What they're thinking at Drew-Goodman

October, 9, 2011
10/09/11
11:14
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
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LONG BEACH, Calif. -- If there's one guy who isn't sweating the prospect of a missed paycheck, it's Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Derrick Williams.

"I'm good," Williams said. "I don't have any money yet anyway."

Williams is one of more than a dozen NBA players at the rematch on Sunday evening between Washington, D.C.'s Goodman League team and the squad representing Los Angeles' Drew League.

To diehard NBA fans, most of the faces here are recognizable -- Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, James Harden, John Wall, Brandon Jennings, DeMar DeRozan, Trevor Ariza and Michael Beasley, among others. But for spectators in the stands who wanted to double-check their work, the nameplates stitched to the back of the jerseys provided no help. All of them read "BBNS," as in "Basketball Never Stops."

That may be the case on rec courts and in gyms across the country, but barring a deal between owners and players by Monday, basketball will stop in the NBA. Absent an agreement, the NBA is expected to announce the cancelation of the first two weeks of its regular season.

Canvas enough NBA players, and you won't get much diversity of viewpoints on the negotiations -- but there's certainly a disparity of knowledge and intensity of opinion. In some respects, it's not all that different than any industry gathering or social function. Some people feel an obligation to know what's going on, while others find current affairs to be outside their field of interest.

Harden falls squarely into the first camp. Prior to the game, the Thunder guard said he wouldn't rubber stamp a proposal, even if he received a personal call from union president Derek Fisher.

"I'd want to know what the deal is," Harden said. "Derek is someone you definitely listen to, but I'd also want to talk with the big guys -- LeBron, KD, and the rest."

Asked if he could see any scenario where a 50-50 split in basketball-related income (BRI) would be acceptable, Harden shook his head.

What's your drop-dead number?

"Fifty-three," Harden insisted. "No less."

DeRozan said he had faith in Fisher and the union and was predisposed toward following any proposal submitted to him by the union.

"I trust Derek and everyone who's working for us. They feed us with information about everything that's going on. If he told me [he had a deal he liked], I'm definitely going to trust his judgment."

But like Harden, DeRozan flatly rejected the idea that a 50-5o split in BRI was acceptable. When asked whether he'd reconsider an even split if that was the proposal presented to the players by their leadership, DeRozan reacted as if it were a trick question.

Others like Nick Young and JaVale McGee appeared less engaged in the proceedings or, at least, less confident expressing their opinions.

Young is ecstatic to be back in Los Angeles where he received a ton of all-City honors while in high school. He beamed when asked about the thrill of playing in a star-studded Drew-Goodman game, but less enthused to entertain questions about the lockout.

"I believe in Fish and I believe in the whole thing," Young said. "Whatever they do, I'm behind it."

On the prospect of a 50-50 split?

"I'm not sure," Young said. "Whatever they think."

Young was the only player to punt the question.

"We all have to act as a whole and come up with it," McGee said. "So we can't really say one by one."

Like Young, rookie Williams is just giddy to be at the party in Long Beach. It's not that he doesn't have anything at stake in the negotiations, just that there are guys far more qualified than him to represent the collective opinion of NBA players.

"I'm going to leave that to [the veterans]," Williams said. "Like Kobe. He's been there since the first [lockout]. He knows what he's talking about. He knows what's happening. He's played through the whole time they've had the [expired CBA], so I'm going to let them handle all that."

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