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David Aldridge

Clinton, Fisher
President Clinton has the respect of both sides in the lockout, including player representative Derek Fisher.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

President Clinton, the NBA needs you to save the season


Posted Nov 21 2011 9:12AM

The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton
c/o The William J. Clinton Foundation
55 West 125th Street
New York, N.Y. 10027

Dear President Clinton,

I hope this note finds you well. I see that the Secretary is in Myanmar and that NBC has just hired Chelsea as a correspondent. What on earth did you all do before Skype was invented?

I write both as a reporter who is out of suggestions and recommendations -- not that anyone heeded them -- and a frustrated NBA fan who sees the 2011-12 season in danger of never being played. Since February of 2011, when the league and the players' union first got together formally during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, the lockout has loomed, ominously, over this great game. We knew then that the likelihood of a delayed or canceled season was great, given the separation between the two sides. And like a formulaic television drama, the days and months of rhetorical flourishes and malaprops, feigned and real anger and endless meetings have played out, leaving us where we are now: in court, with 26 percent of the regular season gone, and more to follow.

The NBA needs you.

The NBA needs you to mediate between the players and the owners.

If there is to be a season, someone has to intervene. Someone whose credentials are above reproach, who can get everyone's attention and to whom both sides will listen. Trust is at a premium now. Individually, David Stern and Billy Hunter may still get along, and, if left to their own devices, I remain convinced they could get this done in a couple of hours. But they aren't negotiating this deal in a vacuum. Powerful forces on each side are forcing their hands -- small-market owners who think they have to have a radical restructuring of the game's finances to survive, and agents who see a severe reduction in their clients' paydays on the horizon (and, by extension, their own) and who genuinely believe that what the owners are asking for is inherently unfair and wrong.

You obviously have helped solve a thorny issue or two over the years. You are keenly aware of the need for discretion and quiet diplomacy at sensitive moments in delicate negotiations. This job wouldn't be a public one. At this point, back channels are the only way this is going to be solved, because each side's pride is getting in the way of making contact with the other and re-starting negotiations. You obviously know some of the parties in this, like your fellow Arkansasan Derek Fisher, the president of the players' union before it was recently dissolved. And I know how much you love sports and basketball in particular -- though you're more of a college guy. That's OK. The job doesn't involve coaching; it requires someone who can do more than cut through all the rhetoric and see where the solutions lie. The solutions have been obvious for weeks. What is needed is will, the ability to get one of these sides -- both, probably -- to do something that they don't want to do.

Anyway, this isn't about politics, even though Stern and Hunter are both strong Democrats like you, and so are most of the players, and many -- not all -- of the owners. If I thought either of the former Bush presidents was interested in doing this, I'd be writing them. But neither 41 nor 43 seemed much interested in the orange leather -- they were, and are, baseball guys.

Your work would be cut out for you. Having come this far, the owners that have been holding out for an even higher percentage of Basketball Related Income see no reason to stop now. They know that 45 to 47 percent of BRI for the players is in sight now, after the players turned down a deal that would have included a 50-50 BRI split if the league had agreed to loosen some of its system demands. Now, there's nothing to stop the NBA from imposing its "reset" offer at 47 percent--and Stern made it clear that 47 wasn't even, potentially, the bottom line. The owners also know that if the season is indeed lost, they'll be able to offer just about anything -- 45 percent, 43 percent -- next summer, and the players will almost certainly take it. (Of course, what used to be the union knows that as well. That's why, I think, it didn't allow a full vote of the rank and file on the league's last offer -- because it would have been approved.)

The league is also convinced it is right that shrinking the gap between what teams spend on salaries will improve competitive balance. It says it does not expect or want everyone to be .500 every season, and that there are many factors that affect competitive balance. But it believes limiting the means by which the league's biggest spenders can add and retain players will work. It is a matter of the numbers, but it is also a matter of faith -- we believe this because we believe this.

On the other side, many believe the union's longtime attorney, Jeff Kessler, has been chomping at the bit for years to see a sports antitrust case through to its legal conclusion. He doesn't have enough clout to hold off a settlement, but he has Hunter's ear and respect, and if he indeed wants to fight to the bitter end he will be someone who'll have to be convinced otherwise -- or be overcome. Players think they've come far enough; having agreed to $3 billion in salary cuts over 10 years, they are genuinely gobsmacked when the league says, Not Enough. The player reps, genuinely, think the league is being obstinate when there are so relatively few differences remaining between the sides. (Of course, the owners think the exact same thing, except they think the players are being stubborn in not moving just a little further when they've moved so far already. You've had to deal with this in negotiations, certainly: you go first. No, you go first.)

You no doubt know David Boies well and how good he is at his job. But he couldn't have been more clear last week that he really would like this case resolved before it ever gets to the point where his courtroom skills would be needed. The owners are confident that if the case were somehow to go forward, they would win somewhere -- with a district judge, an appelate court, the Supreme Court, somewhere. All they need is one, basically. So they're in no great hurry to give in, especially since the players really haven't missed a paycheck yet. Technically, their first missed check was Nov. 15, but many players were reimbursed for at least some of that money when they got their escrow refund checks from the league in early November. The owners still think the players will cave after they miss some stubs.

But there is some reason, still, for optimism.

There are so many people on both sides who want to make a deal. There are dozens of players who are ready to lay down their arms and get back to the basketball court, as long as the owners give them just a little more on the system side, and their agents have heard an earful from them this past week. There are agents who likewise want to stop the fighting and start the season, but they don't have many avenues to utilize. The big-name, big-time agents are ready to decertify at the drop of a hat, thinking it will keep the pressure on the owners, and they have the bigger megaphone. But, believe me -- if you were to reach out quietly, you'd get some positive feedback.

Same with more than a few of the owners. Right now, there doesn't seem to be a majority on any one position -- keep the players locked out, come back to the bargaining table. It's more of a plurality. I'd say a dozen teams, maybe a couple more, are willing to stick it out as long as it takes to get the deal they want, including scuttling the season if necessary. Another eight or 10 teams want to get back in business, and it's obvious who they are if you've been paying any attention. As in your line of work, the independents are the ones who can sway the election. It's equally clear to me that the Commish desperately wants this to be over and try and salvage what's left of the season, and his legacy. He was shocked, an ownership source says, that the union's rank-and-file didn't accept the league's offer last weekend and demand a vote to ratify the deal. Now, a start on Christmas Day , when many casual fans actually start paying attention anyway, is about as good as one could hope for now.

But time is wasting.

This week, Thanksgiving Week, would normally be unlikely to produce much progress, what with everyone getting their Tryptophan on and all. And there will need to be at least a month under ideal circumstances even after an agreement is reached to prepare the teams and players for the start of the regular season. So you'd have to get started in the next couple of days, I'm afraid. (I'm sure you've just been sitting by the phone with nothing pressing on your schedule.) But who wouldn't take your call, even on Thursday? Maybe especially on Thursday; even we in the media like to watch football and tolerate our families on Thanksgiving, so your old office in Harlem -- right down the street from where the union/trade association is headquartered -- should be free from snooping reporters. Or, your buddy Ron Burkle's place on the East Side could do. An ex-president has lots of places to hold secret negotiations, right?

I can't stress enough how important discretion will be in this endeavor. For each side to move, it has to be able to save face; to save face, it cannot be viewed as capitulating to the other side and picking up the phone. A breakthrough announced only after a few days of underground talks would be hard for anyone to shout down or tear apart. what would the argument be against a compromise settlement brokered by a former president of the United States? Sonia Sotomayor, now on the Supreme Court, gets a lot of credit for laying the groundwork for what became the settlement which finally ended the baseball players' strike in 1995. But the NBA doesn't have time for a court-ordered settlement. It will take weeks just to establish whether the players' joint lawsuits in California and Minnesota can remain there or in New York, where the league would prefer they be adjudicated. If weeks go by now, the season is toast.

Even your political opponents recognize your people skills. (The whole "feel your pain" thing.) You put people at ease and have shown an ability to master complex issues in a hurry. And this isn't all that complex. Well, maybe revenue sharing, but that's another story. Again, this is about getting these guys to see the big picture, to realize that there are more important things than getting, or saving, every possible dollar.

My guess is that your friend, the late diplomat and ambassador Richard Holbrooke, confided a few things about the great difficulties in bringing factions together when he and others put the Dayton Peace Accords together in 1995 that ended the fighting in Bosnia. Again and again, failure seemed inevitable, even as Holbrooke tried to convince all the sides to "leap for peace," as he put it in his book, To End a War. This is, decidedly, not war, and I invite calumny by even bringing it up. But difficult negotiations seem to always involve similar facets: headstrong personalities, intractable positions, a looming deadline. To solve difficult problems requires a special skill set, patience, working past the point of seeming impasse.

The NBA and its players are at an impasse. It will require someone uniquely qualified to save the season.

That is you, Mr. President.

Sincerely,

David Aldridge
TNT Sports

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The city of Memphis is having second thoughts.

After the Memphis/Shelby County Sports Authority reported to the city council last week that the city was sitting on $36 million in unexpected funds this year, the council decided to table the idea of filing a lawsuit against the NBA and the team to try and recoup lost revenues during the lockout. The city was anticipating losing $4.5 million -- it makes $1.15 per seat in taxes at FedEx Forum -- in revenues if the lockout wipes out the season, not counting the sales tax revenues for the businesses in the surrounding downtown area.

But the Sports Authority, while meeting with the council's Economic Development and Tourism Committee last Tuesday, revealed the city still had $23 million in bonds which helped finance the construction of FedEx Forum, along with a "senior surplus reserve" of $13 million, from which the city can absorb the $4.5 million potential loss. The county also raised revenue through a hotel tax.

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The FedEx Forum opened in 2004.
Getty Images via NBAE

"We have sufficient funds and reserves for the loss of the season," the council's chair, Myron Lowery, said by telephone Friday. "As a result, the council has decided it may be premature to take any action, because we don't know how long this is going to last. As a result of what the league has done to the players, it could wipe out this season and we'll see how strong everybody is ... we're not going to move on this next week. There's no reason to. But we're going to reserve our right to recoup any funds that might be lost. Like every other NBA city, we'll keep an eye on it and hope for the best."

Initially, the city thought it could lose as much as $18 million in bond payments covered by Grizzlies revenue, according to a local Memphis television station. Late last month the city council asked the council's attorney to explore potential litigation. But while last week's meeting quieted the city's concerns about the rent, and a few of the Grizzlies' open dates have been filled by other events, the city's businesses are still in a state of flux.

"Our arena is located right next to Beale Street," Lowery said. "All the restaurants have an uptick in customers and liquor sales every time the Grizzlies play. We have an excellent college team (the University of Memphis) but our businesses have gotten used to two seasons. It's a major disappointment."

Tim Landers, a manager at the Kooky Canuck, a restaurant three blocks from FedEx Forum, was quoted in the Memphis Commercial Appeal on Sunday saying that the Grizzlies' absence is "killing us." Reached on Sunday afternoon, Landers said the story painted the Canuck in a more dire financial situation than it really is. The restaurant was filled Sunday afternoon, with a rock concert taking place at FedEx and spilloff coming into his place and other area joints.

"We're not necessarily struggling," Landers said in a telephone interview. "We're making our money. We're doing good business. What I had said is that the nights there should be (Grizzlies) games is hurting our business. We still hit our budgets, but we could be making more money. During the summer, we're busy every night and making a lot of money."

Landers says about 75 percent of his restaurant's business comes from return customers who have been downtown before, whether for Grizzlies games, University of Memphis games or the city's AAA baseball team, the Redbirds. The other 25 percent is people that saw the restaurant when it was featured on the Travel Channel's hit gastro consumption show, "Man vs. Food," featuring the Canuck's "Kookamonga Burger Challenge," in late 2008. (You eat the seven and a half pound, 12,387-calorie burger in less than an hour, you get the burger for free and get your picture on the Wall of Fame!)

Landers said the restaurant has cut back on some staff hours on nights when business is slow, but that the staffers don't mind that much, because they regularly worked 12-hour days in the summer. The Canuck may do more business on U of M nights, because the nationally ranked Tigers sell out more often, Landers said. But the sheer volume of Grizzlies dates makes up for that. And missing nights when, for example, former Tiger Derrick Rose makes his only appearance of the season in town with the Bulls, takes its toll.

"Our business is a direct reflection of what's going on downtown. If there's something going on they come to these restaurants and they eat," Landers said. "The way they ended last season, we were anticipating way more people to start coming to the games. Any other fan of the Memphis Grizzlies knows when they started doing well, people started paying more attention to the Grizzies, because they were doing well. Everybody in the city was behind the Grizzlies."

Lowery, who has not heard from officials in other NBA cities, says he wrote a letter to Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley explaining that the city didn't hold the Grizzlies responsible, but that the council had to explore every possibility to try and recoup potential lost revenue.

"One of the reasons I contemplated the legal action was to wake the players and the owners up to say this is bigger than your individual disagreement," Lowery said. "Municipalities are affected by this. I wanted them to stop and think about the potential liability that the NBA would have if several cities filed a lawsuit. It would be in the billions. It would make what they're fighting about miniscule. And while there's a lot of smoke, there's not a lot of fire to go forward with a lawsuit. A lot of people asked me, what are you doing? We may not sue. But I sure want to look at it. And I want them to know I'm looking at it."

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How do you convince NBA players to come to Alaska in December?

"It's been a struggle," Ronnie Chalmers said by phone Saturday, "but we're getting there."

Ronnie Chalmers, the father of Miami Heat guard and free agent to-be Mario Chalmers, has helped his son organize a charity basketball game that will take place Dec. 1 in Anchorage, where Ronnie Chalmers and his family spent 23 years. Ronnie Chalmers coached at Bartlett High School in Anchorage, and his son starred there, winning 4A Player of the Year honors three times and winning two state titles, before going to the University of Kansas and helping the Jayhawks win a national championship in 2008. The idea for an Alaska game was Mario's; he holds a summer camp there every year.

"When all this lockout stuff started and some other guys were starting their games, he said, 'Let's do a game in Alaska and do something for the kids up there,'" said Ronnie Chalmers, who has been helping his son's foundation in Miami since leaving his job as director of basketball operations at Kansas in 2008, after Mario left. "At first it was just going to be giving 200 pairs of tennis shoes. I said, 'You pick out the guys you want,' and he wanted to pick out some of his freinds, guys he played AAU with, and obviously the Kansas connection, and (Carlos) Boozer being from Alaska. He called them and I did all the logistics."

Boozer, the Bulls forward who grew up in Juneau, about 569 miles southeast of Anchorage, has committed to play, along with Chalmers' former Kansas teammates Brandon Rush (Pacers) and Cole Aldrich (Thunder), former Jayhawks Marcus and Markieff Morris (Rockets and Suns, respectively) and Julian Wright (Raptors), Chalmers' current Heat teammates Chris Bosh and Dexter Pittman and former Heat players Daequan Cook (Thunder) and Michael Beasley (Timberwolves), along with John Wall, Eric Gordon, James Harden, DeAndre Jordan, Nate Robinson, Spencer Hawes and Knicks rookie Iman Shumpert.

It's one thing to ask players to come to Miami, or D.C., or Houston, where John Lucas had his charity game last night. It's quite another to have them schlep up to Anchorage -- where the closest NBA city, Portland, is a 3-hour, 15-minute flight away, where the average temperature in December, according to the state's own website, is 21 degrees, and there is an average of 5 hours, 28 minutes of sunlight -- no matter how worthy the charity. And the Chalmers' game has worthy ones, including Mario Chalmers' Foundation -- which, among other things, helps people with cancer find low-priced or free clothing, wigs and other accoutrements at Mario's Closet, a store on the grounds of the Oncology Center at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Lawrence, Kansas.

Local businesses, including Alaska Airlines -- which has offered free upgrades to first class for the players -- are underwriting travel and accomodations costs in order to make the game as successful as possible. But until players actually arrive, you don't know if they're going to show up. Such is the life of organizing charity games. But it's one thing to blow off people in Philly that see NBA games all the time. It would be quite another to do so in Anchorage, which has hosted the Great Alaska Shootout for college teams for many years but obviously isn't a regular stop for the pros.

"They just don't get NBA basketball up there," said Ronnie Chalmers, who will be traveling to Alaska from North Carolina. "Mario and I were talking about it and we were able to do it. It's a leap of faith and it's all coming together. I tell you what, I'll be glad when it's all over. It's been a challenge. You want to advertise for what you're doing. I hate false advertising. You say certain guys are coming and all of a sudden they say they're not coming."

Since the game was just announced last week, locals are just starting to notice.

"It's pretty exciting stuff," said Charlie Sokaitis, the weekend sports anchor at KTUU, the NBC affiliate in Anchorage. "We're pretty excited to have guys like that up here. It just all came together in the last few days. I think everybody's excited ... I have friends from all over the state who want to come to thet game. I have friends from Fairbanks, which is about six hours away, who say they're coming. I would imagine people would come from all over the state. When you start talking about a Chris Bosh or a John Wall, it's pretty high level stuff. I'm interested to see what happens."

Translation: Y'all really coming?

"Gonna try to," Wall DM'ed Sunday night.

Sokaitis, who played against Boozer in high school -- "not well," he said, "but I stood on a court with him" -- says Alaskans keep track of players like Chalmers and Boozer who make it to the pros. Daryn Colledge, the Green Bay Packers' guard, grew up in North Pole, a town of 1,600 near Fairbanks. The Bears' defensive back Zack Bowman played basketball with Chalmers at Bartlett. The Red Sox' outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury spent a summer with the Anchorage Glacier Pilots of the Alaska Baseball League in 2003. And the Canadiens' two-time All-Star center, Scott Gomez, is one of several NHL players who were born or grew up in Anchorage.

Ronnie Chambers, who spent more than two decades in the U.S. Air Force, also wants there to be a military component to the game. He is hoping to take several players to nearby Elmendorf Air Force Base, which houses the Air Force's only Traumatic Brain Injury clinic in the States, to visit wounded warriors returning from battle. But, first, they have to follow through on their commitment to come.

"It's cold," Ronnie Chalmers said. "I'm telling the guys to wrap up, because it's going to be cold. During the day it'll be about 35, 40 degrees, and at night, it's 15 to 20. But they only have to go for two nights."

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May our children forgive us. From John Motroni:

I started thinking about the larger picture this morning while reading article after article about the labor and legal nuances of this crisis. I started thinking about my son and the millions of kids who emulate basketball players on the small neighborhood stages throughout this nation. And then I remember that I recently found a couple of pictures of my 5 year old son (now 37!) horsing around with Purvis Short and talking with Wayne Cooper after a Warrior practice in the late 70's. It brought a tear to my eyes. As a father, in some ways, this is very sad.

John, as a father myself, I understand. Try explaining to a 7-year-old boy why he can't watch basketball right now. The damage both sides are doing to the future of the game is incalculable.

From Leslie Cooper, Jr.:

I blame the owners! They should be smart enough or hire the right people to evaluate talent and their worth. Over paying for minimal skilled players is their fault. Owners grow up and police themselves!

There is more than enough blame to go around for everyone, Leslie, but I share your view that one of the central tenets of this lockout is that teams, from the owners on down, have to be more accountable for the mistakes they make with personnel, and stop trying to look to the collective bargaining agreement to fix their errors. Draft the right guys. Sign the right guys. And pay the right guys the right amounts of money. This would go on my business card, if I still carried around business cards.

From Will Amosa:

I definitely enjoy reading your 'Morning tip' column, been reading it for a couple years now and though I haven't always agreed with your opinions I have to agree with you now that we all lose with the continuation of the lockout and a possible end to the 2011-2012 season. Lucky for me though (at least in the short term) its a little easier to find a silver lining. With today's announcement I've been following Twitter rumours about NBA players coming to Europe, as far as I can tell Durant is already contemplating offers from Valencia, Tel Aviv and Beirut. Omri Casspi has already signed for Tel Aviv. We already have Deron Williams playing here in Turkey, in fact, watching their game the other night I see that Semih Erden has signed with them too and they have Marcelus Kemp, one of my favorite college ballers. There's a sprinkling of other NBA players in Europe now such as Nicolas Batum, Ronny Turiaf, the Gasol brothers, Vujacic and Ilyasova.

Do you see a mass exodus of NBA basketballers to Europe now that the 2011-2012 season might not even get started? If you could give us your thoughts on this and what you've heard in the rumor mill I'd really appreciate it. And what do you think the international ramifications of this improvement in the European talent pool will be?

I'm sure you'll see a lot more NBA guys making deals in Europe and Asia, Will. These guys want to, need to, play this time of year, and few are going to want to take the chance of taking a year off from competition. So they'll go wherever they can find it. But the players' trade association, or whatever they're calling it, is also planning to set up several training camps stateside for guys that don't want to go overseas. And I don't want or expect you to agree with everything I write. That's the point of this. We're a worldwide basketball community here at the Tip, and diverse and different opinions are not only welcome, but needed, so we can all learn and grow.

Send your comments, questions, criticisms and new co-host suggestions for Kelly Ripa now that Regis is hanging 'em up to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is sufficiently interesting, funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!

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324 -- Total number of games eliminated from the schedule once the NBA officially informed teams what we all already knew -- that the league was bagging games through at least Dec. 15. The league's 72-game proposal, made 10 days ago, had a Dec. 15 start date for the season, which would necessarily mean everything before then was cancelled, if you think about it.

1 -- Games played in Zhejiang, the Chinese province, for the Chouzhou Golden Bulls by Nuggets guard J.R. Smith before suffering what appeared to be a serious knee injury Sunday afternoon. Smith had signed a one-year deal for a reported $6.5 million, playing in China along with Denver teammates Wilson Chandler and Kenyon Martin during the lockout. Players who sign in China must remain there for the entire Chinese Basketball Association season, which runs through late February.

143 -- Days since the lockout began.

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1) Before I even start with this, don't you start. I would be just as happy if players participated in a fundraiser basketball game or tennis tournament or whatever for Mitt Romney or Rick Perry or Herman Cain. The point is not that NBA players are supporting Barack Obama; the point is that NBA players are doing something that requires them to take an actual political position. Just a couple of months ago, Carmelo Anthony said today's athletes were reluctant to make "Muhammad Ali-type statements," and the inference was clear: Don't rock the boat. Too many sponsors to keep happy to, you know, actually stand for (or against) something. At least the players who are playing in this Dec. 12 game are making their preference clear and living with any consequences.

2) A good read from Bloomberg Businessweek on the Pacers' Jeff Foster and how he's put away most of the dough he's made in his 12-year career.

3)I feel you, B Dizzle. I feel you (which is appropriate for a section called 'I'm Feelin',' yes?). Style for men has ... gone out of style.

4) This is classic stuff between Allen Iverson and an attorney representing a man who sued Iverson for $2.5 million in damages after a bar fight in which the man claimed one of Iverson's bodyguards hit him. The suit was dismissed last week.

5) Congrats to Duke's Mike Krzyzewski on becoming the NCAA's all-time winningest coach. It is a tribute to how Coach K has done things in the college game that his selection as head coach of the U.S. men's Olympic team, filled with pros, was accepted without so much as a peep of protest. And he has shown what we all suspected -- if he'd ever wanted to coach in the NBA, he likely would have been equally successful.

6) And Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.

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1) That the bird is gonna go down very easy on Thursday, knowing that we're closing in on December with no end to this lockout madness in clear view.

2) Sincere condolences to the family of Walt Hazzard, who led UCLA to the first of its 10 national championships as a two-time all-American, played 10 years in the NBA and later coached the Bruins. He was a genuinely good man. This tribute, by the Philadelphia Inquirer's great columnist emeritus, Bill Lyon, captures the brilliance of the man.

2a) Sincere condolences, also, to the families of Oklahoma State University women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and his assistant coach, Miranda Serna, along with the families of former Oklahoma state senator Olin Branstetter and his wife, Paula, who died in a plane crash Thursday in a rural part of Arkansas. You may recall that a decade ago, 10 people affiiated with OSU's men's basketball team perished when one of the planes carrying the team back from a game in Colorado crashed. I cannot imagine how much more the people at OSU athletics and their fans, friends and families can take.

2b) My goodness. Condolences to Robert Champion's family as well.

3) Does anyone else have the stomach-churning feeling that, regardless of whether or not Bernie Fine did anything illegal or immoral, we may just be at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to these kinds of stories in college athletics? (By the way, I didn't watch one second of Jerry Sandusky's interview with Bob Costas, though everyone says Costas did a masterful job with a very difficult assignment. Instead I watched Gabrielle Giffords' interview with Diane Sawyer. Given a choice, I'd rather be uplifted and inspired by people than disgusted by them.)

4) For three decades the story has been that Natalie Wood accidentally drowned when she fell off the yacht she was on with her husband Robert Wagner. (Kids! He played Number One in the Austin Powers movies; your parents knew him from the TV show Hart to Hart; their parents knew him as a Hollywood actor back in the 50s and 60s.) Now, there's supposedly new info that may cast her death in a more sinister light. I'm not sure I want to know, even if there is new information. If you're under 30, you probably have no idea who Natalie Wood was. Think Scarlett Johanssen, only more beautiful.

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Everybody just has all the answers huh! Why should I have stayed in school!? I won a chip and graduated! N number 9 pick. I'm Fine! Lol
--Bobcats rookie guard Kemba Walker (@KembaWalker), Monday, 3:09 p.m., responding (I guess) to someone asking if he thought he made a mistake coming out of Connecticut after his junior season to declare for the Draft.

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"There is no doubt that a boycott of this nature is a violation of the antitrust laws."
-- Attorney David Boies, representing the players in antitrust lawsuits filed against the NBA last week, claiming that the league's owners "boycotted" the collective bargaining talks when they said their offer of a 50-50 split of Basketball Related Income would not be negotiated further.

"We're about to go into the nuclear winter of the NBA."
-- Commissioner David Stern, after the union's decision Monday to file a disclaimer of interest and disband, as well as to file antitrust lawsuits against the league.

"I was in here in '98, who knows how many records I would have broken if I hadn't gone through two lockouts?"
--Celtics forward Paul Pierce, to the Boston Globe, on his disapointment at not playing this past weekend. In case you're wondering, Pierce is 30th on the NBA's all-time scoring list, with 21,410 points, and he's third on the Celtics' all-time scoring list, trailing only John Havlicek (26,395) and Larry Bird (21,791). Robert Parish is also ahead of Pierce on the all-time scoring list with 23,334 points, but 4,249 of those points came when Parish played in Golden State, before he was traded to Boston in 1980. The same is true of others ahead of Pierce on the league's all-time but behind him on the Celtics' all-time scoring list, including Shaquille O'Neal, Dominique Wilkens, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Gary Payton.

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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