Simon Gourdine’s most notable NBA moments came long before social media, but the former league and players association executive who died at age 72 would have had lit up Twitter, Facebook and other Internet outlets had they been around through Gourdine’s wildly divergent pro basketball incarnations.
A Manhattan native, lawyer and Harvard MBA who worked as an assistant district attorney in New York, Gourdine first linked up with the NBA in 1970 when NBA commissioner Walter Kennedy hired him as his in-house counsel. Gourdine was named NBA deputy commissioner in 1974, becoming the highest ranking African-American executive in sports at that time.
Alongside another young lawyer working for the league – guy named David Stern – under Larry O’Brien, Kennedy’s successor, Gourdine helped negotiate labor agreements with the players in 1976 and 1979. But when he felt his chances of succeeding O’Brien were fading, Gourdine left in 1981 to work for the Department of Consumer Affairs in New York City.
He returned to the NBA scene in 1990 on the other side of the bargaining table, as the National Basketball Players Association’s general counsel. When executive director Charles Grantham abruptly resigned in April 1995, Gourdine took over the top job and negotiated the labor deal that ended the 1995 lockout and instituted the NBA’s first rookie wage scale.
But Gourdine was forced out by a group of players and their agents, including Patrick Ewing and Michael Jordan, who felt the deal favored the owners and had urged the decertification of the union. They pressured the NBPA’s executive board to oust Gourdine despite a freshly signed two-year contract; an arbitration panel awarded him approximately $1 million in back pay and interest when it ruled he had been fired without cause. (more…)
CHICAGO – Serious men tackling significant issues. That’s how some past leaders of the National Basketball Players Association view their group’s history, and that’s why the current power struggle within the union is so troubling to them.
“They’re making too much money,” said Oscar Robertson, a former NBPA president whose lawsuit to prompt free agency in the NBA is nearly as legendary as his Hall of Fame career and triple-double feats. “There are no goals to strive for anymore. They got together and got the collective bargaining agreement resolved. There’s no goals now.”
The CBA that the players and owners ratified in December ended an acrimonious, five-month labor lockout, salvaged a shortened 2011-12 season and got the NBA to eve of what it hopes will be a memorable postseason. The deal also shifted $3 billion from the players to the owners if it runs its full 10-year term, caused factions within the union’s ranks and led to the intramural conflict now between NBPA president Derek Fisher and executive director Billy Hunter.
Fisher has asked for an independent audit of the union’s finances and business practices, which allegedly include compensation and opportunities funneled to Hunter’s family members through direct employment and affiliations, according to stories by Yahoo! Sports and the New York Times. The executive committee of eight current and former NBA players responded by voting 8-0 asking for Fisher’s resignation, which the veteran point guard has declined.
It all has bubbled over, in an age of endless media coverage, at an awkward time of year for those involved, putting the union’s business very much in the sports world’s streets. “What bothers me more than anything,” said Robertson, the NPBA president from 1965-74, “if they’ve got a problem, why don’t they settle it within their organization instead of going public with the whole thing? We settled all our problems within.”
In-fighting between executive committee members of the NBA players’ union and President Derek Fisher escalated Friday night, with Fisher refusing to resign while urging the league’s 30 players reps to demand review of his performance and the union’s business practices and finances.
All of this would have grabbed far bigger headlines had it occurred six, eight or 12 months ago – before the NBA and the union agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement that will run at least through the 2016-17 season. Fisher, executive director Billy Hunter and the eight National Basketball Players Association vice presidents who have lined up behind Hunter in this skirmish were front and center then, with the league in a lockout that lasted five months.
Now it is more of an inside-basketball story that might not grab most fans’ attention. The players involved are mostly back at work on the courts, with the playoffs looming. But the political maneuvering by Hunter – who fended off a call by Fisher for an audit of Hunter’s performance, turning that into an 8-0 vote of non-support for the union president – and Fisher might explain some of the union’s inconsistencies and reversals during the CBA negotiations.
CHICAGO – More than any of their NBA peers, the nine members of the National Basketball Players Association’s executive committee gave the most – in time and effort – toward salvaging this post-lockout season. Everyone dealt with the uncertainty and inactivity of the elongated offseason prior to, finally, this hectic 2011-12 schedule. It’s just that the NBPA exec committee dealt with it in coats and ties, in hotel ballrooms, from morning to night (and sometimes on to morning again), enduring all the rhetoric that took most of five months before it distilled into true negotiating .
Too bad they’re not enjoying it more.
Washington’s Maurice Evans, one of the union VPs, had a rare upbeat night against the Bulls Monday at United Center. He scored 14 points in 26:28 off the bench to help the Wizards bag a road victory, 87-84, over the team with the NBA’s best record. It was just his 19th appearance of the season (his third over the past four weeks) and only the second time he has scored in double figures.
But it has been that way for Evans, a journeyman on a team committed to a) young players and b) lottery position. He has averaged 3.4 points and 11.4 minutes when he has participated, down from 9.7 and 27.4 in 2010-11.
He has company among the union brass. NBPA president Derek Fisher, of course, was traded from his beloved Lakers, then cut loose by Houston before landing nicely with Oklahoma City. Fisher’s stats are off a bit too: 5.5 ppg, 24.4 mpg now, 6.8 and 28.0 then.
After announcing that the league has canceled all games through Nov. 30 and dashing any hopes of a full 82-game schedule [see post below], Commissioner David Stern says that the NBA’s position will harden from here, given the fact that the league, according to Stern, has lost $200 million by missing out on the preseason and will lose hundreds of millions more with the loss of November games.
“We’re going to have to recalculate how bad the damage is … The NBA’s offer will necessarily — its next offer — will reflect the extraordinary losses that are starting to pile up now,” Stern said.
“Both sides are very badly damaged. The amount of dollars lost to the owners is extraordinary. And the amount of dollars lost to players under individual contracts is also extraordinary … You can make computations about who’s going to be able to make it back and who’s not going to be able to make it back. I’m not sure that any time in the short run the owners will be able to make it back.
“And I know for a fact that in the short run, the players will not be able to make it back and probably never be able to make it back.”
Stern said that the league was willing to come up to 50 percent in the split of BRI. But “[union head] Billy Hunter said he was not willing to go a penny below 52 [for the players' share], that he had been getting many calls from agents, and then he closed up his book and walked out of the room.”
As close as things seemed late Thursday … they seem as far apart now as they’ve ever been. Now, we have to wonder again about Christmas Day games and, indeed, whether there will be a 2011-12 season at all.
UPDATE, 6:33 p.m.ish ET: Goodbye November games. Goodbye 82-game schedule.
“Yes. Our games are canceled through Nov. 30,” said Commissioner David Stern. And then he completely, and finally, doused any thoughts that an 82-game schedule still could be squeezed into a time-shortened season.
“It’s not practical, possible or prudent to have a full season now. There will not be a full NBA season under any circumstances,” Stern said.
The league had a 50-game season in 1999. That season didn’t begin until early February. Owners and players did not agree on a new collective bargaining agreement back then until early January.
UPDATE, 5:53 p.m.ish ET: A thought:
If the owners were negotiating on “system” issues with the understanding that the players would accept 50-50, and the players won’t accept 50-50, does that mean all the work done in the past 30 hours or so on those “system” issues has to be done again?
Commissioner David Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver are expected to talk soon. Watch for it here and on NBA TV.
UPDATE, 5:48 p.m.ish ET: Sources confirm to TNT’s David Aldridge that the league will cancel regular-season games through the 30th of November.
Steve Aschburner also reports that Derek Fisher is headed back to Los Angeles, which pretty much guarantees no talks this weekend.
And so, any hopes for an 82-game regular season all but go up in flames.
UPDATE, 5:28 p.m.ish ET: Says Billy Hunter, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association:
“We made a lot of concessions but this time, unfortunately, it’s not enough.”
No word of more meetings scheduled. At this time, cancellations of more games seems almost certain.
UPDATE:, 5:20 p.m.ish ET: “Today wasn’t the day to try and close this out,” Derek Fisher, the Lakers’ guard and president of the players’ union, tells reporters in the lobby of the hotel where the talks were held.
Fisher said the players are sticking to their desire to claim 52.5 percent of BRI. The owners have said they want a 50-50 split.
The players decided not to meet in a formal interview session, so there was no live coverage on NBA TV. The league is expected to meet formally in a news conference that will be carried live on NBA TV …
UPDATE, 4:45 p.m.ish ET: ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) is reporting that the talks hit a roadblock when the owners and players couldn’t agree on the BRI split. Owners still at 50-50. Players don’t want to go lower than 52.
Windhorst also tweeting that more cancellations coming …
This is not good.
UPDATE, 4:43 p.m.ish ET: The New York Times (@HowardBeckNYT) tweets that the talks have ended for the day. Reporters are waiting on a possible news conference.
UPDATE, 2 p.m.ish ET: With the NBA’s labor negotiations blowing past the 3 1/2 hour mark Friday — that’s close to 26 hours of yakking since owners and players resumed talks Wednesday at noon — we asked NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner to give us a feel for the mood at the swanky New York hotel he’s been snuggled up in for the past way too many hours.
NEW YORK – Competing values are at work, along with the well-worn backsides of the huddled media folks covering the NBA labor talks, on the lockout’s 120th day.
The level of optimism for a deal was as high as it had been since the dispute began, fueled by the words and tone Thursday evening by NBA commissioner David Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter. “Tomorrow” was mentioned by both, with Stern vowing “one heck of a shot” and Hunter talking of “striking distance” for at least a handshake agreement.
Then again, reporters – and by extension, NBA fans – had been down this road before only to see and hear a few moments of enthusiasm tamped down by “blood” issues and newly entrenched positions. For one thing, there were more people in the room beyond the desirable “small groups” that tend to achieve the most progress in such negotiations. For another, the two sides were determined to address BRI today. That’s the dreaded split of basketball-related revenues that had been avoided since talks broke off Oct. 20, the most heated night of the lockout so far. Thus the forecast: Volatility.
It’s one thing for the bomb squad to pat itself on the back for discovering the device, cordoning off the area and undoing a few screws. It’s something entirely different to finally choose which wire – green or blue – to snip.
UPDATE, 12:45 p.m. ET: Now, roughly two hours into the third straight day of labor meetings, representatives for the NBA’s owners and players have been joined by some heavyweights, on both sides.
New Orleans Hornets All-Star point guard Chris Paul, a member of the National Basketball Players Association executive committee, has joined in the talks, along with fellow exec committee member Theo Ratliff of the L.A. Lakers. Also in the room again today is economist Kevin Murphy of the University of Chicago. They’ll sit shoulder-to-shoulder with Lakers guard Derek Fisher, the union’s president, and Billy Hunter, the NBPA’s executive director
Dallas Mavericks owners Mark Cuban, who took part in Thursday’s seven-hour session, came back for Friday’s sit-down, too. He is teaming, according to NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner, with owners Peter Holt (Spurs), Glen Taylor (Timberwolves) and Jim Dolan (Knicks), along with NBA Commissioner David Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver.
10:45 a.m. ET: The biggest day of the most miserable NBA offseason in years has arrived, with the promise either to send this offseason into new depths of unimaginable miserableness or — and this is the prevailing sentiment — get the league, and its fans, back to the business of basketball.
Key players for the owners and players are meeting yet again in New York in an attempt to fashion a collective bargaining agreement that both sides can live with. After more than seven hours of meetings Thursday, the two sides now are closer than they ever have been in the 120 days of the lockout. Both NBA Commissioner David Stern and National Basketball Players Association head Billy Hunter expressed optimism — as guarded as it might be — that an agreement could be reached this weekend, and maybe as early as Friday.
Both sides caution that much work is left to be done. But a lot of the back-and-forth on “system” issues, including the makeup of a new luxury tax system, was undertaken on Wednesday (during a 15-hour session) and Thursday. On Friday, the two sides are expected to tackle the split of revenue known as Basketball-Related Income.
At stake, immediately, is the survival of an 82-game season, a carrot that has helped each side get down to business this week. It’s still unclear if a full season of games can be pulled off. But both sides are expected to give it their best shots today. The New York Times reported on Friday that the NBA has asked teams to look into arena dates in late April, after the regular season normally has ended. That’s a sign that an 82-game schedule is still a possibility.
NEW YORK – Wearing gray T-shirts over their street clothes that said, “STAND / 2011 NBPA Summer Meeting,” about 50 NBA players arrived in a group, exiting a limousine bus to attend Friday’s negotiating session for a new collective bargaining agreement.
The threat of a lockout looms, with the current CBA set to expire Thursday and the NBA owners and players still far apart after two years of proposals, counter-proposals and wrangling.
“The message is just solidarity, that we have to stand together, we have to be unified and be prepared to address whatever the circumstance is, but address it together,” said Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association.
The session that began Friday at 11 a.m. ET was the seventh, small- or big-group, since The Finals began in Miami on May 31. Comments from both sides after the initial meetings focused on positive elements, but more recent reactions – as specifics of the two sides’ proposals have been shared – have turned pessimistic that a compromise can be reached.
OAKLAND – The National Basketball Players Association is considering staging a charity game, or possibly a series of games, at different locations if the lockout stretches into the scheduled start of the 2011-12 season, union president Derek Fisher told NBA.com.
“I’d say it’s possible right now,” the Lakers guard said after Wednesday night’s game at Oracle Arena. “We’re so focused on trying not to be in that situation, so it’s tough to go into full-scale planning on those types of situations. But at the same time, we have a responsibility as a union and as an association to really keep options that are viable open for our guys.
“There’s so many challenges logistically, in terms of where you play, having the arenas, having officials, security – all the things that a lot of times we don’t have to deal with because the league is doing those things. But we looked into it before, we’ve looked into it a little bit now. Until we see that it’s something that we’re really going to have to look forward to doing, right now, it’s still just kind of floating out there.”
Most signs point to the lockout beginning July 1 and damaging at least a large portion of offseason business. Fisher said the NBPA will be “trying to continue to create ideas and situations and opportunities where we can really keep our players out there in terms of being in the community, being visible, letting people know that guys would want to continue to play.”
BEVERLY HILLS — LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul were among the All-Star contingent arriving at a Beverly Hills hotel for Friday afternoon’s meeting between the league and the players.
“I’m worried about the league,” Wade said. “It’s not just about myself, it’s the future of the NBA. We want to be able to be sure this game can continue to grow and prosper. We want this game to go on for many, many years.”
The union was also represented by executive director Billy Hunter, executive committee president Derek Fisher, treasurer James Jones, and vice presidents Roger Mason, Theo Ratliff, Keyon Dooling, Etan Thomas and Paul. All-Stars in attendance included Kevin Durant, Amar’e Stoudemire, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Al Horford.
“We understand that a deal has to be done,” Wade said. “Both sides have to come to an agreement and neither side is going to agree until we meet halfway. Me being one of the ‘faces of the league,’ it’s just coming in and learning more and trying to understand what both sides are going through. That’s the biggest thing.”
The league negotiating team here is headed up by commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver and labor relations chairman Peter Holt, owner of the San Antonio Spurs. Among other owners in the room were Michael Jordan (Charlotte Bobcats), Jerry Buss (L.A. Lakers), Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks) and Donald Sterling (L.A. Clippers).
The union is expected to hold a press conference after the meeting in downtown Los Angeles. Stern will hold one Saturday.
DALLAS — Brandon Jennings spent his first year of professional basketball overseas. He may also spend his fourth.
The trendsetting young Buck could easily see himself going back over the pond next season in the event of a lengthy lockout. A guy’s got to make a living, and Jennings knows the landscape having played in Italy straight out of high school.
“I’m sure my value will be higher than it was before, the first time I went over there,” he told NBA.com last night after helping Milwaukee snap the Mavericks’ 12-game winning streak. “I’m sure this time I’ll get some playing time. The will be the best thing, I’ll be able to play now, make a little money and keep some income coming in for my family.”
Jennings made the ground-breaking leap to Europe in 2008, signing with Lottomatica Roma of the Italian League, instead of going to college. The swift lefty played sparingly with Lottomatica, but did gain valuable experience and it didn’t hurt his draft stock. The Bucks selected Jennings 10th overall in the 2009 Draft.
It’s no secret that NBA players are considering playing in professional leagues around the world in the event of a work stoppage. The longer one lasts and the more paychecks are missed, the greater the possibility for many to find employment elsewhere. Players are within their rights to work and therefore play in another league, regardless of their current contract status with NBA teams, in the event of a lockout.
But a major obstacle would be obtaining a letter of clearance from FIBA to sign with international teams, given the relationship between FIBA and the NBA. The NBPA would undoubtedly fight any obstruction, perceived or otherwise, to its members earning a living.
Though his first move to Europe didn’t exactly open the floodgates for other prep players to follow, Jennings may well lead a new exodus to foreign lands.
“Oh yeah, of course I wouldn’t mind going back overseas,” Jennings said. “I’ve been almost everywhere overseas and I lived in Italy for a year. I know what type of game it is and I know what it’s about.”
In the second year of his rookie contract, Jennings said he’s living by a strict budget. He drives a Ford Edge, doesn’t have a fancy house and stays near the Bucks practice center.
“It’s a good thing I’m living in Milwaukee,” Jennings said, “because when the snow comes I’m not leaving the house.”
The league and the Players Association held another collective bargaining meeting today in New York. NBA commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt, NBPA executive director Billy Hunter and union executive committee president Derek Fisher were among those who participated in the session.
League spokesman Michael Bass issued the following statement:
“We held another bargaining meeting today that included frank and direct dialogue that allowed us to discuss some key issues. We still have much work ahead of us and we agreed to meet again in December.”
A firm date wasn’t immediately available for the December meeting. The league and union previously had meetings in September, August and February during All-Star weekend.