Although the first 2 weeks of the '11-'12 season have been erased, that didn't quite happen yet in '98 where there was still hopes of a new CBA being developed at the last second (give it another day). Despite their lack of millions of dollars, Magic men Darrell Armstrong and Derek Strong proved to be fiscally prepared for a lost '98-'99 season.
What's easily the most intriguing thing by far though (and backs up about my claims of Hunter's incompetence) is to see player agent Stephen Woods criticize Billy Hunter and how he'd already made two crucial errors that definitely worsened the lockout situation.
The NBA lockout is not only a battle of wills, but of wallets.
With the exhibition season already canceled, league owners will begin marking regular-season games off the calendar this week unless some progress is made in negotiations today in New York.
The National Basketball Players Association met with Commissioner David Stern and league representatives last week in the first formal labor talks since Aug.8.
In a revised proposal submitted by the owners, a number of provisions are aimed at gaining cost certainty, primarily through a hard salary cap, which is targeted at 48.04 percent of basketball related income. Last season, player salaries accounted for nearly 58 percent of that income. The owners and players agreed the owners could reopen negotiations once salaries surpassed 51.8 percent.
It is believed the owners are banking on the players giving in to a ``hard'' salary cap once the regular bi-weekly pay period begins Nov. 15. Meanwhile, Stern has intimated the entire 1998-99 season may be wiped out barring a turnaround on the part of players.
For more than a year, the union has told players to prepare for a lockout. Union sources revealed that a $50 million war chest has been set aside on behalf of the players. Nearly half of the funds were garnered from NBA licensing monies. Another $15 million has been established through a line of credit. So far, few, if any, players are taking the threat of a canceled season seriously. None of them have stepped forward to ask for financial assistance.
``We still have a lot of work ahead of us,'' said center Danny Schayes, the Orlando Magic's player representative. ``But as far as canceling the season, it's way too early at this point to be thinking along those lines.''
The owners also are seeking more control of players' actions off the court following last season's Latrell Sprewell incident coupled with various other off-season skirmishes that regularly are chronicled in police reports.
So far, the players maintain their union is as strong and as unified as ever. However, there was talk of dissension growing within the union following last week's meeting.
Stephen. M. Woods, an Atlanta-based agent whose clients include Kevin Willis, insists some players are growing leery of the impasse. Woods threatened to file a grievance against the players' union because, as he puts it: ``The union has done a great job representing the interest of its board members [comprised of well-paid veteran players) ... Playing or not playing does not represent a real hardship for [NBPA President Patrick) Ewing. But for a few hundred it represents a real hardship.''
That apparently is not necessarily the case for members of the Magic. Derek Strong and Darrell Armstrong, a pair of the lesser-paid Orlando free agents, who made $327,000 and $350,000, respectively, last season, said they are comfortable with waiting out negotiations.
``I've been playing professional basketball for seven years, so I have some money saved up,'' said Strong, who stands to sign a long-term deal with the Magic once the lockout ends. ``I've played overseas before, so, if I had to, I could go back over there.''
Armstrong, who has spent his four-year NBA career with the Magic has a similar view. ``I had to be patient just to get to the NBA,'' said Armstrong, who played previously in the Continental Basketball Association, Global Basketball Association and United States Basketball League, as well as overseas. ``The Orlando Magic have been good to me, so I can wait a little bit longer [to re-sign). In the meantime, I have some money set aside in mutual funds.''
Still, in a letter addressed to NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter late last week, Woods questioned some of the bargaining tactics being used. The players are already at a disadvantage because Stern has negotiated six collective bargaining agreements, while Hunter is undergoing this process for the first time.
``There have already been two strategic mistakes made early in the negotiations,'' Woods said from his office in Atlanta. ``Going back a year ago, Billy sent a memo out to the players that said: `We look forward to the opportunity to return to the [negotiating) table and take back some of the ground we lost last time around.'
``In essence, what he's saying is that this lockout is a good thing. I'm all for the players getting the best deal, but he's promising the players something that he's not going to be able to deliver.
``I also thought that it was a mistake to have the players sit out the World Championships this summer,'' Wood added. ``The gains that could have been made financially as well as from an image standpoint in the overseas markets would have benefitted the entire league tremendously. Whereas, by skipping the games, the players gained no leverage whatsoever.''