Report: Garnett, Kobe, Pierce shut down 50/50 talks before deadline on their own

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you know, in a way, I’m kind of glad for stuff like this. I mean, the lockout had become downright depressing. Both sides were “miles apart” but “ready to make a deal.” We’ve lost games, good games, which may or may not be rescheduled. Both sides seem more interested in rhetoric than progress, and it’s become about ego as much as it is about money, both of which are pretty disgusting in the times we live in.

But this? This is pretty funny. Not “JaVale McGee said the players were folding to a half-dozen reporters with tape recorders in their hands right in front of his face and then denied it on Twitter before Derek Fisher smacked him down” funny, but it’s pretty funny. And once again it shows that the players, despite being in most people’s minds on the side of right in the dispute, are woefully out of their league.

The first news came out of a Bill Simmons column. Those are typically filled with little nuggets of insider information, particularly about the NBA, nestled in with the reality television and mid-90’s prison break drama movie references, but it’s hard to catch them, so they’re not treated as news, since Simmons isn’t a news reporter or breaker. But it was enough to make people stop and go, “Wait, what?”

From Grantland:

Should someone who’s earned over $300 million (including endorsements) and has deferred paychecks coming really be telling guys who have made 1/100th as much as him to fight the fight and stand strong and not care about getting paid? And what are Garnett’s credentials, exactly? During one of the single biggest meetings (last week, on Tuesday), Hunter had Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce and Garnett (combined years spent in college: three) negotiate directly with Stern in some sort of misguided “Look how resolved we are, you’re not gonna intimidate us!” ploy that backfired so badly that one of their teams’ owners was summoned into the meeting specifically to calm his player down and undo some of the damage. (I’ll let you guess the player. It’s not hard.) And this helped the situation … how? And we thought this was going to work … why?

via Bill Simmons Avoids a Few Subjects Before Making His Week 6 NFL Picks – Grantland.

Because we’re prideful, Bill. And often times, very dumb with our decision making.

That was going to slip through the cracks, though. A vague reference without naming names in Simmons’ column wasn’t going to penetrate. But this will. From TrueHoop:

As Stern has recounted a dozen times since, not long after what was supposed to have been the hallway conversation that saved the season, something odd and wholly unexpected happened. There was a knock on the door where Stern was selling his owners on the idea. The players wanted to talk.

When they convened, instead of the union’s head, Hunter, or their negotiating committee of Maurice Evans, Matt Bonner, Roger Mason, Theo Ratliff, Etan Thomas and Chris Paul, representing the players were Fisher, Kessler, and three superstars who had been to very few of the meetings at all: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant.

A bad sign: Pierce was still wearing his backpack.

The players had two pieces of news that shocked the league: 50/50 was not good enough. And there was nothing further to discuss.

via TrueHoop Blog – ESPN.

Abbott goes on to note that those players had not been to every meeting the players were invited to, much less the sessions the two sides had held privately. And that the owners were bewildered by what in the name of Stern just happened.

In essence, you have three veteran players intervening on behalf of the union, shutting down talks when a potential deal was within reach.

Now, some things to remember:

  • 50/50 is not a real compromise. It’s a win for the owners. Saying they started at 46 and compromised at 50 is like if I were to go to a BMW salesman and offer $500 for a brand new car, him giving the list price, and then me claiming that $5,000 was a compromise. It’s not. It’s a win. But the union recognized that this deal would keep most if not all of the essential things they wanted and would let them live to fight another day.
  • Talks didn’t end at this point. There was more to it. A deal could have been salvaged. Who knows, if the owners had said, “Fine, how about 51 percent?” the players might have shaken their hands and walked out the door. But we’ll never know, because it was partially on the owners to respond, and they responded by saying “Well, I guess we’re done here. Guess we’ll go extort the money we want from you via economic siege.”
  • But you know what’s hard for an owner to do? Take you seriously as a bargaining entity when the same four people you’ve been meeting with from two years vanish into a hotel while three players without a law degree between them come in to tell you what’s what. And one of them is Kevin Garnett, who has the emotional temperance of a wolverine jacked up on Red Bull and mescaline. None of the players should have gone in without Hunter or Fisher. None of them would have helped, they would have only hurt. There’s leadership, and there’s a misunderstanding of the negotiation process. And the players plunged into a big pool of the latter.  But if you’re going to go that route, you want the most stable, well-reasoned, cold-blooded guys you can find. Pierce? Sure. Bryant? Absolutely. And Garnett is known for being very personable off the court. But from these reports, it sure seems like he went dog-off-the-chain like it was Game 7 of the Finals. His intentions were noble. His approach was regrettable.
This, combined with the JaVale McGee saga from Friday, paints the picture that the players are out of their depth. Some of the players know what’s going on. Their union is doing the best it can to keep it together. They’re blasting Stern in public while trying to reach a deal to get the players paychecks. Hunter reportedly gave his blessing to the confrontation as a tactic to try and blow the owners back off their hard line, something he’s struggled with. But as it stand, it does not come off as an impressive show of strength. It seems like a Jr. High protest.
The owners waged this lockout, have drug their heels to get the deal they want, have exerted every influence they have to “crush the union” as reports suggested they wanted months ago. But the players? They’re running headlong into the owners’ swing.