Dallas Mavericks: Billy Hunter
DALLAS -- The locks came off the American Airlines Center doors Thursday and Jason Terry made his way inside for the first time since last June's championship parade.
"I'm glad my card worked so I could get in the gym," Terry joked. "I was a little nervous out there at the front gate."
Terry was the lone Dallas Mavericks player to make his way to the practice floor on the first day that NBA players could return to their respective facilities and workout with trainers and strength and conditioning coaches. The lockout is 6-months old today, and while the rules have been loosened and a new labor deal has been tentatively agreed to, the lockout remains ongoing as players are in the process of putting their union back together and then both sides must ratify the deal.
Tonight is the deadline for players to mail in their cards to re-establish the union and Terry, the Mavs' player representative, expects to be in New York next week to vote on the deal.
Terry said it is a relief that the sides got back together over Thanksgiving weekend after talks broke off a few weeks earlier leaving the prospect of a season happening at all seemingly very dim.
"Oh, no question, you’re talking five or six days ago we didn’t know," Terry said. "We were all in limbo and the scale was tipping more towards us not having a season than us having one."
Here's Terry's take on issues dealing with the lockout and the Mavs:
Does ownership deserve credit for returning to the bargaining table and making concessions at the end?
JT: I don’t know necessarily about giving back, we know who gave back. I just don’t know, it’s just hard to say. I do commend both sides for getting it done. That’s the main thing at the end of the day, regardless, one side wins, one side losses; we’re back and I think that’s the big point here.
Does the team deserve the chance to defend the title with the roster virtually intact?
JT: Yeah, but I mean, you know how the league is when you have free agency and player movement, things can change from year to year. This is a very different situation, it’s very unique and we’re going to have to work some magic to make it happen.
What did you learn or take away from being the team's player representative?
JT: I gained tremendous knowledge. Being in the league 13 years and now being part of this collective bargaining, being a player rep has given me tremendous knowledge about the business that I hadn’t had. I was basically dumbfounded to what all went along to a collective bargaining agreement. Being a part of it, sitting in on meetings, four or five them personally, it gave me a new perspective on the game of basketball as a business.
Anything surprise you during the course of the negotiations?
JT: Just how in negotiations how ugly it can get. People like to say it’s business, never personal. But, it did get personal at times.
Do you continue to support union executive director Billy Hunter?
JT: No question, and we’re taking steps now to put the union back together and I can’t foresee his role not being the same as it always is. He did an outstanding job. There was tons of pressure on Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher throughout this whole process.
Was there anything you lobbied particularly hard for?
JT: Yeah, make the deal right so we could bring our team back. Make it so we could sign Tyson [Chandler], bring J.J. [Barea], DeShawn [Stevenson], Caron [Butler], that was my main thing.
How did the deal turn out in that sense?
JT: Whoa, not good, not good at all.
The labor fight will now head to the court system as the union disbands. NBA commissioner David Stern said the league is headed into a nuclear winter as the 2011-12 season is in peril.
Terry took a few minutes after the press conference to discuss the situation as much as he could.
"I hate where it's gone right now. It sucks for us because of what we accomplished this last season," Terry said, meaning his 2010-11 NBA champion Mavs teammates. "It sucks for our fans and everyone that works at the arena. And it sucks for me because I want to be playing."
Terry, who stands to lose $11.7 million on the final year of his contract in Dallas, is no longer at liberty to comment on the proceedings now that the standoff is headed for the courts. Terry has been firm in his stance that the players would be ready to walk away from the deal if they did not find it acceptable. And, despite his comment that he hates where this has gone, he firmly stands behind the players' decision.
"Stand strong, stand together," Terry said.
A large contingent of NBA players attended the NBPA meeting Monday morning to deliberate the deal the owners delivered to the union late Thursday night and to show a measure of strength. Those players, including Terry, gathered around Hunter and Fisher as the union's leadership duo dropped the bomb at a press conference around 1 p.m. Central time.
Terry, who has been consistent in his desire to see a deal get done so the Mavs could get on with their title defense, has also been consistent in standing behind union leaders as one of 30 player reps.
"We hear a lot about the players are greedy. It's not that," Terry said Saturday night while taking part in Josh Howard's charity basketball game in Dallas. "The players just want to go out and play the game they love under fair terms."
Now, the process heads into uncharted waters. As Stern said, the season is in serious jeopardy. Stern knows it. The players know it.
Terry, whose children attend the same private school as Mavs owner Mark Cuban's and coach Rick Carlisle's, returns home to Dallas in the morning without a deal and still unable to speak to the Mavs' brass when he picks up the kids or attends their soccer games.
Most of all, he's completely uncertain of where this chaos goes next.
"We'll see what happens," Terry said.
Chandler will join a star-studded cast of NBA players on a whirlwind adventure of six planned exhibition games played on four continents starting Sunday in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The World All-Star Classic is then scheduled to barnstorm London, Macau and Melbourne, Australia all in a span of 10 days.
However, ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard reported Wednesday that LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony have backed out of the globe-trotting trip and that could end the tour after the initial stop in San Juan -- and it increasingly appears that San Juan will be the lone stop. Still expected to be on the voyage is Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Amare Stoudemire, Blake Griffin, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo.
Chandler, who has been playing pickup games in L.A. with a variety of NBA players, is hopeful the whole deal goes down.
"I’m looking forward to it," Chandler said Wednesday from his home in Southern California. "I’ve never been to London and I’ve never been to Australia. I’m looking forward to getting to play again with some great talent and the opportunity to see new lands."
If the tour does make it to all four destinations, Chandler will log more than 26,000 air miles and 50 to 60 hours of flying time from liftoff in L.A. on Saturday bound for San Juan to London to Macau to Melbourne and back to L.A.
The players, who are being well-compensated to participate, could find themselves in a bit of a pickle if the world tour manages to go the full distance and somehow the NBA and players association manage to get a labor deal done during talks that renewed Wednesday in New York. A resolution and quick start to training camp could be an issue after such a physically draining trip.
Chandler said he has paid close attention to the negotiations and has spoken several times with union chief Billy Hunter and NBA union president Derek Fisher, and has attended union meetings.
The 7-foot-1 center, who breathed new life into an aging Mavs team that won the franchise's first NBA title, said he believes the lockout is fully in the hands of the owners. He believes the owners are split among common market size and that their internal divide is not allowing the process to move forward.
"I really feel it’s up to the owners at this point. We put an incredible deal on the table and they put their deal on the table and said take it or leave it, so we had to leave it," said Chandler, who will become one of the most sought-after free agents and a top priority of the Mavs to re-sign whenever the lockout is lifted. "Honestly, I feel like it’s between them. Different owners want different things. Personally, I believe that within the ranks they have differing opinions, but have to be as one during negotiations.
"At some point they have to do what’s right for the entire game. Right now, what’s going on is not what’s best for either side."
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