NBA

Players put ball in owners' court

Rick Horrow explains why this season is now in serious jeopardy.
Rick Horrow explains why this season is now in serious jeopardy.
Share This Story

Billy Witz

Billy Witz has contributed to The New York Times and covered a multitude of sporting events. A Tulane University grad, Witz has won Associated Press Sports Editor awards for investigative reporting, feature writing and game stories. He covered the Lakers' every move last season for FOX Sports West.

MORE>>
   
 

The primary tenet of successful deal-making – be it real estate, acquisitions or labor – is you can’t be afraid to blow up the deal.

What we learned Monday, when the NBA Players Association executive committee rejected the owners’ latest (and purportedly last best) offer, is that they’re sitting on a powder keg and just pulled a matchbook out of their pocket.

Rather than accept a deal that called for rollbacks in salaries, tighter restrictions on free agency and shortening the length of contracts, the union took a different course. It disbanded, an act that allows the players to sue the NBA over anti-trust laws, challenging the legality of the lockout.

The upshot: If that takes the season with it, so be it.

Since the lockout began, one side of the narrative has been that the owners were hard and determined to seize back control of their league. While the NBA enjoyed one of its most compelling seasons, many owners chafed at the players having too large a stake.

As some franchises were in the red – the league took over New Orleans when former owner George Shinn went into bankruptcy – 57 percent of revenues went to the players.

And after the NBA went more than a decade without a superstar leaving via free agency, the move of LeBron James to Miami from Cleveland, and the orchestrated trade of Carmelo Anthony to New York from Denver, only fueled the notion that more franchise players (Dwight Howard, Chris Paul) would be on their way to bigger markets soon.

With David Stern using a hammer of heavy fines to ensure his office was management’s only voice, and the players sounding fractured and fractious – including questions about union president Derek Fisher’s loyalty – there were few questions about the owners' resolve.

Well, not anymore.

What the union did Monday was for, perhaps the first time during the 137-day lockout, put the ball in the owners’ court. We are about to find out just how hard and determined they are.

After a fan lambasted Miami owner Mickey Arison last month on Twitter for ruining the sport, Arison responded: “You are barking at the wrong owner.”

So, how will Arison, who was fined $500,000 for the tweet by Stern, feel now? Or owners of the Knicks, Lakers and Celtics, who print money simply by opening up the doors for business?

Stern, who has appeared mostly measured in his comments the past few months, reacted to the union’s decision by jumping up and down and stomping his feet.

Speaking on ESPN, Stern called the union’s action “a charade” and “irresponsible at this late date,” telling the players they were being misled by the union’s executive director Billy Hunter and its legal strategist Jeffrey Kessler.

“They seem hell bent on self-destruction and it’s very sad,” Stern said. “If I were one of the 450 players in the NBA, I would be wondering what Billy Hunter just did.”

bracket

OWN UP TO IT

Franchise success or failure often can be traced to the top. We rank the five best and five worst NBA owners.

How nice of Stern to be offering up his advice, just as he did over the weekend when he suggested the players accept the deal. Well, of course. Who has the interests of the players more at heart than Easy Dave?

All this was a skillful effort by Stern to shift the focus back onto the players. But here it is, mid-November, and they have already taken the owners’ best shot. The players are missing paychecks and have – in the face of contentious debate – resisted negotiation fatigue and the temptation to give in to severe rollbacks just to get back on the court.

They are now willing to cast their lot with Kessler and David Boies, an A-Team of litigators, and see where that gets them.

It might cost them a season. But it might also get them a deal.

More Stories From Billy Witz

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by


NBA Videos

NBA considering mid-season Vegas tournament? Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Adam Silver confirms the NBA has engaged in early conversations about the possib...

LeBron and Blatt 'will work together beautifully' Posted: Jul 14, 2014
Cavaliers head coach David Blatt on LeBron James' decision to return to Clevelan...

LeBron's back and so are the Cavs Posted: Jul 11, 2014
FOX Sports 1's Gary Payton weighs-in on LeBron's decision to return to Cleveland...

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    adidas Blake Griffin Los Angeles Clippers Revolution 30 Performance Jersey - Red http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Los_Angeles_Clippers/browse/featuredproduct/491845/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_491000/ff_491845_xl.jpg&w=100 59.95 adidas Blake Griffin Los Angeles Clippers Revolution 30 Performance Jersey - Red
    adidas LeBron James Miami Heat Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey-Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Miami_Heat/browse/featuredproduct/498609/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_498000/ff_498609_xl.jpg&w=100 89.95 adidas LeBron James Miami Heat Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey-Black
    adidas Carmelo Anthony New York Knicks Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Knicks/browse/featuredproduct/620470/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_620000/ff_620470_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 adidas Carmelo Anthony New York Knicks Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey..
    Mitchell & Ness San Antonio Spurs Black Solid Script Snapback Adjustable Hat http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Antonio_Spurs/browse/featuredproduct/692239/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_692000/ff_692239_xl.jpg&w=100 25.95 Mitchell & Ness San Antonio Spurs Black Solid Script Snapback Adjustable Hat
    Majestic Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers Logo Man T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Los_Angeles_Lakers/browse/featuredproduct/851828/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_851000/ff_851828_xl.jpg&w=100 23.95 Majestic Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers Logo Man T-Shirt - Black
    Majestic Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder Logo Man T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_City_Thunder/browse/featuredproduct/851842/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_851000/ff_851842_xl.jpg&w=100 23.95 Majestic Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder Logo Man T-Shirt - White
    adidas Miami Heat 2012 NBA Eastern Conference Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Miami_Heat/browse/featuredproduct/890174/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_890000/ff_890174_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 adidas Miami Heat 2012 NBA Eastern Conference Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Wh..
    adidas Oklahoma City Thunder 2012 NBA Western Conference Champions Locker Room Flex Hat - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_City_Thunder/browse/featuredproduct/890384/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_890000/ff_890384_xl.jpg&w=100 19.99 adidas Oklahoma City Thunder 2012 NBA Western Conference Champions Locker Room F..