Fisher sends letter to NBA players stating case, smacking agents


NBA players union president Derek Fisher is making his case directly to the players. And he’s trying to get control of Thursday’s NBA players meeting in Las Vegas before it even starts.

Fisher sent a letter to every NBA player Thursday, one that was leaked to Sam Amick at Sports Illustrated. (Fisher said in the letter he knew it would be leaked and was being transparent.) Follow that link to the entire letter, but hear is the meat of it:

The most recent meetings in New York were effective. What you have been told by your agents, representatives and the media is probably speculative and inaccurate.

What actually happened in those meetings was discussion, brainstorming and a sharing of options by both sides. The turning point this past Tuesday was not a disagreement between the players and the owners. It was actually a fundamental divide between the owners internally. They could not agree with each other on specific points of the deal and therefore it caused conflict within the league and its owners.

So it is our hope that today, Thursday, at the owners meeting in Dallas that they work out their differences, come up with a revenue sharing plan that will protect their teams and are then ready to come together and sign off on the agreement we as a smaller group deemed reasonable.

Decertification seems to be a hot button issue today in the media. So I’d like to address it. I’ve read yesterday’s stories and find the position of these agents interesting. I have made myself available to each and every agent. But not once have I heard from them. If they are so concerned about the direction of the union, then why have they not contacted me? Each and every one of them mentioned has been in meetings with me. I’ve answered their questions, I’ve been told they support you, their players and our Players Association. So if there is a genuine concern, a suggestion, a question, call me. Email me. Text me. I’m working tirelessly each and every day on behalf of the over 400 players that they represent. Working for nothing but the best interests of THEIR guys. I don’t make a commission, I don’t make a salary for serving as President. I have NO ulterior motives. None.

It is because they have not come to me once that I question their motives….

So to each player, each fan, each agent, each media member who ends up reading this…I stand behind this message. It comes from me, a 15 year veteran of basketball, the game I dreamt of playing as a kid, the game I love so much. I’m a teammate, I’m a father, I’m a son, I’m a husband, I’m a brother, but right now, the role I must work so hard to honor is the one as PA President. And I ask each of you to stand with me, stand by me and urge the league and the owners to come together and allow the game of basketball to continue to grow and thrive. We’re ready.

A couple thoughts:

This is clearly Fisher trying to get ahead of the curve. What players and everyone else has heard is that while the players have made concessions the owners want both a larger share of the Basketball Related Income pie and they want a hard salary cap. Players have given back about four percentage points of BRI (from 57 percent to 53 percent) but will not give up that and accept a hard cap.

Which means we are basically at square one. Which means the players in the room Thursday will want to hear a plan. This is Fisher getting in front of that curve without giving away too much.

This letter plus bringing in DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFL player’s union, is an attempt to cut off the decertification talk. This clearly will be a big meeting topic. Decertification is a plan, an aggressive one, and in the absence of other options players will consider it.

Maybe the most interesting part is Fisher saying the real problem is a divided ownership. Clearly there are disagreements among the owners — they spent more than half of Tuesday’s big meeting caucusing amongst themselves — but the owners also are not breaking ranks. Guys like Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who had huge advantages in the old system, is down with a hard cap and more revenue sharing. The Celtics owners, guys like Mark Cuban are considered hawks on this deal. The owners are not going to break if that is what the players are counting on.

What is a good sign for these negotiations is that a level headed guy like Fisher is leading the players’ side.

Here is Kobe Bryant’s letter given to every fan at Lakers’ game Sunday

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers
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LOS ANGELES — In a classy move — and one done in a very Kobe Bryant tone — every fan coming into Staples Center Sunday night to see the Lakers take on the Pacers received a letter from No. 24.

Inside a sealed black envelope, on quality, embossed paper, was this letter from Bryant (photo below):

When we first met I was just a kid.

Some of you took me in. Some of you didn’t.

But all of you helped e become the player and man in front of you today.

You gave me confidence to put my anger to good use.

Your doubt gave me determination to prove you wrong.

You witnessed my fears morph into strength.

Your rejection taught me courage.

Whether you view me as a hero or a villain, please know I poured every emotion, every bit of passion and my entire self into being a Laker.

What you’ve done for me is far greater than anything I’ve done for you.

I knew that each minute of each game I wore purple and gold.

I honor it as I play today and for the rest of this season.

My love for this city, this team and for each of you will never fade.

Thank you for this incredible journey.

It speaks to Kobe’s mindset over the years that he talked about the fuel from the rejection of Lakers’ fans motivating him. As a Los Angeles native (and former Laker blogger), let me tell you there was precious little rejection of Kobe from this fan base. There were questions and doubters early on, but even when Shaquille O’Neal was seen as the driving force of the team Kobe was beloved in Los Angeles. Something that continued through his trial in Colorado — Lakers fans have almost always had his back.

But Kobe finds fuel everywhere. Which is why he is a future Hall of Famer.


Jahlil Okafor tweets apology for recent off-court behavior

Jahlil Okafor

The off-court incidents have been piling up for Jahlil Okafor over the past month: first, an incident captured on video that showed Okafor getting into a fight with a heckler early Thanksgiving morning; then, a report that Okafor had a gun pulled on him in a previous incident; and finally, this morning’s report that the Sixers’ No. 3 overall pick in this June’s draft had been pulled over in recent weeks for driving 108 miles per hour in Philadelphia. Together, they aren’t a good look for the rookie.

On Sunday afternoon, Okafor apologized for his recent behavior in a series of tweets:

The recent incidents involving Okafor are surprising—going into the draft, he never had any red flags for maturity or off-the-court issues. He’s certainly saying the right things after the fact, and he’s only 19, so hopefully this is nothing more than a small rough patch where he’s made some bad decisions, and not an indicator of things to come.

Kobe Bryant announces this is his final season


LOS ANGELES — It has seemed like this was it for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck.

Kobe made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Kobe is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.  Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Kobe will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.

Good on Kobe for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.

Kobe has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

Bulls’ Dunleavy to see specialist after suffering setback with back injury

Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah
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CHICAGO—Over the past few weeks, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy has seemed to be making progress in his back rehab. Dunleavy underwent back surgery shortly before the start of training camp and was initially given a timeline of 8-10 weeks. Recently, he’s been increasing his workload, and he traveled with the team on their recent west coast road trip.

However, his recovery may have hit a snag.

“Mike is going to see a doctor again tomorrow and then we should have a better update after that,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after practice on Sunday. “He had a little bit of soreness. But we’ll have more on that tomorrow.”

An update to Dunleavy’s status is coming, but given Dunleavy’s age (35) and the frequency of back injuries to reoccur, this news certainly isn’t encouraging. Between Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, the Bulls have struggled at both ends of the floor on the wing. Getting Dunleavy back, whenever that happens, will be a huge help. But nobody knows when that will be.