Tag: NBA lockout

Los Angeles Lakers v New York Knicks

Lakers Steve Blake said he did not support 50/50 deal


Shannon Brown was one of the responsible ones. Not all of the 30 team representative to the NBA players union polled the players before voting on Monday to dissolve the union and take the battle to court. Brown, the Lakers rep, was one of the good ones.

The Lakers have union president Derek Fisher and also Steve Blake, a player who had been named as trying to rally players to accept the league’s 50/50 offer, or at least vote on it.

But Blake told ESPNLosAngeles.com that his position has been misrepresented.

“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.”

Well said. It may not be true, but well said. Why would I say it may not be fully truthful? Here is what Brown said of Blake in the same article.

“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.”

You can make the argument that the players should have voted on David Stern and the owners latest offer. I would make the argument the smart move by the players would have been for player reps to modify Stern’s offer and send it back to him (if for no other reason that make him be the bad guy risking blowing up the season, not you). The players now are making the suggestion that they had no choice but to dissolve the union and take the issues to the court.

Whatever argument you take, know that not all the players are that informed on the issues.

(Shannon Brown) 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.

And whatever side you take, know that the union is not a unified front on this. There is a real diversity of opinion. There are a lot more Steve Blakes out there. Whatever his opinion is.

NBA players, owners let the lawyers do the sniping now

Empty Amway Arena

There was a pattern to this NBA lockout in the last couple months — not a comfortable one, but a pattern. The NBA and its players union wouldn’t talk for a week or so, then they would have two or three days of wildly intense negotiations. Then it would blow up and they would snipe at each other in press conferences. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Now, the NBA union is no more, reduced to a trade organization by disclaimer of interest. The battle has moved to the courts, and now the lawyers are doing the sniping.

Here is what the players lead antitrust attorney David Boies told Ken Berger of CBSSports.com (and the response from the league).

“There’s one reason and one reason only that the season is in jeopardy,” Boies told reporters at the Harlem headquarters of the former players’ union, which was dissolved Monday and reformed as a trade association to pave the way for the lawsuits. “And that is because the owners have locked out the players and have maintained that lockout for several months. … The players are willing to start playing tomorrow if (the owners) end the boycott.”

A statement released by the league office Tuesday night, spokesman Tim Frank said: “We haven’t seen Mr. Boies’ complaint yet, but it’s a shame that the players have chosen to litigate instead of negotiate. They warned us from the early days of these negotiations that they would sue us if we didn’t satisfy them at the bargaining table, and they appear to have followed through on their threats.”

Legally, the players are going after a summary judgment — a quick win based on the facts of the case not a hearing. If the players got that win and were awarded treble damages (three times their lost salary) they would certainly have the leverage they have sought to force the owners not only back to the table but to back off some demands. But it’s a long shot, and the owners could get a summary judgment as well and cut the players off at the knees. There is risk for the players.

The players PR strategy now is a variation of the “let us play” theme — we wanted to play so much we gave up $280 million a season to the owners, covering their losses, but that was not enough. The lawsuit in Minnesota seeks to throw Stern’s tactics right back at him.

The lawsuit quoted Stern’s own demands when he issued two ultimatums to the union during the final week of talks, threatening the players both times to accept the offer (with a 50-50 revenue split and various restrictions on trades and player salaries) or be furnished a worse offer in which the players’ salaries would have been derived from 47 percent of revenues in a system that included a hard team salary cap and rollbacks of existing contracts — all deal points the two sides had long since negotiated past and abandoned.

Asked if Stern made a mistake issuing the ultimatums that ended the talks, Boies said, “If you’re in a poker game and you bluff, and the bluff works, you’re a hero. Somebody calls your bluff, you lose. I think the owners overplayed their hand.”

I’ll agree with that. The problem is the owners’ hand was still a better one than the players’ hand. The players have no leverage. The legal maneuvers are great and all, but at the end of the day the owners and players (an now their lawyers) are going to have to sit down across from each other and negotiate a deal. Like the NFL did. The sooner that both sides of the NBA labor debacle realize that and start trying, the better.

Players file first antitrust suit in Minnesota, official one in California

courtroom generic

Well, the NBA is in the courts now, not on the courts.

Four players — Anthony Tolliver, Ben Gordon, Caron Butler and recent No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams (who does not yet have an NBA contract) — became the first plaintiffs in a players suit to challenge the lockout on antitrust grounds. This first lawsuit was filed in Minnesota and was a class action representing all players. Minnesota is where the NFL players filed their case, a place the players see as friendly to their case.

However, that was not the main suit filed by the players antitrust attorneys. It was a different action and one some reports suggest the union was surprised by.

A second — and the players’ official — suit was filed in Northern California with the plaintiffs being Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Kevin Durant, Leon Powe and Kawhi Leonard (another rookie without a contract).

The first lawsuit states (according to the AP) that the owners’ lockout “constitutes an illegal group boycott, price-fixing agreement, and/or restraint of trade in violation of the Sherman Act.”

The players are framing this as a restraint of trade issue, saying the owners’ proposed CBA would have damaged the free market for players to ply their trade.

This lawsuit was made possible by Billy Hunter and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) leadership filing a “disclaimer of interest” Monday, essentially saying the union was no longer interested in representing the players in contract negotiations. This legal strategy is the course NBA player team representatives decided to take Monday.

The next move by the players will be to file for summary judgement — a ruling from a judge that they win on the facts alone.

The league will soon step in and first challenge the entire disclaimer as a sham, saying essentially that the union has been negotiating for two years, it can’t just walk away and say it’s not a union anymore.

The second battle will be over venue. The owners filed a preemptive lawsuit trying to block union decertification in August, and they filed it in New York. One of the first issues to be decided will be if these cases need to be in the same venue and decided by one judge, and if so which venue.

This is just the start of the legal wrangling that could well doom the entire NBA season.