Monday, October 31, 2011

NBA Lockout Day 123

Yes, there's other news aside from Kris Humphries and that irrelevant woman splitting up. Like still suffering through an NBA stoppage. I've been saving this demoralizing '98 Lockout video for a rough period in negotiations. Well, we're about there. Long meetings, 'optimism', and a depressed Stern were all present 13 years ago. Now if only that homeless beard carried over to today. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

On This Day, October 30th: NBA Lockout Day 122 & the ABL


This is my throw-away post. Here's a Shannon Rose write-up of the American Basketball League and how the ladies were dreaming of satisfying disappointed NBA fans. Stern's WNBA would always be superior though, and the ABL shut down on December 22, 1998 to I'm sure quite a lot of surprised people. The only good thing that came out of the Sentinel on this morning was George Diaz's anger-filled first paragraph

Without getting into a spitting match over whether the WNBA or the American Basketball League is the better comodity, let's just say the ABL has a tremendous opportunity right now.

As the NBA squabbles over lucrative paychecks and continues to be on strike, the ABL could wind up with the chance to steal all of the limelight by being the only professional basketball league in action.

It's a possibility not lost on ABL co-founder and CEO Gary Cavalli as the ABL gets ready to kick off its third season Nov. 5 with the Philadelphia Rage at the New England Blizzard in Hartford, Conn.

``We plan to exploit that opportunity as much as we can,'' Cavalli said.

The ABL is already running print ads in some of its franchise cities that read ``Looking for pro hoops? We're playing.'' Cavalli got some bitter calls from NBA folks about that one.

But there is no reason for him to be sensitive right now. It's time to call in all the troops, time to go after the fans, the media, the television market and sponsors with gusto.

The ABL has all of the characterists of the underdog everybody loves to support, it just needs center stage to tell everyone its story.

It's been tough for the ABL to compete during the traditional basketball season with the NBA and college hoops stealing most of the glamour.

But now, with a new contract with CBS Sports and the possibility of adding other networks to the mix with the NBA lockout, the ABL could have the undivided attention of the country to sell its product.

Unlike the WNBA, which had the NBA's financial backing and name recognition, the ABL started from scratch and has built this league with the help of a lot of different people.

But mainly the players, who have been the backbone throughout the league's existence. The ABL prides itself on its players, using the motto ``Real Basketball.''

Though it's been hurt by the defection of players like Dawn Staley and Nikki McCray, the ABL turns it around and focuses on the players who have stayed.

Eighty-five players had their contracts expire. Eighty-one signed extensions. Among them: Jennifer Azzi, Jennifer Rizzotti, Teresa Edwards and Shalonda Enis, the 1997-98 Rookie of the Year. She signed a four-year contract extension.

The players' loyality have in turn created some loyality by the management. Cavalli said he has had opportunities to steal away WNBA stars but refused to meet their financial demands, which sometimes extended the salaries of the founding players.

``It's a matter of principle,'' Cavalli said.

The commitment got even stronger recently as the Board of Directors unanimously voted to make Edwards, the only four-time Olympian, a part of the seven-member board.

``We believe in this league,'' Edwards said. ``We had an original idea. We started this thing.''

Certainly, the ABL has had its trying times. The Long Beach franchises was shutdown, other teams had to be moved to new cities. But what business doesn't make mistakes along the way?

The ABL increased attendance by 23 percent, up to a 4,900 average (excluding Long Beach's figures) and expects to average more than 5,500 this year.

The ABL has proven to look toward the future while still providing security and benefits in the present. The league's salaries range from $40,000 to $150,000. The players also are awarded stock options, letting them own part of their own league, and have 401K plans.

All of that while the ABL has lost millions of dollars in its first two seasons and expects to lose another million this season. It projects to break even after its fourth season.

But the ABL isn't about money, exposure or television commercials. It's about players.

``I'm so excited I could care less if we are on TV or not,'' Edwards said. ``I just want to toss it up.''

Don't hear that from many NBA players.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

On This Day, October 29th: NBA Lockout Day 121 & MJ's Negotiation Role


Remind me not to believe in any of Billy Hunter's predictions. He assumed Michael Jordan wouldn't retire because of his Airness' massive involvement in these player-owner sit-downs. Interesting that MJ now-a-days isn't very vocal since he's moved to the other side of the table. Still waiting on an NBA superstar to truly step up.

NEW YORK - By suddenly taking such an active role in the labor negotiations that have paralyzed the NBA, Michael Jordan may have tipped his hand concerning his future plans.

When - or if - this season ever starts, Jordan likely will be in uniform again with the Chicago Bulls. His retirement talk isn't being taken very seriously anymore.

``When we get this thing settled, we can expect Michael Jordan to come back,'' said union Executive Director Billy Hunter after spending the past few days with him. ``He hasn't exactly said that, but I'm prepared to predict it.''

After three days of bargaining, the league and the union took off Thursday, with both sides huddling to re-evaluate their latest positions. Their last bargaining session - which went on for eight hours - ended Thursday at 1:05 a.m.

The only discussion later in the day was a phone conversation between Jeffrey Kessler, outside counsel for the union, and Jeffrey Mishkin, the NBA's lead attorney. Although there is no scheduled bargaining session for today, both sides said that one could be set up quickly in the morning.

``At least we've got some great dialogue going right now,'' Jordan said after the latest session ended early Thursday. ``In terms of how close and how far away we are, that's hard to determine right now. We're starting to understand each other's position. Is that improvement? Yes, I would say so.''

Jordan has been non-committal about whether he would play again, but his actions suggest otherwise. He gave an emotional speech to the union membership last week in Las Vegas, then he dominated their meeting Wednesday in New York.

The labor/management battle has sparked his competitive desire.

``I owe it to the union as a veteran to step forward,'' Jordan said. ``It's a pride thing. I want the players of tomorrow to have the same opportunities that I had.''

Although Jordan is neither an officer in the players union nor a member of its negotiating team, he was very active in the two bargaining sessions Wednesday. And he expects to return for the next one.

``It's not the players who caused this. We want to play. We'll play with the old rules,'' Jordan said. ``I think the owners just want to maximize their profits. There's money to be made. But why penalize us because the owners can't control their own spending?''

The two sides have settled on much of the framework of the system they want. It's the split of the money involved - what percentage of revenues the players will receive in salary - that they are negotiating.

The owners have backed away from an earlier insistence that player salaries be reduced from 57 percent to 48 percent during the new agreement. The players, meanwhile, have come down from the 63 percent they originally wanted.

``There are still some wide gaps that separate the sides,'' NBA Commissioner David Stern said. ``But at least we identified the sizes of the gaps between us.''

Said Jordan: ``We have to keep plugging away at this. There has to be a feeling of compromise.''

Friday, October 28, 2011

On This Day, October 28th: NBA Lockout Day 120 & Awful Deja Vu


Don't need to say much other than this: David Stern cancelled all NBA games up to December 1st on October 28, 1998. Stern just did the exact same thing 13 years later. Back then, Michael Jordan had stepped into the ring to challenge the Commissioner. Kevin Garnett and Dwyane Wade have kind of gotten credit for showing some fight, but it's in no way close to what MJ was doing.

The big difference between the two periods in time is that NBAers wanted to RAISE the BRI from 57% to 63% in '98. Even back then, owners even wanted 48%. Their range now is 47%-50% while the union is resistant to fall under 52%.

NEW YORK - November has yet to arrive, but it's already history in the eyes of the NBA.

All games are canceled. That is the only sure thing today.

Negotiations plodded along Wednesday on a new working agreement between the NBA and its players,

costing the Orlando Magic the easiest month on their schedule - the first 11 games against mostly patsies.
Commissioner David Stern, who engaged in a face-to-face, heated exchange with Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan, announced the cancellation of all games until Dec. 1 and an indefinite postponement of the entire season.

Although both sides admit a framework for a new agreement has been established, they continue to bicker over the real substance of the deal.

The players still want more of the burgeoning revenues - estimated at $2 billion last season - than the owners are willing to give.

The players received 57 percent of all basketball revenues in salary and benefits last season. They have asked for 63 percent. The owners gradually want to reduce it to 48 percent over the next five years.
``Right now, we're driving cars,'' said union president and New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing. ``They want us to go back to horses and buggies.''

Bargaining Wednesday took a different twist, with both sides trying to show some solidarity. After Stern talked with all the owners in the morning, he and his eight-member labor relations committee met for 90 minutes with an estimated 100 players who had gathered nearby. The session included some heated exchanges, including one involving Jordan.

Stern's group facing the players included Les Alexander (Houston Rockets), Micky Arison (Miami Heat), David Checketts (Knicks), Jerry Colangelo (Phoenix Suns), Gordon Gund (Cleveland Cavaliers), Peter Holt (San Antonio Spurs), Larry Miller (Utah Jazz), and Abe Pollin (Washington Wizards).

The only Magic player in attendance was Danny Schayes, who is on the union's negotiating team.

``You have to stand up for what is right,'' Jordan said. ``What's right is for them not to come in and lock us out and force us to accept any deal they put on the table. You have to stand up when somebody is trying to take advantage of you. That's what has happened here.''

With November gone from the schedule, each team has lost 11 to 15 games. Stern estimated that players have lost a combined $200 million in salary.

He did hint that the league will re-examine and possibly redo the entire schedule when or if the season does begin.

The NBA already had canceled the first two weeks of the regular season, which was scheduled to begin Nov. 3. In the latest round of cancellations, the Magic lost four home games, against Portland, Washington, Philadelphia and Vancouver. They also lost a game at Philadelphia. Earlier lost games were against Dallas, Miami, Detroit, Toronto (two) and Sacramento.

Season ticket holders will receive a refund for all games missed, plus 6 percent interest.

``The players don't feel any greater pressure now because games were canceled,'' said Billy Hunter, union executive director. ``I'm still convinced that ultimately, a deal will get done. They [owners) are not prepared to put a gun to their heads. NBC and TNT [which televise games) are not going to stand by and let there not be a season. Ray Charles could see that one.''

The two sides had a second negotiating session - with much smaller groups - Wednesday evening, marking the third consecutive day the two sides tried to bargain.

The deal being discussed Wednesday included a loose-fitting salary cap with a luxury tax on the higher-end salaries to discourage spiraling payrolls. The owners want to include an automatic reduction of salaries if they exceed a specified percentage of revenues.

``At this point, I don't know if we are any closer,'' Spurs center David Robinson said. ``There still are some basic differences. There are issues where we just have to draw the line.''

Thursday, October 27, 2011

On This Day, October 27th: NBA Lockout Day 119 & 'It's Not About the Money'


Probably the most overstated annoying line in sports history, 'it's not about the money.' When someone says that, we know it's mostly about the $$$. Povtak provides us with a correlation between 13 years ago and today, the two sides couldn't agree on anything. Economic or not, the union and owners just couldn't find middle ground on countless issues. The same standoffish type of negotiating is going on currently. At least both sides this summer have not been denying the fact that revenue is the massive wedge between them. Your eyes will also focus on our new least favorite word, 'progress'. Long sit-downs mean nothing if you don't compromise.

It's not for a lack of trying that the NBA still isn't close to a collective bargaining agreement.

Negotiating teams for the owners and players met again Tuesday, turning the focus to the non-economic issues, yet still they struggled to find much common ground.

``We talked about a lot of different things,'' said Jeffrey Mishkin, NBA attorney and lead negotiator for the owners on Tuesday. ``But I can't say we made a lot of progress.''

The session followed an eight-hour meeting between the two sides Monday that produced some scattered optimism but little concrete progress that could help end this four-month stalemate.

``The biggest stumbling block remains what it's always been, and that's trying to agree on an economic system that both sides regard as fair,'' Mishkin said. ``So far, we've been unable to do that.''

NBA Commissioner David Stern wasn't at Tuesday's bargaining session. He was addressing the NBA's annual Board of Governors meeting that concludes this afternoon.

Full-scale bargaining will resume today. Up to 100 players and most owners are expected to attend as talks return to the major economic issues.

``I can assure you this will be one of the more focused board meetings that we've ever had,'' said Magic President Bob Vander Weide, who was joined by owner Rich DeVos in New York.

Unless some surprising progress is made in negotiations, Stern is expected to cancel more regular-season games today, wiping out all of November and the first part of the December schedule. The league already canceled the first two weeks of the regular season.

``I think the mood is the most right that it has ever been to make a deal,'' Magic center Danny Schayes said after Tuesday's meeting. ``I'd say there's been some progress made, but it's hard to judge how much. We still have miles and miles to go.''

Among the issues discussed Tuesday for the first time were the league's drug policy, the power of the commissioner to levy heavier fines and how to deal with players who refuse to report after a trade.

Both sides have agreed to add marijuana to the list of banned substances, although the players don't want the punishment to be as stiff as it is for cocaine or heroin possession. The owners want to begin regular drug testing of veterans for the first time, although the players are against it.

The owners want to add required off-season conditioning programs to a player's contractual obligations. They also want the league to deal more harshly with players who are convicted of crimes ranging from firearms possession to alcohol-related offenses.

Billy Hunter, executive director of the union, agreed with Mishkin's opinion that little was accomplished during Tuesday's four-hour session.

``We thought maybe if we took a break from the economic issues that maybe we could make some progress,'' Hunter said. ``Maybe not. I guess Danny [Schayes) had a little different interpretation of the meeting. I expected a lot more.''

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On This Day, October 26th: NBA Lockout Day 118 & 'Progress' is a Popular Word


The owners and players have quickly coordinated yet another negotiation session on Wednesday. Clearly length means nothing based on the results (or lack there of) that have come about from the latest talks. 13 years ago, there was optimism that a deal could finally get done. This was mostly gauged on long hours spent in these meetings, and bad rumors. Sound familiar? 'Progress' is starting to become my least favorite word. Looking at the quotes, optimism was showing on some NBAPA guys. Others knew they were about to get bent over a barrel.

There was progress made during NBA labor negotiations Monday in New York. How much, though, is clearly up for debate.

On the eve of a two-day owners meeting in New York - and the looming threat of losing an entire season - the NBA and its players union met for 81/8 hours Monday, still struggling to secure a labor agreement.

``There was some progress, sure, but I'm not sure how you categorize it,'' said Magic center Danny Schayes, who is part of the union negotiating team. ``We were 1,000 miles apart. Now we're 800 miles apart.''

The two sides ended their latest negotiating session - with 20 people on the union side and 12 on the league side - at 11:30 p.m. Monday.

``There was no real progress,'' said NBA spokesperson Teri Washington.

The NBA has been paralyzed by a lockout since June 30, when the owners exercised an option to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.

The league backed off somewhat on its demand for a hard salary cap, meaning the sides have to be closer, at least in principle, to coming to an agreement on the main economic issues.

``We need a system that eventually gets to where there's a set percentage for the players and a set percentage for the owners,'' Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik said. ``I don't think it has to be a hard cap, and in fact some of the things we're talking about now are not hard caps.''

They did agree to meet again Wednesday - with all owners present and with as many league players who want to attend. There is a good chance of a smaller, private meeting this afternoon after Commissioner David Stern meets with many of his owners.

``I don't think we've completely agreed on any issue, but at least now we're talking about the same system,'' Schayes said. ``They've come off the absolute hard-cap-or-nothing idea. And we've put certain things out there now to give them the cost certainty they want.''

At issue is how to split an estimated - but still increasing - $2 billion in annual revenue. The first two weeks of the regular season already have been cancelled. The rest of November schedule is expected to be cancelled this week when the owners adjourn unless the two sides are near an agreement.

Until Monday, the owners have been insisting upon an absolute limit on player salaries, while the players last week insisted they never would agree to a salary cap with no exceptions.

Any compromise this week likely would include a luxury tax to deter owners from signing their own free agents to overly lucrative contracts. The owners want to reduce the percentage of revenues used for player salaries.

``There's hope now,'' said Dikembe Mutombo of the Atlanta Hawks, also part of the negotiating team.
The luxury tax system being talked about would be phased in gradually, changing if certain conditions are not met by either side.

``Instead of absolute cost certainty, there would be mechanisms that give the owners a very good shot at costs within a certain range,'' Schayes said. ``So it's a good compromise in that area.''

In earlier bargaining sessions, the union proposed a 50 percent tax on the amount of any annual salary exceeding $18 million. The owners proposed a tax of anywhere from 50 to 200 percent on any free-agent contract signed under the Larry Bird exception for more than $2.6 million annually.

``The good news is at least we're talking about the same thing,'' Schayes said. ``We're not close on the specifics.''

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

NBA Lockout Day 117

April 20, 1994 marks Shaquille O'Neal's best scoring output in a Magic jersey. You may have seen me post the abbreviated clip of O'Neal's 53-point showcase at home against Minnesota, but here's the entire game film. the 53 points, at the time, were a franchise and personal record. Shaq also managed to snag 18 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. 22-of-31 shooting is absolutely ridiculous.

He sat down at the 9-MINUTE MARK of the 4th quarter and never came back. So God knows how much more he could have tortured that Wolves defense if it had been a close contest. On this night, there were no signs that Orlando would be swept out of their first postseason performance in the coming few weeks. Between Anthony Avent's blinding misses and the cheerleaders having communication issues, Chip Caray and 'Goose' Givens had an abundance of laughs. Definitely a superb night to be inside the O-Rena.

Monday, October 24, 2011

NBA Lockout Day 116

'Pistol' Pete Maravich's Vintage NBA piece. Need I say more? I'm sorry Jason Kidddampens the viewing at the beginning. He's not exactly the most exciting narrator. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

On This Day, October 23rd: NBA Lockout Day 115 & Penny Returns to the Court


Lost amid all the Lockout panic was the fact that Penny Hardaway was coming off potential career-ending left knee surgery. In a way, Anfernee would never be the same again after that first of a career 4 knee surgeries. But the fact he'd come back and play all 50 games of the '98-'99 season is something to admire. The work stoppage truly was a hidden blessing for Orlando's All-Star guard. It all began in Houston, at that cancer charity event. Penny would post 19 points in a 170-168 'victory'. This is also where Hardaway was trying to recruit Ike Austin.

HOUSTON - A group of NBA players took a timeout from their labor problems with league owners to put on a charity basketball game Friday night at the University of Houston's Hofheinz Pavilion.

For one night everything seemed right in the world of the NBA. There was no talk of lockouts, salary caps or union decertification. It was clearly a case of the show must go on.

``This was great, I'm sure nobody expected a player turnout like this,'' Magic guard Nick Anderson said.
In this particular show the least important part of it was the score, which was 170-168 in favor of Gallery Furniture, the sponsor for the team that included Magic guards Penny Hardaway and Anderson.

Hardaway finished with 19 points, including 13 in the third quarter when he helped his team wipe out an 85-64 halftime deficit. Anderson finished with seven points, all of which came in the first half.

``It was just fun to be out there and see all of the NBA players together,'' Hardaway said. ``Even though it's just an exhibition game, it's always fun to win. That's why in the third quarter I told [San Antonio point guard) Avery Johnson, `Let's try to make a run,' because I knew that late in the game, nobody was going to be serious.''

All together 23 NBA players and two rap artists participated in the All-Star benefit game, which raised money for M.D. Anderson Cancer research.

An estimated 10,000 people paid from $40 to $50 per ticket to get into the game.

Former Houston Rockets star and current University of Houston Cougars first-year Coach Clyde ``The Glide'' Drexler served as honorary coach of the winning Gallery team. He jokingly said afterward: ``That was the hardest I've ever had to work in a basketball game in my life.''

West Side Tennis Club, which has been host of a fall NBA recreation league during the lockout, was largely responsible for making this game possible. The West squad was led by rap artist Silkk, who had 27 points. The Gallery squad also included a celebrity rap artist, Master P, who did not arrive until the third quarter, but finished with 25 points.

Former Rockets guard and one-time Magic player Kenny Smith served as the honorary coach for the West Side club, which also included Minnesota Timberwolves point Stephon Marbury, who scored 14 of his 22 points to lead the first-half charge.

Players were given appearance fees ranging from $2,000 to $10,000. But the biggest beneficiary from the night's events may not have been the area cancer research center or the players. But the fans.
From the Magic's standpoint, it was a huge benefit for them as well.

Not only did Hardaway use this as another means to sharpen his game after having endured back-to-back seasons with knee problems, he used this opportunity to recruit free-agent center Isaac Austin, who scored 17 points for the game winners.

Said Hardaway: ``I had been preaching to Ike all day, trying to get him to come to Orlando. He told me that he's coming. That would be great.''

NOTE: Amid growing concern that the season will be in jeopardy if the labor dispute runs into December, the chief negotiators for the NBA owners and the players have tentatively set meetings for this weekend in Manhattan.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Update on Dwight's 'New Magic-Old Magic' Games

In case you haven't been aware, despite the unwarranted and panicky assumptions that he's supposedly already decided to bolt (calm down folks, you'll live longer), Dwight Howard has been planning a potential local exhibition game or more of current Orlando Magic players against 'old school' Magic men. How far back in the time machine will Dwight wish to venture? No idea. But we do know now, thanks to the technology of Twitter, that it will be at the UCF Arena November 11th-13th. So that Friday, Saturday, and Sunday just got more exciting and should occupy calendars. Look at Ticketmaster, and you'll see a November 11th event was cancelled at UCF. So it's a wise move to sweep in and fill that slot.

This is where diehard Orlando fans can dream of possibly seeing Greg Kite and Tree RollinsRony Seikaly can be the DJ. It would be mighty interesting if we saw the likes of Shaquille O'NealPenny HardawayDennis Scott, and Horace Grant show up. It'd be an NBA2K12-like fantasy. Keep in mind, because of the Lockout, many former players will not be extended an invite because of their current coaching or front office Association affiliations. Nick AndersonBo OutlawDarrell Armstrong,Otis SmithScott Skiles are just a few names who under the normal guidelines of this work stoppage would not be allowed to participate.

It's safe to say we may see the likes of Courtney LeeMickael Pietrus, and Marcin Gortat as they all still associate themselves with our community. After that, it's pure assumption. Tracy McGradyRashard Lewis, and Grant Hill are rumored. Maybe we see a few UCF Knight basketball players as well (as long as it doesn't attract the NCAA). Either way, I'm sure Dwight and crew will put on a superb show. I would expect to see a good chunk of the '95 and '09 Finals squads getting phone calls.

On This Day, October 22nd: NBA Lockout Day 114 & Charity or Gambling?


While some players attended Las Vegas for union voting (see the article below), Magic men Penny HardawayNick Anderson, and Bo Outlaw were in Houston participating in a charity exhibition along with other very notable names. The money raised from the 14,000 fans that would be attending would be handed over to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. As usual, if the quotes weren't interesting I wouldn't be posting these old articles. It's weird to see the players divided up, even if these friendlies were for a great cause, when your union is having a crucial get-together.

LAS VEGAS - The NBA players, with a strong show of union solidarity, voted almost unanimously Thursday to allow the entire season to be canceled unless team owners stop insisting on a hard salary cap.

An estimated 240 players - including the majority of the league's stars - met to solidify their stance in the ongoing labor dispute that has paralyzed the NBA.

``I don't think [Commissioner) David Stern would be that foolish - it would be a demonstration of ineptness - but if the NBA keeps insisting on a hard cap, there might not be a season,'' said Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association. ``That's what we're preparing for.''

Hunter said he expects to reopen negotiations with the league on Tuesday, coinciding with a scheduled NBA owners meeting in New York. He said he expects more than 100 players to be there as a show of support.

The NBA already has canceled the first two weeks of the regular season, meaning the players have lost 1/12 of their annual salary. Stern said he expects to announce the cancellation of another two weeks of games at the owners' meeting unless there is serious progress on a new agreement.

One of those at the meeting Thursday was Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan, who remained noncommittal about returning to play this season.

``The owners are being unfair. If they can't manage their checkbook, why ask us to manage it?'' Jordan said. ``I haven't made up my mind on [this) season, but I'm here to support the young guys and the guys that came before us.

``The players deserve a fair deal. And they should wait until they get one.''

Although the meeting brought together a cross-section of superstars, mid-level players and journeymen, both young and old, they all sounded a unified theme when the meeting adjourned.

``At this point, we're being strong-armed by the owners. It's `Here's the deal, take it or leave it.' They think they can outlast us,'' veteran Michael Cage said. ``But I'm not sure they understand our resolve. We're not going to cave in. This meeting really solidified everything.''

There didn't appear to be any splintering of the union. The meeting, which lasted almost five hours, was both informational and inspiring, according to players who attended. It ended like a union rally, with a commitment to stay together.

Among those attending with Jordan were David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Karl Malone, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Charles Barkley and Dikembe Mutombo.

None of the five Orlando Magic players with contracts - Penny Hardaway, Horace Grant, Nick Anderson, Bo Outlaw and Johnny Taylor - was in attendance.

The players and their agents are planning to arrange a variety of exhibition games to raise funds if the lockout continues. Tonight in Houston, more than 25 players are expected to participate in an all-star charity game.

Next month, the union will begin to distribute the $25 million licensing fund that it has amassed. There are also preliminary talks of forming a loosely organized basketball league for the players.

Both Jordan and Robinson spoke to the gathering, urging unity. Both speeches were well-received, according to a variety of players.

Also speaking to the players were Donald Fehr, head of the baseball players union, and Gene Upshaw, head of the NFL players union. Upshaw urged the players to consider decertification of the union. Fehr discouraged it.

``I told them the solution was simple - decertify the union and sue the league,'' Upshaw said. ``I don't know if that's what they wanted to hear, but they listened.''

The players last week were dealt a serious blow when an arbitrator ruled that the owners did not have to pay the 226 players with guaranteed contracts during the lockout. But that didn't seem to dim anyone's resolve Thursday.

``We're not going to decertify. We're ready to make a stand. I think that's what really came out of this today,'' veteran guard Steve Kerr said. ``That's what a union has to do. I realize now that this could last awhile. That's sad, but it's something we have to do.''

The players have been locked out since July1, when the owners exercised their option to renegotiate the collective bargaining agreement. At issue is how to divide the estimated $2 billion in annual revenues.

Last season, more than 57 percent went to the players in salary and benefits. The owners want that reduced, and the two sides remain far apart on the major economic issues.

``Nobody wants to miss the whole season, and I still can't foresee that happening,'' former Magic player Dennis Scott said. ``This union never has been stronger, but it's the same with the owners. You've got two very determined sides, and neither one is ready to give in.''

Friday, October 21, 2011

On This Day, October 21st: NBA Lockout Day 113 & Decision Day


Looks like 30 hours of mediation can worsen things, not improve them. Building off the decertification piece yesterday, we now have two other critical 'D' words. 'D-Day'. The majority of NBA players were either in Las Vegas for the union vote, or in Houston partaking in real basketball activities. I did thoroughly enjoy Larry Guest's paragraph on the situation. I about died of laughter when Billy Hunter used Christianity as an excuse for some players not showing up in Vegas. Magic men Danny Schayes and Penny Hardaway, as we've come to expect at this point, are the main Orlando figures to be questioned.

HOUSTON - It is D-Day for the National Basketball Players Association. Nearly 200 union members are expected to gather in Las Vegas this morning to ponder their fate in the NBA lockout.

D-Day could stand for decertification day. Players have been asked to fill out certificates declaring whether or not they favor disbanding the union as a means to resolve the lockout.

``Believe me, that [decertification] is the absolute last resort,'' San Antonio Spurs point guard Avery Johnson said Wednesday after morning workouts here at the West Side Tennis Center, where a group of NBA players has been participating in a fall recreational league. ``I think the main thing we want to do is to try to come up with a solution so that we can go back to playing basketball.''

Moreover, D-Day stands for decision day. The players already have lost the first two weeks of the regular season and, according to NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik, have forfeited nearly $100 million in salaries.

``I'm sure there are going to be a lot of questions, although I don't know how much you can accomplish in one day,'' Orlando Magic point guard Penny Hardaway said. He has been rehabilitating his surgically repaired left knee with a physical therapist in Houston and will remain there today.

``Right now, I'd say guys are sort of split on what they want to do,'' Hardaway said. ``As we continue to miss more games, I think you'll see more guys getting impatient and wanting to get a deal done quickly.''

The mission for NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter is to rally his troops and come up with a viable strategy to return the players to the hardwood floors.

One possibility likely to be discussed to get the players back on the court is the players creating their own league. That plan first was discussed at the agents advisory council meeting Wednesday in Las Vegas, where more than 20 player agents and 11 NBA players gathered for nearly four hours.

After the meeting, Hunter also announced that the players planned to organize exhibition games until the lockout is settled.

Although many of the 413 union members are expected to skip the Las Vegas meeting, Hunter said that should not be viewed as a splintering of the union.

``We've got some newly converted Christians, and maybe they find it difficult to come to a place like Las Vegas,'' Hunter said. ``Maybe guys won't show up, but we'll continue to communicate with them.''

Hunter insisted that many marquee players will attend. He said he has commitments from Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Alonzo Mourning, among others.

``Their attitude is that we have to show strength,'' Hunter said. ``It's time for the men to step forward and be counted. You don't send boys to do a man's job, and the men are coming to Las Vegas.''

Meanwhile, a celebrity NBA all-star game will be held at the University of Houston on Friday night. Hardaway is expected to join several of the NBA's finest at the game.

``I think it's great that guys have been playing and staying in shape,'' Magic player representative Danny Schayes said. ``This is not something that the union set up, but I heard about the league that they started in Houston. I think that shows their commitment to the game.''

The league owners, citing the need to assure cost certainty, are looking for that same commitment at the negotiating table. They've insisted on some type of hard salary cap.

The players have balked at the idea of a hard cap under any circumstance. As an alternative, they proposed a luxury-tax system on players' salaries of more than $18 million.

The owners, in turn, came up with a counterproposal based on a luxury tax starting on salaries higher than $2.6 million. Commissioner David Stern had hoped to hear a formal response from the players union.

Hunter said it appeared this latest offer was a veiled attempt to break up the union.

Only three formal negotiating sessions have been conducted since the lockout began July 1. After today's meeting, the earliest that Hunter and his executive board members can expect to meet with the owners is Friday.

In an ideal situation, negotiations would carry on throughout the weekend, allowing Stern the opportunity to brief the owners at a scheduled NBA board of governors meeting Tuesday and Wednesday in New York.

If no substantial progress is made by then, Stern will have no choice but to cancel what's left of the November games.

Tony Dutt - one of the council members who also represents Magic first-round pick Keon Clark, a center from Nevada-Las Vegas - said the players must not enter into this idea of decertification lightly.

``We feel, as a whole, that if that's something you throw out there, then you'd better be prepared to do it,'' Dutt said. `` ... I think that's what we want to come out of this [Las Vegas meeting] - some definites on what the next plan is. You can't afford to make the wrong move at this point.''

Thursday, October 20, 2011

On This Day, October 20th: NBA Lockout Day 112 & the 'D' Word


No, not that word. Or that one. Nope, keep trying. 'Decertification'. While currently in 2011 David Stern was too sick to fight through a 'strenuous' third consecutive day of mediation, the NBAPA in '98 was becoming desperate. Interesting to see so many players, including several Magic men, ignore such a crucial union meeting in favor of an exhibition league in Houston. It certainly isn't a world tour. Interesting to see how close the union was to breaking apart back in 1995. David Stern clearly had some very powerful and leveraged words on the situation.

The NBA players will consider union decertification - their last real bargaining chip - to try to land a more advantageous working agreement with the owners.

Union decertification - which could open the league to a variety of antitrust violations and essentially cancel this season - is expected to be the major topic during two days of union meetings in Las Vegas.

An agents advisory board today will meet with Billy Hunter, union executive director. Hunter will address the union membership Thursday, and more than 100 NBA players are expected to attend.

Meanwhile, Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw of the Orlando Magic are expected to bypass the union meeting. The trio will join nearly 60 players in Houston for what is evolving into an organized pickup basketball league.

``I had intended on going to Las Vegas,'' Anderson said Tuesday as he was heading to Orlando International Airport. ``But after talking to a couple of guys in Houston, I decided to fly down there and play in this league that the players have sort of put together.''

What this will mean for the players union meeting is unclear. However, Anderson noted that several marquee players, including Mitch Richmond, David Robinson and Tim Hardaway are expected to participate in the Houston games, which are held twice a day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Magic player representative Danny Schayes said he had heard of the league but still expected a good turnout at Thursday's meeting in Las Vegas.

``I would expect about half the union to show up, which is about 200 players,'' Schayes said. ``I couldn't imagine us having less than 100.''

The union was dealt a serious blow Monday when arbitrator John Feerick ruled that 226 players with guaranteed contracts do not have to be paid during a lockout.

``An NBA contract is not worth a Russian ruble at this point, and it never will be again,'' said Don Cronson, agent for several NBA players, most notably Charlotte Hornets forward Anthony Mason. ``I think the union now will decertify.''

By decertifying the union, the players would abandon their collective bargaining rights and gain the freedom to cut their own deals without the constraints (notably the salary cap) of an agreement. Essentially, every player automatically would become a free agent.

The players likely would seek a court injunction to end the lockout and start the season, while the owners likely would appeal to the National Labor Relations Board in an effort to stop it.

``The whole thing could take months,'' agent Herb Rudoy said.

Although Hunter tried to downplay the threat of decertification in the wake of Monday's ruling, he admitted the topic would be paramount. The union voted against decertification - 63 percent to 37 percent - in 1995 during the last labor impasse.

It was pushed the last time by David Falk, who represents both Michael Jordan and union President Patrick Ewing and is the league's most powerful agent.

``We made these comments long ago, but unfair labor practice charges, arbitration, decertifications, antitrust lawsuits just don't get it done,'' NBA Commissioner David Stern said.

``All they do is cost the players more money, owners more money and the fans the game. If the record to date doesn't demonstrate that the way to get out of this is to negotiate, then I don't know what else to say.''

Stern and the owners hate the idea of a possible union decertification because it would open a variety of issues in court. The salary cap, the college draft and all the rules under which the league operates would be open to antitrust appeals.

The NFL players chose to decertify after their strike failed in 1987. Their court fight with NFL owners lasted five years.

The players might decide that just the threat of decertification will help them in negotiations with the owners.

The two sides have no meetings scheduled, but they could meet as early as this weekend, depending upon what the players decide.

``Obviously, it [decertification) is very frightening to them [the owners),'' agent Marc Fleisher said.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On This Day, October 19th: NBA Lockout Day 111 & Arbitration is a Bitch


While the players' union and owners meet during mediation for the second straight day, the NBAPA is still stinging from their massive arbitration loss 13 years ago. Billy Hunter seemed so confident too that the owners would have to fork over salary. Oops. I still don't know how Hunter has kept his job this long. Billy has a terrible problem with reality. Hunter reminds me of Rocky at the start of Rocky V, he tries to fight his way through everything only to get pummeled so senseless for such a long period of time that his brain gets damaged and is the butt of all jokes.

The arbitration in '98 was filed on June 28th, and there had been only 3 negotiating meetings between the two sides up through October 19th. That's not even an average of a sit-down per month, which is pitiful. Clearly, a lot of weight was being placed on the arbitration ruling. At least currently there's some sort of activity to relieve the situation.
If NBA owners were looking to crack the players union, they may have been given the hammer to do it on Monday.

Arbitrator John Feerick ruled against the players, deciding that teams do not have to pay millions of dollars in guaranteed contract salaries during this lockout. The ruling in New York severely weakened the bargaining position of the union, which may begin to splinter soon.

With the security of guaranteed contracts now removed, players around the league will be forced to feel the financial pinch of the labor dispute and may be more apt to give in to the owners' demands.

Players from across the league will meet Thursday in Las Vegas to discuss the ruling, which affected 226 players with contracts for the upcoming season.

Although the majority of the players were not scheduled to receive their first paycheck until Nov. 15, some had special provisions in their contracts. The Los Angeles Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal, for example, was scheduled to receive his entire $15 million salary for the season on Oct. 1.

The NBA already has canceled the first two weeks of the season - eliminating the players' first paychecks - after negotiations to reach a new collective bargaining agreement stalled. The two sides remain far apart on the major economic issues.

``This is the result we expected [from the arbitrator),'' said NBA Commissioner David Stern. ``Unfortunately, it doesn't get us any closer to a deal with the players. They don't seem to realize they can't get this money back. It's gone, gone forever.''

For Orlando, the ruling directly affected Horace Grant, Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson, Johnny Taylor and Bo Outlaw, the only players the Magic have under contract for this season. Grant and Anderson did not return phone messages left at their homes to discuss Monday's ruling.

Hardaway was in Houston working out informally with other players. He told reporters there that the ruling increased the importance of Thursday's meeting.

``I don't know how it's going to affect us until we go to Las Vegas,'' Hardaway said. ``I think [the season) is more in jeopardy now because the players are upset they didn't win. We didn't put a lot of trust in winning the ruling.''

Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, scoffed at the suggestion that the ruling meant the owners would now have the upper hand in negotiations.

Hunter said he and union President Patrick Ewing had spoken to 20 players in the two hours after the ruling and that their resolve remained strong.

"If you thought the guys were zealous about staying committed to the cause, they're probably more rabid than they were before,'' Hunter said. ``The players will not accept a bad deal under any circumstances. If we have to fight, we will do that. This doesn't change things.''

The union filed the grievance with the arbitrator June 28, just two days before the lockout began. It claimed that the absence of lockout language in the standard player contract meant that owners should be held liable for paying guaranteed salaries. In the standard player contract, other circumstances in which salaries can be withheld are specifically mentioned.

The owners had argued that the right to exert pressure on employees by withholding pay during a lockout was a fundamental tenet of labor law. The arbitrator - the same one who reinstated the contract of Latrell Sprewell after he assaulted his coach at Golden State - ruled for the owners this time.

The uncertainty leading up to Feerick's ruling had become a factor in the stalled negotiations this summer. The two sides have met only three times, the last time a week ago.

There is no new meeting scheduled. The players are meeting Thursday in Las Vegas, while the owners have a regularly scheduled meeting in New York today.

Stern said the rest of November's games could be canceled by the end of next week.

As a way to help the owners control the spiraling salaries, the players last week proposed a tax on only the highest salaries. The NBA responded Friday with a counterproposal incorporating the tax, but at a much lower threshold and with much higher rates. Hunter responded by calling it a ``step backward.''

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On This Day, October 18th: NBA Lockout Day 110 & More Fan Consideration


Hopefully the mediation that's currently ongoing will produce unexpected progress. There's not really a focal theme in this L.C. Johnson and Tim Povtak collaboration other than the fact that sports fans get screwed over. A lot. This is a lengthy piece and worth a read despite how jumpy the topics become. Here's a small excerpt:

The slogan used to be: NBA action is FAN-tastic.

Commissioner David Stern may have to come up with a new catch phrase to lure pro basketball fans back by the time this league-imposed lockout is lifted.

It's a problem baseball has faced, as well as professional football and hockey. All have recovered with fans, though baseball struggled until Mark McGwire's and Sammy Sosa's race for the single-season home run record heated up this season.

Now it's the NBA's turn. Two weeks of the season have been canceled already, snapping a streak of more than 35,000 games played. Though some progress was made Friday when owners agreed to consider the players proposal of a luxury tax, it's possible that even more of the season will be canceled soon.

Privately, league insiders see a Dec. 1 start date at the earliest, meaning the first month of the season will be wiped out.

Baseball has endured three strikes, the last of which forced the cancellation of the 1994 World Series and carried over into the start of the '95 season. Hockey suffered through a lockout, which wiped out nearly half of the '94-'95 season. Football, which has operated in virtual labor harmony for the past 10 seasons, endured a strike in 1982 and again in 1989, the latter which saw replacement players take the field briefly.

``The process [the NBA) is going through to try to work their problems out was inevitable,'' said Richard Cripeau, professor of history at the University of Central Florida. ``It's Labor 101, a conflict between labor and management. You're dealing with an enormous amount of money and it's a matter of who's going to get the most.''

Monday, October 17, 2011

NBA Lockout Day 109

This goes into the 'favorites' section of your YouTube accounts and at the top of your Magic playlists. A very detailed clip of Scott Skiles breaking the NBA assists record has popped up for all Orlando fans to gratefully behold. Let's pray the NBA doesn't take this one down. I didn't realize that it took a 30-assist performance from Scotty for Matt Guokas' squad to finally claim a victory over the Denver Nuggets franchise.

A 155-116 smacking around on December 30, 1990 that is a thing of beauty to admire when you just stare at the box score a few decades later. Oh yeah, and Skiles still managed to add 22 points and 6 rebounds. Skiles was so great that he even got Greg Kite's lumbering old ass a jam. It's a phenomenal personal crowning achievement that hasn't been surpassed and hopefully never will be.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Harper & Strasbourg Eat 1st Defeat

It's not like SIG Strasbourg wasn't given much hope of playing a close match against the defending French Pro A champion SLUC Nancy Cougars (hilarious I know), let alone somehow doing it on the road and trying to steal a win in Nancy. But Strasbourg showed the type of fight and grit that I'm sure made coach Vincent Collet very proud despite the 67-62 defeat Saturday night. It's a shame too because Strasbourg had the lead for a good chunk of this match.

Portland Trailblazers fans can see that Nicolas Batum shot horribly going 2-for-12, which was a big reason why SIG hung around the entire match. Here are the game highlights. Check out the 2:07 mark where Harper SWATS THE HELL out of a transition lay-up attempt. Awesome athleticism. At the end of the clip, you'll see Harper be forced to rush a difficult 3-point shot at the end to keep SIG in the game.

Magic rookie Justin Harper had a rough shooting outing when it was imperative that SIG's offensive guns needed to be efficient. 12 points on 4-of-13 field goals in 22 minutes won't get it done. After refusing to not attempt a 3-pointer in his official debut, Justin put up a paltry 1-of-7 shooting from downtown. Once again though, Harper's defensive potential looks hopeful as he snagged 9 rebounds and swatted away 2 shots. SIG's youth and inexperience crept into the final minute of an otherwise very well planned contest and basically bumbled away 39 minutes of superb battling. It was a step back from the clutch comeback Strasbourg had last week against Cholet.

The postgame media coverage seems overall positive with SIG in good spirits about the effort they put out. Collet's high expectations for this inexperienced squad are not unfounded after two decent performances. 1-1 Strasbourg next plays October 22nd at home versus 1-1 Le Havre. SIG needs to prove they can transform their home court into a fortress. Strasbourg won both meetings last year.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

NBA Lockout Day 107

Short and simple on this football Saturday. Here's Philadelphia 76ers champion Maurice Cheeks and his Vintage NBA dedication. Eric Snow was the special guest. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

On This Day, October 14th: NBA Lockout Day 106 & Rich DeVos' Stance


I think we can all agree that although Rich DeVos and company have kept their mouths shut so far during these 106 days, Mr. Amway has a completely different perspective on the situation than he did 13 years ago. Larry Guest stumbled upon some inside info at that time and found out that Rich wasn't desperate to have a season.

Oh how times change when you want a championship before you croak. Now the DeVos family have to worry about not losing All-Star Weekend, as well as needing the work stoppage to end so that Otis Smith can pull some trades and do whatever it takes to help keep Dwight Howard in Magic pinstripes.

Click here, and you'll read about an NBAPA's proposal to league officials about their views on the luxury tax situation. At least they offered an SOME SORT of an actual solution to the problem back then. Instead, today the players' union met (SHUT UP, JAVALE!!!) and David Stern continues his tour of almost every talk radio show imaginable.

Little Bird Dept.: Sources say Magic owner Rich DeVos is among a group of hard-line owners backing NBA Commish David Stern to the hilt to continue the lockout as long as necessary to throw a net over player salaries.

This shouldn't come as a shock, considering that DeVos has consistently lamented the league's financial insanity. DeVos is not your garden-variety egomaniac owner who went business brain-dead the minute he acquired a franchise.

He embraces the concept of a business making a profit and suggests that's a healthy thing not only for owners, but also for players and the sport in general. ... DeVos and others are behind Stern even if dangerous arbitrator John Feerick rules, in the next week or two, that teams must pay the 200 or so players holding guaranteed contracts during the lockout.

Feerick is that citadel of logic who ruled in the Latrell Sprewell case that, in effect, choking your boss is not a firing offense. Before anyone thinks another Feerick ruling in favor of the players would rush the owners into a settlement, be advised that the league would appeal such a ruling, likely tying it up in the courts for months.

Besides, like most teams, the Magic have only a handful of players under contract and still get their $23 million in Turner/NBC TV fees, even if there are no games to telecast. They'd have to rebate, or make good in some other way, each telecast lost, but - get this - not until the end of the new four-year TV contract.

Most owners probably figure they won't be owning their team by then, so that'll be somebody else's problem. Meanwhile, many of them can make more money not playing games, which should be setting off alarms among the players.