By Chris Sheridan
NEW YORK — Well, I guess I forgot they were all lawyers — with an exception for Derek Fisher, who is nonetheless lawyerlike.
An explanation is owed to my readers for the eternal optimism of the past few weeks. So here it is: I have known all of these men for years, and in the past several months I have looked all of them in the eyes — David Stern, Adam Silver, Billy Hunter, Fisher, Dan Rube, Ron Klempner, Jeffrey Kessler and others — and have spoken to them in detail about the lockout.
There was always one common denominator.
I always perceived the same thing when speaking to each of them: There was always a reasonable endgame, with a reasonable settlement to be reached at the right time.
And unless David Stern is superbluffing and becomes the next 48-hours-from-zero-to-hero story, the right time has just passed. What the union believes is a “pre-ordained” plan is now the NBA’s cold reality.
From talking to people after the talks ended Monday night, the players felt the owners were piling on with their demands for system changes, trying to run up the score in a negotiation that clearly, from the get-go, was a case study in what is known as concessionary bargaining — a union trying to hang us onto as much as it could from the old labor deal. (When all of us are old and gray, the only unions that will have survived will represent sanitation workers. If you’ve ever endured a garbage-collection strike, you understand.)
The NBA’s owners have clearly already won this battle, and a 51-49 neighborhood deal was there to be made over the past two days of talks.
But those talks never proceeded to the closure stage. In the 11th hours, Sunday and Monday, the principle players ended up being lawyers instead of humans. They wasted valuable time and many billable hours on side issues instead of the real issue, the money issue — the financial split.
And as they all walked out onto East 63rd Street and announced doomsday, all of those same guys mentioned above had the same new looks on their faces: They are uneasy. They are treading dangerously into the unknown, and they are uncertain where this thing is going.
The dynamic of this dispute will now change, with people taking sides. (You can take sides in the new poll on this site’s home page.)
And as I said in my angry Very Short Column filed via Droid (you have no idea what a personal technological achievement that was) moments after Stern announced the cancellation of the first two weeks of the regular season, this is just stupid.
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be law students.
More tomorrow and every day thereafter.