HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Don’t beat yourself up if you’re having a hard time keeping up. Most of us are in the same spot, trying to figure out who is for what as the clock ticks down to the league’s 5 p.m. ET Wednesday deadline for the players to either take or dismiss the league’s 50-50 proposal.
“We need for the two sides to get together again before Wednesday, because we’re too close to getting a deal done,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. “We need to iron out the last system items and save this from spiraling into a nuclear winter.”
Some others are not. Some of the owners are for it and apparently, per ESPN.com‘s sources, some others are not. It’s high time someone made a move, the right move to get the 2011-12 season up and running.
But when the sides can’t come to a consensus within their own caucuses, it’s tough to see some sort of breakthrough if and when the sides come together again to try and hash out the final details of a new collective bargaining agreement.
With the union representatives from all 30 teams set to meet today in New York, in advance of Wednesday’s end-of-business deadline, plenty of observers are a little nervous about what type of movement could emerge from the gathering. The players have limited options at this point. They can take a vote on the proposal and decide to take the deal, bowing to the league’s “ultimatum,” as union president Derek Fisher called it over the weekend, and breathe life into a season and the NBA fan base. Or they can refuse to even consider it, as Fisher insisted in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s bargaining session, and push this affair into an even darker corner.
Fair or not, the players will own the next 36 hours of this mess.
They’ve met in small groups, larger groups and committees. There have been conference calls, secret ones and not-so-secret alike, news conferences and now threats of the union decertifying and still no sign of the one thing we need … a new collective bargaining agreement!
Substantive talks are one thing and we’d welcome anything in that neighborhood going on this weekend.
But showing up to a Manhattan hotel and sticking around just long enough to tell each other that nothing has changed is not what we’d consider progress.
And we’re not the only ones exhausted by the process …
Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe captures the mood of many with his column that places the current state of affairs in the proper historical context:
It is very annoying for those of us who still love the sport of professional basketball to see what its custodians are currently doing to harm it. I wish it were as easy to decipher as the NFL madness. It was pretty easy to outfit the combatants in that one.
White Hats: Players
Black Hats: Owners
The NFL lockout was about very rich guys, all making a profit from their teams, wanting more. The players asked for nothing. Status quo was fine with them. There was a $9 billion pie, and there was ample opportunity for everyone to get a nice slice.
The NBA pie is worth “only’’ approximately $4 billion, and, unlike the NFL, not everyone makes a profit. That is clear. But just who is losing what remains unclear, because history teaches us that in these matters, professional sports teams make statements concerning their finances that, while perhaps not outright lies, are, shall we say, substantial stretches of the truth. Make that enormous, stupendous, astonishing stretches of the truth.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’ve all known for a while now that the first week of October would serve as a crucial week in these NBA labor talks.
No progress before then and the opening days of this month could be a make-or-break time for both sides, not to mention the millions of us around the world biting our nails hoping that our first love (the NBA) would come back to us … and soon.
It’s hard to categorize the things that have gone on in recent days as true progress. Sure, there have been meetings. Ideas have been exchanged. But no one is talking in a way that suggests that even the loose framework of a deal is under way.
We won’t know exactly what that means until the sides emerge from that meeting room in New York and explain themselves after yet another day of exhausting conversation about how to close the gap between what the owners want and the players are willing to give.
But if the developments of the past 24 hours are any indication, everyone seems to be digging in and the clock continues to tick …
Agents Urge Players To Stay Strong
Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated: In a letter to their clients, Arn Tellem (Wasserman Media Group), Bill Duffy (BDA Sports), Dan Fegan (Lagardère Unlimited), Jeff Schwartz (Excel Sports Management), Leon Rose and Henry Thomas (Creative Artists Agency) and Mark Bartelstein (Priority Sports and Entertainment), outlined what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable going into the biggest day of negotiating yet.
• With the National Basketball Players’ Association having already offered to drop the players’ portion of basketball-related income from 57 percent to 52 percent, the agents implore players to insist on “no further reduction of the BRI received by the players. A source close to the union told SI.com recently that any agreed-upon deal in which the players received 51 percent could possibly be ratified but would likely lead to the ousting of Billy Hunter as the NBPA’s executive director, so this is in line with those parameters.
• A system in which the current structure of the Bird and mid-level exceptions remains the same.
• No reduction in salary from existing levels for maximum contract players.
• No changes in unrestricted free agency and improvements on restricted free agency.
• “Refuse any deal that excludes players from the explosive growth of the NBA.” Owners’ proposals that have started with players receiving 46 percent of the BRI have included drastic declines in their percentage of the pie in the later years of the agreement.
Go ahead and do it already. Please rescue us all from another six weeks of speculation before the trade deadline.
But be warned Nuggets fans, things will never be the same again. You might climb out of this in a year or two and be a playoff team again. You might even be a legitimate contender some day. You just won’t have a charismatic star like Carmelo Anthony leading the charge anymore.
For franchises like the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, there is always life after a big star departs or fades from the scene. When you are in the championship business for years and years, there is an in-house blueprint for moving on from one era to the next.
In Denver, there is only the great unknown that awaits.
One Super Trio is one thing — and the Miami Three were at least free agents, all they did was exercise their options in an open market. But stars (that aren’t free agents yet) forcing their way out of situations so they can create their own version of a Super Team is a disturbing trend that has to worry fans in places where your superstar is maybe on the wrong side of the playoff line.
Durant spared us the drama earlier this summer, agreeing and signing a five-year extension with Oklahoma City (without the hoopla of an ESPN special or any of the fireworks associated with a zany free-agency period), keeping together an organically grown team that could be a true contender in the Western Conference this season.
In late June, Paul, 25, spent several days in Akron, Ohio, with James, who was busy orchestrating his own exit strategy from Cleveland. The two friends and superstars picked each other’s brains, with each persuading the other to make significant changes in their branding strategies. For Paul, it was a big step to persuade James to join the social networking phenomenon that is Twitter. For James’ part, he finally persuaded Paul to join his Cleveland-based marketing company, LRMR.
Paul’s decision to sign with LRMR, headed by James’ close friend and advisor, Maverick Carter, was only the first step in his exit plan from New Orleans. Paul officially severed his representation agreement with Octagon earlier this month and will soon officially join the influential stable of clients represented by Creative Artists Agency.
With a stranglehold on the top free-agent talent, CAA dictated the terms, pace and outcome of the monumental free-agent class of 2010. CAA clients James and Bosh agreed to join forces with fellow CAA client Wade in Miami, forming a rare triumvirate through the leverage and friendship of players as opposed to the whim of management.
Paul will be represented by CAA agent Leon Rose, who also represents James and potential 2011 free agents Anthony and Tony Parker. Miami’s Big Three haven’t even run a layup drill, and yet CAA already has the foundation in place to run the table in the free-agent summer of 2011, as well. But with a lockout looming and superstars Paul, [Carmelo] Anthony, and to a lesser degree Parker uneasy about their current situations, those plans already are in motion.
Much like what you’ve heard from legends like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and TNT’s Charles Barkley in recent days, this is indeed a different time than the one many of us grew up in.
It’s hard to knock these current stars for taking advantage of relationships (with other stars) that began when they were all barely old enough to drive. They can’t help that they’re of the microwave age and quite a few of us remember when it meant something when someone said it was “made from scratch.” Part of you, however small it might be, has to be impressed that these players are using the power and exerting the control their predecessors either never had or never knew how to use.
But for some of us, including several here at the hideout, we’re seeing the signs of some disturbing times this summer.
It’s a different world we’re all living in now folks.
Obviously, the easy way to go is “The Bachelor.” ESPN and ABC are part of the same corporate family, and I’m sure they could borrow Chris Harrison to talk about LeBron’s journey and, before each commercial break, exclaim, “Coming up… the most shocking free agent announcement ever!” We fill a lot of the hour with John Paxson, Donnie Walsh, Jay-Z, etc. all talking about how well their pitch meeting with LeBron went, how they felt there was a chemistry there, perhaps CGI up some footage of LeBron hanging with them all in a hot tub, etc., before everyone’s brought out on stage in formalwear as LeBron brings out his one and only rose.
Or we could go the “American Idol” route. Ryan Seacrest would never turn down a gig, and he could spend at least half the time moving Walsh, Pat Riley and the others around and around the stage in different combinations, declaring one group “safe” and one not. Put together a panel of ESPN personalities as a judges’ table – it’s a shame Stephen A. Smith no longer works there, as he’d be an ideal Randy analogue, and given how much Michael Wilbon hates “Idol,” he’d be in a perfectly cranky mood to play Simon – to speculate on LeBron’s choice throughout. Finally, with four minutes to go, LeBron reveals his choice, balloons and streamers drop, and the losing GM’s are serenaded with Daniel Powter‘s “Bad Day” while Kelly Clarkson makes a dramatic return to greet the winning team with “A Moment Like This.”
And there’s always “America’s Next Top Model.” No need to actually call in Tyra (though I’d enjoy watching her tell Riley how to smize). Instead, put LeBron, Maverick Carter and the rest of the entourage on a dais and have the six finalists parade up and down a runway, followed by criticism of their walks, their presentations, their wardrobes (one anonymous, later redacted report said LeBron was put off by Knicks owner James Dolan‘s appearance and by Walsh being in a wheelchair due to neck surgery) and their team rosters. At the end of it, LeBron announces, “I have one team logo in my hands…”
Now, most of these shows are in some way copying “Survivor,” so I could see LeBron bringing in Jeff Probst to reside over a special Akron-based final Tribal Council, where the remaining candidates plead their case for a posse made up of LeBron and his crew. During the question and answer period, LeBron might try to keep the audience guessing by pulling the old “Pick a number” trick from seasons one and three. Worldwide Wes (if he’s still in the LeBrontourage) could ask shady, gigantic Russian billionaire Nets owner Mikhail Prokohorov to explain why the other finalists don’t deserve to win. And somebody (agent Leon Rose, maybe?) would have to trot out a variation of “My question is, I WANT AN APOLOGY!” At the end, Probst reads a list of votes from the entourage, then says that “LeBron has spoken.”
This is hilarious stuff.
And it all of that works for us here at the hideout.
Anything that has the makings of train-wreck TV works for us.
(Though we must commend James and his camp for making sure that there some charity work being done here!)