NEW YORK — Good morning — even though it isn’t such a good morning, is it?
The whole thing blew up last night and got downright nasty afterward, and it now looks like David Stern’s Grinch prediction might actually come true. Except for two things: Stern was sidelined with flu-like symptoms and did not attend last night’s Armageddon, and Derek Fisher said he is staying in town in case talks are suddenly revived.
It appears the sides need a cooling-off day, and they’ll probably take one today. But there is always Saturday, there is always Sunday, and they are only $100 million per season apart on the financial end of the negotiations.
So anything could happen. Keep that in mind. And one other thing: Stern has been the public villain here, and he was absent yesterday. If he parachutes back in and closes the deal, he looks like a savior. Remember, this is his legacy deal. And what a tainted legacy it would be if he lost an entire season to stubbornness after a season in which the NBA reached a popularity peak not seen since Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls.
Let’s have a look around the Web:
Bil Simmons, Grantland.com: The NBA owners and players made countless mistakes during these past few months, but over everything else, one stands out: They assumed fans would stick by them through thick and thin. They were wrong. Fans do what’s best for themselves. It was funny to read about the length of yesterday’s NBA meeting — a whopping 16 hours with a federal mediator, double the duration of every other unproductive powwow — if only because they waited until October 18 to show that much urgency. October 18??? If you were on the verge of obliterating the momentum of one of your five best seasons ever, wouldn’t you spend your summer chained to a radiator in a conference room to prevent that from happening? Wouldn’t you say to each other, “We can’t do this, we’re going to drive a good chunk of our fans away?” That desperate “we can’t leave this room without an answer” moment didn’t happen in February or March or April or May or June or July or August or September … I mean, what the #$&@ were these people doing this whole time? I will never feel the same about David Stern and Billy Hunter, both of whom irrevocably tarnished their legacies these past few months. Their lack of imagination and urgency was absolutely perplexing. Talk to any NBA employee, player or agent off the record and they all say the same thing in one shape or another: Both of these guys are old, they’re stubborn, and they’re terrified to think outside the box. What’s funny is that, once upon a time, Stern lived outside the box. No longer.
Ken Berger, CBSSports.com: “The ultimate optimist, the one who has spent hours thinking about and writing about solutions, indulging fellow optimists involved in the talks who thought right up until Thursday that a deal was possible — I’m done. No more circus tickets for me. No more bearded ladies and men on stilts. No more clown shows, and no more spin. No more believing in reason and compromise. No more Mr. Nice Guy. What happened Thursday was irresponsible and gutless — which shouldn’t come as a surprise in sports, where the irresponsible and gutless go to make their millions (or billions) and play us for fools. They take our money to finance their palaces, gouge us for pretzels, beer and parking, and laugh all the way to the country club. All they want, said labor relations committee chairman Peter Holt of the San Antonio Spurs, whose arena was built with $145 million in public funds, is the chance to “make a few bucks.” … When they pick up the phone in a day or two — and they will, they always do — they’ll expect you to care that they’re getting together to try this again. Don’t. Don’t get played again. When the news release goes out announcing the canceling of another chunk of your games, they’ll expect you to understand — and come back when it’s all over. Do that at your own peril. I’m mad at everybody right now, but do you know who I’m angrier at? The owners. Why? Because I believe Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher when they say it was an ultimatum from the owners that shattered these talks. … If they want to set $800 million aflame — the total carnage once the next two weeks of games are canceled — over a $100 million annual difference in BRI, why should I try to stop them? Silver reminded me Thursday that $100 million a year is $1 billion over 10 years, which is true. But it’s also true that the NBA and its players will lose 80 percent of that simply by canceling one month of games. They have a name for this. It’s called asshattery. Asshattery with a circus tent over it, and soon, no audience — no one left who cares.”
Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports: “ Union attorney Jeffrey Kessler said Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen, a newcomer to the talks, came to the mediation session to represent the hard-line stance of the board of governors. “Something happened in that board of governors meeting,” Kessler said. “Yesterday we thought we were moving toward a deal. Suddenly, today, they spend very little time negotiating. As soon as we got in there and presented our offer and without caucusing, they said, ‘We don’t have to do anything else. We can tell you right now we’re at 50 percent, and it has to be our way.’ “We adjourned, we came back with the players. They said, ‘We will not agree to anything else unless you agree to 50 percent. I couldn’t believe it. … Union officials think the league’s hard-line owners – most of them in small markets who aren’t on the labor relations committee – are making it difficult for the two sides to reach a compromise. Hunter cited the Los Angeles Lakers’ Jerry Buss, the New York Knicks’ Jim Dolan, the Miami Heat’s Micky Arison and the Dallas Mavericks’ Mark Cuban as owners who are willing to make a deal. “But I think there are a group of small-market owners who are dug in, and they’re carrying the day,” Hunter said.”
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: It makes sense for the owners to wait to see what the players have to say when their bank accounts start dwindling. It’s the difference between offering someone dessert after a full meal or offering a fruit roll-up after a cross-country flight. The players have to hold on to the hope that they’ll get a favorable ruling in November from the National Labor Relations Board, which could ultimately impose an injunction that lifts the lockout, at least temporarily. It’s a long shot, but it’s the only hope for leverage that they have. You know a deal is nowhere close when the owners’ side has Dan Gilbert telling the players to trust him. Yeah, that’ll work. It’s the same Dan Gilbert who went from sweet-talking LeBron James and offering him $125 million to shooting arrows at his back after he left. Put it this way: How seriously would the owners take it if LeBron came into the room and told the Cavs’ owner to take the players’ proposal and trust him on it?
Howard Beck, New York Times: “Silver said he began the day feeling optimistic. Officials from the players’ side also felt that progress was possible when the talks reconvened early Thursday afternoon, after the N.B.A.’s board of governors meeting. Union officials suggested that something changed during that owners meeting. According to the union, Paul Allen, the Portland Trail Blazers’ owner, was a surprise participants at the labor talks, and had been sent to deliver the owners’ message — that they would move no further. “This meeting was hijacked,” said Jeffrey Kessler, the union’s outside counsel and its lead negotiator. “Something happened in that board of governors meeting. We were making progress.” Allen was sent, Kessler said, to deliver a message from the owners — “and that view was, ‘Our way or the highway.’ That’s what we were told. We were shocked.” Kessler spoke long after league officials had departed. The N.B.A. did not immediately respond to his remarks.
David Aldridge of NBA.com, via NBA TV: Aldridge: “We are running out of time with regard to a full season, certainly it doesn’t look like there will be a full season, but we are running out of time to have any season at all. How concerned are you that we are getting to the point where there might not be a season at all?” Fisher: “We’ve always been concerned for two years that we could find ourselves in this position. That’s why we continued to prepare our players for the worst case, which is a lost season, but we will continue to put our time and effort in and will be here if there is a meeting to be had right now or tomorrow or the next day, we will be here. That’s the responsibility that I have. That’s what I was elected to do – to try to find a deal and find a fair resolution and continue to meet.”