Friday, July 1, 2011
Friday Lockout Bullets
By Henry Abbott
- For reasons Kevin Arnovitz explained a few days ago, some poor sucker at every team has to maintain a website without any player content. No images, no Twitter feeds, no videos, no nothing. So, what's the next logical step? Why, take the dancers to the local zoo, of course, to help clean up after various animals, and video the whole thing. Pitchforks in hand, a zookeeper informs some Utah dancers that one of the zoo's elephants can leave a 125-pound deposit. "That's like pooping me!" exclaims one of the dancers. Could be a long summer.
- Don't expect the National Labor Relations Board to act fast.
- David Stern has one of the best game faces in labor relations history. But watch the video from Thursday's press conference. He still has it, but now it's served with a generous helping of blatant fatigue. When Adam Silver mentioned the upcoming three-day weekend, I found myself nodding. Just a few days off is the first order of business.
- I think the union will pay right now for a huge error over the last decade. They're competing in just one country, but there's a global market out there. In theory, the union could announce next week that they are opening negotiations to send 200 players to Spain, Italy, France, Russia, Germany, Australia, Brazil, Greece -- maybe even England in advance of next summer's Olympics. But they will make no such announcement, as a group, because they are only in the business of dealing with one client, the NBA. But that doesn't mean players can't go overseas, and no one disputes NBA free agents (who will pay for being free agents now in their next, smaller deals) can head to play overseas right now if they want to. As for American players under contract, Larry Coon explains that if players want to play overseas, they need a letter from USA basketball saying it's OK. Coon: "In order to play professionally overseas, FIBA (the organizing body for international basketball) requires a Letter of Clearance from the player's national organizing body. In the case of players from the United States, that's USA Basketball. The Letter of Clearance certifies that the player is free to sign a contract -- i.e., he has no other contractual obligations that would get in the way. An NBA contract is such a contractual obligation. Lockout or not, it's still an existing contract. So on the surface, an NBA player who's under contract would not be allowed to sign in any FIBA league. NBA free agents, on the other hand, can sign wherever they'd like. But here's the rub -- we're getting into uncharted territory. FIBA has never found itself in this position before. FIBA could decide to alter or suspend its rule requiring a Letter of Clearance, or allow contracts to be signed so long as they contain language that says the contract becomes null and void immediately if the NBA lockout ends. More likely, FIBA simply would stick to its existing rule, essentially punting the problem to the national organizing bodies. These bodies (such as USA Basketball) could decide to issue a Letter of Clearance notwithstanding the NBA lockout. Or they could issue a Letter of Clearance with a specific notation about the lockout -- essentially punting the problem right back to FIBA. Finally, the NBA players could take FIBA and/or the national organizing bodies to court. The ability to block players in a lockout has never been tested through litigation, and once they're there, anything can happen."
- NBA coaches or employees can't have any contact with players. Got to believe that's a major boon for unemployed coaches (right this way, Larry Brown!) and unaffiliated private trainers and the like. Serious players will be seeking out serious help.
- Remember that every NBA player had eight percent of their salaries escrowed all season? They're due for those payments, of something like $160 million, next month. Not a bad little bump to keep people going if this thing drags on.
- Chris Sheridan reiterates how friendly the tone of these talks are. Theory: That's because the real adversaries aren't in the room. Stern and Silver are in the business of running a basketball league, not shutting one down. They have given oodles of indications they want a deal. The real hardliners are the owners who prefer a lockout to the status quo. Maybe what matters is not the tone between Stern and the players, but the tone between Stern and his most hawkish owners. That's one place movement will have to originate for a deal to get done.
- David Thorpe points out that the NBA has done the NCAA an enormous set of favors. First they scared off all this top talent like Harrison Barnes, and now they're potentially going to let the NCAA be the only real basketball on television this winter. (Which begs another question: Wonder if anybody would televise European hoops as a stopgap.)
- In American history, the model of standing together to wield power is the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King were just the tip of the iceberg of what worked there. A less famous aspect was that the city miscalculated in how much the people of Montgomery would help each other, and for how long. The idea was that if people couldn't get to work, they'd cave eventually, because they needed those buses to pay their bills. But the shared ride services emerged -- those with cars helped out those without. It ran on goodwill among those who had little, and it worked well enough to deliver a clear victory. I bring this up thinking that the owners are assuming more than enough players will break under the financial stress of living without paychecks. And that may be true. However, if you told me that the players were all pledging to help each other out, in real terms, like paying each others' bills as necessary through the lockout ... well that would be a formidable foe for the owners to face.
- Sad thing for all of us: People have a very limited time of their lives to perform at an elite NBA level. Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade ... whatever happens with the money, it'd be a shame for them to miss one day of their primes.