“People get to keep their jobs — that’s all I was concerned about,” Don Young said on Saturday morning, standing a few feet away from a small, illuminated case that held one of Pete Maravich’s socks. Don’s a design engineer for Cablevision in the Bronx. He came up to Springfield to maybe be reminded that in the not-so-distant past, the game seemed to have a conscience. Don is relieved at the NBA labor settlement because now his daughter, a dancer for the Nets, won’t have to move back home.
But, wearing a heavy-lidded expression that speaks of little tolerance for the closed-door strategies of the corporate stratosphere, he is clearly not about to thank the league for its largesse in opening the arena doors in cities blighted for two months by deserted bars and idled beer vendors. There’s been too much collateral damage already.
I love basketball and couldn't be more thrilled that we are having a NBA season.
WITH. THAT. SAID.
I was starting to get weirdly excited about the shenanigans that NBA players were about to get involved in. I love seeing these guys act like themselves (teenage boys who have the house to themselves for the weekend, know their parents’ credit card number, have the keys to the Volvo, and are well versed in the workings of the liquor cabinet and the freeze-pop drawer), and this lockout was about to bring out the best/worst in all of them. Every single one.
A few weeks ago, at the height of my belief that a season was out of the question, I started to make a list of things I was pumped for in the upcoming locked-out months. There are 25 things. Yep. Thirteen, and then 12 more.
The NBA lockout is over, and it really just felt like an extended offseason with added resentment. It sort of reminded me of The Decision, except the lockout was way less interesting. The two are similar because fans interpreted them as abstract ideas of debatable business ethics and personal morality. As a spectator, it felt like The Decision ‘mattered’ more, however there was obviously way more at stake with the current labor negotiations. Both were disorienting fan experiences because even our most informed opinions are based on rumors, strategically released information, and the empty rhetoric of people who seemed alarmingly entitled.
Unfortunately, the NBA lockout never produced a seminal moment that was ceremonially officiated by Jim Gray or even resulted in a bitter owner sending out an angry e-mail in Comic Sans. Instead, we will just remember tired, old men in expensive sweaters holding a guerrilla press conference at 3 a.m. on an early Saturday morning. At least it is over, but in a way, the NBA never disappeared, because we kept up to date with players as they managed to stay in the headlines, stay in shape, or stay actively present during the negotiations.
Here are some lasting images from the NBA lockout.
We’re in yet another NBA-less week of November, and the labor talks between the players and owners took an ugly turn last week when the NBPA dissolved its union and players filed antitrust suits. With a lawsuit already pending in New York between the owners and the players, we have now officially moved from the sometimes-contentious collective bargaining phase to always-contentious litigation period.
And, instead of battling over BRI and salary-cap exceptions, the players and owners, represented by some of the best litigators and antitrust lawyers in the country, will now battle over labor exemptions and antitrust violations. In other words, as some have put it, basketball fans are about to enter a “nuclear winter,” the “doomsday scenario,” and “a foul, hilarious, and surprisingly heartwarming holiday experience that utilizes its eye-popping technology to take gross-out humor to a new level.” (That last one may refer to A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.)
I’m not here to talk about why things broke down. Instead, I want to talk about how we put them back together — how do we go from no union, no collective bargaining talks, and antitrust suits to an NBA season? It will be a bumpy road, and we might not get there in time to save the season, but here are some of the answers to the key questions that might arise over the next several weeks of this fight.
Don’t feel too bad if you still don’t understand the goals or logic of NBA players during the lockout. Their inability to communicate their concerns has been one of the larger criticisms of the National Basketball Players Association during these negotiations.
The players' union — or the trade association formerly known as the players’ union — began clearly coalescing its points Tuesday. The union invited about a dozen reporters to its offices to hear executive director Billy Hunter and David Boies, the freshly hired and well-respected attorney who will lead the union’s efforts in court against the NBA, discuss the organization’s next step.
The following is a rundown of the players’ complaint. Portions of this blog post that are presented in italics are excerpts from the complaint itself. The quotes are spliced with explanations from Boies.
On Monday, the NBA labor negotiations completely imploded. Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher, with seemingly half of the NBA at their side, declared their intentions to disband the union and file an antitrust lawsuit against the league. In response, NBA commissioner David Stern appeared on SportsCenter and said, "They seem hell-bent on self-destruction, and it's very sad."
The rhetoric now moves from meetings in hotels to courtrooms. But what did Monday's action actually mean? We asked Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College who has worked with the players' union in the past, to try to explain it all.
So this week was filled with more lengthy NBA lockout meetings, but no deal was reached. Next week, player representatives will go over the league’s latest revised offer. In case you’ve forgotten, here a handy timeline that helps explain how we’ve arrived at the umpteenth crucial crossroads in these negotiations.
Nearly every one of these NBA labor negotiations ends the same way. Press conference areas are set up, usually in adjacent rooms, and NBA commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA executive director Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher discuss the fruitlessness of that particular session. Those conversations with the media sometimes diverge. The sides can be specific or vague. They can project optimism, pessimism, hope, frustration, progress, or regression. But so far, they never include the one thing everyone in the room is hoping for: a joint conference — and a deal.
When the talks don’t go well, there are warnings of “extreme consequences,” accusations of being “snookered,” or the cancellation of more games. When it appears as though inroads have been made, however, the opposite occurs. Such was the situation early Thursday morning, when the league and union ultimately revealed nothing to the gathered reporters after another marathon session, other than that they would meet again in the morning.
“We're not failing and we're not succeeding,” Stern said. “We're just there.”
“There was enough give and take on both sides to merit us both coming back tomorrow,” Hunter said.
He seemed fatigued, yet still upbeat, after Wednesday’s session. I know, because I found myself sharing an elevator — and later a car ride — with him.
The ending of the 1998-1999 lockout signaled a flurry of activity, players going here and there, and eventually a revealing of a circumventing of the system that troubles the Minnesota Timberwolves to this day. To raised eyebrows, the Timberwolves had signed Joe Smith to a one-year, $1.75 million deal a year after he had averaged nearly 15 points and 6 rebounds with Golden State and Philadelphia. Later, it was revealed that he had been promised up to $86 million over seven years in his subsequent contract with Minnesota.
The second contract never saw the light of day because of the violation of the agreement — a gross skirting of the old and new league labor laws. NBA Commissioner David Stern levied the most severe penalty in NBA history by voiding Smith’s contract, stripping Minnesota of five first-round draft picks (eventually reduced to three), leveling a $3.5 million fine on the organization and suspending executive Kevin McHale. Despite the penalties, Minnesota retained their ability to compete for a while. But over the next five seasons, the loss of draft picks crippled the team’s ability to build around Kevin Garnett.
The Timberwolves have not won more than 33 games since 2004-05.
Grantland's Jonathan Abrams is staking out Friday's NBA lockout meeting, and he's e-mailing us updates throughout the day. Can someone send Jonathan Abrams a pizza or something? He's probably in for a long day.
From: Abrams Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 6:05 PM Subject: Adios
It could have been much worse and much better. Worse, in that I was prepared to stay here through the night and watch as my e-mails grew more delirious and frustrated. Better, in that I thought the lockout could be solved today.
Instead of a handshake deal, Hunter said the union had been "snookered" into believing an agreement could be struck today. If I take nothing else away, snookered is now one of my top 5 favorite verbs.
All in all, it was only about eight hours of awkwardly staring at everyone who walked into the hotel and wondering if it was Mark Cuban.
But that is the life of a stakeout reporter: wait, optimism, wait, pessimism, rinse, repeat.
Please tip your reporters, who have delivered you such emotion since the first meeting. They deserve it.
From: Abrams Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 5:41 PM Subject: E-mail #whatever
These talks ended in the most predictable way. All of the optimism stemmed from just skirting the bigger issue: the actual split. When they got to it, neither side budged and now more games will be lost. Hunter and Derek Fisher already spoke to media, while a kind Mo Evans held up a tape recorder for a boxed-out reporter.
Stern and Adam Silver are warming up. The swarm of media is now by the elevators, blah, blah, blah. Why are you not getting ready for Game 7 anyways?
From: Abrams Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 5:03 PM Subject: E-mail 11
And the two sides are sadly and officially done for the day. Media has swarmed the lobby with cameras in hands, only to be moved twice by hotel security -- somewhere to where the paying folk can't see or feed the herd.
Some are sad that talks broke during the daylight. Kept hearing an entirely different clientele comes to this venue later in the evening.
From: Abrams Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 4:47 PM Subject: E-mail 10
The talks appear to be over for the day before 5 p.m., which a) means there is no deal today b) points out the hopelessness of getting too up or down unless there is an actual deal done and c) means that I should have taken the under on when Stern will talk. Reporters are scrambling to cover everything: elevators, exits and hallways. I am still hesitant to give up my prime location. It could be a set up.
From: Abrams Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 4:22 PM Subject: E-mail 9
There is a $1 pool that most of the reporters throw in on. The aim is to guess what time NBA Commissioner David Stern speaks to the media. The low wager tonight is 9:17 p.m. The latest one is for 2:24 a.m. I placed mine at 10:17 p.m., guessing that there are too many factors that have to fall in place for a deal to happen tonight.
From: Abrams Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 4:00 PM Subject: E-mail 8
I made a pact with Brian Mahoney on arrival here. We share a table and vowed to watch over one another’s computers and more importantly, power outlets. Mahoney, the capable basketball writer for the Associated Press, has been gone for an extended period of time. I will now auction off both for a bag of Doritos.
Meanwhile, we're about six hours into the meeting.
To complete our community service (and get off probation), we proudly present the second half of our Men in Blazers' NBA-to-English Premier League Global Football Team Support Translator. It’s our charitable attempt to ease the withdrawal pains of our basketball-loving brothers and sisters who have been so cruelly forced to go cold turkey.
Please note: This guide is objective and scientific. It’s the result of crunching data through our CDC 6600 supercomputer, which processed a series of complex variables through a proprietary MiB algorithm, punching out the below results on ticker tape.
"Right now, Tuesday, Tuesday, Tuesday, just before my owners come into town, having brought in the labor relations committee and Billy [Hunter] having brought in his executive committee, it's time to make the deal," NBA commissioner David Stern said last week. "If we don't make it on Tuesday, my gut is that we won't be playing on Christmas Day."
This is bad news for you, the fan. But don’t worry! Some other people probably have it worse. (Yes, we’re looking at you, Harlem Globetrotters.)