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NBA Saturday: Are the Players Unified?
Posted By Alex Kennedy On October 15, 2011 @ 3:09 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Throughout the course of the lockout, the National Basketball Players Association has constantly stressed unity. It has been the union’s primary message during bargaining sessions and in the post-meeting press conferences. To ensure unity, the NBPA has kept all of its players in the loop by organizing regional meetings across the country and emailing updates every step of the way.
The union’s leaders – Billy Hunter, Derek Fisher and Maurice Evans – have known all along that showing any signs of dissension or disarray would lend credence to the owners’ belief that the players will back down as soon as they start missing paychecks. With so many players to appease, the union knows there’s no deal that will make everyone happy. The group has a wide spectrum of ages and incomes, and the NBPA must find a deal that satisfies a large portion of its players – at least “80 percent,” according to Hunter.
Some players will want to end the lockout sooner than others, but that’s not a message that the union wants to broadcast. The last thing the NBPA wants to hear is a player telling reporters that some of his peers expressed that they’re “ready to fold” during a regional meeting in Los Angeles.
However, that’s exactly what JaVale McGee told the media on Friday afternoon.
McGee was the first player to exit the meeting, leaving early to attend another engagement. He spoke to reporters very briefly, but did a considerable amount of damage in such a short period of time.
“There’s definitely some guys in there saying that they’re ready to fold, but the majority are willing to stand strong,” McGee said.
He would later tweet that he didn’t make the comment, but a number of outlets released audio that proved otherwise. Sources close to the NBPA immediately denied McGee’s claim and poked holes in his credibility. After the meeting ended, Fisher and Hunter were asked about McGee’s statement and continued to discredit him.
“Look, let me say this: The person who spent the least amount of time in the room can’t make that statement,” Fisher said. “He’s in no position to make that statement on behalf of the group.”
As a reporter read back McGee’s comment to Fisher and the other players in attendance, the group reacted with disbelief and disagreement. Danny Granger, in particular, shook his head and appeared irritated by McGee’s statement. Fisher followed up his harsh words by responding to McGee’s claim.
“As I said earlier, it’s obviously fair in negotiations of this magnitude that we’re going to have guys with differing opinions because we have guys that are in different positions,” Fisher said. “We have guys who are free agents this summer that are extremely excited about trying to get a deal done because, for the first time, they really have an opportunity to get paid by a team that really wants their services. We have guys who are veteran guys who know they only have two or three or four more years left to play, and they want to get back on the court. We have guys who just got drafted, who still haven’t had a chance to put on their uniform and play for the team they got drafted by.”
“Within all those different prospects and positions, you’re going to have differing opinions and thoughts about what should be going on,” Fisher added. “But at the end of the day, that’s my job, Billy’s job, Maurice’s job, our player reps and our guys to weigh the statements made by the guys who spend the least amount of time in the room versus the guys’ statements who spend the most amount of time in the room. At the end of the day, we come out with a decision that’s best for a majority of our guys.”
Hunter also disagreed with McGee’s comments, saying that the exact opposite was true.
“It was a shame he left so soon,” Hunter said. “As it turned out, the pacifists in the room happened to be me and Derek. These guys behind us happen to be extremely strident. They thought we were starting to weaken.”
McGee’s words became the big story out of Friday’s meeting, but the NBPA insists that they’re still united. If the NBA’s players and owners are able to reach a deal next week with the help of federal mediation, it won’t matter because nobody will have to fold.
However, if the two sides run into another wall, this process could drag on for several more months. That’s when the NBPA’s unity will truly be tested.
College Basketball Arrives: It hasn’t been easy for basketball fans to get a fix of their favorite sport during this lockout. Many of the charity games have been ugly, the overseas games have been difficult to find online and there’s only so many times a person can watch Teen Wolf on NBA TV.
Now, basketball-deprived fans can celebrate the arrival of college basketball.
Last night, programs across the country held Midnight Madness festivities to celebrate the start of the 2011-12 season. With nothing better to do, many NBA players flocked back to their college campuses last night. Carmelo Anthony returned to Syracuse, Dwyane Wade went back to Marquette and many others participated in their school’s event.
If the lockout continues, college basketball will receive more coverage and interest since they won’t have to share the limelight with the NBA. Luckily for the sport, this is a season that features plenty of storylines.
Kentucky will pair one of the best recruiting classes in recent memory – Anthony Davis, Mike Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Kyle Wiltjer – with projected lottery pick Terrance Jones. This team has been more hyped up and heavily anticipated than the squad that featured John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton.
Connecticut lost Kemba Walker, but they’ll try to repeat with potential top overall pick Andre Drummond, top recruit DeAndre Daniels, sophomore Jeremy Lamb and junior Alex Oriakhi leading the way.
Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones and Harrison Barnes were top prospects in last year’s draft class, but all three decided to return to school. Will each player continue to develop and take the next step? Or will each regress and regret their decision?
The Wildcats aren’t the only team with potential one-and-done prospects. Other star freshmen include Duke’s Austin Rivers, North Carolina’s James McAdoo, Florida’s Brad Beal, Baylor’s Quincy Miller and Texas’ Myck Kabongo among others. Next year’s lottery will be loaded with talent, in large part because of the talented class of freshmen.
Even the NBA is shifting their attention to NCAA practices and games. Yesterday, it was announced that the league will allow executives and scouts to evaluate players during practices, workouts and games. While front office employees cannot communicate with their current players during the lockout, they can be in close proximity with players they’ll target down the road.
This season will be intriguing, but perhaps the best reason to watch is simply because it’s organized, televised basketball. There hasn’t been much of that during this lockout, which is why basketball fans should welcome the arrival of the college season with open arms.
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