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Op-Ed: NBA - On-court talent fails in lockout talks

By Lynn Herrmann     Sep 17, 2011 in Sports
New York - With accusations of owners anchored in their positions and owners commending players for their solidarity, labor discussions between the two groups stalled this week and fans must consider the possibility of directing their attention to beauty pageants.
Talks on Tuesday quickly fell apart, with both sides crying like babies, each accusing the other of stealing their candy. Instead of a second meeting on Thursday between the two groups, owners suggested player representatives should meet with the players group instead. Doing so, the players emerged, claiming solidarity in their desire to skip training camp and deal with a shortened, or even missing, season.
Unity is good, the owners said. “We think that’s a good thing,” said NBA commissioner David Stern, according to Yahoo! Sports. “We would like to negotiate with a strong union that’s capable of delivering a deal.” Amen.
What first started as a ball falling through a peach basket with no bottom in it has evolved into a staggering entertainment industry where teens are groomed and recruited to become multi-millionaires, in most cases without a college degree.
Many of these over-priced athletes, and in almost equal numbers of super-sized egos, were being recruited straight from high school. But some folks frowned upon that. Send them to college for a year or two, let them at least learn how to spell cat, even if you’ve got to spot them the c and a.
Among some of the most gifted athletes on the planet and along with multi-millions per year contracts to talented and non-talented alike, NBA players are seeking more assurances in the the game of white collar crime.
At issue is money, of course, and whether there should be a hard or soft salary cap. Players see the hard cap as a threat to guaranteed contracts, a virtual elimination of these types of contracts, and as the San Antonio Spurs Matt Bonner noted in a Sports Radio Interviews (SRI) interview this week, “that kind of security is obviously important to a professional athlete who puts his body on the line every night.” Regardless of whether they wilt in stretch runs or clutch time on the court. Oh, that he could live in the real world of rising unemployment, rising home foreclosures and on and on. Body on the line. Right.
Another issue is basketball related income, or BRI, a percentage of which goes to players. Owners, strapped for cash in these troubling economic times, want players to come off the current percentage.
With claims by ownership of $300 million in losses, around the salary one of these athletes can comfortably make during just a few years of on-court athleticism, maybe a roster reduction will help alleviate owners’ woes. Certainly, teams can do without just one player. It gives the players more time to think about extra playing time, and it gives owners a chance to break oven. Poor guys.
Talks earlier this week provided little in the way of anything for either side, as players expected owners to present a new proposal and owners remain steadfast in their position. SI.com’s Sam Amick called the lack of one at the Tuesday session “a foreboding sign for the fate of the coming season.”
For players in their diminishing careers of entertainment, their time to win a game has come and they must ask themselves if they really want to play. There is no pity here for grossly over-priced athletes whining over token pay cuts and shorter obscenely-rich contracts.
“To think about where we were July 1 to now in terms of just the process itself, not what's being discussed and what type of deal it will end up being, just the process itself, we've put in a lot of time,” said Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers last week, according to NBA.com. “And we're going to try to continue that process and see if we can get a fair deal done as soon as possible.”
Is it any wonder?
Fisher is the players union president, representing players in these discussions. Earlier this week, in an apparent act of desperation, Fisher sent a letter to player membership, suggesting “a fundamental divide between the owners internally,” according to Yahoo!. But the owners, meeting in Dallas, emerged with Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver stating “there is absolute agreement, and it’s a complete fiction coming from somewhere that there isn’t.”
Then there’s the Spurs Bonner, one of the league’s premier long-distance brick throwers and a vice president on the NBA players‘ executive committee. In the SRI interview, he noted owners were “just trying to stick it to us on both sides.”
It goes far beyond comprehension how he has made it to NBA rosters, and it advances into the realm of surrealism that he sits on the players’ executive committee. But he wasn’t finished taking potshots at the owners. Regarding discussions earlier this week, Bonner said he thought a deal would be done, even if it was a deal the players didn’t like, but “the owners basically backtracked from what was indicated the week before. They refused to compromise, wouldn’t budge, stood their ground, and it was really frustrating.”
A sense of urgency, a term Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is fond of using, is apparently missing among the athletes. Let their bank accounts become what so many millions of Americans are waking up to each day in the country’s ongoing, and devastating, economic crisis and perhaps, just perhaps, they can figure out what’s important.
For the owners, maybe the prospect of billion-dollar arenas devoid of booming PA systems, raucous fans and scantily clad cheerleaders will be good for them, even if not for their business. Nothing like a cold dose of reality to put things in perspective.
For the chance of watching the ball fall through the net, or for the chance of making one do so, fans and players alike will suffer the absence of action should the lockout continue, but, as many sports fans have done when a favorite team decides to sit one out, another team takes its place.
For some of the players, it’s simply cataloged into another great career on the books. If the season were to get started in some sort of delayed fashion, the players will thank their basketball gods for not having to endure weeks of training camp.
Will they be rusty upon return? Most definitely, but the game’s enduring high energy quickly polishes it away. Still, one should not be looking for a Bonner alley-oop.
If the players want to win, it’s just a matter of playing harder. No one else to blame for that part of it.
Fans, meanwhile, are a fickle bunch and could be easily distracted by the sport of looking for Miss Colombia, even if she didn’t win the Miss Universe pageant.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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