In case you think the NBA owners and players might tone down the rhetoric and start to negotiate like adults, we bring you this.
Union attorney Jeffrey Kessler — one of the top sports labor attorneys and the nation — went back to the “plantation” reference with NBA Commissioner David Stern (as Bryant Gumbel had done), and Stern responded with plenty of venom of his own.
The Washington Post has the gory details, starting with Kessler’s thoughts on Stern’s ultimatium.
“To present that in the context of ‘take it or leave it,’ in our view, that is not good faith,” Kessler, who also represented the NFL players in their labor dispute with the NFL, said in a telephone interview Monday night. “Instead of treating the players like partners, they’re treating them like plantation workers.”
In a phone call Tuesday, Stern blamed Kessler for the stalled talks and said he deserved to be “called to task” for the remark.
“Kessler’s agenda is always to inflame and not to make a deal,” Stern said, “even if it means injecting race and thereby insulting his own clients. . . . He has been the single most divisive force in our negotiations and it doesn’t surprise me he would rant and not talk about specifics. Kessler’s conduct is routinely despicable.”
Stern and the owners don’t really like Kessler, in case you didn’t pick up on that. The league’s pre-emptive lawsuit trying to block union decertification (filed months ago) mentioned Kessler by name a number of times.
With the NBA and its players flirting with Armageddon, this kind of inflammatory language just makes it harder to get a deal done. Plantation — meaning slavery — references always bring a lot of baggage with them. While you can try to make a contextual argument, it’s hard to do when the median salary in the NBA was $2.3 million last season.
In the end, Kessler and Stern have to sit in a room together and pound out a deal if an NBA season is to be saved. And right now, they are acting like four year olds fighting over Halloween candy. Sadly, we can’t just send them both to their room for a timeout.
Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.
Pacers fans delivered.
They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.
Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.
The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.
“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”
Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.
Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was widely panned – including by me – for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
Oladipo and Sabonis are killing it while George has underwhelmed.
Upon George’s return to Indiana, Pritchard took the opportunity to gloat. The Pacers general manager recently liked these tweets (hat tip: Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation):
This is petty – and I love it. Pritchard earned the victory lap.
Paul George has been pretty open about his plans.
He told plenty of people – including the Pacers – he planned to leave for the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George spoke of the lure of playing for his hometown team.
Of course, George also left the door open to re-signing with Oklahoma City. He proclaimed he’d be dumb to leave if the Thunder reached the conference finals or upset the Warriors.
So far, Oklahoma City (12-14) doesn’t even look like a playoff lock, let alone a team capable of knocking off Golden State or reaching the conference finals. So, cue the inevitable speculation.
Sam Amick of USA Today:
Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency
Do these executives have inside information into George’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on already-available information? Some executives are incentivized to drum up the Lakers threat, because they want to trade for George themselves now. If these executives insist George will leave for Los Angeles regardless, they might pry him from Oklahoma City for less.
There’s also a theory George is hyping his desire to sign with the Lakers so a team would have to trade less for him. That got him to the Thunder for what looked like a meager return (but hasn’t been). It might get him to a more favorable situation before the trade deadline without hampering his next team long-term. Of course, this theory isn’t mutually exclusive with George actually signing in Los Angeles. It could just get him better options to choose from this summer.
Surely, the Thunder are trying to parse all this noise. If their season doesn’t turn around, they should explore flipping George rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. But they should also be wary that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles at first opportunity just because rival executives predict it.