The NBA and NBPA are "hoping to meet Wednesday and/or Thursday in New York City," according to sources cited by Chris Broussard of ESPN.com. With training camps set to open Oct. 3, both sides "are feeling a heightened sense of urgency" to reach an agreement. The owners and the union are "trying to rearrange their schedules to make way for a meeting," and any session held this week will be in the form of a "small group meeting that will include just a handful of leaders from each side" (ESPN.com, 9/19). Magic G and player rep Chris Duhon said the sides are "communicating a little bit, but at the same time, at the end, we've got to know that the players, we're prepared." He added, "We've been prepared for two years. We've been prepared for two years to sit out a year or maybe two." But he said, "It hasn't struck midnight. Everybody is negotiating. Everybody's talking. Everybody wants the season to happen on both sides" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/20). NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter said NBA stars like Lakers G Kobe Bryant and Heat F LeBron James have been "deeply involved in the meetings we've had." Hunter added, "I know Kobe is intimately involved in interfacing with colleagues and sharing in a pool of revenue to help the others get through this. Kobe has volunteered to do that in the event others need, he and others are prepared to loan money if necessary" (L.A. TIMES, 9/19).
LEGENDARY PERSPECTIVE: Basketball HOFer Bill Russell said of the lockout, "There is a great misunderstanding in the public on what the issues are, and both sides have a point. People think it's a battle over money. There is more to it than that. The thing about negotiations, though, is that to a true believer, compromise is retreat. So you have the element of saving face." Basketball HOFer and TNT analyst Charles Barkley said, "The system is broken and they've got to find a way to fix it. They've got to compromise. The small-market teams can't compete. We've got to find a way to fix that." Basketball HOFer Rick Barry said of the NBPA, "It's tragic, what's happening there. I really, truly don't understand what they're doing. How do you walk in when 22 of 30 teams are losing money, and ask for a five-year contract that takes the average salary from $5 to $7 million? That's unconscionable" (NEWSDAY, 9/20).
Tennis player Andy Murray said that "the world's top players are prepared to strike to help change the tennis calendar," according to Alexandra Willis of the London TELEGRAPH. Murray is one of "several players to voice concern at the conflict of interest between the ATP World Tour, responsible for the operations of the men's events during the year, and the International Tennis Federation, which oversees the grand slam tournaments and the Davis Cup." The players, led by Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, will hold a meeting at the "forthcoming Masters tournament in Shanghai next month, one of two compulsory events still to be played this year." It is "hoped that the meeting will give all the players on the men's tour the opportunity to offer their opinions, and agree [to] a list of requests that are applicable whether they are ranked in the top 10, top 50, or top 100." Murray said, "We just want things to change, really small things. Two or three weeks during the year, a few less tournaments each year, which I don't think is unreasonable." The men's tour "requires players to compete in a minimum of 12 events alongside the four majors," and finishes with the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena at the end of November. That is followed by the Davis Cup final in early December. The "threat of a strike will resurrect memories of the incidents of 1973, when 79 players boycotted Wimbledon after a conflict broke out between the ITF and the then newly-formed ATP after the ITF had suspended Niki Pilic for allegedly refusing to compete in a Davis Cup" match (London TELEGRAPH, 9/20).
WILLING TO WALK: Murray said a strike is a "possibility." He added, "I know from speaking to some players they're not afraid of doing that. Let's hope it doesn't come to that but I'm sure the players will consider it." Murray indicated that he thinks "the subject of a strike or boycott will be mentioned during the meeting in China." Murray: "If we come up with a list of things we want changed -- and everyone is in agreement but they don't happen -- then we need to have some say in what goes on in our sport. At the moment we don't." Murray continued, "Since I've come on the tour we've tried for a shorter calendar. To get another change implemented may take five or six years at the rate things are going and by then all of us will be done (retired). We want it to happen sooner rather than later" (LONDON TIMES, 9/20).
NO WORSE THAN IT WAS IN THE PAST: Former ATP member Michael Stich today said he did not think Murray's complaint "is a good one." Stich said, "I didn't complain -- and I played in tournament singles and doubles. ... I don't think it is a big issue. They are not playing more than we did 10 or 15 years ago and they have shorter seasons than we used to. When people like Stefan Edberg played in singles and doubles at Grand Slams, they (just) did their job. Andy Murray doesn't even play four rounds of Davis Cup each year." He noted today's players "should never forget this is a partnership." Stich: "If they were to go on strike, they should think what would happen if the tournaments went on strike. They would have no career, no income, no profession. It (striking) is not a good solution" (BBC.co.uk, 9/20).