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NBA LOCKOUT, PART II: EARLY MEDIA LINE GIVES OWNERS THE EDGE
Published June 30, 1998
NBA Commissioner David Stern "remains a power, perhaps the last powerful commissioner," according to Mark Heisler of the L.A. TIMES, who writes that a lockout "will be a test for him." Heisler: "Sources suggest that he's still riding tall in the saddle, his owners falling in line behind him, even if some don't like the idea" (L.A. TIMES, 6/30). Suns President Jerry Colangelo: "I would say that the owners are prepared to do what's necessary to correct the system because the system doesn't work" (AZ REPUBLIC, 6/30). DO OWNERS HAVE THE EDGE: In Denver, Mike Littwin calls the lockout "a huge gamble" for Stern. Littwin: "Who will blink? ... [H]ow many paychecks do the other multimillionaires want to miss? And although the owners don't want to lose any games, how important exactly are NBA games in November? I give the owners the slight edge. ... The NBA union is untested" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 6/30). In Philadelphia, Rich Hofman writes that the NBA "has all the leverage" and that the players "will be lucky to get out of this thing with their union intact" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 6/30). In Toronto, Craig Daniels writes that the union "will fight to the bitter end. Or until their membership starts missing [paychecks]" (TORONTO SUN, 6/30). NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter: "These guys will not submit, surrender or cave in as they did, under past history, if they faced losing a paycheck" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/30). On CBS SportsLine, Andy Jasner calls the players "flat-out greedy" (CBS SportsLine, 6/30). But in Philadelphia, Mike Bruton: "If the NBA owners hadn't blinked three years ago under the steely stare of a players' union mutiny, we wouldn't be on the verge of a work stoppage for the coming season" (PHILA. INQUIRER, 6/30). In N.Y., Ian O'Connor predicts an agreement in late October as the "best-case scenario," and calls the NBA's statement of unprofitablity a "hard-to-believe claim" (DAILY NEWS, 6/30). COULD PLAYERS BREAK? ESPN's David Aldridge reported that while the players have saved some money from their licensing pool, he believes it will be "very difficult ... for players to withstand a very long and prolongated lockout." Aldridge: "I'm sure that as we go into August and maybe September and there hasn't been a deal done yet, the pressure is going to really start to mount inside, from a players' standpoint, to try and make a deal that works" (ESPN, 6/30). But agent Bill Strickland said, "I get a strong sense that the players have an absolute resolve about not acting hastily this time" (STAR-LEDGER, 6/30). Agent Arn Tellem said that most players "understand a lot is at stake and that they have to show solidarity, from stars to role players to guys at the end of the bench" (AP, 6/30). Hunter: "They [the NBA] may have miscalculated this time. If they realize the players are in for the long haul, then they may become softer in their demands" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/30). Agent Marc Fleisher said he "wouldn't be surprised" if the lockout went until October. Agent Joel Bell: "I expect this to last for at least the summer" (PHILA. DAILY NEWS, 6/30). TOUGH TALK: In NJ, Dave D'Alessandro writes the "gloves have come off, the rhetoric is about to begin" (Newark STAR- LEDGER, 6/30). Hunter: "[T]he league is profitable, the commissioner and the deputy commissioner are the highest paid in professional sports, the number of league employees is growing and the average salary of coaches is higher than that of the players. So why are things so bad?" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 6/30). Stern: "What we're hearing is, 'Whatever we have, we have, and anything else is the owners' problem.' Well, that can't be" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 6/30). In N.Y., Kevin Kernan writes that fans "don't care" about basketball in the summer, but the "problem is, they may not care come November" (N.Y. POST, 6/30). A N.Y. TIMES editorial states "this could be a confrontation in which no one blinks until a large part of the season -- or even all of it -- has been canceled" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/30).