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David Aldridge

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The players and owners must come to an agreement on Monday or regular season games will be canceled.
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images Sport

Players, owners must reach deal to avoid significant damage


Posted Oct 10 2011 7:04AM

NEW YORK -- No matter what happens on Monday afternoon here -- and you may well know what happened by the time you read this -- the NBA and its players will have a lot of work to do Tuesday morning.

Sunday night came and went after 5 1/2 more hours of talks, and David Stern and Adam Silver looked tired, and Derek Fisher looked beat. They've stared across from one another in Los Angeles and Dallas and Miami and New York for eight months now, trying to unlock the lock, and they've run out of time, because the league says today, Monday, two weeks of regular season games die.

And if that happens, who knows what follows?

The league and its players have been lucky; their labor discussions to end the lockout have been drowned out much of the summer by sports and politics and death and earthquakes and hurricanes and torrential floods. Now the NFL is in full flower (there was a lockout?) and baseball's playoffs have provided drama and upsets, and the NHL just started, and college basketball starts this week. But when regular season games are canceled, that gets everyone's attention, even those that aren't paying attention. If that happens, forget the two sides' offers hardening against one another; the hearts of basketball fans will harden, and that's a much harder lift.

They have come so far in eight months, and now the league is willing to split Basketball Related Income with the players 50-50, but the players want at least 53 percent. If you unlock the lock of BRI, everything else can follow on the system side. They've made a lot of progress on that side of the negotiations; they're not there yet, but they're a lot closer. Unlock the BRI and you may be able to figure out how to make it work on the system side. If the players, for example, came down past the 53 percent Rubicon, could the league spice up the current $25 million pot the players split from their share of NBA Properties? Or the owners could lower the escrow a point, just like when you're trying to buy a house. I offer more money down; you knock off a point or two on the closing costs. Horse-trading.

It's easy for everyone, including me, to say split the difference, you're just three points apart. It's not my $120 million that's going to go in one pocket or the other. I fight for every dollar on the table when I'm negotiating a deal. You would, too. But there's no more time to hold a position for the sake of principle. That was in February, when the two sides started 22 points apart.

If the owners wanted to try to break the union, they wouldn't have come all the way up to 50 percent. They wouldn't have conceded on guaranteed contracts or a rigid hard cap. They've come back to where they were -- a soft cap with some exceptions. That's not what you heard a year ago. That means they want to make a deal.

If the players were greedy so-and-sos who only cared about making the most money possible, they wouldn't have agreed to give back at least $160 million per year in salaries, and they wouldn't have offered to modify some of the cap exceptions that don't work, and they wouldn't be letting the owners talk about amnesty for toxic contracts, and they would not allow any discussion of a "supertax" for luxury tax threshold exceeders, no matter if it's $2, $3 or $4. They would have decertified early in the process and thrown all this into the courts, like some of the game's most powerful agents have advocated from the get-go. But they didn't. They want to make a deal.

So either the owners will have to pay the players more than they want, or the players will have to give back more than they want, because there's no more time. The start of the season dies today otherwise, and with it, the hopes of a lot of fans. Most fans aren't naive, but they aren't stupid, either, and they're angry. Or they've thrown their hands in the air and given up. Neither is a good scenario for the NBA and its players.

The league gets it both ways. In towns like Portland, where the Trail Blazers are the biggest sports draw in town; their absence creates an economic vacuum in the immediate area around the Rose Garden that ticks off the locals. And in a city like Cleveland, making a tentative economic recovery after the recession, every dollar lost in the downtown area because the Cavs aren't playing is a missed opportunity.

Yet in a city like Washington, where the Wizards are fighting for relevance behind the Redskins, and the NHL's Capitals, and the emerging Nationals in baseball, the lockout doesn't mean much at all. Because the Wizards, right now, don't move the needle. On Saturday, when the Caps opened their season, the area around Verizon Center was packed with hockey fans hours before the opening faceoff, taking advantage of a gorgeous afternoon to patronize restaurants, bars, clothing stores and movie theatres. There were even folks from the "Occupy D.C." group around; saw my first-ever flash mob pop out of nowhere.

Which is worse? Hatred or indifference?

"The truth is, we're really not worrying about it just yet," said Nelson Greene III, the manager of the upscale Lucky Strike bowling alley adjacent to Verizon Center, where the Wizards and Capitals play, last Saturday.

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So far, establishments like the lucky Strike bowling alley haven't felt the effects of the NBA lockout.
David Aldridge/for NBA.com

"The Verizon Center in and of itself, just because of the myriad of things that they do over there, always provides us a good basis," Greene said. "If the NBA lockout continues, it's definitely going to hurt. But we're just not at the point yet where we're like, 'Ohmigod, no NBA, we're all going to die!' We feel comfortable that between our product and everything else that's around here, Verizon Center included, that we're going to be OK. We'll see a dropoff. But we're going to be fine."

Families provide a consistent stream of pre-game traffic, as they have for the last year, Greene said. And they're all wearing Capitals red. You almost never see crowds like this on Wizards' nights, and when you do, many people are dressed in the colors of the visiting team.

"I think that a lot of the difference in the business comes with the performance," he said. "The Capitals have been very steady, very consistent performers over the past couple of years. The Wizards have been a little more up and down. As they go up, so goes the business. One of the other things that I find with the NBA in general is, you see a lot of marketing around the visiting teams. You see a lot of, 'Come see Kobe; come see K.G.' So it's kind of hard to predict. We always get something good. It's never like, why did we bother to open tonight? The ebb and flow is pretty low."

Down the street from Lucky Strike, in the heart of D.C.'s Chinatown district, lies Tony Cheng's, the iconic local restaurant. Cheng opened up here in 1976 and has survived it all: malaise, Iran-Contra, Monica Lewinsky, Marion Barry, the D.C. sniper, 9/11, crack, the demise of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Steve Spurrier's Redskins, Jim Zorn's Redskins, and on and on. The Verizon Center, which opened in 1996, was the anchor for this area, which was run-down and forgotten for decades after the 1968 riots.

"Big change," Cheng said. "I see a lot of younger professionals here now. Big, big change. I've seen a lot of people move into this area. The people sit on H and I, Seventh Street. All the national chain stores here. All the good stores coming here. It's a big difference. Fifteen years ago, before Verizon, nothing here. Nobody wanted to come here. And now it's like New York Times Square here on the weekends. The traffic, people. It's better than Georgetown. You can see. All the different stores, different types of restaurants. Good for Chinatown. Good for business, good for Chinatown."

But if Cheng has to make any adjustments to his staff, it's not because the Wizards aren't playing. It's because of the recent recession. Business slows down after Labor Day, when children are back in school and their activities are burning a hole in their parents' pockets. The Wizards' presence or absence isn't causing Cheng much concern.

"If they win the game, more people come back," he said. "It depends on the game they play. If it's a good game, people come ... last year in D.C. it was slowed down. The economy was not good. People, they no want to go out and spend a lot of money. They want to keep the money in their pocket. Usually they go out every week. Now maybe they go out every other week, you know? We still have the same customers, regular customers come out."

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Verizon Center has become an economic engine and catalyst for Washington, D.C.'s Penn Quarter.
David Aldridge/for NBA.com

It isn't like this everywhere in the league, of course. There are cities like Oklahoma City and Chicago and San Antonio and Oakland where the crowds come out night after night, game after game. And many of those fans will come back when the lockout ends. But it's not like that everywhere. In most cities, the NBA is a constant work in progress, always calibrating and re-calibrating to satisfy the sports consumer, who has more choices at his or her disposal than ever. The NBA never has been and never will be as popular as the NFL. It never has had and never will have the deeply rooted historical connection with its fans that baseball has with its fans. This league is always being judged, always subject to review with casual fans. And even the die-hard fans who love the game to pieces are up for grabs when you deny them what they love.

You alienate your base in politics, they stay home and you lose elections. Same deal here.

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Meanwhile, under the radar, the NBA's referees' union, the NBRA, which was also negotiating a new CBA with the league all summer, reached agreement on a new five-year deal last month, avoiding a repeat of the lockout of the referees for the first two weeks of preseason games in 2009.

The refs' negotiations with the league had contentious moments. The NBRA filed bad faith bargaining charges against the NBA last November, charging that the league had refused to negotiate with the referees about eliminating "aesthetic" physical requirements, as the NBRA put it. Those charges were withdrawn after the league came to the bargaining table last January, but the NBRA filed new charges against the league in March, claiming the NBA was refusing to negotiate non-economic issues in the absence of a comprehensive proposal. But the NBRA withdrew those charges as well after the league ratified the new agreement on Sept. 15.

How did the refs get things done so (relatively) quickly compared to the players? Yes, there's more money involved with the players, but when it's your $10, you fight for it just as hard as the players fight for, say, $1,000.

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The referees' union was able to come to terms with the NBA on a new CBA this offseason.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

"We started a lot earlier," said the referees' attorney, Lee Seham, by telephone Sunday night. "One of the complaints had been that we wait two months before the contract expires, and then they (the league) immediately want to address money, and we never get to address these other issues. We started meeting Jan. 24. We got started a lot earlier. And then we again ran into problems, but I think the second charge provided a certain amount of leverage. They had to demonstrate to a federal agency that they were bargaining in good faith."

The referees were coming off of a two-year collective bargaining agreement reached with the league in 2009. The officials took a shorter CBA than normal in the hopes that they'd be able to recoup some of their salary givebacks if the economy turned around. The league had asked for $3.2 million in salary cuts the last time around; the referees agreed to at least $2.5 million before making an undisclosed final agreement on cuts with the league.

The two sides had already agreed to freeze officials' salaries for the 2009-10 season at their current levels, with a small increase for the 2010-11 season, along with cuts in the referees' per diem payments and travel budget.

Seham would not go into financial specifics of the new deal, only saying "given the current economic climate, and the player lockout, we are satisfied that the deal was in the best interests of our members."

But the refs got a number of changes to their contract on non-economic issues as well, including:

• higher weight allowances for veteran referees;

• maximum limits on the number of consecutive days spent on the road, and total days spent on the road per mont;

• the ability to stay on the road between assignments if traveling home would require longer travel distances, with the league picking up the costs of per diem and expenses between assignments;

• new contractual provisions that give referees greater protections under the terms of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

According to Seham, referees were previously required to maintain the same height and weight requirements throughout their careers as members of the military. But the union argued that as referees age, they're subject to the same changes in metabolism as anyone else, and as long as they can physically do the work, there should be some leeway if they gain a pound or two over 20 years.

"Our position, our view is that the referees are sports judges, whose primary obligation is to make the calls and protect the integrity of the game," Seham said. "They should be evaluated first and foremost on their efficiency in the making the calls and not on an aesthetic basis. We had one of our senior referees written down -- downgraded -- for what was determined to be "inadequate muscle tone." We were fit to be tied ... his chief attribute ought to be his efficiency of making the calls and protecting the integrity of the game. He's not there to be pretty."

And Seham argued that veteran officials gain stature and respect as they get older, making them more important to the league, not less. The last time around, the NBA asked for reductions in the severance packages that officials who retire receive from the league. The NBA wanted to eliminate severance checks that retiring officials received in addition to the pensions they get from the NBA if those officials did not have 10 years of service, or for any new officials hired. It sought to reduce the severance amount for officials with more than 10 years of service; officials with 20 or more years of service had received severance checks of up to $575,000. The referees were the only NBA employees that receive severance pay on top of their pensions.

But the union believed this demand actually was about getting older officials to retire, because the older refs would be motivated to take the existing deals offered and leave before the rules changed. In doing so, the union argued, the league could get the big salaries and severance payments of the older refs off its books for good without being vulnerable to age discrimination lawsuits.

"We all get old," Seham said. "And one of the things that happens when you get older is your metabolism goes down and your muscle mass decreases. There's not a whole lot you can do about that. But if you're fast enough to run to make the calls and make them with a degree of proficiency, why should it matter how big their biceps are?"

The "stay on the road" policy allows an official with a game in, say, New York on a Thursday to stay on the road if he has a game in, say, Boston on Sunday, instead of going home to Denver or Los Angeles for a day and then having to fly back across the country on Friday or Saturday. If a referee lives 2 1/2 hours or more from his current assignment, he can now stay on the road and then travel to the next assignment instead of flying home, or having to ask the league for special permission.

"Guys were saying, 'Wait a minute, it's better for my health and my fatigue level to stay on the road,'" Seham said.

The new provisions in the contract having to do with family and medical leave put referees under the FMLA umbrella. Under that law, employees who have worked for their employer for at least 12 months, have amassed 1,250 hours of work and work for a company that employs at least 50 people within a 75-mile radius are eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave every year for the birth and care of a newborn child, for placement with the employee a child for adoption or for foster care, to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition or if the employee develops a serious health condition.

Certain employees like pilots and flight attendants had to be grandfathered into the FMLA by statute because they technically were paid based on their actual flight hours in the air, not for everything that came before or after, and because of that would often not reach the 1,250-hour threshold. The NBA referees now have contractual protections for FMLA benefits as well.

"It could be argued that their work time is the actual minutes they're on the court and they would never qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act," Seham said. "We wanted to provide that if you worked a fairly standard referee schedule you would qualify for what would be your statutory rights. We didn't redefine what constituted hours, but if you've officiated 30 games in the last 12 months, you will be protected by all the provisions of this statue as a matter of contract rights. We don't want people fearful of saying, 'My father has Parkinson's Disease and I have to take some time off to take care for him.' These are things that in past contracts, we never got around to addressing these non-economic issues."

The NBA will continue to use D-League and WNBA officials during the first three months of the NBA regular season, for up to 75 assignments, as they have done the last two years. But just as in the last CBA, those officials will not be eligible to work NBA playoff games.

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What kind of world would we have without Steve Jobs?

It's not directly related to the NBA, I know. But it is, in a sense, because the changes that Jobs brought to our everyday lives -- the way we communicate with one another, the way we catalogue and use music, the ease with which so many people can now be their own producers of content and micro-consumers of products and ideas, all of that -- was directly influence by Jobs, who died of cancer last week at 56. And since the NBA world is no exception, Jobs's influence reaches here as well.

"He was without peer," Wizards owner Ted Leonsis e-mailed on Sunday. "I always saw him as a mash up of Thomas Edison -- Genius and Henry Ford -- Industrialist."

Jazz owner Greg Miller said via statement Sunday afternoon that Jobs "exemplified innovation. He was proof that one person can change the world. His creativity and drive made the world a better place, not only through the intuitive technology he made available to the masses, but through the thousands of jobs he created in the process. He was an inspiration to me through his creativity, leadership, tenacity and eloquence."

Jobs's death seemed to touch people deeply; it almost broke Twitter. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban lamented that "the PC era is officially over" on his Twitter feed. (Last month, Cuban linked to a Jerusalem Post story that praised Jobs's willingness both to take a $1 salary at Apple and to keep and not sell any of the 5.5 million shares of common Apple stock he owned.)

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Wizards' owner Ted Leonsis remembers Steve Jobs, who died of cancer last week, as a revolutionary genius who was 'without peer.'
Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images

Leonsis met Jobs in 1979 at a West Coast Computer Fair, when Leonsis worked at Wang Laboratories -- and bought an Apple II computer. As Jobs began to mold Apple into a hardware colossus, Leonsis worked on the content side. In 1983 and '84, Leonsis worked for Jobs when he rolled out the Mac computer; Leonsis's company wrote and published the Macintosh Buyers' Guide, a magazine that was bundled into the first one million Macs that came off the assembly line.

"Here is all you need to know about Steve and his focus," Leonsis wrote in the e-mail. "He gave us one hundred days to (publish and print the magazine) ... from start to finish. THAT was impossible to do -- no other company would do it -- but I believed we could; so he took a chance on us. And pushed us like there was no tomorrow.

"We sent him a sample layout; and a sample printed page. I was summoned to Cupertino to see him -- outside in the lobby to inspire his pirates he had a Yamaha piano and a Harley motorcycle as inspiration on design. As I walked in to see him; he had a jewelers loop out and was looking at the kerning of the typeface and the 7 color with spot varnish treatment of the Apple logo -- he asked me about thread count in the paper stock we were using.

"He was big picture strategy -- he was all about the smallest detail and an advocate for quality in everything that was done.

"He pushed for the impossible. He didn't like dumb answers; he didn't like people NOT knowing about the details and not getting with the big picture narrative. He wanted what he wanted."

Leonsis continued working with Jobs when he became an executive at America Online and led that company to great heights in the 1990s, as Apple began expanding its own online content.

"Steve was counterintuitive -- and a counterrevolutionary," Leonsis wrote. "Open is what the industry is all about -- Windows and PCs and Intel were all about open systems and development. Apple is closed -- and his belief in quality and curation made Apple the most valuable company in the world; his idea and his vision and his will power proved that closed is the new open! He also built an intrinsically American company; people around the world may not like US policy -- but everyone loves Apple!"

Like the rest of us, Leonsis also became a voracious consumer of Apple product. In his current home he has a Mac air laptop, an iPhone, an iPad; 12 iPad 2s, uses Apple TV and uses the iPads to control his security for his televisions, for his computer network and his lights.

"What I learned from Steve: Quality matters," wrote Leonsis, who kept up with Jobs via e-mail for many years but dropped off recently -- something that saddens him.

"Sweating little things matter. Curation rather than allowing for a thousand flowers to bloom is what is important -- maniacal focus on a big idea and selling the idea -- and the romance on the big idea is crucial. Never quit. Second acts -- the world loves second acts!"

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One of the "99 percenters," I guess. From Shankar Treved:

As a basketball fan first and a Bulls fan, the more I read about the lockout, the more disappointed and angry I get with David Stern and the owners. At every turn it is clear the owners are not negotiating in good faith because they think they can break the collective will of the players. As a fan I would like to communicate a message to the owners. I hope that with your contacts, you can convey the message for me and all the other fans. I love basketball. It is the only sport I watch on TV. But I have other diversions as do all the other fans. I WILL stop watching and going to games and purchasing merchandise if this season becomes like the 1998-1999 season. Once I get more involved with other diversions, I WILL NOT be back. This happened with baseball and I have not watched baseball again. Not even the playoffs. Hockey is a different situation. There are no casual Hockey fans. So once the game was back, so were the die-hard fans. So will most of the die-hard basketball fans be back. But make no mistake, a lot of casual basketball fans will move on. And at least one die-hard fan will move on.

This is the risk, Shankar, that the league is taking -- alienating good fans like you who want to see the game played at its highest level. I don't begrudge the owners for making the best possible deal they can. I have spoken to a lot of non-NBA business owners in the last couple of years, and they are frightened. The recession hit them hard and they don't want to have that kind of exposure again. I understand wanting to protect yourself from that kind of uncertainty. But you can only go so far to prevent any risk. You can avoid getting hit by a bus by never leaving your house, if you know what I'm saying. And in holding out for the very best possible deal, you risk making everyone angry -- the people that play for you (and generate the revenues you receive) as well as the people who buy your product on television and in person. At some point, you have to make a deal and move on.

But he can't get down with the players. From Randy Brooks:

I am an executive in the furniture business and am an avid NBA guy. I am 50 years old and still play ball four times a week. I can still play. (KIND OF) I think the players are making a terrible mistake in judgment. How much is enough? I also feel that while Derek Fisher is probably a smart guy, he is going to ruin his reputation with the public and eventually lose this battle with the owners.

And you represent the other side of the coin, Randy. A lot of people just think people who play sports for a living aren't in the same boat as auto workers or police officers or teachers when it comes to collective bargaining. I agree -- to a point. They make more money in one contract than most of the rest of us make in a lifetime, true. But their work life is much shorter -- four years, five years, and that's it. So they have to make as much as possible during that small window, because it has to last them a long, long time. As for Derek, I don't think his reputation will be harmed by what he's done here. He has handled his public statements to everyone -- to the media, to the players, to the agents -- with great grace.

Where is Doc Brown and his 1.81 jiggawatts when you need him? From Ryan Jancey:

I live in Australia and have my honeymoon planned for the US this coming November/December. Being a longtime NBA follower, I structured the trip around the official 2011/12 NBA schedule to allow me to get games such as Min@Lakers, Clippers@NYN, Lakers@Miami and NYN@Boston whilst in these cities. These tickets are booked and paid for. Naturally the recent lockout developments have had me fairly nervous with the potential to impact a once in a lifetime trip, not to mention seeing Kobe v LeBron in person.

In the event that a couple of weeks get taken off the start of the season which is looking like a probable scenario, what is the impact on the fixture? Will the whole thing get re-done, or will they just resume at a point in time with the games already scheduled. I know that there are considerations such as divisional quota's but I hope that your comments regarding venue availability will prohibit re-fixturing the entire season, as obviously I wont be able to get these games with flights and accomm already booked around the current fixture.

I'm sorry to hear that you've already made the commitment, Ryan. I really am not sure how they'd rejigger the schedule if it winds up being 60 or 70 games. My guess -- and it's just a guess -- is that they'll pick up where the schedule is at the time play resumes, so they'd lose the games in the first two weeks of the season.

Send your questions, comments, criticisms and better names for Rick Perry's hunting lodge (!) to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is sufficiently funny, thought-provoking, interesting or snarky, we just might publish it!

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$100,000 -- Amount paid by Bulls guard Derrick Rose as part of a settlement with University of Memphis season ticket holders who were contemplating filing suit against Rose, former Memphis coach John Calipari and the school's athletic director, R.C. Johnson. The season ticket holders were thinking about suing because they believed their tickets dropped in value after Memphis' 2007-08 team had to vacate its Final Four appearance after the NCAA found that the school had committed major violations. The settlement was first reported by the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

682 -- Michael Jordan's "N-Score" from the Nielsen Company and E Poll Research, a measure of a celebrity's likeability, appeal and awareness. That score, according to Forbes, was almost 300 points higher than the next-highest athlete on the list. (By way of comparison, the Colts' Peyton Manning has the highest N Score among all NFL quarterbacks -- 262 -- and Dirk Nowitzki is the top active NBA player, with an N Score of 132.

102 -- Days since the lockout began.

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1) Those who like good basketball in Minnesota haven't had a lot of laughs lately. So extra special congratulations to the Minnesota Lynx on their first WNBA championship.

2) And baby, when I tell you the boy has got his own money, I mean the boy has got his own money!

3) Dear God, this is good stuff from Kobe Bryant about the Dark Years (post-Shaq, pre-Pau) in L.A.

4) That's a good hire, Ty Corbin, getting longtime NBA assistant, former Timberwolves head coach and ex-N.C. State head coach Sidney Lowe for your bench next season. And I'm not just saying that because, like me, Lowe attended the most successful academic and athletic high school in the history of the United States of America. But he did.

5) Colbert. Hilarious.

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1) Hear that? It's the clock, striking midnight.

2) It has been a wonderful summer of grass roots basketball around the country, and it's been great that fans who don't normally get to be inside NBA arenas have seen the game's superstars up close and personal. Saturday's star-studded affair in Miami featuring the SuperFriends may have had the most star power of all the offseason's games; Sunday's Shaw-Goodman rematch in L.A. sounded great; I say "sounded" because I was standing on a sidewalk outside a hotel for 5 1/2 hours waiting for word on collective bargaining. But now that we're on the verge of missing regular season games, some of the starch has gone out of it for me. These are fun exhibitions, producing revenues for new entrepreneurs. But they aren't NBA games.

3) I only knew Al Davis from afar, even though I did a long feature on him one time when I was covering football. And in doing the interviews for the story I came away impressed by how many people mentioned incredible gestures Davis had done for them, but agreed with his insistence that he never receive public credit for them. He seemed to me the NFL equivalent of Red Auerbach -- a born coach, but just as talented as an executive, one that embraced the unconventional (Davis mined historically black colleges and universities years before most other teams; Auerbach made Bill Russell the NBA's first African-American player-coach in 1968, under the premise that no one could motivate Russell better than Russell) and who enjoyed and exploited the bitter rivalries with his competitors. And just as the NBA will never be the same without Auerbach, the NFL won't be the same without Davis, who died Saturday.

4) Gotta check with D-Will and see what's what over in Turkey.

5) I have thought long and hard about it, and I am not going to miss either Hank Williams, Jr., or his song, on Monday Night Football. Nope, not one little bit.

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I just woke up and my twitter timeline is already full of birthday wishes. Thank you so much. It feels great to finally be 30 :)
-- Grant Hill (@realgranthill33), Wednesday, 9:29 a.m., shaving nine years off of his age in one fell Tweet.

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"Our guys have indicated a willingness to lose games. When they stand up here behind us today, that's what they're saying. Because if they didn't feel that way, then we might have done something different."
-- National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter, last Tuesday, indicating that the players' union was unwilling to accept an offer to split Basketball Related Income 50-50 with the league. The union has already agreed to reduce its take of BRI from the 57 percent it received in the previous collective bargaining agreement to at least 53 percent, and, perhaps, 52 percent.

"My brother, I often wonder what he would have done with his life. He was one of those incredible people who never had a chance to live his life. I look at myself with all of the flaws I have and all the things I struggle with. I would have gladly sacrificed my life for him. Gladly."
-- Jerry West, in a wonderful story on ESPN.com's website, Grantland, talking about his older brother David, who was killed during the Korean War when West was just 12 years old.

"When I started coaching in Cleveland, I got this letter. It was straight to the point. 'Coach Brown, you don't know me, but I work with eyewear. Your glasses are too small and they make you look like you have a big, fat head. I'd be able to fit you with some glasses that will make your head look normal.' I called right away."
-- Lakers Coach Mike Brown, in Esquire Magazine, on one of the many things he's learned over the years.

Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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