Posted on: December 24, 2010 10:04 pm

NBPA prez Fisher disagrees with contraction talk

It didn't take long for LeBron James' idea of creating a new golden age of basketball by eliminating teams to reach the ears of National Basketball Players Association president Derek Fisher

"I agree that the '80s was a great time for NBA basketball," Fisher told reporters Friday after practice at the Lakers' facility in El Segundo. "But I don't agree that contraction or arbitrarily trying to get Hall of Fame or All-Star guys all on the same team is necessarily how you re-create one of the greatest times in NBA history." 

Via the Los Angeles Times Lakers blog: Derek Fisher disagrees with LeBron James endorsing league contraction

When asked Thursday night in Phoenix – by me, if you must know – whether the anticipation of Saturday’s clash between the Lakers and free-agent-fortified Heat was validation for the decision by James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to team up in South Beach, James went on an articulate and controversial tangent about how the NBA’s overall talent is “watered down.” 

“Hopefully the league can figure out one day how it can go back to the situation like it was in the ‘80s,” James said. “… The league was great. It wasn’t as watered down as it is. You had more [star] players on a team, which made almost every game anticipated -- not just a Christmas Day game, not just a Halloween game. I don’t ever think it’s bad for the league when guys decide that they want to do some greatness for the better of what we call a team sport.” 

Via CBSSports.com's BergerSphere: LeBron: Contraction would be 'great' for NBA

When it was pointed out to James that the NBA only had 24 teams back then, as opposed to the 30 it has now, James said, “That’s why. That’s my point.” 

Unsolicited, he then listed some of the teams in the ‘80s that had multiple All-Stars or Hall of Famers. But his soliloquy took a decidedly anti-union direction when he went so far as to name teams that are “not that good right now” – Minnesota and New Jersey were his examples – and spoke about what would happen if you took the good players on those teams and put them on better teams. Such a move would “shrink the guys” James said – a nice way of saying jobs would be lost through contraction, a concept that league negotiators have already confirmed is on the table as part of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. 

“I’m not saying let's take New Jersey and let's take Minnesota out of the league,” James said. “But hey, you guys are not stupid. I'm not stupid, but I know what would be great for the league." 

Fisher, whose union clearly would oppose such a move, said he disagreed with LeBron’s comments but didn’t believe they will hurt the NBPA’s cause in negotiations. 

"I don't think it's my place to tell one of our guys what they should be thinking or feeling or saying,” Fisher said. “But I don't necessarily agree with it." 

One of the biggest stars in the NBA talking about making the league great again by concentrating the talent on fewer teams? That’s certainly something the 30 worse players in the league can’t be happy about – considering that’s how many jobs would be lost if two teams were contracted. 

It’s also hard to see how the overall product wouldn’t be better. That’s something Fisher, union chief Billy Hunter, commissioner David Stern and his 30 (for now) owners will have to figure out.
Posted on: December 23, 2010 10:21 pm
Edited on: December 24, 2010 12:20 am

LeBron: Contraction would be 'great' for NBA

PHOENIX -- During a candid pregame discussion about whether the formation of Miami’s free-agent trio was good for the NBA, LeBron James said the most sensible thing I’ve ever heard him say. 

Contraction would be great for the NBA. 

Well, he didn’t us the word “contraction,” but James said he hopes that some day the NBA will be able to figure out how to bring the game back to the greatness that was experienced in the 1980s, when “ten teams had probably two or three All-Stars on one team, at least.” 

When someone correctly pointed out that there were only 24 teams then, as opposed to the 30 that exist now, James said, “That’s why it was great. That’s my point.” 

The conversation began when LeBron was asked if the nationwide anticipation of the Heat-Lakers game on Christmas Day was validation of Dwyane Wade’s plan to join forces with James and Chris Bosh in Miami. Oh, and before we’ve even gotten to the showcase game on Saturday, the league’s TV ratings are up 30 percent this season. Something must be working. 

But as owners of high- and low-revenue teams continue to debate how to enhance the league’s revenue-sharing system in conjunction with negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement, the greatness James remembers from the NBA of the ‘80s is only being experienced in a few cities. The Lakers, Mavericks, Spurs, Celtics, Heat and Magic – plus maybe Utah and Chicago – have a legitimate chance at winning the championship. The rest of the teams can only wallow in their own pity – and tens of millions in losses, according to commissioner David Stern. 

“Hopefully the league can figure out one day how it can go back to the situation like it was in the ‘80s,” James said. “… The league was great. It wasn’t as watered down as it is. You had more [star] players on a team, which made almost every game anticipated -- not just a Christmas Day game, not just a Halloween game. I don’t ever think it’s bad for the league when guys decide that they want to do some greatness for the better of what we call a team sport. 

“I’m a player," James said, "but that’s why the league was so great. You can just imagine if you could take Kevin Love off Minnesota and add him to another team and you shrink the guys … I’m just looking at some of the teams that are not that great. You take Brook Lopez or you take Devin Harris off teams that are not that good right now and add them to a team that could be really good. I’m not saying let’s take New Jersey, let’s take Minnesota out of the league. But hey, you guys are not stupid. I’m not stupid, but I know what would be great for the league.” 

He’s right. So you see, there was genius in LeBron’s decision to go to Miami. Because that was only part of the plan. 

I wish he’d announced on “The Decision” that after signing with the Heat, he was also eliminating six teams from the NBA. He wouldn’t have been nearly the villain he’s become.
Posted on: October 22, 2010 7:11 pm

Stern's tipoff: Let the rhetoric begin

The typically rosy tone of David Stern's tipoff conference call was mostly gone Friday, replaced by some more gloomy proclamations even as the commissioner admitted what should be obvious: 'Tis the season for rhetoric.

Stern didn't back away from his assertion a day earlier that the league is seeking to cut player salaries by $750 million to $800 million in a new collective bargaining agreement -- though he retroactively tried to downplay it as not news, since the figure was included in the owners' initial proposal to the players in January. He also confirmed a CBSSports.com report that contraction is "on the table" in negotiations with the players as a last-ditch means to restore competitive balance and profitability.

"The issue of contraction is one that has to be discussed in the context of collective bargaining with the players," Stern said. "Whether or if there are markets where there may not be buyers for teams that are looking to be sold, that raises the issue of contraction. It’s sensitive subject for me because I've spent 27 years in this job working very hard not only to maintain all of our teams, but along the way add a few. But I think that’s a subject that will be on the table with the players as we look to see what [is] the optimum way to present our game and are there cities and teams that cannot make it in the current economic environment. We’re not spending a lot of time on it."

But perhaps the most revealing moment in Stern's second straight day under oath in the court of labor negotiations came when he admitted what veterans of past labor strife know all too well: Nothing gets done until the last minute, and now is when the rhetoric runs deep.

After Stern's $750 million rocket made its way to the National Basketball Players Association offices Thursday -- and to union chief Billy Hunter's ear on the road -- the union issued a statement from Hunter that read, in part:

"If the owners maintain their position, it will inevitably result in a lockout and the cancellation of part or all of the 2011-2012 season. The players and union will prepare accordingly."

When I asked Stern if he shared this grim view, the commissioner said, "I don't believe that Billy wrote that because he wouldn't threaten me with a lockout And all I can say is that's what negotiations are for and we're looking forward to our next negotiating session."

So, this is par for the course, I asked?

"Absolutely," Stern said. "It's classic negotiating rhetoric, probably on both sides."

Of all the words spoken in the past 48 hours about the NBA's labor strife, those last four were the most revealing and important: "probably on both sides."

As Stern has pointed out numerous times, this isn't his first rodeo. He's participated in so many bargaining sessions that he could play the accompanying background music in his sleep. If I'm scoring this one at home, I say both sides have done a masterful job so far. The union has done an effective job of discrediting the owners' cries of poverty, and Stern is at the top of his game when it comes to tilting the negotiating table this way and that until the final result lands in the middle: a deal everyone can live with.

Stern and his army of lawyers and accountants threw everything including the kitchen sink in the owners' first proposal. On Thursday, he went public with just how much owners seek to reduce player salaries. Now, the old-fashioned trick of threatening to nuke struggling franchises -- and dozens of corresponding player jobs -- has entered the equation.

By the time he's finished, Stern will have given so much of that back to the players that they'll feel like they won. As Stern said Friday, "We know we're going to get a deal done."

Just brace yourselves, because there's a whole lot of rhetoric left to be spewed between now and June 30, 2011.

Somewhere underneath it all, there will be a pretty interesting basketball season.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com