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SBD/November 2, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
NBPA President and Lakers G Derek Fisher issued a statement through his publicist last night refuting a recent report by FoxSports.com’s Jason Whitlock regarding Fisher’s role in the CBA talks. Fisher said, "The statements made in recent articles on the Fox Sports website are inexcusable. Among the many baseless accusations, to allege that I am working with the league for my personal gain is unequivocally false. The implication that I am doing anything but working in the best interests of the players is disgusting, defamatory and a flat out lie. I have issued a letter through my attorneys demanding a retraction for the libelous and defamatory stories the site and reporter have continued to publish.” Fisher went on to say, “The Players Association, our staff, Executive Director and Executive Committee are unified and working side by side to serve our players. There should be no more distractions. We must continue to negotiate a fair deal for our players” (THE DAILY). NBA Commissioner David Stern also disputed the report that stated that Fisher “secretly met with Stern and [NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO] Adam Silver in an attempt to make a deal.” Stern said, “That would be false” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/2). NBA TV's David Aldridge said, "I don’t buy at all the notion that Derek Fisher has somehow got a side deal with David Stern. I just don’t believe that. I don’t believe that knowing how hard Derek Fisher has worked to try to get a deal for the players" ("Game Time," NBA TV, 11/1). Whitlock yesterday followed up Fisher’s statement, “Here are two words you will not find in Derek Fisher’s 515-word letter addressed to his fellow NBA union members: Billy Hunter.” It is not “remotely a secret in NBA circles that Fisher had been pushing behind the scenes for a 50-50 split on BRI and that Hunter is convinced the union should not accept less than 52-48.” It is also “not a secret that Fisher’s superstar Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant had joined the fight for 50-50.” Whitlock wrote, “It’s been clear that Fisher and Hunter have not been on the same page throughout the lockout. It was just a matter of time before Hunter and the executive committee confronted their freelancing president.” Whitlock added, “I stand by the accuracy, integrity, sourcing and truthfulness of all the stories I’ve written about Derek Fisher during this NBA lockout” (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/1).
HUNTERS OR FISHERS? SI.com's Sam Amick cited a union source as saying that the "perceived chaos" between Hunter and Fisher "wasn't as bad as it might seem." The source said, "There's been disagreement about how to negotiate or what moves to make, but there's no fatal disagreement here" (SI.com, 11/1). In Toronto, Doug Smith wrote, “I wouldn’t want Fisher’s job for almost anything in the world.” Smith continued, “With the disparate personalities in his union, some with unimaginable wealth, others with unimaginable personal issues and backgrounds, the balancing act he has to strike must be incredible.” Smith added, “That he’s done it so far is nothing short of amazing to me” (THESTAR.com, 11/1).
UNION GULF? YAHOO SPORTS’ Adrian Wojnarowski wrote from superstars to mid-level players to rookies, there is an "unmistakable push to complete the final elements of the system and take this labor deal to the union’s 400-plus membership.” Beyond that, there is an "even larger movement to push Hunter ... out the door once these labor talks are done.” A source said, “Billy can’t just say it’s 52 or nothing, and walk out again. That will not happen again.” Wojnarowski noted there is “a vast gulf in the union, and it’s growing with the passing of every day.” There are “two courses for the union: Take the deal largely on the table or blow this up, decertify and lose the season fighting the NBA in the federal courts.” Within the NBPA, “the frustration with Hunter is this: Hunter knows where the deal will be made, but he’s engaged in a smear campaign to frame Fisher as a sellout to the league.” This has “created doubts about Fisher, but it’s hurt Hunter far more.” Once, “he had the stars on his side, and that’s rapidly dissipating.” A player said, “Right now, everyone has to choose sides: Billy or Derek. How the (expletive) did it come to this?” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/1). The AP's Jim Litke writes Hunter's "intransigence has led to speculation that he's taking a hard line to impress players and hang onto his job as much as he's worried about theirs." If the "result is a bad deal -- and whenever it's finalized, it likely will favor the owners -- at the very least it gives him an alibi." There is a "growing sense that the players would vote to take the deal at 50-50, since the only other option is to walk away, decertify the union, and take their fight to the courts" (AP, 11/2). In San Antonio, Mike Monroe wrote the NBPA has "dwindling options as its solidarity frays and its leadership fractures" (MYSANANTONIO.com, 11/1). Knicks G Iman Shumpert in a special to the N.Y. POST writes, "I’ve tried to stay positive, but this lockout is taking a toll on me, as well as the fans, the workers, and the other players. I just want them to 'free basketball.' My mood is definitely beginning to change" (N.Y. POST, 11/2). But Pistons F Charlie Villanueva said, "We are going to stick together, and we're going to make a stand. We're going to stick together and try to get the best deal possible" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 11/2).
SHOULD THEY TAKE THE DEAL? CBSSPORTS.com's Ben Golliver wrote the NBPA's "strategy was to not blink for as long as possible and hope that the NBA's owners were bluffing about being willing to lose games so that they could overhaul the system." But the "owners never blinked" (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/1). In Toronto, Cathal Kelly writes the players "got what they wanted a long time ago -- the shelving of the proposal for a hard salary cap," and the owners "continue to get what they want with each passing day." It "made sense for the players to press their case this far," but it "makes no sense to continue, unless we recognize that the players can no longer accept a deal that they can’t categorize as a win" (TORONTO STAR, 11/2). NBA.com's Aldridge wrote the NBA's owners "are not looking for a decision; they want a knockout, and they're going to get it." The league is "going to get, at minimum, a 50-50 split" of BRI with the players. Aldridge: "The players aren't going to get 52, or 51, or 50.5, or 50.000001, and if they hold out for those numbers, they're not going to have a season. You'd have to be crazy not to see that now, so it's this for the players: take the deal this week or next, or lose the season" (NBA.com, 10/31). In Minneapolis, Jerry Zgoda writes under the header, "NHL Players Have Advice For The NBA: Make A Deal" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 11/2).
PLACING BLAME: CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote the owners and players "can't compromise, and the hard liners on each side won't let it happen." Berger wrote if he had to "assign blame," he would pin it "squarely on the hard-line owners and hard-line agents." Every "conceivable aspect of this deal has gone the owners' way." The players "pulled into the dealership looking for a tuneup and instead had their ride battered mercilessly with sledgehammers." Absent "undue pressure from hard-line agents, Hunter and Fisher should be able to sell a 50-50 split to the membership if they get concessions on several key system issues that remain unresolved -- principally related to the luxury tax and exceptions." But it is "clear who's giving the marching orders not to go a penny below 52 percent." Berger: "Look no further than the infamous letter that seven high-powered agents sent to their clients." Former player agent Steve Kauffman said, "If agents, individually or collectively, are trying to derail Billy and the players' union from concluding this deal, that is at best inappropriate and at worst irresponsible. ... Many agents are primarily looking out for their own best interests. And to take it a step further, there are some that I believe don't fully understand the issues and how they affect their own clients" (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/1).
EXHIBITION NOTES: In Portland, Joe Freeman noted Trail Blazers F LaMarcus Aldridge is "hosting an exhibition game at the Chiles Center, featuring several Blazers and other NBA players," with tickets "priced from $25 to $100." Tickets went on sale yesterday and "at the end of the day, fewer than 1,800" remained (OREGONLIVE.com, 11/1). In Memphis, Ronald Tillery notes Grizzlies F Rudy Gay is hosting an "exhibition game next Tuesday" at 7:30pm ET at the DeSoto Civic Center. Tickets cost $30 and proceeds "will benefit the Flight 22 Foundation, Gay's non-profit organization that raises funds for childhood education" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 11/2).
CONDENSED SCHEDULING WOES: In Boston, John Powers asks if the lockout's eventual end causes the NBA season to stretch into next summer, will the U.S. "still be able to send the 'A' team to London for the Olympics?" Powers notes, "As long as the season ends by the beginning of July, there’ll be time to get the players in camp for the tournament that begins July 29. And if there isn’t a season, the U.S. still can use any of the three dozen players in its pool." USA Basketball Chair Jerry Colangelo said, "We're autonomous. We're not part of the NBA." Powers: "What's encouraging is that the players' agents want their clients at the Games" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/1)…. In Orlando, Josh Robbins wrote with "each day that passes without a new collective bargaining agreement, it becomes less likely that the Magic will play their scheduled March 7 and March 8 regular-season games in London" against the Nets. The league will "attempt to compress as many regular season games as possible into a shorter window of time," but a condensed schedule "might make it impractical and unfair to ask the Magic and the Nets to make such a long road trip" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 11/1).
NBA Commissioner David Stern for months has "insisted that the league’s 29 owners are unified in the goals, methods and necessity of the lockout," and he "maintains that stance" following Heat Owner Micky Arison posting tweets that would indicate otherwise, according to Howard Beck of the N.Y. TIMES. Arison was reportedly fined a “staggering” $500,000, and Stern yesterday spoke to Beck exclusively about the issue. Stern said, “He believes his tweets were taken out of context and understands our concern about them. And he’s very much on board with the other 28 owners about the deal that we want." Without confirming the amount of the fine, Stern "acknowledged that the fine was tailored to the circumstances, but not because of what Arison wrote." Stern: "It was more about his timing. We’re trying very hard to get a deal done with the players, or we were, and we don’t need any external distractions to that focus." Stern did "acknowledge one divide between his owners: those who are in favor of the deal the union rejected last week -- a 50-50 split of revenue and no hard salary cap -- and those who are 'rethinking' that offer." Stern said, "I believe that a majority of teams are in favor of making the deal that we were offering to the players. And I’m trying very hard to keep that deal on the table" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/2). The AP's Jim Litke notes Stern's "extra-heavy hit might reflect more than the commissioner's growing impatience with rule breakers." It is clear that Arison's "real sin was exposing the owners' less-than-unified stance" (AP, 11/2).
EXPOSING THE DIVIDE: THE SPORTS NETWORK's John McMullen noted the fine suggests that the owners "are far more divided than Stern has let on, something that undoubtedly makes Arison the most popular employer among NBA players right now" (THE SPORTS NETWORK, 11/1). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said, “The owners have different agendas and different sides … that’s why the league doesn’t want them talking. They’re causing problems” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 11/1). ESPN's Dan Le Batard said, "I understand the symbolic nature of this fine because Arison basically said, ‘No, the owners aren’t united.’" Le Batard: "Everyone in those meetings knows the owners are divided on this while presenting a united front to the public. This is about public relations” (“Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable,” ESPN2, 11/1). In Miami, Greg Cote writes Arison's "truth said so much of what the NBA wanted kept hidden,” as suddenly the league’s "supposed united front of owners in this financial grudge match with the players union was revealed to be anything but united." For the first time, an owner was "acknowledging the long suspected: that a sharp division within the club owners was continuing this stalemate." Cote notes of the "small-market owners holding compromise-minded colleagues and basketball fans at gunpoint," who more than Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert "might revel in Arison and [Heat President] Pat Riley's anxiousness not to waste a year?" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/2). In Cleveland, Tom Reed notes whether the small markets can "make it more difficult on teams such as the Knicks, Lakers and Heat to add valuable pieces through changes to the system" remains to be seen. He writes the league’s "entire 'competitive balance argument' seems a dubious one when the primary focus is on how to split the $4 billion in basketball-related revenue" (CLEVELAND.com, 11/2).
STERN GETS PANNED: In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel writes David Stern is the "biggest loser in this NBA lockout." Once considered the "best commissioner in sport, by what gauge would he now not be considered the worst? His game is dark, with its second work stoppage in the last 13 years." Tramel writes, "Stern now has trumped baseball commish Bud Selig" (THE OKLAHOMAN, 11/2). In Sacramento, Brian Blomster writes in the absence of NBA games, "targeting a scapegoat is good fun." Blomster's "choice to wear a bull's-eye" is Stern (SACRAMENTO BEE, 11/2).
NO RETURN FOR COHEN: The N.Y. TIMES' Beck reports there “are no talks, and none planned.” Negotiators “briefly discussed bringing back George Cohen, the federal mediator who presided over three days of talks last month” but Stern said that Cohen “would not be returning” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/2).
The NBA was scheduled to start its ‘11-12 regular season with three games last night and more tonight, but the four-month-old lockout kept arenas dark. CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote, "Welcome to opening night in the NBA, one of the most competitive and contested the sport has ever known. Sadly, the matchups are not Kobe Bryant vs. Kevin Durant or Dirk Nowitzki vs. Derrick Rose. It's lawyer vs. lawyer, owner vs. owner, agent vs. union and logic vs. ego" (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/1). In Ft. Worth, Dwain Price writes yesterday was "supposed to have been the long-awaited day when the Dallas Mavericks received their glitzy rings for winning the NBA championship last June." Instead the "restaurants, bars and streets near AAC looked like a virtual ghost town," and the "parking lots were nearly empty" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 11/2). ESPN DALLAS' Jeff Caplan writes under the header, "Eerie Silence On Would-Be Opening Night" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 11/2). In L.A., Mike Bresnahan writes under the header, "NBA Opening Night Is Quiet And Bitter" (L.A. TIMES, 11/2). In San Antonio, Jeff McDonald writes that “the lockout has affected the normal biorhythms of day-to-day life" and has "transformed opening night -- normally one of any season's red-letter days -- into just another Wednesday" (MYSANANTONIO.com, 11/2). In DC, Michael Lee writes the NBA has "come to a screeching halt, isn't coming back in November, and might not be back by Christmas" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/2).
FANS HAVE GROWING SENSE OF CONTEMPT: In Miami, Joseph Goodman writes basketball fans today "feel nothing but a growing sense of contempt." Arenas "remain empty and the No Basketball Association and its players continue to haggle over how to split their wealth" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/2). ESPN.com's J.A. Adande wrote the NBA and the players have "violated the sanctity of the schedule and failed to live up to their side of the covenant: provide games for fans to watch." Adande: “Will NBA fans come back to the arenas now that the owners and players have made it clear just how lowly the paying customers are regarded?" (ESPN.com, 11/1). ESPN.com's Andy Kamenetzky wrote, "Memo to Stern and Hunter: If you think fans were surly when the lost games were merely left to their imaginations, wait until you see the reaction after the reality check sets in" (ESPN.com, 11/1). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes under the header, "Lack Of Tip-Off Ticks Off Fans." Vaccaro: "The NBA season starts to disappear bit by bit, like pieces removed from a jigsaw puzzle" (N.Y. POST, 11/2).
CAN YOU SPELL APATHY? In Chicago, Joe Cowley writes in many NBA markets, day 124 of the lockout "was met with apathy," and he puts the blame “solely on ownership." Cowley: "If you spend the last decade handing out bad contracts that you eventually can't afford, that's on you. And if NBA teams are going broke, let's see the books" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 11/2). In New Orleans, Jimmy Smith writes under the header, "New Orleans Hornets Fans Are Not Screaming For Action Just Yet" (NOLA.com, 11/2). In Denver, Patrick Saunders lists his five reasons why fans are "apparently so apathetic about the NBA." Saunders includes issues regarding money, league image and lack of parity. He also writes, "The college game is more entertaining," and the "NBA's regular season is a stale product" (DENVER POST, 11/2). ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil wrote, "College basketball is waiting in the wings for its star turn." The "irony is that college basketball is better in some part due to the instability of the NBA." Numerous college players "rolled the dice and left for the NBA early, undeterred by a potential lockout," but "more than a fair share stayed" (ESPN.com, 11/1).
LOCAL MARKET COVERAGE: In N.Y., Marc Berman reports when Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni arrived yesterday at an event for MSG's Garden of Dreams Coaches' Challenge, the media "was told not to ask D'Antoni about anything other than the charity competition." However, D'Antoni "was willing to vaguely talk about what he's been up to while labor negotiations took place fruitlessly" in Manhattan (N.Y. POST, 11/2). Asked about his players, D'Antoni said, "I can't even talk to you about it. I don't know where the line is, and I don't want to get near it" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/2). In Houston, Jonathan Feigen notes the Rockets have "been able to put" new coach Kevin McHale in community events during the lockout. The team has "a coach who is also a celebrity" and has "the ability to hold court." Every week "there have been functions with season-ticket holders, fans or corporate sponsors." Rockets CEO Tad Brown: "Kevin has been the person that people want to see the most, especially at this time. He's new. He's a Hall of Famer. And he's so outgoing and personable" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/2). In Phoenix, Paul Coro notes the Suns "have been proactive about keeping their brand alive and soothing public-relations issues while not being able to market current players." Instead of playing their season opener today, the Suns "will hand 1,968 (the team's inaugural year) orange nets at Valley schools, parks and recreation centers)" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 11/2). In Detroit, Vince Ellis writes Pistons fans "miss their hoops," and they "know something already has been lost even if the sides come to an agreement and can play most of an 82-game schedule." Former NBAer Chauncey Beard said, "It was a real hyped season last year, and now we have already missed preseason and it will probably get pushed back so it won't be on schedule. I just wish they could have got it worked out like the NFL did" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 11/2).
The LPGA is “feverishly formulating plans for its first Olympic-style competition to be staged in July at Rich Harvest Farms in suburban Chicago with Navistar in serious negotiations to become presenting sponsor,” according to sources cited by Randall Mell of GOLFCHANNEL.com. Though details for the new international team competition “are still being tweaked and agreements have yet to be signed,” sources said that the event is “far enough along that it was listed in a tentative 2012 schedule LPGA commissioner Mike Whan released to players last month.” Sources said that while “the name of the new event isn’t finalized," The International or The Continental Cup are "among considerations for what’s proposed as a biennial competition.” Sources added that the plan “most embraced by the LPGA calls for at least eight nations to compete with four-woman teams in an undetermined match-play style format.” The event “would not count as official, but unlike the Solheim Cup, the LPGA’s proposing a purse, believed to be $1 million or more.” Sources said that Navistar “would also continue to sponsor its full-field event in Prattville, Ala.” (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 10/31). ESPNW.com's Mick Elliott noted the idea “is an indication that Whan, in his second season as commissioner, and the LPGA are not sitting around waiting for an Occupy Golf movement to demand equal opportunity,” and they are “trying to do something.” Women's golf “has been in a slump, battling an indifferent fan base, and there's been little indication that a new spark would appear.” The “only alternative was to start banging rocks together” (ESPNW.com, 11/1).
CHANCE TO GROW THE GAME GLOBALLY: Golf Channel’s Erik Kuselias said the proposed event "could be quickly more popular than an event like the Solheim Cup that has great tradition and history, but only really has two teams." Kuselias: "If I’m Asian and I live in Asia, I don’t really care much about the Solheim Cup. You’re making it more inclusive, you’re making it more global, you’ve given me more teams, you’ve given this thing more juice. I really think there is no downside here.” Golf Channel's Gary Williams noted No. 1-ranked player Yani Tseng would play for Team Taiwan, whose "next highest ranked player" is ranked 89th. Williams: "They've got to round out a team of four. Norway (has) the second ranked player in the world. You know what their next ranked player is? Outside the top 100. Conceptually I like it. I love team competitions.” Kuselias: "The conceptual idea is that we'll have country verses country, and it’s not just two teams but eight, and you could have all the best players in the world playing on nationalistic pride against others playing for nationalistic pride. That's sexy to me and I like that” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 11/2).
GOLF ON THE WEST COAST: In California, Marc Figueroa noted the LPGA announced last week “the return of the Kia Classic to La Costa Resort and Spa in 2012,” and the tour will make “its return to the storied resort March 19-25 after a one-year absence.” Tournament Dir Dennis Baggett said, “My goal is to re-establish the LPGA and our event in North County and show people that this is our home. We want to be here for the long term. San Diego is a great market for us to be in." Kia Motors America has a sponsorship agreement with the LPGA “that runs through 2012” (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 11/2).
Soccer fans in the Baltimore area have "begun receiving an MLS-commissioned survey to gauge interest about a team playing there through expansion or relocation," according to Steven Goff of the WASHINGTON POST. The survey "alarmed supporters of D.C. United, which has failed to find a replacement for RFK Stadium in Washington and is entertaining proposals from Baltimore." Fans are asked, among other things, "how likely they would be to attend matches if a current or new team moved into a soccer-specific stadium in the Westport area of Baltimore." Officials from the state of Maryland, city of Baltimore and Maryland Stadium Authority "have approached United about moving into a proposed venue in Westport, which is near Oriole Park at Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium." The plan is "still in the very early stages." United President & CEO Kevin Payne said, "This isn’t a game. This is serious. This isn’t a bluff. Part of it is trying to understand what that means for our business. From our point of view, it’s just due diligence. You have to understand your options. We’re trying to understand the depth of interest in Baltimore" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 11/1). In Baltimore, Scott Graham noted the MLS survey "asked respondents if they would prefer to see the D.C. United, Columbus Crew, FC Dallas, New York Red Bulls or Philadelphia Union franchise move to Baltimore." The "nearly 20-question survey also sought to measure the demographics of soccer fans in Baltimore, asking questions about household income, education, ethnicity and age" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/1).
In N.Y., Gary Myers noted Stanford QB Andrew Luck is creating NFL “draft hysteria,” and it is “impacting the integrity of the game.” “Suck For Luck” is “clever and funny, of course, but it's not a good thing when fans are rooting for their teams to lose just two months into the season.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “should change the rules in the middle of the game: Instead of the No. 1 pick in the draft going to the team with the worst record, the NFL needs to institute a modified version of the NBA's draft lottery, which includes all the teams that don't make the playoffs.” The NFL should “do it for the 2012 Luck Derby and all future drafts” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/29). In West Palm Beach, Ethan Skolnick wrote the NFL “needs to follow the leads of the NBA and NHL by instituting draft lotteries, using the Suck for Luck campaign as the impetus to inject some luck into the proceedings” (PALM BEACH POST, 10/31).
USING THEIR HEADS: In Toronto, Mark Zwolinksi noted an online poll conducted Oct. 19-21 showed around 80% of Canadians “agreed hockey would benefit from outright ridding the game of illegal head shots.” Eighty-three percent of those Canadians “who considered themselves devoted hockey fans felt the same way about head shots.” But only 43% “supported the total ban on fighting.” The poll was conducted among 2,005 randomly selected Canadian adults, with a 2.2% margin of error (TORONTO STAR, 10/31). Meanwhile, Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford Monday said that the “subject of visors has been discussed in league meetings and could be on the agenda again for the NHL meetings next month” (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 11/1).
MAKING A RACKET: At her year-end news conference, WTA Chair & CEO Stacey Allaster said of coverage of women’s tennis, “In the future, there’s no doubt this is going to be about multi-platform. This is no longer just about television as we produce and send out these incredible matches. We’re very close to signing a new four-year deal. We’ll start in 2013 through ’16. We announced that the board authorized us to enter into an exclusive negotiating period with a digital company out of the UK called Perfrom. Perform will double the number of matches we are producing each year. We produce and distribute about 250 live matches a year. Starting in 2013 we will exceed 500.” Allaster said of the WTA’s global reach, “China will be the epicenter of our global strategy. We have just signed a new six-year agreement with the Beijing Sports Bureau to continue to have the Beijing WTA office there” (WTA).