NBA Lockout Watch, Day 88: NBA, Union To Meet This Week With Oct. 1 Deadline Looming
The NBA and NBPA "plan to meet" this week, but "several key figures, including Commissioner David Stern, will be observing Rosh Hashanah" on Thursday, and union Exec Dir Billy Hunter will be in Miami tomorrow for a regional meeting with players, according to Howard Beck of the N.Y. TIMES. That leaves Wednesday "as the most likely day for talks, which could resume Friday or Saturday if progress is being made." Regular-season games "will be jeopardized if no deal is in place by the first week of October." It takes "at least four weeks to prepare for the season, which is scheduled to open Nov. 1" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/25). In Boston, Gary Washburn noted the turnout for Hunter's regional meeting in Las Vegas earlier this month "was disappointing, and there are perceptions that the players' unity is losing momentum." Washburn wrote some "premier players," including Lakers G Kobe Bryant, Heat F LeBron James and Heat G Dwyane Wade "have remained eerily quiet the past three months" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/25). In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman reported James, Wade and Heat F Chris Bosh "have yet to indicate whether they would attend" tomorrow's meeting (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/26).
DIVIDE AND CONQUER? A number of agents and basketball sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they think the specter of a group of powerful players and agents could put pressure on both the NBA and the players union to make a deal. But agent David Falk, in a wide-ranging interview with SportsBusiness Journal last week, disputed that notion. "I think it’s putting zero pressure on them (the owners)," Falk said. "They have been counseled by their antitrust experts that if the union voted to decertify they would be in a position to void (multiyear player) contracts." Falk said he does not know if that legal theory is valid or not, but he said that is what NBA owners believe. Falk, along with agent Arn Tellem, represented a group of players who tried and failed to decertify the NBPA in ‘95 because they were unhappy with the leadership of then NBPA Exec Dir Simon Gourdine during CBA negotiations. Falk: “Not only was I in favor of it, I was the progenitor of it. I initiated the move.” But the vote to decertify the union failed. Although Falk said that he thought that decertifying the NBPA in ‘95 and in ‘98 would be a winning tactic for the players at that time, he is not so sure it would be now because courts have become more conservative and pro-business. Falk: “The principal is the same, but the courts have changed” (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).
Anthony says players are communicating
everyday during NBA lockout
BIDING THEIR TIME: In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin noted with players "barred from the premises and prohibited from even speaking with club officials, the Kings' front office keeps up with the players via YouTube and the internet." Kings President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie, Dir of Player Personnel Jerry Reynolds, Dir of Player Development Fat Lever and other team execs "also are working double shifts making various community appearances and attending season-ticket functions." Kings PR Dir Chris Clark said, "We're reaching out to the community, working harder than ever" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 9/25). In Orlando, Josh Robbins reported about 180 Magic employees, including team President Alex Martins, GM Otis Smith and four assistant coaches, spent Friday "at Palmetto Elementary School to beautify the school grounds." Robbins also noted the Magic are "still required to pay the city $2.8 million whether or not any games are played" in '11-12 (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/24). Also in Orlando, Brian Schmitz noted the city of Orlando "should know around mid-December whether the 2012 all-star game will be played at Amway Center -- or cancelled" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 9/23). The SUN-SENTINEL's Winderman noted prior to last week's postponement of training camps, the Heat "had yet to begin sales for individual preseason tickets at AmericanAirlines Arena, although ticket sales for" an Oct. 15 game against the Rockets in K.C., which "was considered a Heat home game, were under way." Refunds for that game "will be available at the point of purchase beginning" today. An Oct. 11 home exhibition against the Magic "had been part of the Heat season-ticket package, with refunds and interest payments to be issued Nov. 10 by the team for any games canceled in October, depending on the payment plan previously selected" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/24).
TIME TO PANIC? ESPN.com's Marc Stein wrote, "Daunting as it felt Friday morning to see an official announcement from the league office that the first two weeks of October business have been canceled, it's a non-surprise and not as fatal as it sounds." It is when the league "announces the cancellation of the rest of its October schedule that panic time starts in earnest." Stein wrote, "The problem, of course, is that there's dwindling evidence in circulation to suggest that a deal can get done by the end" of this week, or "even the week after" (ESPN.com, 9/23). In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell wrote the lockout "probably doesn't get settled until the entire season is about to be cancelled." Bonnell: "Stern probably needs to codify the revenue-sharing to get the union to give in on other issues. And honoring pre-existing contracts is probably key" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/25). In Atlanta, Jeff Schultz wrote this "simply is not a league that can support guaranteed, astronomical six- and seven-year contracts for players." Schultz: "It can't afford to have such a soft salary cap because owners clearly can't control themselves. ... I expect this to be a long lockout. I'd be surprised if teams play more than a 50-game schedule. I would not be surprised if the entire season is cancelled" (AJC.com, 9/23). In L.A., Lance Pugmire wrote, "My guess is no games will be played until January, maybe longer." Pugmire: "The wild card is the National Labor Relations Board, which could act early in October on a players' complaint the owners are not bargaining in good faith. The NLRB could accelerate a deal" (L.A. TIMES, 9/24).
FROM THE FAR EAST: The SUN-SENTINEL's Winderman wrote he does not "see any star leaving" to play overseas "until they are convinced there is nothing to stay around for." Winderman: "I'm sure LeBron could have had his overseas chances by now, but it simply doesn't make sense" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 9/25). Agent Chris Luchey, who reps Nuggets F Wilson Chandler, said of negotiating his client's one-year contract to play in China, "Wilson's instruction to me as his agent was, 'I want to play.'" Luchey added, "Ultimately, China is the closest season to the NBA from the standpoint that they play three games a week, and it is a shorter season and he has an opportunity to go back to the NBA once the season is over. And we knew when he decided to come, it would set the trend and that more guys would come over. By being the first one (coming to China), you get to choose the best scenario" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/25). Columnist Kevin Blackistone said if NBAers go and play overseas, that “hurts” the NBPA because “their star players are not back here with them and that’s the big difference between the NBA and the NFL. The NBA is an individual’s league, the NFL is a team league, and those guys stay together” (“PTI,” ESPN, 9/23).