Everybody knows that things are going to get ugly when the NBA owners and the Player’s union will try to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement this summer. In fact, Adrian Wojarowski of Yahoo! Sports is reporting that things already got pretty chippy between union head Billy Hunter and NBA Commissioner David Stern this past All-Star Weekend:
The room was thick with league executives, coaches and players on the afternoon of Feb. 19, and they listened to Hunter insist he couldn’t come in good faith and tell them everything was well within the NBA. Hunter said the owners had made a crippling proposal, a long lockout loomed and these players in the room would bear the biggest financial and public relations burden of a work stoppage. And then he started to tell them he had thought long and hard about the way Oscar Robertson and Jerry West staged a protest at the 1964 All-Star Game, threatening a boycott until they had leveraged the league into the most rudimentary of medical benefits and pension contributions…
…[A livid David Stern] would barely even look at Hunter when Hunter handed him the microphone. And soon, Stern started reciting his résumé, his decades of labor fights and legal battles in the NBA. Here’s how much the NBA was worth and here’s where I’ve brought it, he said. Everyone could see the anger rising within him, but no one expected the words that tumbled out of his mouth.
Stern told the room he knows where “the bodies are buried” in the NBA, witnesses recounted, because he had buried some of them himself.
There will be no easy solutions in this lockout. The owners say their teams are losing money. The Player’s Union says that only a few owners are losing money, and that’s only because those owners managed their finances poorly. The owners want a hard cap and salary rollbacks. The owners think they’re giving the players too much money. The players think the owners have too much money.
The owners will lock the players out this year. They will believe that they can last without the NBA longer than the players can. The players are going to have to fight if they want to keep the CBA luxuries they currently enjoy. According to Hunter, that’s exactly what they’re prepared to do:
This year, Hunter said he told Stern this story: “I don’t know where you were raised, but I lived with rats. I used to kill rats. We had a .22 rifle and we would lay in the kitchen and shoot them on the floor. One thing my grandmother taught me was that if you got a rat trapped, you’ve got to give his ass a way out, because he will fight you if he has to.
“If you don’t give us a way out, a chance for a compromise, you’re going to get a fight.”
Get ready for summertime, NBA fans.