NEW YORK — Good morning. Hope you got some sleep. I didn’t get much, and I imagine Jeffrey Kessler didn’t either.
Kessler, the lead outside counsel for NBA players (he performs the same role for NFL players) was practically foaming at the mouth in the wee hours of the a.m. after David Stern and Derek Fisher had conducted their respective news conferences in the most diplomatic tones they could muster. The moment Fisher left the room, Kessler started venting. Loudly. And he didn’t let up for a good 15-20 minutes.
The owners, Kessler said, had been the ones who brought an abrupt halt to the proceedings. After 3 weeks of preconditions that were levied and then removed and then levied and removed again, the owners circled back to basically the same place they have been all along while giving the players a take-it-or-leave-it offer that for all intents and purposes would max out at 50.2 percent of revenues going to the players, 49.8 percent going to the owners.
The players had dropped to 51 percent, or as Kessler termed it: “Fifty plus one,” with the extra one percent ($40 million) being earmarked for improved pension benefits for both current and retired players.
“These are professional basketball players,’’ Kessler said. “They are the finest athletes in the world. How do you think they feel about threats? How do you think they feel about efforts at intimidation? Who negotiates in good faith when they say it’s this proposal or (back to) 47 percent? Take it or leave it. This is not good faith to the fans. ‘’
Big, bad Michael Jordan had become Paul Allen 2.0 during the meeting, Kessler said, barely uttering a word.
Arbitrator George Cohen’ suggestions, Kessler said, had been hijacked by Stern and turned into the owners’ official offer. The money quote from my news story, after the 8 1/2 hours of meetings and 60 minutes of dueling news conferences had ended: “The story here is they want it all,” Kessler bellowed. “They want a win, win, win, win. We wanted a compromise. Our 51 percent offer was based on a fair system. They would have to come to us on the system, but they did not.”
So although the sides are close on the money, they are not close on what is fair and what is unfair. And now comes the waiting (until Wednesday, when the owners say their offer will expire), and the fallout.
Let’s have a looksee around the Web to see how this story is evolving:
Ben Golliver of CBSSports.com: “On Saturday, as labor talks between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association were winding down, at least three NBA players took to Twitter to express their frustration with Jordan.
“I’m not wearing Jordans no more,” Washington Wizards guard Nick Young said. “Can’t believe what I just seen and heard from MJ. Elvis Done Left The Building.” “Damn MJ,” Indiana Pacers guard Paul George wondered aloud. “That’s how you feel?” Later, Golden State Warriors rookie wing Klay Thompson replied to George: “You think the 1996 MJ would pull this? Straight hypocrite bro.” George agreed: “Man straight hypocrite bro.. He should’ve been the 1st one behind us smh.”
Phoenix Suns forward Jared Dudley, via Twitter: ” I understand y’all made and frustrated and you want players to accept this offer/ trust me we want to accept a deal but this is not it.”
Besiktas/New Jersey Nets guard Deron Williams, via Twitter: “I’ve been ready to sign a decertification petition since July? Can’t believe we are just now going this route! SMH.”
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, via Twitter: Let me say this: I have a hard time believing Stern and the owners are willing to blow up the season on November 9th. … To my tweet NBA wouldn’t blow up season on Nov. 9, source briefed on owners’ meeting Saturday texts: “The hardliners have control and will.” … Here’s what I think this comes down to by Wednesday for the Players Association: Accept deal, or decertify union and blow up season. … Veteran player who has long been on side of decertification just texted me: “Time to blow this (bleep) to the moon.”
David Aldridge of NBA-TV and Turner Sports, via Twitter: “Just heard from source in contact with owners: “Stern does not have the votes above 50 & he is trying to find a way to make it acceptable”.