While some players attended Las Vegas for union voting (see the article below), Magic men Penny Hardaway, Nick 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.''