Author: Rob Mahoney

Chris Singleton

Wizards rookie Chris Singleton shows some perspective on the lockout

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The NBPA hasn’t done the best job of managing their PR front. David Stern has done his damnedest to control the public message of the lockout, all while the factions that have reportedly formed among the players threaten to decertify the union entirely and rip the 2011-2012 season apart.

Yet individually, the lockout has provided certain players a chance to show their reasonable perspectives, in spite of the ridiculous actions and comments of their peers and negotiating opponents. For every JaVale McGee there is a Shane Battier or a Raja Bell – a player in a non-leadership role who demonstrates an awareness and an understanding of the negotiations and the lockout’s sticking points.

Among that group is Wizards rookie Chris Singleton, who, in an interview with Jared Zwerling for TrueHoop, gave some thoughtful answers to questions about the players’ position in the lockout, and the nature of an inevitable deal that they’ll eventually have little choice but to accept:

Are any of the players saying to each other, “Let’s just get this thing over with and earn your stripes on the court to make that extra million or two you think you deserve?” 

I mean, that’s in some peoples’ minds, but our board members are just trying to do the best for everybody. You know the superstars are going to get their money. We’re trying to see how much the max contracts are going to be. I feel like the superstars are going to be fine, but it’s just how much money are the owners wiling to put out now? They’ve given 15 to 20 million — some ridiculous amount — to some people who don’t even play 85 percent of the season. You’ve got to go out there and earn it; that’s how I feel. But, I mean, we’re together and I’m behind whatever they do.

Do you think the owners are trying to get the players to cave in? Is there any thought from the players that you won’t get the best deal once you start missing paychecks? 

I mean, we’re not going to get the best deal. We’re not going to get the deal we hoped for. It’s a business, I know that. I’m just hoping that it’s something that works out for both sides.

What has the experience of the lockout taught you? 

I don’t take for granted the opportunity that I have every day to be able to go out and showcase my abilities to the fans who are watching. I just take it all in and just try to be the best person I can be, the best player I can be. You grow up faster, especially because you don’t have anything. You’re depending on a check. That’s why you get a job; you try to earn a living. I have a job, I have a title, but I don’t get compensated by the league.

There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but that in itself may be notable. The NBA’s PR front would love nothing more than to have us all believe that the players are not only the problem, but oblivious to the actual goings-on of the negotiating process and the economics of a deal. Demonizing the locked out party — or at least framing them as inept — is one of the only ways to justify the league’s actions without being tagged as “greedy.” If the public thinks that the players just don’t get it, they’ll naturally side with the financially sound businessmen who are shackled from success by an allegedly broken system. Players salaries are rising! Look at the difference between the Lakers and Kings! We’ve heard it all before, framed so conveniently to exclude pesky facts and context.

Singleton, and his many informed peers, stand antithetical to the perception that the league strives for. The players may have conflict within their ranks, but that dissensions shouldn’t be confused with incompetence, even if it does stifle their efficacy. The players have reportedly made concessions in almost every area of the negotiations. They’ve made legitimate strides toward a potential deal. Yet Singleton knows and willingly tells us that the players aren’t going to get the kind of agreement they had hoped for — a softer contrast to the owners’ hard line. He may not be deeply involved in the negotiating process, but he shows flexibility and perspective, things which — although the league’s spin machine would have you believe otherwise — aren’t at all uncommon among the player ranks.

Jamaal Tinsley selected first overall in D-League draft

Jamaal Tinsley
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Thursday night marked the 2011 D-League Draft, and to little surprise, proven NBAer Jamaal Tinsley went first overall to the L.A. D-Fenders. As much as the league itself is concerned with developing talent, a player of Tinsley’s caliber held obvious appeal to what is, first and foremost, an actual basketball organization. The D coaches up prospects and provides playing time for assignees, but the league’s coaches, players, and managers are all still vying for success on the minor league level in addition to their harbored call-up dreams. Tinsley, more than any other player in the draft pool, gave the D-Fenders the best way to tap into that success.

D-Fenders coach Eric Musselman provided the cut-and-dry explanation for the selection, via Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register:

“Our goal all along with the first overall pick was to take the player who we felt gave the D-Fenders the best chance of winning right now,” D-Fenders coach Eric Musselman said.  “In this case, we were able to do just that with the selection of Jamaal.  The guard position was a point of emphasis for us entering the draft, and Jamaal’s extensive experience in the backcourt provides the D-Fenders with a great foundation as we work towards our ultimate goal of winning a D-League championship.”

Supposing Tinsley has a successful D-League season without giving teams reason to doubt his ability to fall in line, it’s easy to see him filling in on an NBA team hit with injury a la Antonio Daniels. Tinsley is the more talented playmaker among them, and would fit in nicely as a reserve guard on a number of pro-level clubs — injury or no. It’s just a matter of convincing teams that he’s worth the perceived trouble at this point, a tall order considering Tinsley’s dicey reputation. Fair or not, that’s Tinsley’s current predicament.

The rest of the NBA names went early, as Alando Tucker (No. 2 to the Texas Legends), Gabe Pruitt (No. 4 to the Sioux Falls Skyforce), and Jamal Sampson (No. 5 to the Texas Legends) were all taken in short order. Beyond that group, the draftees primarily consisted of middling contributors to major college programs, relative unknowns from smaller schools, and local talent selected as a ticket draw. The D-League draft rarely seems like a gold mine on first glance, but some among these will pan out as capable contributors, with a select group successful enough for legitimate call-up contention.

Chauncey Billups doesn’t trust players’ collective ability to remain strong for a full season


This lockout has never been as simple as one side negotiating against another in an effort to produce a fair deal. There are a number of factors circling the negotiations that inevitably have an impact on their progress and timeline. The NBPA still holds the threat of decertification, a breaking point from which there is no coming back. The NBA itself continues a campaign of half-truths and misinformation, as every press conference is turned into an opportunity to shape the opinions of the general public. The legal system attempts to unravel this mess from one end, and ineffective National Labor Relations Board hearings try to do so from the other.

All while the players fail to escape the most basic of lockout truths: due to simple economics, their adversaries are much more equipped to deal with a lockout than they are. Not only will the NBA’s offers get progressively worse as more and more games are missed, but those lost paychecks will hit some players hard and others harder. Chauncey Billups spoke on that subject when he joined Stephen A. Smith on ESPN Radio in New York (via Sports Radio Interviews):

What are you hearing from other players? Is it getting to a point where they feel like it’s just time to make a deal even if it’s a 50-50 split because it’s better than no deal at all?:

“Honestly, you’ve got 400-some players and obviously the general body of the league are not in my position … that are maybe as in stable position of myself or some of the older, aging veterans. We have to be sensitive to the fact that some of those guys are young, although we, for the last two and a half, three years, said, ‘Prepare yourself; save your money.’ … We’ve got to know that some guys didn’t. … Then you’ve the guys that are really, really involved in the situation saying, ‘No, you don’t really understand what that 50-50′s really going to do going forward. You’re just worried about today.”

…Do you expect there to be a season?:

“Man, I think the only way I can really answer that question is just with being hopeful and saying, ‘Yeah, I hope so.’ I hope so, but I could see it going either way.”

You really think the players would be able to do that?:

“I’ve spoken to a lot of players and I could see a lot of players wanting to do that. If you’re asking me if the general body of the NBA is willing to do that, willing to lose a year’s salary, I don’t think guys would be willing to do that. That’s going to be a position and a bridge that we’re going to have to cross when we come that.”

Billups is merely articulating what most of us already know, but it’s an important point that shouldn’t be forgotten at any stage in these negotiations. Even with help from the Kobe Bryants of the bunch, there will be players who didn’t prepare well enough for the lockout, there are those who are still on their rookie deals and didn’t heed warnings to save, and there are minimum salary guys who simply may not have the coin on hand. The ticking of the negotiating clock is audible; the players have only so long before the union’s internal pressures reach their brink, and when that moment comes, all bets are off. Maybe the players will buckle and take a poor deal, or maybe they’ll decertify in desperation. All we know is that things are only going to get more tense for the players as the conversation continues, making each meeting in the short-term all the more valuable.