Posted Oct 3 2011 7:05AM
In San Antonio, when coach Gregg Popovich would be purple with rage during a practice or a film session, they called it "going Serbian." It was part real and part theatre, designed to wake the Spurs out of whatever doldrums they were going through. Pop didn't do it every week or every month; when you're a coach, you can only pull such things a few times a season. But he made his point and his players understood it was time to pick things up.
That's why it was important for the NBA's star players to show up for Friday's negotiating session in New York with the owners. No, they did not "scare" the owners, in a physical sense or otherwise. The deal is the same; the owners are going to get most of what they want from the union because they have the leverage and the players do not.
But Dwyane Wade's confrontation with David Stern last Friday, combined with the strength of LeBron James in the room with his fellow players and Paul Pierce challenging the owners' math, stirred the pot, rattled the cages and got everyone's attention. And it cleared the air and the stage for the last, best chance to avoid canceling a signficant amount of regular season games. (The likelihood that at least some -- maybe 10, maybe 20 -- are going to go away is significant.)
Stern has always maintained that, if roles were switched, he could do Billy Hunter's job, and Hunter could do his job. They are not friends, but they have been across negotiating tables from one another for 13 years now, and they know what the other guy needs to make a deal. And that's what this comes down to now, giving the other guy something he can sell to his people.
Stern cannot sell the same soft cap that has been in place for a quarter-century; his owners have made it plain that they'll kill a season before going back to that system. Hunter can't sell a 46 percent player cut of Basketball Related Income; when he's already agreed to give back more than $160 million in salaries from current levels, giving the owners another $300 million or so is a non-starter.
The last chance has always been in the hands of Stern and Hunter, just as it was in 2005, when Stern went to the owners and raised hell at the 11th hour, getting the owners to take their "supertax" proposal -- these things never go away; they're just tabled until the next time -- off the table, and give Hunter the opening he needed to get his guys to swallow a 19-year-old age minimum for the Draft.
Hunter said then, "I guess the two of us needed to ratchet up the rhetoric and we decided it was time to back away from the abyss and decide if we could really do a deal."
Or, as Stern put it: "half of it went our way, half of it went their way, and the central economics really remain the same. We knew that that's what we had to get to. I think that the question about what happened in the last week, I think Russ (Granik, then deputy commissioner) at my press conference got the owners to thinking that maybe we were crazy enough to do it. Billy's press conference got the players thinking the same thing, and so we both got encouraged to sit down and try to avoid the Apocolypse that we were each describing."
There is another one of those on the horizon. The rest of the preseason will go poof, maybe as early as Tuesday, if there isn't a breakthrough in the next two days of negotiations. And nuking the start of the regular season isn't far behind; there just isn't any more time.
At minimum, a month is likely required from the time both sides shake hands across the conference table to the opening tipoff; a week to write and ratify the deal, a week for some form of free agency, a week of training camp and a week of preseason games. Maybe you could squeeze all that into three weeks. Maybe.
Where can Stern and Hunter reach one another? I've argued for months (to no avail, obviously) that a 50-50 split of BRI has to be the settling point between the two sides. That would represent almost $300 million in reduced spending for owners -- precisely the amount of money the league claims it lost this past season. Stern cannot ask Hunter to give more; it's a humongous bite of the apple, hard enough for the players to swallow.
Stern has already gotten the owners to capitulate on their desires to take away guaranteed contracts, and the owners' latest proposal, with its current version of the supertax, would nonetheless preserve a softer cap than the owners initially desired. Can Stern do more? Can he get the owners up to 50 percent on BRI? Is there any more money he can get from the Busses and Dolans of the league for revenue sharing, and can he get them to couple it to the CBA discussions? Can he preserve the existing cap exceptions in some form, or will the hawks who've been pushing him make it impossible?
That's why I asked Stern on Friday if, even if they weren't there yet, he could see what the framework of a deal would look like. He demurred, saying, "I leave that to the bloggers."
Heavy rocks, indeed, to push up the hill this late. But Stern and Hunter both have great incentive to hammer this out between themselves and their small groups -- deputy commissioner Adam Silver and Spurs owner Peter Holt on Stern's side, union president Derek Fisher and attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and Ron Klempner with Hunter's back. Otherwise, this thing could get pulled in a million different directions.
The Commish and deputy commish went out of their way the last few days to praise the star players for showing up Friday, and the cynic in me can't help but think they know the stars being in New York means that the stars aren't sitting somewhere with their agents, contemplating decertification.
James, for example, is represented by Leon Rose, one of the agents that is part of the pro-decertification group. Pierce is repped by Jeff Schwartz, another pro-decertification guy. If those influential players literally have Hunter and Derek Fisher's back, the chances of finding 230-plus other players that would vote to blow up the union decrease significantly. (And the stars may keep coming out: a source said Sunday night that Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Amar'e Stoudemire have been invited to New York for Tuesday's meeting, and that Wade, Ray Allen and Carmelo Anthony, who were among the players in attendance on Friday, have been asked to come back.)
But Hunter didn't shy from the elephant in the middle of the room. According to a source with knowledge of the discussions, Hunter put it point blank to James, Wade and the other stars in the room on Friday during a players-only session: Do you guys want to decertify? Let me know where you stand. And the players said no.
The decertifcation strategy, seemingly inevitable a couple of weeks ago, seems to have cooled a little. The major pro-decertification agents -- Arn Tellem, Bill Duffy, Schwartz, Rose, Mark Bartlestein -- still think that's a strategy worth pursuing. But there aren't that many other agents who seem sold on the idea.
Several high-profile agents contacted by NBA.com over the past two weeks have indicated opposition to the decertification strategy. Collectively, they represent more than 75 players -- not as many as the more than 180 that Tellem, Rose, Duffy, Bartlestein and Schwartz either represent directly or indirectly, but a significant slice nonetheless.
Among the concerns of these agents:
1) The effect of decertifying on the season. Many believe if the union opts to decertify, the whole season will be lost.
"We could have a discussion about whether we should have done it in May. That would be an interesting discussion," said one agent -- who, like the others, would not speak for attribution. "But if we do it now, there's no season."
2) The motives of the pro-decertification agents. There is suspicion among their brethren.
"That's for their gain, not for their players' gain," one agent said.
Asked another: "If we decertify, are they doing so to replace Billy, or are they doing it as a negotiating tactic, like the NFL? And if they're trying to replace Billy, who will they replace him with?"
3) The effect of decertification on the union's pending case with the National Labor Relations Board against the NBA.
The union has accused the league of not negotiating in good faith, just as the league has done in a lawsuit filed against the union in a New York court. If the NLRB were to agree with the players, it could end the lockout. The NBPA believes that case will be adjudicated within the next couple of weeks, and until then, it obviously cannot talk about decertifying; one of the main accusations against the union in the league's lawsuit is that the NBPA has "threatened" to decertify on numerous occasions.
"The NLRB is a tactic," another agent said. "But it also says, 'We exhausted all possibilities to get a deal done.' "
The pro-decertification agents, though, have to get only 30 percent of the league's players to sign a petition asking for an "involuntary" decertification vote, and they represent more than 30 percent of the NBA's players. If they can bring their guys in, they can ultimately force a vote, and then they'd need 50 percent plus one. Yet for all of the supposed threats over the years, the NBPA has never actually decertified. It is still virgin territory.
But decertification sits out there, just outside the union's territorial waters, its backers still circling, waiting for the moment. If Stern and Hunter don't want to face a second front on which they'll have to fight, putting their futures in the hands of judges they don't know and appelate courts they can't trust, they better end the war. Now.
Rick Welts does not entertain the question, it being hypothetical and all.
"I can honestly say that I've never thought about that," he said last Tuesday, the night he was introduced in Oakland as the Warriors' new president and chief operating officer.
The question was this: Does he think he could have disclosed his homosexuality as freely as he did last summer if he had been commissioner of the NBA instead of president and chief operating officer of the Phoenix Suns?
For many years, though Welts demurs on the subject, the idea that Welts could run the NBA instead of running a team was considered quite possible. During his 17-year stint as the league's executive vice president, chief marketing officer and president of NBA Properties, Welts was on just about everyone's short list as a potential successor to David Stern. He'd been instrumental in developing the league's All-Star Game into All-Star Weekend and in selling the 1992 U.S. men's Olympic basketball squad by its more familiar moniker, the "Dream Team." No one was thought of more highly in league circles than the affable Welts.
Today, though, partly out of respect for Stern, Welts would rather not go there. But as the highest ranking executive in team sports that has publicly disclosed that he is gay, the 58-year-old Welts knows he has to answer questions that no other executive has ever had to answer. And he knows that in moving to the Bay Area, with its large and proud gay population, he will be an even bigger role model and local celebrity than he ever has been before.
"I knew when I decided to go about this the way I did that this was what I was signing up for," Welts said. "There's a platform and an opportunity that I actually feel a sense of responsibility to do. From this point on there's going to be a part of my life that's going to be devoted to having an intelligent discussion about sexual orientation ... it sounds so Pollyanish, but literally, I've gotten hundreds of letters, thousands of e-mails, and I haven't received a single negative comment. I was really expecting to hear from some people. Maybe they don't have my e-mail address."
Suns owner Robert Sarver said Sunday that he knew that Welts was gay well before Welts made the disclosure last May in a New York Times article.
"I'm happy he eventually decided to come out and live a balanced lifestyle between his work life and his personal life," Sarver said by telephone.
Welts says "90 percent" of his life was great before the disclosure. Although many others in the NBA and the Suns also knew he was gay, the topic was off-limits in the workplace. Before last May, Welts acknowledges, his career path dictated that he remain silent about this very important aspect of himself.
"I always wondered how this would affect my career," he allows. "I just reached the point where the balance was such that I was ready to do it."
He wanted to go to California because his partner lived there with his children. But he wasn't planning to get back into the NBA. The idea was to write a book, take some speaking engagements and recharge his batteries. Welts went to Sarver's home in Coronado, Calif., in mid-July, and explained that he wanted to leave. "But I needed his help, too, because I still had 10 months left on my contract," Welts said. "He didn't have to be helpful, and he was."
Sarver didn't stand in his way.
"At the end of the day, with key people, you try to look at them as partners," Sarver said. "You try to do the best for them, just like you'd hope they'll do the best for you. Over the seven years we developed a good partnernership. Rick would do anything to help you and I wanted to do the same for him. Given the relationship with his partner, this was the best thing for him."
The Warriors had dispatched of former president Robert Rowell in June. The lockout and Golden State's slew of other high-profile hires -- new coach Mark Jackson, assistant general manager Bob Myers and consultant Jerry West -- had taken up most of the oxygen in the organization. But the position was still open in early September.
"Robert (Sarver) picked up the phone and called Joe Lacob," Welts said. "He said, 'If you guys are still looking for a team president, there's somebody I think you have to take a look at.' I met with them and we really hit it off."
Sarver says he had no qualms about letting Welts go to a division rival.
"If he was a coach, or a player, or a GM, that would be totally different," he said. "In business, you don't compete with each other. As a matter of fact, we try to help each other. It's not like there are people who are considering either buying tickets to the Warriors or tickets to the Suns."
Welts plans to use his expertise to enhance the fan experience at Oracle Arena ("I can't imagine we're not going to want to be the most tech savvy organization in professional sports") and swears he will let general manager Larry Riley and assistant GM Bob Myers handle the personnel. Lacob has built a sterling front office, but the Warriors still have to get it done on the basketball court to do right by one of the most loyal fan bases in the league.
Welts plans to spend the next few weeks listening to people inside and outside of the organization about what they want and expect from the Warriors. (One of the first calls he received after getting the job last week was from Casey Wasserman, whose Wasserman Media Group owns, among other things, one of the NBA's biggest sports agencies, headed by uber-agent Arn Tellem -- who was partners with Myers.)
And he has also begun to be more of a public figure in the gay community. He took part in the "NOH8" (No Hate) visual campaign that hundreds of gay and non-gay entertainers, activists, politicians and athletes have joined in the last year, taking a photograph with his partner. Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas (with his son, Joshua), Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, Patriots safety Bret Lockett and Carolina Panthers linebacker Nick Harris are among other athletes who have been photographed in the stark style of photographer Adam Bouska.
"If I tried to plan this my whole life, I couldn't have done it any better," Welts said. "Like a lot of NBA people, for years and years you kind of looked at this franchise as the sleeping giant. They didn't make a lot of moves right away. They spent a lot of time looking at what they had. They spent a lot of time talking to people. They have a definite bias toward action as opposed to not acting. Great organizations eminate from great people, and they had to bring great people into the organization if they were going to make the kind of transformational change they thought was possible."
What does riding a bicycle have to do with helping returning war veterans?
Our old friend and former NBA referee Bob Delaney can help us with the answer. Delaney retired after 25 years as an NBA ref at the end of last season, but has quickly transitioned into a new calling -- working with people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a mental illness brought about by exposure to traumatic or frightening events.
Delaney learned about the cycling therapy while he was doing research for his second book, Surviving The Shadows: A Journey of Hope Dealing with Post Traumatic Stress (Source Books), which was released last month. PTSD sufferers often relive the events that traumatized them in the form of flashbacks, or have trouble sleeping and communicating with others. They can be easily startled by noises or lights that trigger memories of the events. And trying to help soldiers, police officers, firefighters and other PTSD sufferers was personal for Delaney.
He'd developed PTSD himself in the months after he'd completed a three-year stint as an undercover police officer in New Jersey in the late 1970s, his first career before becoming a referee. He infiltrated the Mafia, posing as an executive for a trucking company that sought mob help in expanding its business. Delaney's work led to arrests of several members of the Genovese and Bruno crime families.
But after the sting ended and the bad guys were put away, Delaney had a hard time putting away the alias that he'd created while undercover, Bobby Covert. He still tried to pick up the tab at bars and talked profanely, the way Covert did. The stress of constantly being a second away from being discovered for almost three years had done a number on him.
But Delaney got help when Louis Freeh -- then an FBI Special Agent who would go on to become Director of the agency -- introduced him to Joe Pistone, another undercover cop whose own story of his work became the movie Donnie Brasco. Speaking with Pistone, Delaney realized that Pistone had gone through many of the same emotional traumas being so far removed from his true self -- and so close to the mobsters he then had to put away. The growing relationship with Pistone helped Delaney climb out of his mental funk and realize the value of "peer-to-peer" therapy.
"If people heard other people's stories, they would be able to relate to them," Delaney said. "There's a physiology to it. It doesn't mean I"m crazy or nuts; it's something that has to actually be reset with my adrenal glands. That's why (soldiers) go back (for multiple tours of duty). Iraq and Afghanistan are the new normal for these guys."
After his "covert" days (which were detailed in his first book), Delaney got out of undercover work, became a police officer trainee and found refuge as a referee, beginning in high schools and leading to the NBA, where he became one of the league's top officials, using his police days to develop a friendly but no-nonsense style. Getting away from the places and people that had defined him in such a warped manner while he was undercover helped him heal. And he has recognized a similar need with the returning veterans that cannot find a replacement for the adrenaline rush that came with being in firefights..
"I'm working with two soldiers at Fort Hood," Delaney said. "They can't drive over a bridge without stopping and checking it for IEDs. That makes them late for work; that causes disruptions in their lives."
Accurate numbers for how many returning veterans have PTSD are hard to come by, because vets often don't acknowledge they're suffering from PTSD symptoms, fearful it will hurt their careers. A RAND Corporation study in 2008 estimated that approximately 31 percent of the 1.64 million soldiers and support staff that had been deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan at the time had either returned with PTSD, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), major depression or some combination of the three.
Delaney began working with Ride 2 Recovery, a group formed four years ago that sponsors a series of long-distance bike rides for veterans every year. Before then, the most biking he'd done was on the Jersey Shore during the summers.
"Bob is great," said John Wordin, R2R's president and founder. "He gave a speech in Princeton that was one of the best talks the guys ever liked. He definitely gets it. He's been in their shoes as a patrol officer. I didn't have PTSD. I can't do anything more than listen. I don't have anything that I can share with them like Bob does."
R2R developed when Wordin, a former pro cyclist who ran a cycling team, ran into a friend at the Palo Alto, Calif., Veterans Administration who was also a big cycling enthusiast. He told Wordin that the VA believed long-distance cycling could be a potentially effective alternative therapy for PTSD sufferers. The first ride in 2008 went from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. -- one of the world's most prominent hospitals for returning veterans -- to Atlanta, where the Coca Cola 600 was being held. Later that year, Wordin organized a ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
Since then, R2R has added trips in Texas and Florida. This year veterans rode along the peninsula near Normandy, France, and then took part in a stage of the Tour de France. The riding is only part of the therapy; being able to talk with fellow veterans who went through similar traumatic experiences while being together for hours at a time has a tremendous impact, Wordin believes.
"You get them out on a bike, you get them out in the world, and it's not a hospital, it's not an operating room, it's not a therapy room, it's life," Wordin said. "Everyone remembers the first time you rode on a bike without training wheels. We build them a custom bike depending on their needs. We have blind guys, double amputees, burn victims, guys with no fingers. We build a bike for each of those kinds of guys and they can ride with the groups. There's no therapy that can match that feeling for those guys. It's magical. We think we caught lightning in a bottle."
Says Delaney: "We're sedating people who are high-energy type As, who are used to being in the fight. We have to raise education and awareness, the same thing we do with drugs and alcohol, the same thing that we do with AIDS. Anyone who wears the uniform thinks they can leap tall buildings in a single bound, that they can handle this. You need to hear that it's okay ... when you get in your own surroundings, it's okay to cry. It's okay to let the physical take over instead of being medicated."
Over the last four years, Wordin estimates 3,500 to 4,500 returning veterans have taken part in R2R rides. He hopes to establish permanent ties between R2R and Warrior Transition Units -- groups established by the Army at major medical treatment facilities around the country that help soldiers needing at least six months of intense physical and mental rehab and medical management after returning from combat.
Last month, as part of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, 250 wounded warriors took an eight-day trip from New York to Pennsylvania to D.C., a 530-mile trip. Among the riders were survivors of the attacks, former first responders who'd been at the World Trade Center site, victim's families and returning Iraq and Afghanistan War vets.
The riders went from Ground Zero in New York to Shanksville, Pa. -- where United 93 crashed -- and then on to the Pentagon, which was hit by a hijacked American Airlines flight.
Delaney is one of many notable figures who've ridden over the years. Actor Adam Baldwin (Chuck) is a regular, as is Patrick Warburton (Family Guy & Seinfeld). Bill Walton may ride in one of the last legs of this year's California trip, Wordin said. Even Charles Barkley pitched in.
Delaney had told the Chuckster about the event last February, during All-Star Weekend. And when the 9/11 riders reached Philadelphia, Delaney called to see if Barkley would be able to make it. He was out of town but flew in that night and took pictures with all the vets and their families.The next day, the riders were taking a 23-mile trip from Philly to Valley Forge.
"He says 'I'm going to ride,' " Delaney recalled. "I said 'Charlie, you can't ride; we went 72 miles today. I've been training three months.' He's wearing cargo shorts. We put a helmet on his head; it looks like a yarmulke. I said, 'How about we go over four blocks to the Rocky statue? Just seeing you there will be great for these guys.' He says he wants to do the whole thing. So we go to Valley Forge, 23 miles. We put him in the lead, riding two by two. He's hilarious. People are stopped along the way, and they're like, 'It's Charles! It's Charles!' He falls once. He broke his chain twice. But he gutted it out. He went the 23 miles."
(The bike, undergoing its own intense rehab at a chop shop in suburban Philly, could not be reached for comment.)
Even though Delaney offers his own experiences from 30 years ago as a teaching tool for today's PTSD survivors, and has a whole different life that the NBA provided, he is still one of them. Those feelings are way down in him, but they're still there.
"It's less and less and less because of the distance of years," Delaney said. "The good thing for me to share with them is that while this isn't a lifetime sentence, it is a lifetime of healing. There are times when I get that paranoia where I get the feeling that this could be a setup with the wiseguys. I can sense when I'm in an environemnt when I feel those triggers coming."
Well, it would mean no more lockouts, at least. From Patrick Wiebe:
Why not abolish the two unions as a solution? The whole setup I would argue is very economically 'socialist'. Lots of controls that prevent two parties (i.e. owners and players) from working out a contract on their own terms. The league isn't fair now, and I'd be willing to bet it'd be no worse off (and possibly even, counter-intuitively, better) if both were abolished.
I think the NBA should operate under a system where any owner and any player can work out whatever contract they want. No oversight required by an owners' or players' union. So, no more salary caps, "mid-level" exceptions, rookie contracts and all that garbage. No more wealth sharing between the owners. And no more stupid stuff like the players are guaranteed a certain percentage of the BRI.
Other than the owners of the Lakers, Bulls, Heat and Celtics, and a handful of superstars, I'm not sure what NBA constituency would like your idea, Patrick. Most teams like/need to share revenue from the national TV deals, ticket sales, etc., and they certainly wouldn't like a system where the richest teams could just outspend everyone else for premium talent. If, say, a player like LeBron comes out in the Draft, and a player like LeBron is a free agent, who do you spend money on? Most players wouldn't like a system in which they were afterthoughts and weren't assured a certain salary. And if there's no union, there's no medical, no post-career benefits for the players, etc. It's hard to imagine that such an arrangement wouldn't lead to even more division between the league's haves and have-nots, but hey, some people liked the league when it only had eight teams.
Athletes should be seen, not heard? From Aaron Pinchback:
I completely understand why 'Melo says star players can't speak out. I remember hearing about the exchange between [Michael] Jordan and [former Washington Wizards owner Abe] Pollin, but its not an incident that gets a lot of play. However, we heard for years -- and still hear -- the Patrick Ewing quote "We make a lot, but we spend a lot", or Kenny Anderson lamenting that he'll need to sell one of his eight cars. The reality is, there's nothing that a player can say about the lockout in public that won't upset fans. Even in your own mailbag, you had a reader disappointed with Kevin Durant, who said only that the union was committed to getting a fair deal. People resent players for the money they make under normal circumstances, and in the currently climate that resentment is multiplied. Fans expect players to be not just humble and appreciative when it comes to the money they make, but almost apologetic about their salaries. Anything that a player would say that isn't essentially "We're ashamed we make so much" would be viewed as just another example of how greedy and out of touch the players are. So if its impossible for them to ever say the right thing, then the right thing is to not say anything at all.
Many athletes share your view that they should keep quiet and say nothing that can remotely be considered controversial, Aaron. I do not. I do not expect today's players to be as politically involved as, say, Muhammed Ali and Bill Russell were, because the times are different. Today's big issues pale in comparison to the things that were being fought over in the 1960s. But I don't think that means athletes should self-neuter themselves. What would it cost a player to say, "I support the union, and here's why," or "I don't support the union, and here's why." My guess is that people who think athletes are overpaid and resent them for it would resent them regardless of whether they speak up on issues or not. So why not speak up?
A League of Their Own. From Syed Akbar:
Beg to differ, Mr. Aldridge, sir.
No [Warren] Buffett or [Bill] Gates are required. Actually they should be intentionally kept out.
All it would take would be a few 'knowing' people in good faith, led by you and [Kobe] Bryant, [LeBron] James, other star players (MBAs and attorneys are dime a dozen) and a new league can be erected in less time than it would take to straighten this tangled mess.
Sure, it would stumble and stutter the first year, there may still be a few creases the second, but by the third it would be what the game and the fans deserve.
Bear in mind that any agreement reached in the present system (to get the season underway) would still only create a hemorrhaging glob held together with band aids.
It is a discomforting thought, I repeat myself, but totally workable. Completely realistic.
Those in privilege also have the burden of responsibility ... Yes, you !
Me? I have no desire to be part of a new venture that requires what little amount of loot over which I have control. Nor do I think a new league would be as easy to start as you seem to think; even well-heeled startups like the USFL and XFL died a quick and painful death. It's not just about money; it's about being an infrastructure of marketing, promotions, team services, etc. that is extremely difficult to pull off. Not to mention finding the right people to place in executive positions, to negotiate the television deals, and on and on. Look, I think the games this summer have been great, grass roots successes. But that's not the same as putting together a league.
Send your questions, comments, criticisms and makeup gifts that D-Wade and the Commish can give one another to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your e-mail is sufficiently funny, thought-provoking, interesting or snarky, we just might publish it!
$230,000 -- Bond for former Lakers and Wizards guard Javaris Crittenton last week, set by an Atlanta judge. Crittenton has been charged with murder in the Aug. 19 shooting death of a woman that police believe was an innocent bystander. Crittenton, police claim, was trying to retaliate against someone he believed had robbed him of jewelry last April.
95 -- Days since the lockout began.
1) Good luck to one of the true good guys and gentlemen in the game, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who announced his retirement last week after 13 seasons. Big Z had to deal with a lot of heartbreak on and off the court over the years and he handled much of it with grace and good humor. One hopes that when the lockout ends Ilgauskas will sign one of those one-day contracts with Cleveland so he can retire a Cavalier, the team for whom he played all but his last season.
2) Very glad to see that Delonte West has found work. Also glad to see that every day, apparantely, is casual Friday at Regency Furniture!
3) Cubes wants you to know that the very, very, very rich have feelings, too.
4) I like "Brooklyn Nets" as a nickname, but if they had paid homage to the long-departed Dodgers by naming the team after them, that would have been fine, too.
5) Speaking of baseball, that was a pretty good end of the regular season last Wednesday. After that crushing loss to the Orioles, I actually felt sorry for Red Sox fans. For a minute. Then I remembered the decades of whining and bleating about the Bambino, and I stopped.
1) Unless there's a miracle and a breakthrough between the league and union on a new CBA in the next 48 hours, this isn't going to be a good week in the history of the Association. And judging by the anger of the e-mails and Tweets from fans I've received in the last few days, it's going to take a long, long time to undo the damage that the NBA is about to inflict on itself.
2) I heard that Bill Tosheff passed away over the weekend at age 85. "Tosh," as almost everyone who knew him called him, was the NBA's co-Rookie of the Year in 1951 with Mel Hutchins, played baseball with Richie Ashburn and Herb Score and is in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. But his best work came long after his playing days ended. For years, Tosh worked tirelessly to convince -- to shame, really -- the NBA into giving better benefits to those players who were in the league before the establishment of the players' union in 1965 and who laid the foundation for all who followed, up to and including today's superstars. The "Pre-65ers" wanted increased pensions and death benefits for their families, and Tosh made a case for them to anyone who would listen, including testimony before Congress in 1998. Finally, in 2007, the league increased the monthly pensions for Pre-65 players with five or more years' service from $2,400 to $3,600 for each year of service, and included for the first time Pre-65 players with only three or four years of NBA service. There are only a few of those men left, but they will be able to live the remainder of their lives with a little more dignity, because of Bill Tosheff's work and sacrifice. My condolences to his children, Alex, Billy, Michelle and Steve.
4) Dysfunction in the upper reaches of Blazers management? Couldn't be.
5) Would you be shocked if a biography is written about, say, Elizabeth Taylor, that details her private life was different and more tumultuous than the public persona which she displayed? If she was shown as human, with faults and foibles like the rest of us? No one would be surprised or angered by that. So it's hard to understand why so many people in sports and media are angry about the new Walter Payton biography written by Jeff Pearlman, which shows Payton as he really was. Like all of us, he was at points generous, petty, funny, angry, delightful to be around, a pain in the neck. Unlike most of us, he was a true inspiration to so many. The net-net is that Payton was a great player, a legend, and an imperfect human being. That's no surprise.
I would like to point out the fact that even if there was a CBA we would not be playing right now anyway lol .. Stop spazzing we gonna be ok
-- Jazz guard C.J. Miles (@CJMiles34), Friday, 6:36 p.m., showing optimism in the face of despair.
"People forget how awful the basketball was that year."
-- ABC/ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, in an interview with a Houston radio station, on the aftermath of the 1998-99 lockout that led to a 50-game regular season. And his Knicks made the Finals that season!
"To me, it just seems like the owners got us by our ... I can't really use the word, but they got us."
-- Wizards guard Jordan Crawford, to the Washington Post, on his view of the current lockout.
"I feel passionately about the system that we have and what it has delivered and what it should continue to deliver for the players and the owners. And he feels passionately too."
-- David Stern, in confirming that he and Dwyane Wade had words on Friday during a collective bargaining agreement negotiating session. Or, as the Commish put it, "there was a heated exchange of some kind."
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