Davis Hosts End of Lockout Charity Game
The NBA has finally reached labor peace with a pending deal that will mean a 66-game season starting on Christmas Day.
Despite the vitriol back and forth, the true window for resolution was always in the Nov 15-25 range.
The owners wanted to players to feel the loss of at least one pay-check. The players knew the owners were under significant pressure to resolve the lockout in time for the annual ABC Christmas debut.
Commissioner David Stern was clear from the onset that it’s a 30-day process getting the league restarted from a handshake.
Talk about leaving it to the last minute . . . the tentative agreement wasn’t reached until the early hours on the 26th.
Camp and free agency is expected to start up on December 9th.
Baron Gives Back
Meanwhile, in what turned into an end-of-lockout celebration, Baron Davis held his first-annual “For the City” charity basketball game on Sunday.
Tina Thompson, currently with the Los Angeles Sparks (WNBA) cohosted the event that included a long list of NBA players including Trevor Ariza, DeMar DeRozan, Nick Young, Craig Smith, Dorell Wright, Amir Johnson, James Harden, Jordan Hamilton and others.
The game was, typical to charity events, a light-hearted affair with spectacular dunks and little to no defense.
“I think the most important thing for us was to come back and then do something for our fans and the people who supported us,” said Davis. “Even with the lockout being over, which is a great thing, we just wanted to come out and play in front of the people who rarely get to see us play.”
“It’s a great day for the community,” continued Baron. “It’s a great day for us as NBA players and we want to do this every year for our fans and for our community.”
Davis spent much of the extended summer trying to get healthy.
“A lot of swimming and weight lifting, trying to let my body heal,” said Davis. “That’s been the one thing that kept me going throughout this lockout.”
Baron is signed to play with the Cleveland Cavaliers this season but with a new Amnesty clause in the forthcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), he may find himself a free agent given the Cavs acquisition of point guard Kyrie Irving with the top pick in June’s NBA Draft.
“I feel like when the season starts and training camp starts, I’ll be a Cleveland Cavalier until they tell me otherwise,” said Davis. “I know that my name has come up in the amnesty things and a lot of people are mentioning my name about going this place and going that place my whole thing is to be ready for the season and do what i can do to help any team that I’m on.”
“Having the opportunity to go to Cleveland and restart my career is something that I really cherish,” said Baron.
There’s been speculation that he could end up with the Miami HEAT or even the Los Angeles Lakers but that’s a stretch at this point. As training camp nears and the free agency period begins, the scenarios will crystalize.
Whatever the result, Davis is just happy to have the game back.
“We know that the fans have been patient. The fans have stuck with us time and time again,” said Baron. “They’re thirsty for the basketball. There’s no bigger fans of the game than the players themselves. Us not being able to go there and entertain and do what we do, it’s disheartening for us but now we have an opportunity to make up for all the lost time we missed.”
Players Still Learning Details of Deal
While journalists may have an obligation to follow the minutiae of the labor agreement, the individual players (outside of union representatives) seemed a bit removed from the process.
“From what I know, I don’t really know much,” said Davis. “I know that there was a tentative agreement and I’m happy to be playing basketball again.”
“I didn’t know they were even meeting this weekend,” said Washington Wizards restricted free agent Nick Young. “I didn’t hear [of any] talks. I didn’t see anything on NBATV for a while. It just popped up with, ‘We got a deal done.’”
Young echoed Baron’s comments, “I don’t know all the details and everything. I just know we got a hand shake so I’m good.”
Arron Afflalo, restricted free agent with the Denver Nuggets, didn’t pay in the exhibition but spoke about some of what he had learned through the lockout.
“It did open some eyes to the importance of fan support, the importance of just communicating and having an open dialogue with your partner and I’m glad it did get resolved,” said Afflalo.
Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan found out about the tentative deal on Twitter.
“We all were fighting for a fair deal and I think everybody just had to come to a compromise,” said DeRozan. “We don’t necessarily get everything we want but that’s how it was going to end. We weren’t going to get everything. They weren’t going everything. Everybody just had to come to a compromise.”
DeMar said he still didn’t know the ins and outs of the agreement, “I want to go over it with some of my NBA peers and see what they think about it.”
“It was a shocking 3:00 AM call,” said Young. “I don’t know how my mom was up that late but she called me and I gotta answer when she called. I was a little nervous, I though she called for something else but I was excited.
“I can’t wait. Especially coming off the year that I had,” continued Young. “[I'm] very motivated and confident and happy that’s back. I was a little scared that we weren’t going to have a season this year.
Barnes Has Fisher’s Back
Los Angeles Lakers forward Matt Barnes talked about teammate, and union president, Derek Fisher, who batted all summer to get the players a deal.
“I was surprised,” said Barnes. “I had just talked to Fish last week and he had said mid-January, late January if anything. So to get the call and hear that we came to a tentative agreement . . .”
“I’m glad because he took a lot of heat,” continued Matt. “He’s a stand-up guy, one of the best guys I’ve ever met in my life. We trust him to lead our team and I personally trust him to lead the union. So I’m glad that things were worked out and people understand that he was doing the best he could for us.”
The extended break was probably fortuitous for Barnes who suffered a knee injury last season that required surgery.
“I’ve been healthy for a while but the extra time definitely helped me,” said Barnes. “A shortened season will help our team as long as we don’t get a crazy schedule so we’re excited about getting back to work.”
And to the point that the Lakers are about to get a crazy schedule?
“It’s going to come but hopefully they’ll take it easy on us,” said Matt.
Each team is going to get at least one back-to-back-to-back set, and as many as three.
“Yeah, hopefully we don’t get too many of those,” said Barnes.
True to the spirit of the event, Matt was happy for the fans that the lockout was finally coming to an end.
“The world is missing the game right now,” said Barnes. “For the most part they thought it was millionaires fighting against billionaires but it’s more than that. We were looking out for the younger generation coming up. I hope fans can understand that.”
Did the players give up too much? Did they get what they needed in the deal?
“We had some needs that were met that currently weren’t. We had to draw back and give them stuff they wanted. Overall we’re just happy to be back to play basketball,” said Barnes. “It’s always a business and we definitely needed to stand up for ourselves. Everything wasn’t met but it’s as good as it’s going to get for us.”
Amir Back on Court
Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson got a chance to shake off the rust on Sunday at Baron’s event.
“I had surgery on my foot so really I’ve been tending to [my rehab],” said Johnson. “I got to rehab on my foot. It’s been five months since I’ve been on the court. It’s actually my first time on the court. The lockout was great for me.”
Johnson’s procedure, back in June, was to take are of some instability in his left ankle. He looked a little rusty but was definitely a presence around the basket.
“It feels good. I’ve got to get the strength back in my foot,” said Amir. “I’m a little tired but I feel good.”
Afflalo Looking Forward to Free Agency
The “vibe” is that the Nuggets intend to keep restricted Afflalo, but the guard is looking forward to free agency.
“I don’t know [what to expect], it’s my first experience,” said Arron. “It will happen real soon and hopefully it will work out for the best. I can’t wait to be part of that experience.”
Afflalo said he didn’t consider going overseas during the time off.
“I’ve just been working, trying to stay mentally tough, keep my body in shape,” said Arron.