I'll start out this century mark occasion with an Orlando Solar Bears article, as well as an earlier than expected appearance from the 'hockey guy' John Weisbrod (pictured on the far top left). Also known as the 'bulldozer', Weisbrod did run the Solar Bears until the IHL folded before transitioning to the Magic front office. Notice Bob Vander Weide was the President of the hockey team. The 2001 Turner Cup winners had a rare opportunity in front of them, to be the only active professional sports team in Orlando at a time when they needed an attendance surge.
It's a good thing Weisbrod said that it sucks there's an NBA work stoppage, despite the Solar Bears greatly becoming beneficiaries of that situation, otherwise he may not have eventually become the Magic's GM. It's unfortunate that our city presently has no sports to fall back on other than college and high school football. No Orlando City Soccer, no Predators, and no defunct Solar Bears.
Now we get to the much more serious Lockout info. Tim Povtak once again covering all the bases for our small newspaper. Don't worry guys, 5-hour meetings didn't settle much either 13 years ago. Keep an eye on some of David Stern's words. They may appear again in our near future. On the verge of regular season games and paychecks being lost, expect player stances to change as the owners slowly gain more leverage (See that $2.6 billion television money). Bright spot, at least the two sides could agree on the drug policy and rookie salaries. If Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo can't intimidate the owners, don't expect Derek Fisher to succeed.
``I can't say we're any closer today,'' NBA Commissioner David Stern said. ``I'm sad because we're looking down the barrel of significant losses. And the grenade from which the plug has been pulled is firmly in both of our hands. When it explodes, we're both going to suffer injuries.''
The two sides agreed to meet again Tuesday morning, but barring any stunning reversal by the players and their previous stance, the league Wednesday will begin canceling regular-season games.
``It would take a major, major breakthrough Tuesday [to avoid canceling games], and that doesn't seem likely,'' said Russ Granik, the NBA's deputy commissioner. ``The clock has been ticking for some time now.''
The Orlando Magic were scheduled to open the regular season Nov.3 against the Dallas Mavericks. The league already had canceled the exhibition season, and both sides agreed it would take three to four weeks after signing an agreement before the games could begin.
This would be the first time in league history the NBA has lost regular-season games to a labor dispute.
``We're still at the same place we were before today,'' union President Patrick Ewing said. ``Their proposal hasn't changed. We want to get back on the court, but we have to do what is right for us.''
This was the first formal meeting since Aug. 6, but little negotiating was done Thursday. It was more of a question-and-answer session, with the players' union wanting clarification on a number of issues concerning the owners' latest proposal.
The only players attending the session were Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo and Herb Williams, all officers in the union. They were joined by Executive Director Billy Hunter and his attorneys. On the other side were Granik, Stern and their attorneys.
The players' union has summoned its executive council - which includes the Orlando Magic's Danny Schayes - to a meeting this weekend to discuss its upcoming counterpropsal.
``We still have a long ways to go. We are quite a ways apart,'' Hunter said. ``But at least we're talking. Our position to date has been we can't live with it [a hard salary cap]. Today's session, though, was good. The coats and gloves came off. I don't know if they are willing to make a deal.''
Hunter and the players admitted they are awaiting a ruling from arbitrator John Feerick on whether players with guaranteed contracts for this season (more than 200) should be paid during the lockout. Feerick's decision could come at any time before his Oct. 19 deadline.
Although Feerick has encouraged both sides to reach an agreement before he rules, that seems highly unlikely.
``We'll come back for the second meeting and make our proposals,'' Mutombo said. ``And maybe by a third meeting, something will happen. But at this point, we are no closer [to an agreement]. Things will wait until after the ruling.''
The players and the owners already have informally agreed upon many of the issues. They will add marijuana to banned substances.
Rookie contracts for first-round draft picks will go from three to five years. Trading a player going into the final year of his contract will be prohibited. Veteran free agents will be guaranteed significantly more than the current minimum salary ($272,500) many of them played for last season.
This is the first year under the NBA's $2.6 billion, four-year television contract. The contract's money is guaranteed to the owners, even if there is no season. It's the players who will start missing paychecks once games are canceled. Even if Feerick rules that players with contracts must be paid, there are another 220 free agents without contracts, making it more likely that players will bend on the major economic issues.
``Nobody wants to inflict any pain on anyone,'' Granik said. ``But we have certain economic needs we think are fair and should be part of the system. That's the major point for us. But nothing that was said today lets me believe we are getting to that point.''