Details of the "six-game, four-continent exhibition tour by NBA players set to begin at the end of October have not been finalized, but 14 of the 18 players approached have contractually committed to the tour," according to sources cited by Ric Bucher of ESPN.com. Sources said that the list of players approached to play in the tour include Bulls G Derrick Rose, Lakers G Kobe Bryant, Heat F LeBron James and Heat G Dwyane Wade. The tour is scheduled to "start with a game Oct. 30 in Puerto Rico and include two games in London, one in Macau and two, back-to-back, in Australia." Sources said that the players "will be paid salaries ranging from six figures up to $1 million" (ESPN.com, 10/23). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Mitch Lawrence reports NBA Commissioner David Stern's "ax is expected to fall on more NBA games" today. The next round of cuts "will include games played starting Nov. 15, which is when the majority of players start to get paid." NBPA reports indicate that around "400 of the league's 450 players are paid from Nov. 15-May 15." NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter said canceling games is "all part of the owners' plan to see if our guys are going to cave" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/24). Hornets G Chris Paul said, "A lot of people think it's just about the economics, but the economics is something we're willing to talk about. But at the same time, the system and the economics have to go together" (THE OKLAHOMAN, 10/24). SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's John Lombardo reports the NBA has "lost about 400 jobs as part of the collateral damage inflicted on the league and its teams during" the lockout. A source said that the job losses are "estimated to number roughly 200 at the NBA's headquarters and its international offices and about 200 across its 30 teams since last season and over the course of the lockout." The job losses are "the result of combined layoffs and attrition." Lombardo notes it is "unclear how many of the lost jobs will be replaced or filled after the lockout ends." Bill Sutton & Associates Principal Bill Sutton, whose sports consulting firm works with the NBA, said that in addition to the staff cuts, a "hiring freeze for most non-revenue-producing jobs has been in place for some teams" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/24 issue).
THE BARGAINING BOOGEYMAN: YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski noted Owner Paul Allen "appears to be checking out on the Blazers, and there’s suspicion that his motives center on saving as much money as possible in this CBA to eventually ready his franchise for a sale." Allen in Thursday's collapsed CBA negotiations "stepped out of the shadows, declared himself the hardest of hardliners and played the part of the improbable boogeyman in these dysfunctional labor talks" by offering the union a "take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum" on BRI share. Allen's "agenda -- and that of several owners -- is making these teams more palatable for prospective buyers." Wojnarowski noted that will "come at whatever the consequences to the league’s public standing, relationships with its players, its fans, its future." Stern is "fighting to end this [lockout] and preserve his legacy," while NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver is "fighting to show these owners that he's the tough guy they should want as the next in line." Allen, the "richest American owner in sports is fighting the fight, shoulder to shoulder, to change a system that he himself made into such a mockery" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/21). In Portland, Allan Brettman noted Allen "did not speak during a session between a group of owners and player representatives that was overseen" by Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service Dir George Cohen. Trail Blazers President Larry Miller "rejected the contention" that Allen took a hardline because he is "positioning the team for sale." Miller: "Absolutely the team is not for sale." Miller and Silver said that Allen's presence at Thursday's mediation "was partly coincidence." Silver noted that Allen was "in New York to attend the league's Board of Governors meeting on Thursday morning." Silver said after the BOG meeting, "We asked Paul if he was available to attend the mediation session in person." Silver added, "Paul did not speak at the session with the players. ... I do not understand why his presence has taken on a life of its own as if he was sent in to deliver a message to the players" (Portland OREGONIAN, 10/22).
TRYING TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT: In Portland, John Canzano noted Stern "dispatched his chief lieutenant, Adam Silver, on Friday to make sure that everyone knows ... Allen didn't say a single word in Thursday's negotiating session." Canzano noted "no one disputed this fact," but the NBA nonetheless "went into damage control and planted its message on the doorsteps of the very fans who know Allen's heavy-handed billionaire schtick best." Additionally, Miller "offered that the team is not for sale." Canzano: "Forgive me for feeling hopeful when I heard Allen might be positioning the Blazers for a sale" (Portland OREGONIAN, 10/23). In Portland, Mike Tokito wrote under the header, "NBA High-5: Blazers' Paul Allen Revealed As One Of Hard-Line Owners Blocking Resolution Of Lockout," and goes on to outline the league's key hardline owners (Portland OREGONIAN, 10/22).
MORE ON THE OWNERS: ESPN.com's Bucher "defended Robert Sarver" on KTAR-AM's "Doug & Wolf" show Thursday when asked "what he had heard" about the Suns Managing Partner's influence during the CBA negotiations. Bucher said, "If nothing else, he has a firm belief in how he thinks things should be done. Right or wrong, for all the same reasons that I admire [Mavericks Owner] Mark Cuban, has he done all the right [things]? No. But he's been very aggressive and forceful in taking his stand and giving his position, and I will always respect that" (ARIZONASPORTS.com, 10/20). In Boston, Gary Washburn wrote the lockout is "being fueled by small-market owners who feel powerless in a league of big cities, mammoth television contracts, and state-of-the-art arenas" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/23). ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst cited ownership sources as disagreeing with "Hunter's assumption that the divide goes down market-size lines." Sources said that Knicks Owner James Dolan and Lakers Owner Jerry Buss "have been among the most aggressive owners pushing for reform throughout the process." But sources also said that Hunter "is right about [Heat Owner Micky] Arison and his desire to make a deal." Arison has "plenty of incentive to represent his interests and try to get basketball re-started as soon as possible." But Windhorst noted it is clear Arison "doesn’t enjoy much support in his position" (ESPN.com, 10/21). Knicks G and NBPA VP Roger Mason Jr. said, "You can look at it and say the majority of owners don't want a deal. But there are owners eager to get a deal done. At this moment they are overshadowed by a contingent of owners who are trying to get everything they want in a new CBA." Mason Jr. said Dolan is "definitely one of the owners who's ready to get back to work." He said Dolan "has put a lot into renovating the Garden and put a lot into the team. He had a lot of tough years and there's a lot of promise now. He wants to get back out there" (N.Y. POST, 10/24). In L.A, Pugmire, Bresnahan & Turner surveyed front office execs, NBA officials, players, attorneys and "others close to the game to get a sense of where the owners stand." The chart below lists the NBA owners and their positions based on the survey (L.A. TIMES, 10/22).
|Paul Allen||Trail Blazers|
|David Stern (NBA)||Hornets|
|Gavin & Joe Maloof||Kings|
|ON THE FENCE||TEAM|
|Peter Guber & Joe Lacob||Warriors|
SCHEDULING WOES: SI.com's Sam Amick cited sources as saying that the union "believes that Stern assured his ESPN and TNT television partners that, by back-ending the missed games, he can still deliver an 82-game season even if starts in December" (SI.com, 10/21). In California, Kevin Ding noted the Lakers Dec. 13 home game against the Raptors "will not happen under any circumstances then and there." The NBA has "already allowed Staples Center to vacate its commitment to the Lakers that day and schedule an extra date of the Jay-Z and Kanye West concert tour" (OCREGISTER.com, 10/21). In Miami, Linda Robertson asked, "Is a shorter NBA season such a horrible concept?" The lockout "could serve as impetus for a new philosophy for the NBA and our swollen sports culture: Less is more." Robertson: "Cut the length of the season. Permanently" (MIAMI HERALD, 10/23). In N.Y., Fred Kerber cited one NBA GM who said, "Remember in 1998-99, we didn't settle until Jan. 6, and we were playing the first week of February. So I'd say anything a month down the road is in danger. Beyond that, it's too early. But you've got to get everybody back in the room first" (N.Y. POST, 10/22). T'Wolves F Michael Beasley: "The last few days haven't been the prettiest. Everybody is frustrated, but I feel like losing the NBA season is far-fetched" (ST. PAUL PIONEER-PRESS, 10/22).
THE D-WORD: Hunter Thursday said that the league "is going for an NHL-type system -- 'super-hard cap, compress salaries, limit contract length.'" In Boston, Steve Bulpett wrote, "This begs the question that, if he has known this so long, why are the players out of work today and staring at salary losses in the millions?" The players "simply don’t have much recourse as long as this is between them and the league." Hunter "knew what was coming, which makes it all the more astounding that the union didn’t explore the decertification option" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/22). In Newark, Dave D'Alessandro wrote the union's unfair trade practices complaint against the NBA "will never go to court." There will be "no union decertification -- once an option for the players -- because the National Labor Relations Board won’t allow it." Both sides have "filed suits with the NLRB, and once you’re locked into that, the board will block any decertification petition." Hunter "knew that as soon as he filed the suit" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 10/23). Indiana Univ. School of Law Dean Gary Roberts said the NBPA's "unfair labor practice complaint is extremely weak and lacks legal basis." Northeastern School of Law Professor Roger Abrams said, "I don't think the board will [find] merit in either side's charge" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 10/23). TNT's Shaquille O'Neal said the NBA agents' planning strategy for players is a "touchy situation." He added, "Agents have always wanted to be in control. When the checks don’t come in, the players’ agents don’t get paid. So you have to look at what they’re doing it for. Are they doing it for their own pockets or are they doing it for the betterment of the players?" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/23).
union decertification option a harder look
WHAT IS IT REALLY ABOUT? ESPN.com's Andrew Brandt wrote the CBA negotiations "have become personal." Brandt: "My sense is each side has an internal deadline on these negotiations. While it's not clear when the deadlines are, my sense is that (1) neither side has reached its deadline, and (2) the deadline is later for the owners than the players" (ESPN.com, 10/22). In Philadelphia, Bob Ford wrote under the header, "NBA Players Have Good Argument, But Little Leverage." Ford wrote the players are "going to lose this one, and probably lose it really badly." The game "has to reinvent itself" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/23). ESPN.com's Michael Wallace wrote this was "supposed to be negotiating in good faith," and the owners "don't appear to be doing that." It has "turned into ruthless neglect." Wallace: "I've heard the owners' side. I've listened to the players and read many of their tweets. I'm still not sure what to believe. ... This is no longer about the ideal of bargaining in good faith. It's about the logistics of disguising the lies. It's a test of wills. It's a question of who's willing to lose the most?" (ESPN.com, 10/21). In Miami, Dan Le Batard wrote the lockout "is not a fight between greedy owners and greedy players,' but rather a "fight between selfish owners and selfish owners." Le Batard: "The players, all of them, want to play. The owners? Not so much. ... If you think the hawkish [Cavaliers Owner Dan] Gilbert wouldn't try to throw away an entire season out of pure spite for James, you didn't read his crazy-crayon letter in a rare moment of raw, rabid public honesty from an owner" (MIAMI HERALD, 10/23). In DC, Mike Wise wrote soon the CBA negotiations "won't be about money." Rev. Jesse Jackson worries that soon it "will be personal and irreconcilable and no longer about the color green." Jackson said, "I hope it doesn’t degenerate into names and language that’s hard to take back once it’s started." Jackson said HBO's Bryant Gumbel last week "exposed a subtext of tension," when he referred to Stern as a "modern plantation overseer." Jackson: "He pulled the cover off a very sensitive issue: how we handle the race dimension of it. And I hope we would not have a my-way-or-the-highway attitude about this" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/22).
IN THIS CORNER...: Syracuse Univ. sports management professor Rick Burton in a special to the N.Y. TIMES wrote it is "Stern alone who must carry the weight of his sport, including owners, players, employees and vendors." Stern must "resolve this matter appropriately or run the risk of bringing the game into disrepute for a sustained period" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/23). The STAR-LEDGER's D'Alessandro wrote Stern and Hunter "know exactly what it will take" to reach a CBA. D'Alessandro: "What they’ve done these last few months is patronize two disparate groups that have only three things in common: They are competitive, they are arrogant and they are not used to losing. That means both the commissioner and the union boss are left to devise a strategy that makes both testosterone-fueled sides feel victorious" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 10/23). In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence wrote when it "comes to lying, or not completely telling the truth, there have been instances during this entire numbing process when both sides haven't been on the level" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/22).
EVERYTHING'S OK: In Oklahoma City, John Rohde reports during yesterday's US Fleet Tracking Basketball Invitational exhibition game hosted by Thunder F Kevin Durant, the White team beat the Blue Team "before a near-sellout crowd of 13,000 inside the Cox Convention Center." Rohde notes despite the lockout, there were "no catcalls directed toward players," and fans "screamed for autographs." Cellphone cameras "were all the rage," and "no one left early and the players left to a standing ovation." Durant said, “I knew this was going to be a hit, especially here in Oklahoma City. ... I was happy with the turnout" (THE OKLAHOMAN, 10/24). Last night's game was "the largest crowd for any NBA exhibition game in the United States this summer," with the "previous high being 4,800 at Morgan State in Baltimore." Players "were introduced by their colleges, not their NBA teams" (THE OKLAHOMAN, 10/24). In Oklahoma City, Darnell Mayberry writes, "This NBA lockout hasn't broken hearts around here. The love affair with the National Basketball Association is alive and well" (THE OKLAHOMAN, 10/24).
UPCOMING EVENTS: Mavericks F Dirk Nowitzki said, "If there is no settlement, I'll go back home any time soon and probably start training with my coach again and really get back in the routine. And then you've got to keep your options open, maybe see what's going on overseas. If the lockout still stays strong then I've definitely got to look into something there in January, February" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 10/22). Meanwhile, in DC, Michael Lee reports free agent F Josh Howard is "taking advantage of the opening" created by canceled NBA games "to host a charity game on Nov. 12." The game "will be held at the P.C. Cobb Athletic Complex at Dallas's Fair Park, which seats about 2,200" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 10/24). Magic C Dwight Howard wrote on Twitter that he is "putting together events for Nov. 11-13 that will include an exhibition game that Sunday at UCF" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/23). YAHOO SPORTS' Marc Spears cited sources as saying former NBAer Allen Iverson is "hosting the Las Vegas Superstar Challenge on Nov. 12-13" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/21).
NBA lockout continues to drag on