Posted on: October 15, 2011 7:47 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2011 8:02 pm

McGee's blunder least of NBPA's concerns

Posted by Ben Golliver


"Ready to fold." 

Those three words, uttered by Washington Wizards center JaVale McGee as he exited a players union meeting in Los Angeles, will wind up being the only words that anyone remembers from the last week of NBA labor negotiations.

That's in spite of the union's best -- and worst -- efforts. National Basketball Players Association president Derek Fisher launched a social media campaign around the words "let us play." Over and over, from union leadership and players, we heard the phrase "stand united." New York Knicks All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony put it more bluntly: "This s*** sucks." And, mixed into all of that, there were numerous apologies from players to fans for the lack of real basketball.

The reason McGee's words will have staying power, even though they were almost immediately retracted and then later shot down by union leadership, is because they are the only words spoken recently that promise a resolution. Patience is a finite virtue. When McGee admitted that some of his fellow meeting-goers in Los Angeles were ready to forego the hard line for the quick deal, the first plainly verbalized cracks in the union's armor during months of negotiations against a group of owners that appears firmly entrenched, he obviously undercut his side's position but gifted fans and observers with hope that this maddeningly long negotiation might actually end before commissioner David Stern has to push the red button and cancel the whole season.

"The person who spent the least amount of time in the room can't make that statement," Fisher said of McGee's remarks on Friday. "He's in no position to make that statement on behalf of the group."

"As it turned out, the pacifists in the room happened to be me and Derek," NBPA executive director Billy Hunter added. "These guys behind us happen to be extremely strident. They thought we were starting to weaken."

But no amount of distancing or deflecting on behalf of the union's two-headed public leadership, nor a Twitter denial from McGee posted just minutes before audio confirming his comments went up online, can undo the damage. If the NBA's owners needed any confirmation that their plan to stall negotiations long enough for players to miss checks and agree to system-altering changes that will cost them hundreds of millions of dollars, this was it. "McGee will pay for his honesty," you can imagine the owners thinking. "Call David and tell him to lower our BRI offer by two percent."

But there's a bigger problem for the players. Yes, McGee's admission was as idiotic as it gets -- the only worse words that could have been uttered under the circumstances would have been "We surrender" -- but it was only a symptom, not the disease. 

You can see the disease when you fact-check Fisher's response to McGee.

Because McGee, even though he reportedly left the meeting after less than two hours, with discussion carrying on for another hour or so, was not actually the person who spent the least amount of time in the room. In fact, McGee spent more time in that room than 90 percent of the NBPA's membership. Fisher, despite the social media campaign and multiple appeals to his members, was only able to convince 30 out of 450 players to attend. Most of the players that showed up were the same faces who showed up to the last regional meeting in Las Vegas. Some of those who showed up live in Los Angeles. Some of those who showed up are NBPA board members. Some of those who showed up are rookies whose professional careers have been hijacked by this process and have nowhere else to go.

That's 30 players in attendance with two weeks already cancelled and the rest of the season hanging in the balance. 30 players in attendance with their livelihoods on the line and the next six to ten years of basketball up for grabs. This was supposed to be a critical meeting in which everyone was invited to make difficult decisions, not a reenactment of the courtside scene before Miami Heat home games. Did Fisher have to break out white sheets to cover up empty seats? 

While Fisher was wrong to say that McGee spent the least amount of time in the room, he was correct in saying that McGee doesn't speak for the group. Because the group, the vast majority of players who will eventually vote on a new labor deal, speaks with no voice, offering little to no support for its union leadership. That silence, not McGee's bumbling errer or Fisher's eloquent speeches or Hunter's bombastic rhetoric, is what speaks for the union right now. 

You can read that silence as resignation or apathy or as misplaced faith that the owners, eventually, will come to their senses and things will work out. But if we, Fisher included, are going to kill McGee for his honesty and for leaving early, we should at least acknowledge that he actually showed up in the first place. That's more than can be said for most of his colleagues.

I take Fisher and Hunter at their word that the players in that Beverly Hilton room remain "strident" and ready for war with the owners. It's the rest of the players that they should be worried about. Because if more players don't start showing that they care by voting with their presence, what little sympathy the public has left for them will evaporate in the face of disappointment, frustration and, yes, disgust and resentment. That, combined with missed paychecks, creates a vicious cycle in which those players who were already thinking about folding, start thinking harder about it.

NBA owners -- and Stern -- are the type of businessmen born with a sixth sense for sniffing out fear and desperation. So far, the process has played out exactly according to plan for them. An apathetic rank-and-file that doesn't speak loudly and together is a body that will be amenable to the first deal presented to it, regardless of the details. The owners are banking on continued quiet from the vast majority of the players.

Folding in a billion dollar negotiation isn't likely to be a loud, spectacular scene with shouts, screams and tears. It will probably happen in silence. This is America, where money -- large amounts of money -- disappears all the time, because nobody says a word.
Posted on: October 15, 2011 4:15 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2011 6:23 pm

NBPA calls Stern's Tuesday deadline 'arbitrary'

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

NBA commissioner David Stern minced no words in countless radio and television interviews this week: If a labor agreement can't be reached with the National Basketball Players Association during a Tuesday negotiation session led by federal mediator George Cohen, then the league's annual Christmas Day games will be put into grave jeopardy. 

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com recorded the clear, repeated threats.
"It's time to make the deal," Stern said,  "If we don't make it on Tuesday, my gut -- this is not in my official capacity of canceling games -- but my gut is that we won't be playing on Christmas Day."

"Deal Tuesday, or we potentially spiral into situations where the worsening offers on both sides make it even harder for the parties to make a deal," Stern said.
NBPA president Derek Fisher and executive director Billy Hunter pushed back hard against those threats following a union regional meeting at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles on Friday.

Fisher made it sound like the deadline and the urgency surrounding it were simply figments of Stern's imagination.

"That's an arbitrary deadline just to throw out on commissioner Stern's part," Fisher said. "We don't see it that way. Obviously he's entitled to make the statement but it just seems very arbitrary and with no real purpose other than to sway player sentiment. I don't agree with the way it's been done but I'm not him so I can't speak to that part of it."

Hunter called out the NBA for choosing to limit its availability for discussions next week.

"George Cohen, the federal mediator, was proposing that we actually set all of next week aside," Hunter said. "The entire week, for mediation. It's because of the NBA's schedule and the commissioner's alleged inability to get together with us over four or five days, I think he set the sort of superficial, arbitrary deadline saying that if it doesn't happen by Tuesday then all these other things will evolve as a consequence." 

Hunter also noted that its unrealistic to expect a single day of negotiating to produce a new collective bargaining agreement.

"My attitude is that if they really want to get a deal, we've been negotiating for over two years," he said. "The probability and likelihood of getting it in one day, because we'll only be together one day on Tuesday, then I believe the NBA has scheduled Board of Governors meetings and other meetings on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. So that's why it's limited to one day and one day only."

If Stern's purpose in launching the media blitz and ramping up the threats was to appeal to rank-and-file union members, Fisher said it won't work. 

"For our players, we've made a pledge not to continue in any way to allow what is say or written or printed in the media or statements that would be made to frustrate us or sway us in any way," he said. "To make sure we're thinking as businessmen and we're being very smart about what we need to do."

Hunter even resorted to a firearm metaphor to underscore how undeterred he was by Stern's threats of cancelled games and "vaporized" player wages.

"I think it can only get worse for both of us," Hunter said. "If somebody is pointing a gun at my head, I'm going to point one back at him. That door doesn't swing one way. It's not just the players who will suffer if games are lost."
Posted on: October 15, 2011 4:06 pm
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Posted on: October 15, 2011 3:26 pm

Report: Garnett, Pierce, Kobe intervened in talks

By Matt Moore

Imagine there's a U.N. debate. It's a discussion on global economics, centered around a few key and pivotal points, and a compromise must be reached in some form. The ramifications of this meeting are monumental dependent on the outcome (I know, it's the U.N., use your imagination). Both sides began on polar opposite sides of the issues. But as things have gone on, there have been more and more concessions from both sides, though clearly one side is expressing its overwhelming leverage from a position of strength, arguably to an excessive degree. 

To close this deal, with so much on the line, do you send in your experienced diplomat, the man who has the know-how and demeanor to establish guidelines, work to squirrel away as much as can be reasonably established,  and ensure that the lines of communication stay open? Or do you send in your slightly off-balance general who too often resorts to screaming and who considers everything to be a battlefield?

The owners sent in the warrior, and that at least partially contributed to the disaster of losing games so close to a deal.

Dual independent reports from ESPN today tell of the meeting that could have saved the season, and of the reported 50/50 deal that fell apart (which both sides claim came from the other side). And the conclusion came not with Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher dealing with the union, but with Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant... and Kevin Garnett marching in to tell the owner's what what.

The first report came from Bill Simmons in his column yesterday at Grantland 
During one of the single biggest meetings (last week, on Tuesday), Hunter had Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce and Garnett (combined years spent in college: three) negotiate directly with Stern in some sort of misguided "Look how resolved we are, you're not gonna intimidate us!" ploy that backfired so badly that one of their teams' owners was summoned into the meeting specifically to calm his player down and undo some of the damage. (I'll let you guess the player. It's not hard.) And this helped the situation … how? And we thought this was going to work … why?
via Bill Simmons Avoids a Few Subjects Before Making His Week 6 NFL Picks - Grantland.

OK, a vague report which doesn't name the particular player that went nuts. We can pass that asi...oh. From TrueHoop:
As Stern has recounted a dozen times since, not long after what was supposed to have been the hallway conversation that saved the season, something odd and wholly unexpected happened. There was a knock on the door where Stern was selling his owners on the idea. The players wanted to talk.

When they convened, instead of the union's head, Hunter, or their negotiating committee of Maurice Evans, Matt Bonner, Roger Mason, Theo Ratliff, Etan Thomas and Chris Paul, representing the players were Fisher, Kessler, and three superstars who had been to very few of the meetings at all: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant.

A bad sign: Pierce was still wearing his backpack.

The players had two pieces of news that shocked the league: 50/50 was not good enough. And there was nothing further to discuss.


And players who hadn't even been in the talks, and who seemed not to be on the same page with the crew that had endured more than 40 meetings, had been the ones to reject the best offer the league was likely to have, and to end the best day of negotiations prematurely.

What in the hell was going on? How had they so misread the situation? And where was Billy Hunter? Who spoke for the union? Should the league have been negotiating with Kevin Garnett all along?
via TrueHoop Blog - ESPN.

Ooh, ooh! I'll answer it! Me! Me! Me!


Under no circumstances should Kevin Garnett be in charge of negotiating anything but an entry pass from Rajon Rondo on the left block. That's it. Not only should Garnett not be heading the conversations, Garnett shouldn't be allowed inside the building. He, Dan Gilbert, and Robert Sarver should be barred from the building, through court orders, if necessary. This whole disgusting charade has gone on long enough with ego, dramatics, and nonsense running the show. This is a business negotiation, and even if both sides want to approach it from the ruthless, cutthroat perspective, let it be done with the pen, not with petty shows of strength that only manage to detonate critical talks at a critical time. 

Garnett's going to get the most blame for this based off of his reported behavior. But Pierce and Kobe were both in the room, and should share the blame. The goal was to show the owners they won't back down. What they managed to do was weaken the union's position by making them look out of their league, which was reinforced on Friday with JaVale McGee's "folding" disaster. It's admirable that the players wanted to make a show of strength. But this wasn't the way to do it. Calmly standing behind Billy Hunter and reasserting their stand at 53 percent? Okay, not really helping the whole situation, but it's a reasonable position. 

Going solo with or without Hunter's permission and winding up in a screaming match with the owners?

That's not a reasonable approach. That's making a bad situation worse.

This entire scenario is reflective of the simplest terms of the lockout. The owners have been intransigent, manipulative, hypocritcal, and self-contradictory. They've pushed 50/50 as a compromise, when in reality it's a cave-in by the players to what the owner want. They've extorted and back the players into a corner. It's nearly shameful the power grab that's gone on throughout the course of these negotiations, dating back two years. 

And the players?

They're in that corner, and they can't stop themselves from running into the walls.

God save the NBA.  
Posted on: October 15, 2011 2:48 am
Edited on: October 15, 2011 3:00 am

Mayors write letter urging NBA labor compromise

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

Mayors are usually only good for riding in the back of convertibles during parades, promising to lower taxes and lock up sex offenders, and dramatically cutting ribbon with oversized scissors, so it came as a pleasant surprise this week when a group of them decided to nudge their way into the ongoing NBA lockout.

WISHTV.com reports that 14 mayors from NBA cities addressed a joint letter to commissioner David Stern and National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter requesting that the two sides work to salvage a season and to end the lockout as quickly as possible.

The letter can be read here. The following is an excerpt.
Unfortunately, lost in the debate over a new NBA collective bargaining agreement, has been the perspective of those very residents and the negative impact a cancelled season might have on them, our cities and our local economies.

We know the issues being discussed between NBA owners and players are complex and need to be addressed to ensure the long-term wellbeing of the league. We are not interested in taking a side. The United States Conference of Mayors has always maintained impartiality in major leagues sports negotiations.

Rather, we respectfully ask that you consider the consequences to our cities should the lockout continue. We ask that you work quickly to find a way to compromise so that we might salvage the upcoming NBA season. 
As WISHTV.com notes, the letter is written without taking a side in the dispute. The goal is compromise for both sides, not victory for one or the other. Among the undersigned include Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, an All-Star guard for the Phoenix Suns in the 1990s, and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, an All-Star guard for the Pistons in the 1960s and 1970s.

The big question here is whether this letter will influence the negotiations. The answer is no, not at all, but at least they tried.

On Monday, Stern announced the cancellation of the first two weeks of the league's regular season. Previously, he cancelled the entire preseason schedule and postponed the start of training camp. Stern said Thursday that if a deal cannot be reached by Tuesday, Oct. 10, that the league's annual Christmas Day games could be in jeopardy.
Posted on: October 15, 2011 12:00 am

EOB Roundtable: Lockout Winners and Losers

By Matt Moore

Matt Moore:So who, individually is winning and losing the lockout? My brief list. 
Winners: David West, Greg Oden (rehab). Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash (age). Kevin Love, Dwyane Wade (image). 
Losers: Rookies (obv.). DeAndre Jordan ($$$$$). 
Royce Young: Derek Fisher. I think he's increased his image as the statesman of the NBA. I don't know how good a job he's really doing, but he always comes across as measured, professional and calm. The guy's in the twilight of his NBA career, but his performance as president of the union is going to net him a pretty sweet gig after he retires, I think. Front office exec? Coach? The next Billy Hunter? I could see basically anything for Fisher. 

Ben Golliver: I hate to say it but I think LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are big winners here. No one entered the offseason with more motivation to bring their A-game to the 2011-2012 season after that jenga collapse in the Finals. As the lockout dragged on, the usual motivating factors for the average player disappeared. Watching these guys workout, play in exhibition games, etc. it's clear they will be ready to go from day one. They will blitz some people hard out of the gate and should stack up enough victories early to get the rest they wanted before last year's playoffs. Same thing, to a lesser extent, goes for Kevin Durant, who has just been a maniac.

Of the younger guys, I like what John Wall and Brandon Jennings did to increase their exposure. Whether that counts for anything long-term is anyone's guess. Both elevated their profile for sure. I still like what Deron Williams and Ty Lawson did, accepting the challenge of a different lifestyle and continuing to play in competitive leagues. Williams took a significantly bigger risk, but as long as he comes home without injury he will be a winner in my eyes. Zigging when everyone zags deserves some kudos. Props to Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas and the other rookies that went back to school. We get on people for jumping too early but never give the round of applause for guys who get back on the diploma track.

They are bigger picture winners.

Eddy Curry is the biggest loser of the lockout and, really, of life. Scratching from exhibition games is really the bottom of the barrel. Same thing goes for Michael Beasley and Matt Barnes and their idiotic antics. Nobody needs any of that. Beasley caught a break when Rick Adelman got hired. He is about to get a great coach. Let's see if he embraces or squelches this opportunity. Take a guess at which is more likely. 
Matt Moore: I'd argue Deron's a loser. He made the money but admitted it's been hard on the family and they're not winning and the attendance is terrible. As the biggest star to go he was under pressure to convert that opportunity into success. Making the money, which is always dicey overseas, doesn't make up for the other problems and the lack of impact. 

Ben Golliver: If it was that bad he would have left. He's said its brought his family closer together and has been a one-in-a-lifetime experience. I think we can take him at his word about that.

Royce Young:I definitely agree with that, Matt. Deron messed up, in my mind. The Besiktas deal really didn't turn out to be all that lucrative and instead of pimping his profile here in the charity pro-am games, he's toiling away in Turkey in front of half empty arenas. What's so great about that?  If it was just intended to be a family vacation, good for him, but I don't know why you can't just go to Turkey. Why sign to play for Besiktas? He got less than other superstars because he signed so early and I don't think he's really gained a whole lot out of it otherwise. 

Matt Moore: Also, if we're talking bigger picture winners, no player is a winner because they lost a bazillion dollars between negotiations and lost paychecks.

Ben Golliver: Name one player who made more money playing basketball during the lockout than Deron Williams.

Royce Young: I don't think that's the point though. He didn't make all that much in relative terms, plus hasn't benefitted as much as some other players that stayed here. Williams is a star player. And he's the only star that signed overseas. Don't you think that's a little weird? 

Ben Golliver: Not at all. He was in a unique situation with his contract extension coming up, with an open mind, a desire to see the world and make money, and a team that would give him a max contract even if he broke both his legs because they already mortgaged the franchise for him. Why single someone out for criticism because he made a unique choice that will prove to be in his best interests as long as he doesn't get hurt (and could still be in his best interests even if he does)? This was a great way to get back in shape after an injury, it took guts, he's getting rewarded and he is living life on his own terms, not those of the NBA owners. He's not begging fans to let him play on Twitter, he proactively sought a deal that will pay him more than any other player during the down time and will be ready to go when the NBA is back. It wasn't a decision many stars could make but there were good reasons behind it and he showed courage. That makes him a winner to me. 
Posted on: October 14, 2011 8:09 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2011 2:22 am

NBPA's Derek Fisher rips McGee for 'fold' comment

Posted by Ben Golliver

On Friday, the National Basketball Players Association held a regional meeting in Los Angeles to discuss the ongoing labor negotiations with the NBA. As noted earlier, Washington Wizards center JaVale McGee exited the meeting before it was over and admitted to reporters that "some guys are in there saying they're ready to fold." McGee immediately denied making that comment on Twitter, but the damage was done, as audio of his comments quickly surfaced.

In a press conference following the meeting, NBPA president Derek Fisher had some harsh words for McGee. 

"Look, let me say this," Fisher said. "The person who spent the least amount of time in the room can't make that statement. He's in no position to make that statement on behalf of the group."

Fisher continued: "As I said earlier, it's obviously fair in negotiations of this magnitude that we're going to have guys with differing opinions because we have guys that are in different positions. We have guys who are free agents this summer that are extremely excited about trying to get a deal done because for the first time they really have an opportunity to get paid by a team that really wants their services. We have guys who are veteran guys who know they only have two or three or four more years left to play, and they want to get back on the court. We have guys who just got drafted who still haven't had a chance to put on their uniform and play for the team they got drafted by."

Rather than focusing on differing opinions, Fisher argued, the focus should be on the union's ability to exit its meetings with a consensus. 

"Within all those different prospects and positions, you're going to have differing opinions and thoughts about what should be going on," Fisher said. "But at the end of the day, that's my job, Billy's job, Maurice's job, our player reps and our guys to weigh the statements made by the guys who spend the least amount of time in the room versus the guys' statements who spend the most amount of time in the room. At the end of the day, we come out with a decision that's best for a majority of our guys."

At that point, NBPA executive director Billy Hunter interjected and attempted to deflect some of the potential criticism.

"It was a shame [McGee] left so soon," Hunter said. "As it turned out, the pacifists in the room happened to be me and Derek. These guys behind us happen to be extremely strident. They thought we were starting to weaken."

Here's video of NBPA president Derek Fisher and executive director Billy Hunter reacting to a question about JaVale McGee saying that some NBA players are "ready to fold."

Posted on: October 14, 2011 6:11 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 7:42 pm

JaVale McGee: Some NBA players 'ready to fold'

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

The National Basketball Players Association held a regional meeting in Los Angeles on Friday afternoon to discuss the state of the ongoing labor negotiations with the NBA. The early word was not exactly on message.

SI.com reports that Washington Wizards center JaVale McGee left the media early to attend another engagement, noting: "There's definitely some guys in there saying that they're ready to fold, but the majority are willing to stand strong."

On Thursday, Fisher wrote on Twitter that the meeting was "important" and noted that "all players including rookies [were] welcome."

Despite that plea, SlamOnline.com reported that McGee estimated that the number of attendees was "about 25 to 30," fewer than the number who attended the NBPA's most recent regional meeting, held in Las Vegas back in September.  

"Everybody knows we've got to get more people to come to the meetings," McGee said, according to SI.com.

Shortly after multiple sources independently reported McGee's comments, he posted the following message on Twitter: "I never said anyone is ready to fold! Media always wanna turn it!"

Within an hour, the Los Angeles Times posted audio of McGee's comments, confirming that he did make the statement.

The NBPA's meeting is taking place one day after NBA commissioner David Stern began a media blitz that included an attack on NBPA executive director Billy Hunter, who he said has been inaccurately representing the NBA's offer to rank-and-file players.

Check back later for further updates from the NBPA's labor meeting in Los Angeles.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com