Evans: NBA Labor Talks Currently in Limbo
Following Tuesday’s bargaining session between the NBA’s players and owners, there was very little optimism that the two sides would be able to work out a deal anytime soon. After last week’s sudden burst of hope came an overwhelming wave of negativity. Both sides expressed their frustration following the meeting and the upcoming season never seemed more in jeopardy.
However, that reaction may be a little bit over the top. Maurice Evans, vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, attended Tuesday’s session and isn’t nearly as pessimistic as his peers. While the two sides made little to no progress this week, he’s convinced that there’s still time to make a deal and that nothing has been decided as of yet.
“We’re in limbo right now,” Evans told HOOPSWORLD. “There’s not too much optimism, but it’s not totally over either. I think there was a bit of an overreaction from the media and people in general on Tuesday. We’re still heavily involved in negotiations and it’s just a process. It’s a matter of timing. As the season draws nearer and everyone realizes what’s at stake, I think more decisions will be made, either to lose games or finally negotiate a deal.”
While Evans isn’t overreacting to Tuesday’s setback, he is disappointed that the two sides couldn’t work out a deal.
“On Tuesday, we had our entire board there and they had about 10 to 12 owners in the room,” Evans said. “I think it was a prime opportunity that was missed, and regretfully so. We could have stayed there all day or over the next two or three days to hammer out a deal. We were ready. It was a missed opportunity. I can’t describe it as anything other than a missed opportunity. We had significant people – the decision makers – in the room, but we weren’t able to capitalize on that. Now, time is running out.”
What led to last week’s increased optimism? Evans says that the owners were finally sitting down with the players and negotiating. While the two sides haven’t scheduled any more meetings, he hopes to see a similar approach from the owners next time they come together.
“I think last week there was optimism because for the first time, the owners actually engaged us and seemed ready to negotiate,” Evans said. “Prior to that, the NBPA had been negotiating against ourselves. I’m not sure when we’ll come together again. Hopefully when we do meet, both sides will be ready and we’ll be able to make some progress. We still need to make decisions on key things such as the system and economic issues.”
Later today, the NBPA will hold a meeting for players in Las Vegas while the owners attend their Board of Governors meeting in Dallas. The union wants to keep their players informed and discuss where things currently stand.
“It’s an information exchange. We hope to catch guys up to speed on issues and clarify things for our players. A lot of people, players in particular, are misinformed. They’re misinformed by their agents, the media or just things they’ve read on Twitter or the internet. Those resources aren’t very accurate,” Evans said.
The role of agents during the lockout has become an important topic in recent days, as several top agents are reportedly trying to overthrow the union. Five agents – Jeff Schwartz, Arn Tellem, Mark Bartelstein, Bill Duffy and Dan Fegan – have been leading the charge, according to reports. The agents are attempting to dissolve the union. A majority vote from NBA players would be necessary in order for decertification to occur. Evans thinks this is the wrong path for players to venture down and wants the agents to work with the union rather than attempt to overthrow it.
“While we respect the agents’ opinions and what they’re able to do alongside the union, it’s not particularly their fight,” Evans said. “We, as in the union, are very much capable of handling this matter. We need their support – we don’t need them working against us. I think players need to understand that their agent works for them. A lot of players in our league seem to think that they’re hired by their agent, but that’s not the case. That has to change. They can’t always go to their agents for every source of information. Oftentimes, they’re misled and that’s unfortunate. Not all agents have their player’s best interest in heart. They have vested interest as well.”
“We’ve never mentioned decertification,” Evans added. “We have a National Labor Relations Board case pending and any mention of decertification would be detrimental to that case. Nobody on the board – none of the players that are actually informed – has made any mention of decertification.”
Even though the two sides won’t be meeting face to face, they’ll likely speak over the phone and remain in contact. Evans doesn’t know what the future holds or what his calendar will look like, but he remains optimistic that both sides will do what’s best for the game and save the season.
“I can’t give a time frame,” Evans said. “If I could, I’d probably be a very rich man right now. All we can do is our part. We’re going to stay ready. We’ll engage them whenever they’re ready.”
“I’ve been optimistic throughout this process because I believe that we’d all be making a huge mistake if we were to cancel the season and not take advantage of where the game is right now,” Evans said. “The NFL did an excellent job of hammering out their deal and now you see all of the sponsorship packages and fan support. For us to not capitalize on the same opportunity that we have to continue making the NBA special, we’re running the risk of not having the same product back on the floor. This is a product that, last year, had record ratings and season ticket renewals. Right now, we’re really diluting the product when we should be taking advantage and making it more special. We really need to make up our minds on what we’re going to do. That goes for the NBA and everyone involved.”
Both sides need to make up their minds and resume negotiations. The clock is ticking.