NBA Lockout Watch, Day 141: Stern Holds "Update Call" With League's 29 Owners
The NBA held a 20-minute conference call Thursday "to update its owners on the state of the labor situation," according to a source cited by Chris Broussard of ESPN.com. The source said that the owners' "strategy going forward was not discussed and no further meetings or calls were scheduled, either among the owners or with the players' attorneys." The source acknowledged that the two sides "need to resume negotiations in order to save the 2011-12 season," but added that his "gut feeling is that the season will be lost." The source said, "There's just not enough time. I imagine that another effort (at negotiating) will be made toward the end of December." Sources have previously said that a "hard-line group of owners was hoping the players rejected the deal." The ownership source said that after Thursday's call, "that was still the case." The source said, "No one wants to miss the season, but about half of the owners are willing to miss the season if it means fighting for a better deal" (ESPN.com, 11/17). In N.Y., Howard Beck writes after months of "dithering and prodding, bluffs, ultimatums and flimsy deadlines, the stakes are now abundantly clear, for players and owners alike." They either "reach a deal in the next six weeks, or forfeit the 2011-12 season, at a cost of about $2 billion to each side." That threat has "always existed, but it was mostly wielded by the owners, who were better positioned to withstand the loss." But Beck notes the scales "may have tipped in the players’ favor with the filing of their antitrust complaint." If the owners "lose the case, they will face treble damages -- perhaps $6 billion, based on a tripling of the players’ earnings for one season." Legal experts "disagree on whether the players can win on the merits, but they generally agree that the risk to the owners is not worth taking" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/18).
ANY SHOT FOR A SEASON? In DC, Michael Lee notes while many legal experts "believe NBA players may be in a better position to succeed in the courts than their NFL counterparts ... few think this labor dispute will be settled in a courtroom." New York Univ. Tisch Center sports business professor Robert Boland said that the "danger in trying to have the labor dispute settled by antitrust law is that the case could be appealed many times before it is finally resolved." He added that all three lawsuits "could eventually be merged and argued in New York." For that reason, Boland "believes that the 2011-12 season will most likely be lost" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/18). CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote there is "still time to salvage some degree of reason and sanity before the attorneys fully take control" of the NBA. But Berger added, "Given the lack of reason and intelligence that we have witnessed for months, we cannot ignore the possibility that the owners and players will continue to choose ego over reason, bravado over compromise, and thus will continue down the path toward mutually assured destruction" (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/17). Pacers F Danny Granger said, "It really has come down to the justice system. When that is involved, you have lawyers and litigation and what not. That's a whole different world compared to what we were doing with the negotiations. So we just leave to the lawyers to handle it” ("NBC Sports Talk," Versus, 11/17). ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said, "I believe there will be a deal within two weeks. It’s not so much that they are so far apart on issues. It’s two billion dollars on the table and Christmas is coming and the bill collectors ain’t stopped coming.” ESPN’s Skip Bayless: “I believe the players -- the superstar players -- will cave by Christmas because that is the unofficial start to the season.” But ESPN’s Chris Broussard said, “I don’t think we will see NBA basketball at all. Both sides have really dug in” (“First Take,” ESPN2, 11/17).
WHAT'S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE...: NBCSPORTS.com's Kurt Helin noted during the NFL lockout, the sides "met for 16 straight days and hammered out a deal," ensuring the NFL season started on time. Helin wrote, "For all the legal wrangling ... that is how the NBA lockout will end. ... Somebody needs to take charge, be rational, put Stern and the hardliners to the side, and just make this happen. The problem is, who can be the NBA’s Robert Kraft?" Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban "has the personality, but would the hardliners really accept the deal from one of the biggest spending owners?" Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan is a "hardliner that the players don’t trust right now so he will not work." Helin: "Maybe a moderate such as Peter Holt (San Antonio) could, although he has been in front the whole time and nothing. It’s the same on the players’ side -- who could be their Jeff Saturday? Derek Fisher, Chauncey Billups, maybe even Etan Thomas?" (NBCSPORTS.com, 11/16). NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said of that league's lockout, “The key moment for us was when we got the principles back in a room ... and we were able to talk and listen to one another, understand each other and structure something that works for both parties.” Kernen asked whether he speaks with NBA Commissioner David Stern and Goodell noted, “I talk to David a little bit.” Kernen replied, “Are you hoping he's Tivo-ing this?” Goodell: “I’ve said before David is the dean of commissioners. I don't have any advice for him. He's been through this.” He added the “unfortunate circumstances happening in the NBA right now is that it's getting back to litigation, and these things are resolved through negotiation and through collective bargaining" (“Squawk Box,” CNBC, 11/18).
a full year and not playing basketball
WADE WEIGHS IN: In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman reports Heat G Dwyane Wade "plans to play competitive basketball this season, even if it means playing overseas amid the lockout." Wade said, "Some way, some how, I'm going to be part of a team. I can't see myself sitting out a full year, not playing basketball, at some kind of high level." Wade also said that he "would not allow the lockout [to] get in the way of his marketing relationship with Michael Jordan," despite Jordan's "hard-line stance against the players." Several players "vowed to shun Jordan's merchandise." But Wade said, "I can't let that affect me. I have my own things to run, my own stuff to think about what I'm doing with my own shoes" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/18).
AROUND THE RIM: Agent Aaron Goodwin confirmed a report Thursday that Thunder F Kevin Durant "is in talks with BBC Bayreuth about playing in Germany during the ongoing NBA lockout." Goodwin said that talks between the teams "are 'ongoing' but said the deal is not in the final stages as described by SPOX.com" (ESPN.com, 11/17). Agent Bill Neff, who currently has 15 clients playing abroad, said, "If the NBA cancels its season entirely, then I think Kobe will probably go overseas, but not until then. I could also see Kevin Durant heading somewhere if the entire season is canceled. But the real big stars won’t go if there’s still a chance of a settlement" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/18). Magic C Dwight Howard said that it is "unlikely that he would play overseas" if the lockout continues. Howard said Thursday, "I doubt it" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 11/18). YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojanrowski cited sources as saying that Suns free agent G Aaron Brooks "has agreed to a one-year deal with Guandong of the Chinese Basketball Association." Brooks had been "talking on and off with Chinese teams for several months, and finally agreed to a deal believed to be worth more than $2 million for the season." CBL rules obligate Brooks "to play the full season in China without an opt-out clause should the NBA lockout end" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/17). Agent Jim Tanner Thursday said that his client, Magic F and Turkey native Hedo Turkoglu, is "weighing and considering opportunities with European franchises" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 11/18). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser, on the prospects of a '11-12 season: “I think people are pessimistic. I think they’re beginning to scramble right now. Not the stars, other players” (“PTI,” ESPN, 11/17).
FRANCHISE NOTES: In Ft. Worth, Dwain Price notes the raising of the Mavericks' "first championship banner has been placed on indefinite hold" due to the lockout. Mavericks F Corey Brewer said, "I wouldn't say the lockout has put a damper on it. But we really want to get the rings, we want to have the celebration, and we'd like to be playing and trying to defend our title right now." Mavericks G Jason Terry "acknowledged that while the average fan may view the lockout as putting a damper on what the Mavericks accomplished last June, that's not the case 'here in Dallas'" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 11/18). Meanwhile, in Orlando, Josh Robbins reported the Magic Thursday "sent out a letter to its fans -- including season-ticket and partial-plan buyers, people who have purchased single-game tickets in the past and merchandise buyers." Magic President Alex Martins signed the letter, which read in part, "We continue to share your frustration and we understand the impact this has had on you, and all of our fans, our employees and those who work in the Amway Center." The letter also stated, "We remain committed to keeping you informed as developments unfold with the current work stoppage. Your patience, loyalty and support are truly appreciated during this time" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 11/17).