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SBD/November 3, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
Lakers G and NBPA President Derek Fisher during a conference call Tuesday night with the union's exec committee "addressed the controversy surrounding his alleged meeting with the NBA," according to sources cited by Chris Broussard of ESPN.com. Fisher "answered questions from committee members about a supposed side deal he was accused of cutting" with NBA Commissioner David Stern. Broussard noted whether Fisher's "denial and explanation has put the episode to rest remains to be seen" (ESPN.com, 11/2). In N.Y., Howard Beck notes the NBPA exec committee today is "holding its first in-person meeting since labor talks collapsed last Friday, and its first since reports of a rift in leadership began circulating." Union leaders "hope to turn their focus back to their collective bargaining strategy, and toward re-engaging the NBA at the bargaining table." Beck notes there is "hope that talks could resume Friday or Saturday." A source said, "I think there will be a lot of clarity coming out of the meeting on Thursday." The source added the first item on today's agenda is "to hash out the Derek Fisher situation." Two union sources said that the issue "was mostly resolved" during Tuesday's conference call. But one source said that it is "important for everyone to speak face to face before the matter is put behind them." Beck notes although a "fractured union might seem advantageous to the NBA, league officials privately are alarmed; there is little hope for a labor deal if union leaders have conflicting agendas." Sources said that until now, the relationship between NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter and Fisher "has generally been solid." But Beck notes there "are some tensions." One source said that Fisher "believes that a 50-50 deal should at least be considered, if it would salvage more of the season." Hunter is "more adamant about holding firm, believing the long-term gain justifies the short-term losses." In addition, a league source said that the negotiations "had been difficult, in part, because it was unclear who was in charge of the union." Sources said that union outside counsel and lead negotiator Jeffrey Kessler "does 80 percent of the speaking, while Hunter, who has a reputation for not being detail-oriented, takes a secondary role" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/3).
NICE MOVES: Lakers F Matt Barnes said, "I've known (Fisher) for a number of years, and his character is second to none in my eyes. So what he does, I know it's for the good of us. ... I fully trust what he's doing is for us, and for us to get to play again." He added, "A lot of guys think 50/50 (as a split of Basketball Related Income) is good, and let's get back to work. But I've been consistently talking to Fish, and some of the other guys on the board, and we think it's important to stay together and push for that 52" (ESPNLA.com, 11/2). ESPN L.A.'s Stephen A. Smith wrote Fisher "did the right thing by writing an open letter to players Monday, reiterating his commitment to them while attempting to swat away any hints to the contrary." Fisher "had to say something." Smith wrote a "50-50 BRI split is in the best interest of the players," and if Fisher "has noticed the players don't have any options, kudos to him." One player said, "Fisher needs to do the right deal. He needs to understand that some of these guys talking all this junk about being hardcore are the same guys who'll be calling for his head the second the season is canceled, after they've finally realized the owners ain't budging. Who the hell doesn't want a 52-48 split at this point?" (ESPNLA.com, 11/2). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said, "If Derek Fisher was leading this and had the final say, this lockout would be over. It would have been settled and 85-90% of the players would be with Derek Fisher.” Wilbon: “If Billy Hunter is suggesting that Derek Fisher is somehow in somebody’s pocket, then Billy Hunter would be a fraud for doing that. I don’t know that he is, but it seems like he is." He added Fisher "has been undermined to some degree" ("PTI," ESPN, 11/2).
WAR OF THE WORDS: In Boston, Gary Washburn writes if Hunter "called for a player vote on a 50-50 split in BRI to strike a deal for a 60- to 65-game season, there probably would be more yes votes than he would like to admit." Free agent F Glen Davis on Twitter wrote, "Take the 51% man and let's play." Washburn: "Whether the 'man' is Stern or Hunter, only Davis knows, but his message is an indication that all is not well with the union. ... The union appears to becoming more disenchanted. It is unclear how much longer Fisher and Hunter can stick by their convictions" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/3). Rockets G Terrence Williams on Twitter wrote, "Hey @ThenNBPA Let's play BALL enough with the stare off." He added, "The football players leader took 1 dollar when they was in lockout hmmmmm. ... I'm united but also I'm in love with the sport not the money "@Hugsis @TheAkronHammer @TheRealTWill @ThenNBPA #Standunited? #No?" More Williams: "Everyone has their own opinion on this lockout I don't believe s--- no one says no so called leader I only believe @DerekFisher words." He also wrote, "I'm def united and I'm with @derekfisher and the players it's easier to listen to others when their job is to dribble a ball also." YAHOO SPORTS' Eric Freeman wrote it is "telling here that Williams doesn't consider Derek Fisher to be an outsider." Hunter, "on the other hand, is spoken of in terms that suggest he doesn't understand the situation at all." Freeman wrote, "It's unfortunate that Williams acted out in this way, but his feelings aren't entirely surprising." If Williams "wants a deal to get done, he'd be better off voicing this anger in private, not in a way that makes the argument public." The "weaker the union appears, the less likely it is to receive an offer that anyone likes" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/2).
SEEN IT ALL BEFORE: NBA free agent G Jerry Stackhouse appeared on ESPN2's "Jim Rome Is Burning" yesterday and said over the course of his 16-year career, it "seems like the executive committee is always making concessions" during each CBA, and these talks are "no different.” Stackhouse: “I don’t think there’s ever been a case where it seemed like we actually have any leverage, and I think that it’s probably because our system is broken. We need to have more people that are capable of going toe-to-toe with David Stern and I just don’t think that players who spend most their time playing basketball and Billy Hunter are geared to do that.” Stackhouse came out and said he did not want Fisher “negotiating” the new CBA because Fisher has an agent to negotiate his playing contract. Stackhouse: "Why would I want him negotiating something even bigger than his contract?” Stackhouse addressed the reports Fisher has a “side deal” with the league to settle the lockout and said, “I don’t think Derek is that kind of guy ... but at the same time he does have aspirations to possibly be a GM one day. If he could be the guy to kind of bring the sides together in whatever way, then maybe there will be an opportunity for him to be a GM” ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN2, 11/2).
Billups says he is prepared to forgo his
$14.3M contract and sit out entire year
HOLDING THEIR GROUND: Knicks G Chauncey Billups said that he is "prepared to forgo his $14.3 million contract and sit out the entire year." Billups said on ESPN Radio 1050 N.Y., "For the betterment of the league going forward that's just something that I'm going to have to sacrifice and that's the position I'm going to have to take. ... I'm willing to fight with the union. Do I want to lose $14 million or whatever it might be? I don't want to lose a dime. My career is almost over" (ESPNNY.com, 11/2). Suns G Steve Nash said, "You have two wealthy sides arguing over percentage points. ... Both sides are arguing for inevitably selfish reasons, but also for what's right when they are gone. It's a big mess." In Phoenix, Paul Caro noted the union "reportedly has fractures, but Nash contends it is solid." Nash said, "It's strange, because it's never been the most stable group." He added, "The owners are trying to paint us in a light that we're causing the issues. It's great for the owners because to a fan, '50-50? That's great.' But in any entertainment industry, the talent gets paid the majority of the money." Nash also said he has "nothing personal against" Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver. He added, "I'm on the other side of the table from him. We have fans criticizing us every day and owners making us out to be the bad guys. At some point, you want to make sure your point of view is expressed." Meanwhile, Sarver appeared yesterday at a Phoenix-area school but "said little in relation to the lockout." He said, "We go to work every day being prepared so that when time comes to play, we're ready" (AZCENTRAL.com, 11/2). Grizzlies Owner Michael Heisley yesterday said he knows "very little" about the labor talks. He added, "I'm not on the negotiating committee so I can only tell you that I think on both sides -- all of us -- hope we have a season. ... I've been through a number of negotiations (in business). It's a tough process." (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 11/3).
OWNERS DIGGING IN: ESPN's Ric Bucher reported he is "hearing that the owners’ resolve and their willingness to lose the entire season ... is gaining strength.” ESPN's Broussard said he was told that “if a deal’s not done within a week-and-a-half to two weeks, then 50-50 will no longer be on the table from the owners. They will go down to 46, 47, 48% of BRI and they feel like if they lose this season, the money they’ll lose they will gain it back over the next ten years because they will have a very favorable” CBA ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 11/2).
AND THE READERS SAY....: More than 30% of respondents to SBJ/SBD Reader Survey said they expect the '11-12 season to be canceled. Of the 1,186 participants, more than 44% expect the season to begin after the first of the year (THE DAILY).THE '11-12 NBA SEASON WILL….
ANSWER% Start on time2.9% Start at the New Year44.4% Start in late February18.4% Be canceled30.8% No opinion3.6%
With the '11-12 NBA season canceled through at least the end of the month, the question is now "how much damage will be done to the game by missing part of or all of a season," according to Sam Amick of SI.com. The league and the NBPA "must now decide whether fighting now is still worth the price they'll pay later." Tulane Dir of Sports Law Gabe Feldman said, "For now, the cost-benefit analysis is fairly easy. For now, it's worth the damage to goodwill that will come from missing a month or two from the games you might get" (SI.com, 11/3). In Miami, Israel Gutierrez writes it is "almost as if it took the actual games to be missed before we recognized just how idiotic the tail end of this labor irrationality really is." Gutierrez: "Instead of players benefiting from the timely resolution to this conflict, they will be begging for forgiveness once it's over, and likely losing money as a result. But hey, it's all worth it, right?" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/3). NBA player agent David Falk said yesterday, "I think we are at a very dangerous, very reckless point. ... We are at the point if the deal is not made imminently there is not going to be a season." He added, "The question is, is there a deal that makes more sense than shutting down the season?" (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).
REMEMBER THE FANS: ESPN/ABC broadcaster and former coach Jeff Van Gundy said, "The fans deserve what they’re accustomed to seeing -- the best basketball in the world even if it costs the players and owners money." Van Gundy said, "I’m hopeful the league learned from 1999 and doesn’t rush it and realize one more week of patience, one more week of camp would be beneficial to the fans. I’m hoping the league doesn’t rush teams into action. We have history to show some people reported in horrible shape." He added, "Basketball was very poor for much of the regular season" (N.Y. POST, 11/3). In Memphis, Wendi Thomas writes under the header, "Passions Locked Out For Grizzlies Fans" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 11/3).
DARK DAYS AHEAD: In DC, Michael Lee notes no member of the Wizards' roster "will get any sort of recognition inside or outside" Verizon Center during the lockout. The concourse inside the arena "is filled with pictures of Capitals, Mystics and Bullets." Images of "all of the Wizards' logos -- the new red, white and blue sorcerer; the Washington Monument on the basketball; and the dc -- now occupy the spots near the locker room where oversized pictures" of current players once hung (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 11/2). In San Antonio, Jeff McDonald notes last night, the AT&T Center "stood dark and dead, its empty parking lot and bolted doors providing the most literal symbol yet" of the lockout. McDonald: "Wednesday night -- Opening Night that Wasn't -- found fans across town adjusting to a new normal, all the while rooting for the timely return of the old one" (MYSANANTONIO.com, 11/3).
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: The 11:00pm ET edition of ESPN's "SportsCenter" last night again referenced NBA games that were scheduled to take place, including those that would have marked the net's NBA regular-season debut broadcasts. Following the first commercial break, ESPN's Stuart Scott reported on the lockout and what the schedule would have held for the night. Scott: “Ginormous night in the NBA. An opening week gets sticky hot as the defending Eastern Conference champion Heat jump with A’mare, Carmelo and the Knicks. That was the 8:00pm ESPN game. Game two of the network doubleheader, former ESPN analyst Mark Jackson makes his coaching debut against the Lakers. Also tonight, No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving laces up his high-tops against the Celtics in Beantown.” At this point, Scott exhales and said, “Thanks for not interrupting. I just, you know, wanted to see what it was like to say what was really supposed to have happened tonight had the NBA lockout not reached Day 125. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have highlights, even if they’re just to remind you that November 2nd typically is big-boy baller day in the NBA.” Scott noted there have been several big scoring games on that date in the past and said, “I’m sighing again just, you know, there’s a lockout. I need a hug" (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 11/2).
PUT IT IN THE BOOKS: MGM Resorts Int'l VP/Race & Sports Jay Rood estimated that the NBA "accounts for 15%-18% of the handle (money wagered)" at his company's casinos. Rood said, "It's a significant portion of our business. If we go without for the season ... we're going to have to try and overcome (by) possibly exploring other options, like expanding some NCAA offerings." Las Vegas Hilton Exec Dir of Race & Sports SuperBook Jay Kornegay said the NBA "represents 15% of our handle. We expect about half of that to transfer over to college (basketball) and the college football bowl games" (USA TODAY, 11/3).
NBA attorney Jeffrey Mishkin “urged a federal judge to help end a stalemate with the NBA players union by agreeing to consider the legality of its lockout -- before players potentially file an antitrust lawsuit” as the NFLPA did during football's recent lockout, according to Chris Broussard of ESPN.com. But U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe “expressed reluctance Wednesday to wade into the NBA's labor mess.” Mishkin in oral arguments yesterday in Manhattan said that the NBPA is “using the possibility of an antitrust fight like ‘a loaded gun’ on the negotiating table and urged Gardephe to reject the union's request to toss the league's lawsuit.” NBPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler argued that the NBA case “should be tossed out because the league was trying to get the court involved on the mere possibility there would be an antitrust fight.” Kessler: "They have no case. They're seeking to do something unprecedented, inappropriate." Mishkin said that the union “was prepared to dissolve itself, a necessary legal step before individual players could bring antitrust actions against the league in federal court.” Mishkin: "They've already collected the cards. They can do it at any moment." Gardephe did not immediately rule, but he “questioned Mishkin at length and was skeptical of his arguments, saying at one point that the NBA lawsuit contained a ‘fair amount of speculation’" (ESPN.com, 11/2). In L.A., Mike Bresnahan notes the NBA “took the added step Wednesday of asking a federal judge in New York to rule on whether decertification of the union would be considered legal.” It was a “preemptive strike, with the league hoping to show players that decertification would not allow them to claim antitrust violations and file a lawsuit against the NBA.” Although Gardephe did not rule; Bresnahan notes his comments “suggested he considered such posturing normal in labor negotiations.” Brian Cuban, Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban’s brother, on Twitter yesterday wrote, "The owners are publicly not at 51 percent but I suspect they have 1 percent in their back pocket to close this out." His post suggested that “the owners might sweeten the BRI pot” (L.A. TIMES, 11/3).
STAYING OUT OF IT: Vermont Law School Sports Law Institute Dir and legal analyst for NBA TV and SI.com Michael McCann said, "I suspect that the NLRB doesn't want to interject itself while the parties are talking. I don't think either side has a strong charge, and it's very hard to show bad-faith bargaining.” Tulane Sports Law Program Dir Gabe Feldman said, "The judge likely will take some time to rule." NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner noted the “amount of progress doesn't preclude a NLRB ruling for one side or the other.” Legally, if it found in favor of the union, the union “could seek an injunction to ban the lockout.” If it found in favor of the league, the players “would lose even more leverage” (NBA.com, 11/2). In N.Y., Frank Isola writes the “significance of the proceedings is debatable, since sources on both sides feel a labor agreement is within reach” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/3).
U.S. Reps Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) in a letter to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner yesterday “asked that HGH testing be a staple of MLB’s drug-testing policy,” according to Red & O’Keeffe of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The letter stated, “The time to begin testing for HGH in baseball has arrived.” MLB “currently tests its minor league players for HGH.” Red & O'Keeffe note HGH testing “has been in the sports forefront throughout the autumn, as the NFL and its union had agreed to test players at the start of the 2011 season after ratifying the new CBA in late July.” The NFLPA “later backtracked on its agreement, citing several concerns, including the efficacy of the test.” Meanwhile, Waxman and Pallone also “urged baseball to ‘address the use of smokeless tobacco’ in its CBA negotiations, and the congressman stated that there is ‘ample precedent for a ban’” (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 11/2). The MLBPA declined to comment on the letter; MLB "did not immediately respond to request for a comment” (AP, 11/2).
WHERE ARE YOU? In Boston, Nick Cafardo wrote MLB should make the World Series “a business venue again.” MLB “needs to get back to requiring baseball personnel to be present at the World Series.” More than a decade ago, “owners, general managers, managers, and some players attended baseball’s biggest event.” Since their presence “has not been required, baseball has suffered greatly from a lack of strong news emanating from the World Series.” Cafardo: "Baseball needs to create a reason for such personnel to be on hand. This, after all, is the game’s crowning event, a place where the biggest names in baseball should gather” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/30).
Investigators from the IOC are "among those seeking to force Fifa to publish a secret dossier detailing payments to its senior members over the award of lucrative World Cup contracts during the 1990s," according to Ashling O'Connor of the LONDON TIMES. The prosecutor "confirmed that the High Court had received a third application, from the IOC, for the disclosure of the criminal files relating to the collapse of International Sports and Leisure (ISL), Fifa’s marketing partner." The first two requests were made by a Swiss journalist and the BBC, alleging that "three Fifa executive members had received payments from ISL in the $100 million (about £63 million) bungs scandal." It is unclear "if the IOC will be in a position to make a decision on sanctions in the event that a breach of its ethics code is proved." It may "decide to wait a week for Fifa’s executive committee meeting in Tokyo, where Sepp Blatter, the president -- also an IOC member -- has promised to release the ISL documents in full as part of a wider reform of Fifa." It is Blatter's "stated intention to publish the document, which names senior IOC and Fifa members." IOC President Jacques Rogge said that he "'applauded the intention' to release the documents" (LONDON TIMES, 11/3).