Friday, Sept. 16, 2011Posted: 4:56 p.m.
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com Bulls Insider Follow @CSNBullsInsider
From NBPA president Derek Fisher's letter to his constituents to NFLPA union chief DeMaurice Smith's presence in Las Vegas -- where several NBA players have congregated for Impact Basketball's Competitive Training Series -- and even reports of the league's owners not being completely unified (the issues of revenue sharing and willingness to miss an entire season are supposedly the divides) at both Tuesday's negotiating session in New York and the subsequent Board of Governors meeting in Dallas, one could glean that significant developments favoring the players are occurring on the lockout front. On the other hand, multiple reports of agents pushing for the union to decertify -- a tactic used by the NFLPA, but something the aforementioned Smith downplayed as a road to success -- and signs of dissatisfaction from various players can be interpreted as bad signs for the "millionaires" (players) in their fight against their "billionaire" counterparts (owners).
Due to the "gag order" that's been mostly adhered to by the union and league, it's hard to know which way, if any, the tide is turning in the ongoing NBA lockout. However, it's clear that although there's continued to be a trickle of players signing contracts to play abroad -- for example, veteran Nuggets guard J.R. Smith, a free agent, reportedly inked a deal to play in China with no "out clause" -- the anticipated mass exodus of players overseas (Jazz All-Star point guard Deron Williams, who has already started to play in Turkey, remains the lone true superstar to cross the waters) hasn't happened as of yet.
At the same time, how much leverage the union would gain from players plying their trade in far-off destinations for a fraction of what they make in the NBA is dubious, as is the idea that participating in the "lockout league" in Vegas (or the one former NBA player and coach John Lucas has proposed for Houston) or star-powered exhibition games would pose a threat to the owners. But what's clear is that both sides have dug in their heels for a battle that could potentially jeopardize the entire season, a reality that's beginning to sink in, despite recent reports of optimism.
Not to say that any of my peers would stretch the truth in order to get a scoop, but without being in the actual meetings and having to rely on translating the posturing rhetoric from Fisher, NBA commissioner David Stern, NBPA chief Billy Hunter and others, even information from the most well-placed sources are subject to scrutiny. Besides the fans, the people who are truly affected by this lockout are those who don't make millions or billions -- whether they're minimum-contract veterans who have to make a decision on the behalf of their families, team employees who have been laid off, draft picks who haven't yet collected a professional salary or people whose livelihood depend on the game, like arena security guards, concession-stand workers and in some cases, even media.
Their plight is unfortunately secondary in this drama, but without fervently arguing a case for either side (the expired CBA clearly favors the players, but while the owners did agree to it and the players have a right to want to keep the system the same, they'll likely have to concede more than a small percentage of their split of basketball-related income, something they reportedly proposed recently, for this ordeal to end, although the owners must come to their own conclusion regarding revenue sharing first), it seems that it might take their own examples of hardship to get somebody to crack. Maybe it's a group of players admitting they're not financially prepared to go a season without pay after overseas opportunities dry up or the owner of a profitable franchise finally having their fill of a dispute that puts a cramp in their style (and team's earning potential, such as Micky Arison's star-studded Heat, James Dolan's resurgent Knicks, Jerry Buss' perennial power Lakers, even Donald Sterling's Clippers, led by Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin and yes, Jerry Reinsdorf's Bulls, back in the NBA's upper echelon behind reigning league MVP Derrick Rose; like politics, owners have been categorized as "hawks" and "doves") that puts a chink in the armor of one party or another.
What are your thoughts on the situation? Do you see the season starting on time or an entire year without the NBA?
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.