Labor Talks: No Thanks And No Giving

– For labor updates, follow: @daldridgetnt | @AschNBA

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Holiday season?

Where?

The mood has yet to strike us here at the hideout. Sure, we’ve got all the Turkey Day fixings ready for Thursday.

But Thanksgiving?

Whatever.

Inside our own little basketball world here, there is little to be thankful about these days. We’re thankful the entire season hasn’t been canceled (yet). We’re thankful there is still a scrap of hope that the sides will come to their collective senses and put an end to this dreadful lockout.

But without either side giving an inch in the coming days and weeks, we won’t have that scrap to hold onto. Time is running short and not even the holiday season seems to be affecting the mood of the major players in this drama.

The consolidation of lawsuits and the refusal of either side to pick up a phone and do the right thing to bring NBA basketball to the fans this season is becoming an increasingly frustrating soap opera to watch since, as NBA.com‘s Steve Aschburner points out, all we are is stuck in court. Keep this up and those same fans will find other outlets for their creative juices.

Many of these owners know how damaging a lockout can be, having gone through the 1998-99 lockout. There are 33 active players living through the second lockout of their careers — Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Grant Hill among many others — an average of slightly more than one player per team. You’d think they would know exactly how costly this current fight will be on the collective psyche of fans that don’t care about the particulars and just want their game back.

But while millions of people will spend Thursday carving that Thanksgiving turkey and watching NFL games with family and friends, enjoying every second, our game will remain dormant. Someone needs to wake up and breathe life back into the game. All it takes is one phone call to get the proverbial ball rolling …

***

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: The NBA season is now in the hands of lawyers who can’t even figure out how to start a game of phone tag. That’s where we are. In a media briefing Monday to announce that the players have consolidated and refiled two separate antitrust claims into one class action in Minnesota, attorney David Boies lamented the slow response and virtual silence from the NBA since the actions were first filed last Tuesday. In fact, he scoffed at the league’s response — delivered to reporters via email from NBA counsel Rick Buchanan, and not commissioner David Stern — as evidence for why making a phone call to begin settlement talks would be “a waste of time.” “I think they’ve made pretty clear, including by the statement that they just made, that they’ve got no interest in talking to us,” Boies said at his Manhattan office. “It takes two people to negotiate.” But it only takes one person to pick up the phone and dial a number to get the ball rolling. And Boies said neither side had done that as of Tuesday, at least not at the highest levels of the law firms involved — the law firms that now hold the future of a sport in their hands. Legal protocol says that Stern can’t really call former union director Billy Hunter, and the attorneys for either side can’t call one of the clients on the other. It’s a tangled web they’ve woven, one that has made tracks in four district courtrooms in three states since the NBA first sued the players in August. As to whether the players’ attorneys should call the NBA’s attorneys, or vice versa, there is protocol for that, too. The players have sued the NBA, and thus it is incumbent upon the NBA to respond. The league has until Dec. 5 to formally respond to the lawsuit in the U.S. District Co in Minnesota. Or, its legal representatives can at any time pick up the phone and call Boies or any of his associates working on behalf of the players to initiate settlement talks. This would not only bring the league closer to stopping the clock on potential damages, but also would start the clock on possibly having a basketball season.

***

Howard Beck of The New York Times: The N.B.A. will argue that the players’ disbanding of the union is a sham perpetrated solely as a bargaining tactic, and that the antitrust laws should not apply. Boies said the primary goal remained a quick settlement that would save the 2011-12 season. “If the league’s approach is to ignore this litigation and try to go into a state of denial and hope it goes away, I think that will not be in anybody’s interest,” Boies said. “I don’t think it’s in our interest, I don’t think it’s in their interest. It’s certainly not in the fans’ interest.” Boies said he originally considered filing the lawsuit in Minnesota, which is in the Eighth Circuit, before choosing Northern California, which is in the Ninth Circuit. Both jurisdictions have a history of player-friendly rulings, with one notable recent exception. Last spring, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected N.F.L. players’ bid for a permanent injunction to end that league’s lockout. Boies represented the N.F.L. in that case. The Minnesota court provides two advantages over the Northern California courts, Boies said. It generally has a less congested docket, and it has a history of moving cases along swiftly. Although antitrust cases can sometimes take years to resolve, Boies said he believed he could get a declaration of summary judgment much sooner, perhaps in three months. “This is not a complex antitrust suit,” Schiller said, adding, “It’s not going to take years. It’s going to take months, if not weeks.”

***

Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com: The next logical step in the illogical NBA lockout is for David Boies to call Jeffrey Mishkin, or for Jeffrey Mishkin to call David Boies. The latter attorney, Boies, who represented Al Gore against George W. Bush in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, now represents NBA players, and Mishkin is the outside counsel for NBA commissioner David Stern and the owners. It would take approximately 2 minutes for their secretaries to put that call together. And after obfuscating and posturing for the better part of an hour in a meeting with reporters Monday night, Boies finally yielded to the  relentless logical questioning of yours truly, put his hands to his temples for 13 seconds and then said he may just go ahead and make that phone call sometime in the next day or two. “Some lawyers say to pick up the phone is a sign of weakness,” Boies said. “But if you’re weak, you’re weak, and if you’re strong, you’re strong.  It doesn’t make you weak or strong by your calling or not calling. On the other hand, until they’re prepared to say something other than what they just put out in this statement, the question is, why are you calling?” This particular episode of peacocking … oops, I mean news briefing … was designed to be a show of strength from the players’ new lead attorney, an epic billable hour ($1,225 is Boies’ going rate) of rhetorical posturing about how the NBA owners are now in really, really big trouble because they are leaving themselves open for triple damages —  about $6 billion if the entire 2011-12 season is missed.

***

Marcus Thompson II of the Oakland Tribune: Warriors rookie Klay Thompson, drafted No. 11 overall, crossed that bridge last week when his beloved Washington State Cougars took on rival Gonzaga. Watching from home, he said had he known the lockout would have come to this, “it probably would have affected my decision” to leave college early. Whether they should have stayed college isn’t the only nagging question. Should they go overseas? Should they borrow money or tough it out? It is common practice for rookies — especially first-rounders, millionaires-in-waiting — to get a loan from their financial adviser. Some, like Thompson, however, don’t want to accumulate debt. So he’s “living like a broke college student” while staying at home with his parents. Tyler is living with his brother in Cupertino. The hard part about the waiting, they say, is they have no idea when it will end. Eventually, they’ll get paid, get to play on the big stage. Until then, their time is filled trying not to go insane. “They need to work out,” Oakland-based agent Aaron Goodwin said. “Take a class or two online. Do some work towards finishing their degree.” Both Warriors rookies said they work out daily. Preparing for camp, whenever it starts. Training for their debut, whenever it comes. Tyler, who’s been training at Cal, said he is embracing the center position. He’s trying to get in the best shape possible and work on his low-post game. Thompson trains at various spots in Southern California and plays pick-up with various NBA players in the area. Still, he acknowledged the monotony of it all. “It’s de-motivating,” Thompson said. “Not knowing when the season is starting. Not knowing how long this will go on. We’re doing the same thing every day. I’m not going to lie. It’s hard to stay motivated.”

***

Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk.com: Hope of a partial season springs from the fact in the next few weeks (likely after Dec. 5) we can expect the judge to order more mediated negotiations between the two sides, PBT was told. Mandated mediation is commonly part of anti-trust lawsuits, essentially a chance for the judge to make sure the two sides really want to go down this path. To give the sides one more chance to settle their differences without a judge involved. (It is possible one side picks up the phone and calls the other to ask for a negotiating session, but that is the less likely scenario. The owners have said they wouldn’t do that and players attorney Boies said he would not because the league is not receptive.) A judge likely will order mediated negotiations by the middle of December if not before, according to the source. Talks would start soon after. This would be similar to the talks when federal mediator George Cohen sat down with the sides last month. The one key difference would be the level of pressure on both sides to figure this out — the players do not want to lose a season of salary ($2.2 billion), the owners do not want to lose a season of revenue (at a much higher percentage for them than the last deal), plus neither side wants to damage the game by costing a full season. What is the point of fighting over how to divide up the revenue pie if the pie itself gets smaller? In addition, the threat of summary judgment — which would certainly be a huge loss for whichever side did not convince the judge of its case — is another motivation for both sides to figure this out.

***

Lee Benson of the Deseret News: Derek Fisher isn’t unique or alone. He simply serves as a convenient and highly visible example of the serious dysfunction that is the NBA, a place where for decades well-paid, well-fed employees have constantly snapped at the hands that feed them. Here in Utah we’ve been watching it up close and personal since the Jazz first arrived in 1979. It’s been like living next door to the expensive house on the hill where the parents continually and lavishly spoil their children. They give them whatever they want, treat them like royalty — and in turn the children behave like ungrateful brats. We’ve all watched as salaries have increased like Argentinian inflation, as amenities that range from plush practice and playing facilities to charter jets have grown exponentially, as players have become so pampered they don’t even drive their own Escalades to the arena and wouldn’t think of paying full-price for anything. (And as the price of tickets and concessions rise year after year.) And yet, it’s never enough. Right now, the average NBA salary is $5.1 million, the median NBA salary is $2.4 million (half of the players make more, half make less), and the least anyone can make is $500,000 (the rookie minimum). And the players are revolting at the owners’ notion that they need to scale back because there’s a Great Recession going on, almost a 10th of America is unemployed … and by the way, two-thirds of the league’s franchises are losing money every year. In a way you can’t fault the players. Isn’t this how the overindulged always behave? By the same token, the owners have only themselves to blame. They purchased their season of discontent through their decades of constant pampering and acquiescence.

***

Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Andray Blatche may have missed out on his first NBA paycheck of the season last week – and might lose out on $6.4 million if the NBA lockout wipes out the 2011-12 campaign – but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to make Thanksgiving special for some families in need. Blatche plans to join Roger Mason Jr. and the National Basketball Players Association on Tuesday to hand out 100 turkeys on a first-come-first-serve basis at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Blatche has given away turkeys through his charity foundation in the past, but he rarely had the opportunity to connect with people since he was busy playing for the Wizards. But already this year, Blatche has given turkeys to single-parent mothers, breast cancer survivors and battered woman in his hometown of Syracuse, in South Carolina and Florida. He also volunteered over the weekend at a round-robin basketball challenge sponsored by the Maryland-National Capital Park Police. “I’m at a point in my life where I’m straight,” Blatche said in a recent telephone interview. “I’m just doing what me and my family believe in, which is giving back and always count your blessings. That’s why I’m out here doing as much stuff as possible. Even though it’s not the season, I’m still continuing to do what I’ve been doing.” Blatche has been a steady presence over the past few months at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club, where he has worked out with trainer Joe Connelly four to five days a week. Mason and Wizards teammates John Wall and Hamady Ndiaye have also trained with Blatche in recent weeks. “They let me work out there, so I’m showing some love back,” Blatche said of his turkey giveaway.

***

Iman Shumpert for the New York Post: Friday night, I headed out to Bridgeport, Conn., to play in another charity game for us locked-out players. The people who came out — maybe 2,000 — provided us plenty energy with cheers and competitive boos. I decided to sit out the last part of the game after going up for a dunk and feeling an awkward pain in my knee. I could have kept playing, but decided just to ice it to ensure I was OK. Nothing major. I think it was due to not warming up at half because I was hanging out with fans and doing photos and autographs, which is partly why we were there. Some of the many participants were Tyreke Evans, Sam Young, Josh Selby, Wes Mathews, Nolan Smith, Howard Thomkins and Travis Leslie. My team won, 171-169. The best part for me was getting a chance to connect with more Knicks fans praying for a season! It was a great turnout. The last couple days, I’ve spent time in the studio where Tupac was shot — Quad Recording Studios in Midtown. Definitely a magical feeling in that sort of work environment. I did a collaboration with Billz, an up-and-coming, unsigned Brooklyn group. This Thanksgiving, I have a lot to be thankful for. The lockout has given me a chance to for once have a lot of down time to spend with family and friends.

**

38 Comments

  1. rich says:

    I can’t believe that this is the league and players I had been supporting most of my life. Yes – I have been watching and playing basketball and imitating star palyers since I was 4 !

    I got 4 brothers and sister and my parents only have a combined salary of $95K/yr. My grandmother is living with us with no pension. 2 of us are in college and the other 2 is in highschool. We still get to go for a long weekend trip at least once a year. We maintain 4 cars. All this made possible by our collective commitment to spend money wisely and of course my mom who is the best financial keeper in the world.

    And that is the realy reason why I can’t understand the player’s whining of taking a paycut which would still earn them millions for a span of 10-20 years. These players need agents to negotiate for them for the best deal. But from the looks of it, they also need a good financial adviser to help them realize that they can live a lot more well enough than most average americans all their life.

  2. Sam says:

    This whole situation is sad. By this time of year I already would of attended at least two games maybe three. I’m not a season ticket holder but do like to attend about 4-5 games per year. My daughters asked me the other day when we were going to our next Spurs game, and I did not have a response. They are 8 and 10 and are clueless about the lockout, yet were developing into future NBA fans.

    I’m starting to agree with many of the opinions on this blog, especially the boycott comments. My wife has already announced that she will not be attending any games for a very long time, maybe never.

    Maybe that is what the players and owners deserve.

  3. Stacy James says:

    From one Corporate Owner to another, Mr. Stern, you and your rabble are ruining this game. The players may be a little spoiled, but they see you as the plantation owners, and you are. You’re feeding off a predominantly black player base who have mainly come from low income means, and they will fight for everything they’ve already had on their plate, and especially if you insight age old resentments negotiating ultimatums through a lockout that is entirely under your authority, not the players. It’s a set up for negotiation failures Mr. Stern. You are deliberately failing in this lockout, and god forbid you don’t soften your stance and give in to 49-51% in favor of the players, these players are going to take this all the way and you WILL receive a summary decision in favor of the players. Then you and your band of silly brothers are going to be like all the other Corporate Ignoramuses out there, just like all these folks who just don’t know how to interact and manage their own employees to their own demise. Read this thoughtful blog by Mike Adams, Editor of NaturalNews.com – http://www.naturalnews.com/021911.html – Title of the article is appropriate “Corporate greed, corruption, and the coming collapse of America as we know it! Good luck David Stern. In two years, when all your ploys fail and your ill advised faith, almost arrogant swagger that you’re going to be able to tie these players up in endless litigation with the ultimate decision being in your favor, you will have ended the NBA as almost every fan has known and loved it. And why? Because you failed to understand how to understand or learn to communicate to your specific kind if employee base. It’s a shame the league pays you anything considering your fundamental, potentially fatal oversight, and/or disregard for the core mindset of these players and their background/life experiences. Mr. Stern, you are going to get eaten alive in court.

    • Enough says:

      Can we stop comparing a labor dispute to slavery? Sure the NBA is getting rich off a “predominately black player base”, but the players are getting rich too. You point out that the players “mainly come from low income means”. It seems to me that anyone who came from low income means, went to college for 1 or 2 years and now makes over $100,000/yr is doing pretty well for themselves. Sure they can only play in the NBA for a couple of years on the average, but with some smart financial planning, they can live comfortably on that money for a long time. Plus, they could get another job after they retire. I don’t want to paint the players as greedy, I’m just saying that we should keep this in perspective. Slaves were sold or born into a lifetime of forced labor. Players sign a contract to play a game for a salary. When the contract is done, they hope to sign a new one, but they are FREE to choose to quit. I wish I could say that race has nothing to do with this, but I know better.

      In summary, the players are employees who have the right to fight for what they see as fair working conditions. The owners have the right to fight for what they see as a profitable business model. At the worst, the players are treated like undervalued employees, but please remember that slaves had it a lot worse.

  4. jack says:

    how about the players and owners spend a day in afghanistan or iraq on the front line? then u will realise how big u babies are being!!!! seriously getting pathetic… grow up

  5. me says:

    few people bother to comment lately…

  6. martin says:

    I DONT CARE IF NBA PLAYERS CARE FOR US CUZ THEY R ALL WORTHLESS RICH IDIOTS

  7. martin says:

    LISTEN UP PPL U GUYS HONESTLY THOUGHT NBA PLAYERS DO THIS FOR FANS WELL NO THEY DO IT FOR MONEY IDIOTS THESE DAYS

  8. WhatTheH-E-DoubleHockeysticks says:

    I work part-time for, and am a major fan of, an NBA team. My wife also works full-time for the same team (our 9th season).This lockout has already hurt us financially. We bought our first home this year, unaware the lockout would actually drag out this long. I love the team and am hopeful they resolve this and get back to playing some hoops. We really need them (obviously a lot more than they need us!). I know I am not alone in this, there are a lot of other employees who are worried, if not down-right scared. So please,please, please, resolve your differences soon- you are hurting a lot of good people besides the fans – of which I am one, too!

  9. Former Die-Hard says:

    We’re past the point of no return. I’m a die hard NBA fan of many years, following not just my team (the Jazz) but all the teams, all the standings, all the stats… and I’ve followed this lockout daily since July 1st up until a few days ago. Today is the first time I’ve checked in for several days? Why? Because now I don’t care. Even if by some miracle the League and the players made a deal today, and games were played after New Years, I wouldn’t care. This is season is lost. Wasted. The players are angry, the owners are angry, the fans are beyond angry, and there’s no training camps, no pres-season, and at best, a rushed, improvised season. That’s a recipe for garbage basketball and a pretty meaningless post-season.
    I’m guessing I’m not near the only one who feels that way.
    Well done players and owners alike. Pat each other on the back. You’ve turned me from near-unhealthy obsessiveness to complete apathy. My dollars won’t be going to either of you, no matter what percentage you end up with.

    • Michael B. says:

      How many players do we hear say…..

      “I love Basketball, I love it. I would probably play for free, I love the game so much.” Well, we’re not asking you to play for free, just for less money. I Love Basketball, Want to swap with me for my job that pays about $40,000.00 a year?

      In saying this, I agree that no business has a guarantee to make money, (except most major banks!) So if the NBA owners can’t run a franchise, then sell it.

  10. vince says:

    the NBA really has the most loyal fans. to think that the situation is now this deep into it and still there are some who hope that there’s still a season that’s going to happen. blind, hopeless loyalty. but loyalty none the less.

  11. Robby says:

    DONT FREAKING BOYCOTT IT WOULD LEAD TO TEAMS BEING DONE AWAY WITH AND PROBABLY ANOTHER LOCKOUT IT WOULD MAKE THE SPORT WORSEEEE JESUSS

  12. TS says:

    Nah man, we aren’t holdin’ on to no scrap of hope. We’re straight falling fast, and hoping the pool isn’t completely drained out before we hit.

  13. Edwin says:

    These greedy creeps need to stop being stupid. Their relationship with the fans is ruined.

  14. boos lei says:

    STUPID OWNERS AND PLAYERS! THEY DON’T LOVE THE GAME OF BASKETBALL! THEY LOVE THE GAME JUST FOR MONEY! AND THEY DON’T HAVE RESPECT TO ALL THE FUNS OF BASKETBALL!!!!!!!!!!

  15. HAMER says:

    yeah when the lockout ends how they can get those money back when no fans will go and see there games, it’s been a crushing event for us fans let see who would have the last laugh, both sides are hard on each other I wouldn’t care anymore when NBA Season this year is gone it’s wasted season anyway…

  16. HAMER says:

    fans should be the prioritize on this event we are the one who gives a lot… take the deal for the sake of your beloved fans….

  17. Al says:

    Thankful? I’m thankful for many things. The NBA? I don’t care anymore. Seriously, I’ve been a hardcore Bucks fan since they were founded. Spent a bucket of money on tickets the last few years. Now? I don’t care who is at fault. Screw them all. I am getting into college bball in a big way and March madness will replace the NBA playoffs. Jump it up Bucky.

  18. chris Merkel says:

    First of all, I am not a true NBA fan by any means… I follow the sixers but I am really an NFL and MLB fan… I just wanted to comment because I think David Stern AND the players union are the biggest bunch of idiots on the the planet… Doesn’t everyone realize that if the NBA disappeared tomorrow, no one would notice?? It is bad enough that the NBA is the forth most popular sport among the big four, baseball, ice hockey and football… stadiums are empty in most cities and the NBA is such a BAD product… Besides Kobe and LeBron, who is worth watching?? The NBA is digging their own grave and I hope you never recover! You deserve everything you get….

  19. KWABENA says:

    NBA FANS I AM BEGGING YOU NOT TO ATTEND ANY NBA GAMES WHEN THE LOCK OUT IS OVER. WE CAN WATCH THE GAMES ON TV AT HOME! THIS WILL TEACH THEM TO PUT THEIR FANS INTEREST FIRST, WE DESERVE TO BE TREATED BETTER THAN THIS. REALY AND TRUTHFULY WE ARE THEIR SOURCE OF INCOME AND THE FUNNY THING IS THEY ALWAYS END UP RICHER THAN US. WE STRUGGLE TO WORK WHILE THEY PLAY BALL TO TAKE OUR MONEY. SO P.L.E.A.S.E NBA FANS LETS NOT ATTEND THEIRS GAMES ANYMORE. WHO CARES ABOUT BOTH SIDES.

  20. The Last Archimedean says:

    It’s not like there isn’t an offer on the table. We all know the revenue split will be 50-50, just like it is in the offer sitting on the table. The only sticking point left is the so-called “system issues”, and the players ought to just concede on those and sign the deal. Let’s get going in time for Christmas.

  21. zach says:

    Personally, i think most of the players are greedy losers. i enjoy the sport but a lot of the players are complete jerk offs. they are extremely blessed to be playing in this league and shouldn’t care about petty amounts of money when they are already millionaires, if the owners want 1% more or to split it 50-50 they damn well should. Just a bunch of childish greed is all. kobe is making 24 million to play a enjoyable sport, hell, even the bench players are still making 20x or more than what the average construction worker or bagger at your local albertsons is making. The Owners own the damn teams, grow some spine and say it how it is. You don’t own a team just to “cooperate” with the players who are already millionaires, if you need to make money, make it. tell the players to either compromise or get the hell off the court. Honestly this is ridiculous. SO much damn greed. Arguing over minimal amounts of money when it comes down to it. a 1% differential to the players wouldn’t hardly be noticed.

  22. Ian says:

    Noone cares, NBA is boring and is not missed…

  23. BFoulds says:

    “The holidays will be tough without NBA Basketball”

    Thanksgiving has nothing to do with the NBA. Get over yourself. We will all be FINE without the NBA for thanksgiving, and for years to come, without this league. It’s not even real basketball. It’s all an act.

  24. Tony says:

    lol you know that it will never happen aye…
    its gonna be a long dragged out lockout….

  25. B-baller says:

    If there is no games on Christmas day, you can bet the the NBA fan base will be in shambles for years to come. I have already made the decision to no longer attend any games or buy any merchandise for at least 5 years because of this lock out. I can watch basketball on tv and still keep up with the game I love, but as for giving any money to these greedy individuals who care nothing about me or other fans, I believe they should be entirely boycoytted and made to suffer (financially) for their ways. It doesn’t make sense to me. This whole debate is about money, its obvious at this point that they all love money more than the game, so let that go to rest, but the concept lies in the fact that the fans are the source of revenue, and they are spitting in that sources face. Perhaps they need to see just how valuable fans are. In Roman days they had over 100 hollidays because the people would riot and run angry in the streets, while I dont suggest rioting, I do suggest that NBA fans DEMAND respect and prove that they have a voice.

    • Robby says:

      NO! dont boycott!!! that would make thinga worse for the players and the owners. The owners would have to downside getting rid of teams like the T-wolves and other smaller market teams you dont want to boycott just do something thats not ALSO going to hurt the players

  26. Gary says:

    The owners figured that once the checks stop the players would say “okay well we tired so lets just take the deal no matter what it entails”. Tactic failed Stern!

    I also wanted to say that Lee Benson compares the NBA players to spoiled children. I’m sure he’s smart enough to realize that a spoiled child is a product of bad parenting, and in this case bad management from the NBA.

  27. stacy James says:

    The only possible solution to this lockout is when the NBA Commissioner picks up the phone and speaks loud and clear, ‘We Accept a 47%-53% split on BRI in favor of the Players, and we’re willing to soften our stance on the System to extend possible contract length to 5 years, and remove some of the stringent hard cap points of our last proposal.”