NBA Lockout Watch, Day 125: Does Stern's Penalty Prove Owners Are Split?
NBA Commissioner David Stern for months has "insisted that the league’s 29 owners are unified in the goals, methods and necessity of the lockout," and he "maintains that stance" following Heat Owner Micky Arison posting tweets that would indicate otherwise, according to Howard Beck of the N.Y. TIMES. Arison was reportedly fined a “staggering” $500,000, and Stern yesterday spoke to Beck exclusively about the issue. Stern said, “He believes his tweets were taken out of context and understands our concern about them. And he’s very much on board with the other 28 owners about the deal that we want." Without confirming the amount of the fine, Stern "acknowledged that the fine was tailored to the circumstances, but not because of what Arison wrote." Stern: "It was more about his timing. We’re trying very hard to get a deal done with the players, or we were, and we don’t need any external distractions to that focus." Stern did "acknowledge one divide between his owners: those who are in favor of the deal the union rejected last week -- a 50-50 split of revenue and no hard salary cap -- and those who are 'rethinking' that offer." Stern said, "I believe that a majority of teams are in favor of making the deal that we were offering to the players. And I’m trying very hard to keep that deal on the table" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/2). The AP's Jim Litke notes Stern's "extra-heavy hit might reflect more than the commissioner's growing impatience with rule breakers." It is clear that Arison's "real sin was exposing the owners' less-than-unified stance" (AP, 11/2).
EXPOSING THE DIVIDE: THE SPORTS NETWORK's John McMullen noted the fine suggests that the owners "are far more divided than Stern has let on, something that undoubtedly makes Arison the most popular employer among NBA players right now" (THE SPORTS NETWORK, 11/1). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said, “The owners have different agendas and different sides … that’s why the league doesn’t want them talking. They’re causing problems” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 11/1). ESPN's Dan Le Batard said, "I understand the symbolic nature of this fine because Arison basically said, ‘No, the owners aren’t united.’" Le Batard: "Everyone in those meetings knows the owners are divided on this while presenting a united front to the public. This is about public relations” (“Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable,” ESPN2, 11/1). In Miami, Greg Cote writes Arison's "truth said so much of what the NBA wanted kept hidden,” as suddenly the league’s "supposed united front of owners in this financial grudge match with the players union was revealed to be anything but united." For the first time, an owner was "acknowledging the long suspected: that a sharp division within the club owners was continuing this stalemate." Cote notes of the "small-market owners holding compromise-minded colleagues and basketball fans at gunpoint," who more than Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert "might revel in Arison and [Heat President] Pat Riley's anxiousness not to waste a year?" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/2). In Cleveland, Tom Reed notes whether the small markets can "make it more difficult on teams such as the Knicks, Lakers and Heat to add valuable pieces through changes to the system" remains to be seen. He writes the league’s "entire 'competitive balance argument' seems a dubious one when the primary focus is on how to split the $4 billion in basketball-related revenue" (CLEVELAND.com, 11/2).
STERN GETS PANNED: In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel writes David Stern is the "biggest loser in this NBA lockout." Once considered the "best commissioner in sport, by what gauge would he now not be considered the worst? His game is dark, with its second work stoppage in the last 13 years." Tramel writes, "Stern now has trumped baseball commish Bud Selig" (THE OKLAHOMAN, 11/2). In Sacramento, Brian Blomster writes in the absence of NBA games, "targeting a scapegoat is good fun." Blomster's "choice to wear a bull's-eye" is Stern (SACRAMENTO BEE, 11/2).
NO RETURN FOR COHEN: The N.Y. TIMES' Beck reports there “are no talks, and none planned.” Negotiators “briefly discussed bringing back George Cohen, the federal mediator who presided over three days of talks last month” but Stern said that Cohen “would not be returning” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/2).