on: October 3, 2011 12:35 am

NBPA shouts met with laughter by NBA owners

where would most of these players be w/o the league?..dead or in prison, that's where.

Since: Sep 27, 2007
Posted on: October 2, 2011 10:58 pm

NBPA shouts met with laughter by NBA owners

I hope the league goes away forever. How a pro sports league managed to put out such an awful product is beyond me

Since: Sep 4, 2006
Posted on: October 2, 2011 10:17 pm

NBPA shouts met with laughter by NBA owners

" I use to be a die hard NBA fan when the players actually had some class! (Jordan era) "
You mean when there was a lockout in 1998 and Jordan was the one who told an owner to sell his team if he couldn't afford to run it? That era of class?

Since: Mar 6, 2009
Posted on: October 2, 2011 9:58 am

NBPA shouts met with laughter by NBA owners

I would laugh too if I was sitting next to the clown (Baron Davis) who decided to wear a teal flannel and wool hat to a business meeting. The players of the NBA need to realize they hold no cards. I just cancelled my NBA league pass subscription and don't really care if there is a season this year. I use to be a die hard NBA fan when the players actually had some class! (Jordan era)

Since: Aug 1, 2011
Posted on: October 2, 2011 8:03 am

NBPA shouts met with laughter by NBA owners

I couldn't make it through all the rhetoric espoused in this article on behalf of the poor, mis-treated superstars, however I do hope the author is correct on his prediction that  "owners dead set on a financial system overhaul".     Does anyone know if the league and owners could run a season with non-contract players?     I think it would make for a great season of basketball and I would use my tickets to watch such competition.

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