A few days ago, I interviewed Nuggets guard Arron Afflalo as part of the "L.A. in my Game" series. (The discussion will be posted later this week.) While I had the Bruin standout on the phone, I asked for his take on recent comments from former NHL/Dallas Stars forward Bill Guerin, who recently advised NBA players to suck it up, take a deal and get back on the court ASAP. His perspective is certainly meaningful, having experienced the 2005 NHL lockout firsthand. At the time, Guerin was a hardliner for the players, even if it meant losing the entire season. Looking back on it now, Guerin regrets that stance, and feels NBA players will eventually feel the same.
When I told Afflalo of these comments, his reaction was strident, but also quite philosophical. On one hand, he didn't sound like a guy, to use the parlance made popular by JaVale McGee, "ready to fold." As he noted, "If there's something to be fought for that's worth a year lockout, then fight for it. Every side has their bottom line and there are some things that are worth it." Afflalo, who attended the recent Players Meeting at the Beverly Hilton, definitely struck me as a guy willing to soldier up for the right cause.
On the other hand, the larger risks mentioned by Guerin were hardly lost on him. Beyond literally the money lost and likely never recovered, Afflalo was clearly thinking about the long-term fall out. The damage inflicted on the players. On the owners. On the NBA itself.
This was especially evident when I followed up about how to draw the line between holding your ground for the best offer and putting the season in jeopardy?
"In all honesty, and it's hard to do, but it takes responsibility on both parties. Obviously, I'm a player and I can only take responsibility from the players' standpoint, but it just takes responsibility from both parties and understanding of that. Until you have a complete understanding that it's not worth it, that sometimes winning a fight will result in a loss. You have to know that. And if you get caught up in the moment and you don't recognize that, regardless of whether you win your battle or not, player or owner, you're gonna do damage.
"You have to ask yourself, is that damage worth it. Is that damage worth that win?"
Afflalo's thoughts reminded me of a great scene in "White Men Can't Jump" where Gloria Clemente (Rosie Perez) explains to Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) her set of rules about what defines a win or a loss:
"Sometimes when you win, you really lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win, and sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie, and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose . . . Winning or losing is all one organic globule, from which one extracts what one needs."
Afflalo and Gloria Clemente are both driving at the age-old question of winning the battle but losing the war, a scenario threatening the players and the owners during the lockout. Each side has a list of demands and goals, and both are expected and entitled to zealously pursue them.
But with each item on the checklist, it must always be considered whether the prize is absolutely worth the price.
Is what's being fought for worth risking the long-term health of the Association, the best interests of which both sides claim to have in mind? Ultimately, as the future fortunes of the NBA go, so go the spoils for players and owners.
In my humble opinion, both sides are flirting badly with a battle where, in the best-case scenario, they tie. In the worst-case scenario, which also doubles as "most likely," they both actually lose. There is a battle and a war at stake for either side. Win the war, even if it means sacrificing the battle.