SBD/October 12, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBA Lockout Watch, Day 104: Stern, Owners Taken To Task By Media Critics

Kevin Siers' editorial cartoon offering today focuses on the NBA lockout
A number of NBA columnists look at the role of Commissioner David Stern and team owners in the lockout, and “nobody loses more than Stern" during these cancelled games, according to Ian O’Connor of ESPN N.Y., who wrote under the header, "Stern Stuck Around One Season Too Long." A league source said, "He's definitely lost some of his power. Because of all the new owners that have come into the league, David had a lot more strength in the last lockout than he has in this one. But he's still the guy running the league, so he's the one whose legacy gets hurt." A player agent said, "This lockout is going to hurt him. He's usually Teflon, and yet I think this one is going to stick to him." O'Connor: "At a time when his sport was riding a tidal wave of momentum, Stern failed to build either a consensus among his owners or a bridge to his players. ... It's too late to turn back now. With his NBA shut down for business one more time, David Stern looks like just another basketball star who should have passed the ball" (ESPNNY.com, 10/11). YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski wrote Stern is a "master manipulator, and that's never been easier to see." Throughout the talks, he has had the NBPA leadership "on a string. His agenda, his deadlines, his conditions to meet." Wojnarowski: "This ends when Stern’s done administering a beating on behalf of his owners. Maybe the NBA comes back for a 50-game season, maybe it loses everything. Whatever happens, David Stern, the great illusionist, will dictate the machinations, because this year belongs to him" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/11). In Miami, Israel Gutierrez writes there has "never been a clearer picture of who the true villain is when it comes to this NBA lockout." It is "now terribly obvious just how much manipulating is being done here by the NBA’s commissioner and owners." System issues rather than revenue split appear "to be the bigger problem," and this "looks to have been Stern’s plan the entire time." Gutierrez: "It's so infuriating that he’s now claiming that this gulf in the 'system' discussion is what could extend this lockout to depressing lengths. ... If Stern really cared that much about his smaller markets, he'd do his best to put an end to this lockout soon. Because it's the fans in those markets who will abandon the NBA first, if they haven't already." The league "has been and always will be driven by the elite" (MIAMI HERALD, 10/12).

OWNER STRATEGY
: In N.Y., Howard Beck in a front page piece reports the NBA "wants what football has: competitive balance, a healthy distribution of talent and a belief that every team, regardless of market size, should have the chance to win a title." The league sees a "model worth emulating and is willing to sacrifice what is regarded as all but sacred -- actual games -- to get it." But while the NBA's "labor crisis is certainly about money, how best to divide its billions, the negotiations ultimately stalled over broader, systemic concerns" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/12). TNT analyst Charles Barkley said, "If you notice, [Stern] mentioned every small-market team. The NBA owners are going to protect these small-market teams. They don't like the fact all the stars want to play in big cities. And this whole thing is going to be about: We're not going to be like baseball, where you have 20 bad franchises that are really like a minor league system until the players get good enough and then they go to the Yankees or Red Sox." Barkley added, "I thought it was very telling that Commissioner Stern mentioned every small-market team. That's what this thing is about. They're not going to let just the big markets dominate like they do in baseball" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 10/11). In Orlando, Brian Schmitz wrote the NBA owners are "trying to correct mistakes made long ago, gross mismanagement that has caught up with their bottom lines, miscues made by owners who acted more like cheerleaders than businessmen." Schmitz: "Why didn’t Commissioner David Stern step in to protect owners from themselves, in the best interest of the game? ... Owners and the league are largely to blame for this mess. They gave away too much of the family store to the players years ago" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 10/11).

OWNERS CREATED SITUATION
: In Houston, Jonathan Feigen wrote the owners "made this system" and "created this mess." It seemed "from the start that the league wanted to crush the union and score some sort of spectacularly one-sided victory." But the players have "in many ways ignored everything the owners have understandably argued that they need to change in the way the system works." The players and owners "did more damage than either could have alone." Their job was "not to dig in and prove how willing they are to hurt the sport and themselves." It was to "hammer out a deal that works without wrecking the place. They failed" (CHRON.com, 10/11). In Boston, Steve Bulpett notes the "longer this drags out, the more likely it is the league will extract more favorable arrangements." The league is "definitely better-equipped to hold its line" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/12). In Toronto, Ryan Wolstat writes the only "realistic outcome in all of this is a victory by the owners." Wolstat: "Sometime down the line, the owners are going to win. We just don't know by how much" (TORONTO SUN, 10/12). In Oklahoma City, Darnell Mayberry wrote fans’ only hope for a season is “players caving. If they don’t, the 2011-12 season will go down in the annals of NBA history as the first season to never happen" (NEWSOK.com, 10/11). CSNBayArea.com's Matt Steinmetz said, "The players are going to get hammered, it’s just of matter of how it’s all going to come out at the end” ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 10/11). In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence writes, "No matter if you think the owners are right to try to get a new economic system, or if you think the players are right for trying to keep their sacred soft-cap system, you have to agree on one thing: The two sides have taken the plunge into the abyss together. And took it thinking they know what the consequences would be. But they really don't know, since this isn't 1999. Whatever damage they are going to incur from this lockout, they have brought it on themselves" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/12). In Atlanta, Jeff Schultz writes the lockout will “last as long as it takes for the players to cave.” Schultz: “The owners created this mess by giving out stupid contracts. But the economics of the league can’t support the current CBA and the players need to realize that” (AJC.com, 10/11). TNT’s David Aldridge said the “players are much more unified than they were in ’98, and even though I’m sure you may have one or two guys go off on Twitter on their own, I think most players are solidly behind the union." Stars like Lakers G Kobe Bryant, Heat F LeBron James and Celtics F Kevin Garnett coming to the meetings in N.Y. last week "gives the union a good backing because if those guys are willing to miss paychecks in support of the union” then it is “hard for the other guys to break ranks” ("GameTime," NBA TV, 10/11).

DIFFERENT STYLE OF OWNER? In Newark, Dave D’Alessandro talks to former Suns Chair Jerry Colangelo about his perception of the talks. Colangelo said yesterday, “Just remember, in every negotiation, there are different players. A different cast of people.” When asked how different, Colangelo added, “Very different.” D’Alessandro notes these “aren’t the owners the owners Colangelo knew in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s.” These owners “expect the NBA to be a cash-flow business, which is a hoot” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 10/12).

SCHEDULE
: USA TODAY's Falgoust & Zillgitt looks at how quickly a season could start and writes when a deal is made, the season could start in "three weeks," but "a month is a more reasonable estimate" (USA TODAY, 10/12). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes while it "may be grim inside the negotiating room, there's hardly a crisis-level urgency on the outside." Fans "complain that pro seasons stretch too long anyway; threats of cutbacks feel more sensible than menacing." Gay: "This is basketball's solitary, self-inflicted mess, and the sport may wait a long time before there's a public furor for a resolution" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/12). In DC, Tracee Hamilton writes, "With football in full swing, fans can do without the NBA. That’s why I’ve felt all along the owners and players will be back no later than January or February, when the sports calendar thins a bit" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/12). TNT’s Reggie Miller said the owners "absolutely ... want to lose a season” ("GameTime," NBA TV, 10/11). ESPN’s J.A. Adande said the “worse-case scenario” is the NBA “could blow up not only this season, but the next season as well” ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN2, 10/11). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes, "A lockout shouldn’t be the only reason to reduce a bloated schedule. Sanity might be." ESPN/ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy said, "Seventy would be great. But only if you stretched them out over the same amount of time as the 82-game season." Grantland.com editor Bill Simmons said that 75 games "would be ideal." Simmons: "That’s what the players say is the best length because of the wear and tear on their bodies." Sandomir: "If fewer games kept players a bit healthier and the games more compelling, why not try it?" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/12). Worldwide Partners President & CEO Al Moffatt said that if the lockout "ends quickly, the NBA will suffer only short-term damage to its reputation and marketability." But a "lost season could set its reputation back years." Moffatt said, "It will almost be like a lost decade" (USA TODAY, 10/12). ESPN's Michael Wilbon: "The NBA is running the risk of doing damage that it cannot undo” (“PTI,” ESPN, 10/11).
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