David Stern was masterful Friday afternoon.
He put on a frightful Halloween show for the NBA players watching at home.
Certainly it was all spin at his press conference following another day of blown up labor negotiations. He spoke to the media for about 15 minutes (it was broadcast on NBA TV) and NBA union president Derek Fisher would disagree with 14.5 minutes of it.
But the media and even you the fans were not the audience. The NBA players out there were the target. Make no mistake, Stern wanted to scare them. He wanted them to know they were losing money, will be losing more and need to call their union reps and say “take the deal.”
The scare tactics were about money, starting with what is lost with the cancelation of more games.
“I know for a fact in short run players will not be able to make (money lost from cancelled games) back, and probably will never be able to make it back,” Stern said.
He then tried to warn players that the offers the union was getting from the owners now were only going to get worse. Much worse. Because the owners were going to start decreasing offers due to revenue they are losing when games are not played. (Which is a brilliant bit of spin — the owners lose money when games are played, they lose more money when games are not played.)
Stern said the owners officially are offering the players 47 percent of the BRI but that they came into this day offering a 50/50 split out of the goodness of their hearts. Now, the offers will go down, Stern said.
Then Stern tried to throw union head Billy Hunter under the bus, saying Hunter would not budge off 52 and was the one who closed the books and walked out of the room. Stern portrayed himself as a guy who wanted to sit in the room and talk, it was the players who screwed everything up.
Of course, that’s not how Hunter sees it. He said every time the players made a concession the owners “eyes got bigger” and they pushed for more. He said the NBA was not negotiating in good faith.
And you can bet that is the message the union will get out to players starting Friday night. That this breakdown was all the owners and the union will not back down in its fight for the players. The union has remained largely unified so far, but we’ll see if that changes now that paychecks will be lost.
But know that Stern, again, got in the first volley at the rank-and-file players. We’ll see how that works.