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DOES NBA LABOR DISPUTE CONTINUE TO BE DOGGED BY "RHETORIC"?
Published August 19, 1998
"Posturing, diplomacy, rhetoric and misconceptions have all dotted the line of negotiations between the NBA and the Players Association since the league imposed a lockout on July 1," according to Mike Kahn of CBS SportsLine. There is "little doubt at the moment" that NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter's "only task is to keep the players galvanized as much as possible, despite saying, 'a hard cap is not acceptable and not negotiable.'" Kahn: "There is more to it than that. He was hired, said one NBA source, 'to kick [NBA Commissioner David Stern's] butt, and unless he continues to act that way, he'll be out of a job.' So Hunter marches on." Stern: "Let's face it, this is different than any other negotiation. They may feel they're giving something back, but the players won't really understand this until they miss a paycheck. Then it will be reality to them." Kahn: "Call it idle rhetoric or posturing, there is a bottom line here, and Stern, who has been negotiating for the NBA for more than 20 years now, knows this time is different. Billy is the Hunter and Stern is the hunted. Unless the present course of action is re-examined by the players, the real losers up front will be the fans and the players, with the real future of the game itself somewhere in between. The billionaire owners will feel the pain last. But we'd better not say it too loudly, the players might hear it" (Mike Kahn, CBS SportsLine, 8/19). GOING ONE ON ONE: In the SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik and NBPA Counsel Jeffrey Kessler are interviewed in a Q&A. Granik: "I think in bargaining everybody is vulnerable. When we start missing games and we're losing receipts and players are losing salaries, ultimately, the economics have an impact." Kessler: "I do not foresee any division arising between the players" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/17 issue). THE BIRD CAGE: USA TODAY's Roscoe Nance examines the Larry Bird Exception, which is "a sacred cow" for the players. But Nance writes, "in reality, only a handful of players are beneficiaries of the Bird Exception each year." Of the NBA's 325 free agents the previous two seasons, "only" 33 have used the Bird rights to re-sign with their teams. Nance: "The popular notion is the Bird Exception only benefits the superstar players. That's not totally accurate. But it does appear to benefit superstar players to a greater degree" (Roscoe Nance, USA TODAY, 8/19). CHARITY OF NIGHT: The NBA and NBPA agreed to cooperate on the N.Y. All-Star Basketball Classic, the "seventh of eight league-sanctioned charity games to be played during the lockout." The game will be held September 9 at MSG and benefit Wheelchair Charities (N.Y. TIMES, 8/19).