SBD/November 21, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBA Lockout Watch, Day 144: Hope For An NBA Season Quickly Dwindling

Agents and NBA players are "rapidly coming to terms with the reality that hopes for ending the lockout -- and saving the season -- are bleaker than ever," according the Adrian Wojnarowski of YAHOO SPORTS. Ownership sources said that there is a "consensus among the group to let the players miss another round of checks on Dec. 1 and further test the resolve of the 450-plus players." League officials "aren’t rushing to meet again with the players prior to the Thanksgiving holiday and are waiting on former Players Association executive director Billy Hunter to contact commissioner David Stern about restarting talks again." The owners have "little, to no interest, in negotiating a settlement with the players’ prominent new front man, antitrust attorney David Boies" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/18). In N.Y., Peter Vecsey noted the players trade union "either just distributed $50,000 checks to each dues-paying player or is about to do it." They already had "received $100,000 per about a month ago" (N.Y. POST, 11/20).

PIERCE WEIGHS IN: Celtics F Paul Pierce said that he "only viewed decertification as an option and denied that he was encouraging fellow players to dissolve the union." Pierce said, "I never told nobody to decertify. That's not something I was (doing). A lot of players around the league have respect for me and they call me in the summer because they know I got an understanding of what's going on with the negotiations and a lot of players asked me about decertification. And all I did was bring the information to them. I didn't push it one way or another." Pierce added, "I hope it doesn't go through full litigation but that's the route the players have chosen and I am sticking with that route" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/19). Pierce also said, "The agents were trying to push this for months. It came to a point with the whole fiasco with [Lakers G and NBPA President Derek Fisher] and Billy. I didn’t know the ins and outs of that, nor did I ask (Fisher and Hunter) about that or even think that it was even true." He added,  "A lot of players saw that and were frustrated just seeing that stuff at the top was going on. Then they started asking me what was going on. All I did was I had an opportunity to talk to a lawyer a lot about decertification. And then I offered it to the players who wanted to hear what the guy had to say." Pierce said he is unsure whether "decertification is the right move or sitting at the table is the right move." He said, "We weren’t getting nowhere at the negotiation table. The players felt like they were giving, giving, giving while the owners were taking all the concessions." Pierce also noted decertification "is still a possibility" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/20).

ON ICE
: Former NBPA Exec Dir Charles Grantham said of the failed negotiations, "At a certain point, it became emotional and it kind of got off the track, while they were close to a deal. They should’ve made one." Of the comparisons to the NHL's '04-05 season, lost to a labor dispute, Grantham said, "Don’t confuse resolve with good judgment. Hockey players had good resolve. No one can say how strong the kids were for standing up for what they believed in, but they made the wrong judgment. You’ve got to make the right judgment here. And once the fight is over, you get back to work and you live another day" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/19).

Some pundits think Stern is panicked and
is incapable of bringing two sides together

STERN PUSHED TOO FAR? In Boston, Mark Murphy writes the players consider Stern "a condescending bully." Murphy: "What the opposition now understands is that Stern, in his increasingly wild attempts to sound tough, has lost control. He’s panicked, and utterly incapable of bringing two sides together" (BOSTON HERALD, 11/21). GRANTLAND.com's Bill Simmons wrote Stern "basically treated [the players] like an overbearing high school principal." He made "every decision in his typically smug, sarcastic, endearing-or-bullying-depending-on-how-you-feel-about-him manner." Stern is "clearly wearing out the players ... and not in a good way" (GRANTLAND.com, 11/18). In Boston, Christopher Gasper wrote under the header, "NBA Owners Out To Punish Players In Standoff." Gasper noted players such as Heat F LeBron James, Lakers F Kobe Bryant, Heat G Dwyane Wade, Thunder F Kevin Durant and Bulls G Derrick Rose "aren't just employees." They are "the product, and that's the irony here." The NBA is "trying to slay a monster it created." The league's "success has been built on the idea of peddling personalities and building individual brands." The labor dispute "isn't about the NBA getting more favorable conditions for conducting business or more competitive balance." It is about "putting the players back in their place" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/19). In L.A., T.J. Simers guessed the "NBA season will begin on Christmas Day." Simers: "While I’m a big believer in stupidity, seeing it all the time in sports, I will be shocked if the only thing the NBA agrees on is to be stupid en masse. At some point the money grab will win out. ... That’s why I don’t put it past the players and owners to reach an agreement in time to offer themselves as some sort of Christmas present to their faithful" (LATIMES.com, 11/18).

THOUGHTS ON KESSLER: In L.A., Lance Pugmire wrote for a "quarter-century NBA Commissioner David Stern has faced the same opponent at the negotiating table: players' attorney Jeffrey Kessler." Stern recently called Kessler "the single most divisive force in our negotiations." Pugmire noted Kessler "made his reputation by handling complex antitrust and sports law cases and also teaches at Columbia Law School. Kessler said that the NBA labor dispute is easy to resolve." This summer, he "helped broker a new labor deal for" the NFL players, and years ago "helped NFL players establish a salary cap and free-agency system." Additionally, he has "worked on behalf of athletes in Major League Soccer, Arena Football, women's tennis and pro hockey." Kessler said, "I've negotiated more (labor) deals in sports than anyone else over the last 20 years." He added, "At the end of the day, it's about getting a resolution, not adversity. I hope we can get together and resolve this, so fans can have basketball and we can work together growing this game." Asked whether he thinks he "won" the NFL labor battle, Kessler said, "The players got a very fair deal. I get great satisfaction from a fair deal" (L.A. TIMES, 11/19). GRANTLAND.com's Simmons wrote the agents "could never act more selfishly than Kessler, who waited his whole career for the right antitrust suit and finally found his patsy." Simmons wrote one of the "world's leading experts in antitrust law is mobilizing NBA players towards a potentially historic antitrust suit that could wipe away multiple (repeat: multiple) seasons. You don't see anything shady there?" (GRANTLAND.com, 11/18).

WHAT ABOUT THE COACHES? NBA Coaches Association Exec Dir Michael Goldberg in an open letter to the players wrote, "Let the parties have the courage to make a deal, even if it requires taking some risks and accepting the unpalatable for the short term." Goldberg added, "Partial or lost seasons are a huge mistake and a blow to any sport that requires years of painful business rebuilding to get back on track. We all know this and know that damage has already taken place" (NYTIMES.com, 11/20). In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence notes coaches "have to be getting increasingly nervous about having the entire NBA season go up in smoke." Goldberg said that he "did not write the letter to represent the views of the 30 head coaches or the numerous assistants coaches, but only those of himself" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/21).

AROUND THE RIM
: YAHOO SPORTS' Wojnarowski reported Turkish club Besiktas "is engaged in serious talks with Kevin Love and Luol Deng about joining point guard Deron Williams" in the Turkish Basketball League. Sources said that Deng’s reps "have traded contract proposals with Besiktas." The parties are "working on insurance proposals to protect the remaining $42 million on his Chicago Bulls contract." Deng's "premiums are expected to cost $50,000 a month." Sources said that Besiktas also has "reached out to Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer." Sources also said that Celtics G Rajon Rondo and Thunder C Kendrick Perkins "have been discussing the possibility of playing together overseas, and have had representatives inquiring on the possibilities" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/18). Rockets G Goran Dragic "signed to play in Spain with Caja Laboral on Sunday." Additionally, Rockets F Chase Budinger's agent indicated that he is "close to a deal with Lokomotiv Kuban in Russia" (CHRON.com, 11/20).

EXHIBITION ROUNDUP: In Boston, Gary Washburn notes the "crowd at Lavietes Pavilion behaved as if last night would be the final opportunity to watch NBA players in an organized game for months, perhaps even a year." There is an "extreme level of uncertainty and pessimism as the NBA nears the beginning of what appears to be an unavoidable abyss" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/21). Rondo Saturday hosted a charity game at Harvard Univ., and said, "Unless you're in the meeting, you hear different things. The people that are in the meeting, they know what's going on. Tonight was excellent. It was a great turnout. It means a lot that the guys showed up. ... Right now I think we're united. These [types] of games are going to help us" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/19). Meanwhile, in Houston, Jonathan Feigen reports Bulls G John Lucas hosted a charity game yesterday before 5,000 fans and notes there was "no lack of highlights." But for the players, there was "no hiding that they played knowing there was someplace they'd rather be, and with little hope they would return there soon." Bulls G Derrick Rose said, "I'm not thinking negative. I'm behind my veterans. Whatever they chose, whatever they decided, I'm behind them 100 percent" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/21).
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