League exec spins that “Garnett (expletive) everything up”

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Welcome to the latest phase of the battle for your hearts and minds.

We learned over the weekend that it was veteran NBA stars — Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce — who were at the forefront on the players side of shooting down and discussions of the players and owners doing a 50/50 split of basketball related income.

Today, league sources took that one step further in speaking with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo — they threw KG under the bus.

Privately, management insists that everything changed when the Boston Celtics’ Kevin Garnett(notes) walked into the negotiating room on Oct. 4. The owners knew it wouldn’t go well when Garnett started glowering across the table, sources said, like the league lawyers, owners and officials were opponents at the center jump. He was defiant, determined and downright ornery. He was K.G. Everyone knew Hunter had to cede to the wishes of the stars, and the stars demanded that the players stop making concessions to the owners.

As one league official said, “We were making progress, until Garnett [expletive] everything up.”

Realize that every time somebody anonymously leaks something to the press, they do it for a reason — there is a motive. (This is true in politics, sports, entertainment, whatever.) The motive here is pretty clear here: The league and owners thought they were getting close to a deal they liked when KG and the veterans killed it. As a counter measure, you leak things that make the players seem the heavy, you make them look bad, and next time (Tuesday, perhaps?) they don’t shoot down the idea you like out of hand.

Here’s one other thing to remember — no one person can (expletive) up a negotiation on their own. If there wasn’t a broader base of support for that position in the union — and there is a broad base — he would have been pushed to the side. But he speaks for a lot of players; he just does it more loudly.

It’s great that a federal mediator will be in the room with the owners and players tomorrow, but that is meaningless if both sides don’t want to make a deal.