Steve Blake says he didn't want deal
LOS ANGELES -- NBA players' union president Derek Fisher claimed there was unanimous support coming from the 30 team player representatives on hand in New York to vote against the owner's most recent collective bargaining proposal. But that does not mean all of the league's approximate 450 players were against the deal.
In fact, there was dissension of opinions amongst Fisher's own Los Angeles Lakers teammates about whether the deal should have been accepted or not. Lakers guard Steve Blake told team player representative Shannon Brown prior to Monday's meeting that he was in favor of accepting a deal that would have included a 50-50 split of basketball related income and still allowed for a 72-game season if approved by the union this week.
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"I spoke to (Blake) and he was one of the guys who wanted to take the deal," Brown said in a phone interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com on Tuesday. "I respect his opinion. I didn't try to sway it. I gave him the advantages and the disadvantages of taking the deal and not taking the deal. Going into the meeting, I understood that he was one of those people that were for taking the deal.
"I'm not going to say that everybody was for not taking the deal, but I can say it was a majority that was for (turning it down). I can say that much."
Blake disagreed with Brown's assessment of his stance on the last deal offered by the owners and issued a statement to ESPNLosAngeles.com on Tuesday evening.
"It has been my goal, throughout my career and even more so during the lockout to be a responsible and active member of our Players Association," Blake wrote. "With that said, many of the reports published have been inaccurate. I have actively had conversations with my teammates, Player Representatives and the Executive Committee over the past weeks and months about the status of the negotiations and proposals. My stance is simply to make sure we weigh all proposals. I have not made a decision on whether or not a proposal was right to take, just simply encouraging all of our players and representatives to review everything carefully and then make the appropriate choices as a collective body."
Other players who were in favor of the players accepting the league's "last-best" offer have gone public since the union announced its decision to disband by filing a disclaimer of interest in order to pursue a lawsuit against the league.
Houston's Kevin Martin told SI.com, "If you know for sure (the owners) are not moving, then you take the best deal possible." Boston's Glen Davis questioned the union's decision in an interview with the Boston Herald and Cleveland's Samardo Samuels told the Akron Beacon Journal, "A lot of people in the league are panicking." Also, Chris Duhon, the Orlando Magic's player rep, tweeted on Sunday that his team would accept the deal prior to Fisher's announcement on Monday that it was a unanimous decision to reject the proposal.
Davis said he felt "out of the loop" leading up to the union's decision, but Brown said there was plenty of information that was easily available to any player proactive enough to ask for it.
"It's not hard for people to get the information," Brown said. "It's all about if they really, really want it or not."
Brown said that the players' association was vigilant in sending out a steady stream of emails to its constituents as developments in negotiations occurred. He said he knew of player reps trying to reach out to their teammates only to find the phone number they were provided with had been changed or disconnected.
"It wasn't like things were done behind anybody's back," Brown said. "Everybody knew and know what's going on at all times because the letters that were sent out."
The 25-year-old free agent said that the Lakers weren't limited to reaching out to Brown for info just like Magic players did not have Duhon as their only resource.
"You don't even necessarily have to call your (team's) player rep," Brown said. "If you have another guy that's one of your buddies that might be a player rep or a player that's attending those meetings, you can call him."
Blake echoed Brown's plea for player involvement.
"I believe that each player has a voice in this process and it is our job to make sure that we are heard," Blake wrote. "Each player should be asking questions, contacting their player reps and continue to be an active part of this process. I'll continue to be proactive and remain updated on all things related to the lockout. This is our business, it's how we support ourselves and our families and it's too important to take a backseat in the process."
The Lakers were represented better than any other team during the negotiating sessions, with Fisher serving an influential role as the president, backup center Theo Ratliff presiding over many meetings as a member of the union's executive committee and Brown fulfilling his duties as the team's player rep. Kobe Bryant and Luke Walton took it upon themselves to attend several meetings as well.
Brown's player-rep duties in answering to his Lakers teammates became easier because of Fisher.
"He's the president; you know what I'm saying? For the most part, they're calling him," Brown said.
Brown said the presence of Bryant, who was set to make $25.2 million for the 2011-12 season, and other max-contract players like him risking their salaries to fight for a better deal was significant. Back in June, Brown opted out of the final year of his contract that would have paid him approximately $2.4 million this season.
"I respect the fact that there were a lot of players that were down for what we did that were making a whole bunch of money that wouldn't have been affected by taking a deal, but they still realized it wasn't a fair deal," Brown said. "So, I respect that a lot."
Whether players were unanimous or not on Monday, the lockout moved on Tuesday with the players filing two anti-trust lawsuits against the owners.
"Hopefully we get a fair deal put on the table that we feel is acceptable for both parties and we move on with the season," Brown said. "It's not going to obviously be a full, 82-game season. But at least we get to play some basketball and give the fans and everybody what they want to see. Hopefully a deal comes about in the next week or so and we can get back out there."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.