NBA Saturday: No Chance for Full Season
This time was supposed to be different.
Entering Friday, it seemed like everything was in place to end the lockout. Both sides, the NBA and Players Association, admitted that they were making significant progress. David Stern and Billy Hunter laughed with one another during the previous night’s press conferences. Agents, players and executives were more optimistic than ever before. After all, a deal was “within striking distance.”
And yet, here we are again. The two sides remain far apart on the split of basketball-related income and there are still several system issues that haven’t been resolved. We’re hearing the same things that have been said every time the talks hit a roadblock: “We tried our best, things were looking good for awhile, but no future meetings have been scheduled.”
In the past, setbacks have been met with short-term disappointment, but hope for a full season was always restored when the two sides returned to the bargaining table several days later. Even Hunter said that an 82-game season could still be played if a deal was agreed upon by Sunday or Monday, it would just take some creative scheduling.
However, that hope is now gone and the reality of the lockout has set in. One month and 221 games have already been cancelled, not postponed. This will be, at the very least, a shortened season and now the question is how many games will be lost before the two sides reach a deal.
“It’s not practical, possible or prudent to have a full season now,” Stern said on Friday. “We held out that joint hope together, but in light of the breakdown of talks, there will not be a full NBA season under any circumstances. I say that with apologies to the municipalities in which we play our games, to the workers who earn their living in our buildings, and from businesses around the buildings.”
“I’m just reflecting the calendar,” Stern added. “You need 30 days to play, and so the last two weeks of November are gone. It’s already getting to be November 1. The calendar takes care of our games. These are not punitive announcements; these are calendar-generated announcements.”
Friday’s talks ended when the elephant in the room, BRI, was discussed.
The NBA’s version of the story goes like this: “Billy Hunter said that he was not willing to go a penny below 52, that he had been getting many calls from agents, and he closed up his book and walked out of the room. And that’s where we are,” Stern said. “Billy left the room.”
The NBPA’s version of the story goes like this: “They snookered or deluded you. They said they were back at 47, and were willing to go up to 50. Yes, they made a move, but they reverted to 47 first. They said their number was 47,” Hunter said. “We made a lot of concessions, but unfortunately, at this time, it’s not enough.”
As this process continues, the negotiations will only become more complicated. Both sides will have to take into account the losses that have piled up and and that’ll change the talks. Stern made it clear that the NBA’s offer will only get worse from here.
“We’re going to have to recalculate how bad the damage is. We’ve lost approaching $200 million in the loss of the preseason, and we’re going to lose several hundred million dollars more. The NBA’s next offer will reflect the extraordinary losses that are starting to pile up now, and you can assume that our offer will change to reflect the changed economic circumstances,” Stern said.
This time wasn’t different, and it may be awhile before the two sides return to the table. Derek Fisher traveled to Los Angeles today and the other key negotiators are going their separate ways as well. No future meetings are scheduled, the optimism is depleting and now we find ourselves in an all too familiar place.
Wafer Enjoying Success in Italy: If you haven’t heard, many NBA players that signed overseas after the lockout commenced are now struggling with their new teams. Some players are having a difficult time adjusting to the international game and the teams that paid a ton of money for their services aren’t meeting expectations as a result. Overseas success stories have been few and far between this offseason.
One player that has bucked the trend and played well overseas is Von Wafer. The shooting guard signed with the Italian club Vanoli Cremona in August and has enjoyed success early in the season. Wafer has led the team to a 2-1 record, while averaging a team-high 19 points on 62.5% shooting.
“It’s been fun and I’ve gotten a lot better,” Wafer told HOOPSWORLD. “I’m just happy that I’m getting the opportunity to play basketball. I’m continuing to learn the game and grow as a player over here. In this situation, I’m the main guy on my team so opposing teams are focusing on stopping me. It’s definitely making me a better player. When the lockout ends, I’ll be able to play off of my teammates and not have to worry about things like double teams.”
This isn’t Wafer’s first stint overseas. He made headlines when he left the NBA two years ago to sign with the Greek club Olympiacos. The experiment was deemed a failure when Wafer was waived several months into the season. However, this experience is different from his first overseas adventure.
“It’s been amazing here. In Italy, they pay you on time. They pay you on time. Oh and another thing is, you get paid on time! That’s a big difference from Greece,” Wafer said with a laugh. “You have more freedom here too. In Greece, it was crazy because we had early curfews and things like that.”
“The people here have embraced me and made me comfortable,” he added. “The organization has been great to me and the city is beautiful. How could I not love it? They’ve been amazing.”
Prior to signing in Italy, Wafer was working out in Louisiana. Not only was he trying to expand his game, he was also spending a considerable amount of time in the weight room.
“I think a lot of people are going to be surprised when they see me and the shape that I’m in,” Wafer said. “I’ve really changed my body. Physically, I’ve made a lot of progress this summer. That’s something that I wanted to do and I was always in the weight room. Before, I’d stay in the gym the whole time, but now I lived in the weight room. I think people are going to be surprised. I’ve gotten a lot bigger, stronger and faster. I feel really good, unbelievable. This is the best I’ve ever felt.
Bulking up paid off immediately for Wafer, who believes his strength allowed him to adjust to the different style of play in Italy.
“It’s designed for the guys that are stronger,” Wafer said. “It’s slower and physical. I was watching Ty Lawson play the other night and he was just struggling. In the NBA, he gets to the rack with ease, but he couldn’t do that. He was getting fouled a lot – I’ll give him that – but that’s just how it is over here. It’s more physical and they allow more touching. There are no illegal defenses either so it’s really different.”
Wafer can relate to Lawson when it comes to the officiating. He hasn’t received any favors from the refs.
“They let guys get away with a lot of stuff on me,” Wafer said. “I don’t know about other NBA players, but it’s been rough on me.”
The competition is also intense, with the opposition wanting to prove themselves against the NBA players. Wafer doesn’t buy the notion that these are watered down leagues with lesser talent.
“All you have to do is look at Deron Williams. He was struggling until he just had a good game. Look at DaJuan Summers and how he’s been struggling. A lot of NBA dudes are coming oversea and struggling. There’s good competition and it’s really a different game over here. The rules are different. It’s really more like college over here. It’s a smaller game and while there is individual talent, it’s more of a team game.”
While some players are counting down the days until the lockout ends so they can return to the United States, Wafer is enjoying his time in Italy. In fact, he doesn’t even keep track of the ongoing labor negotiations.
“I stopped following that stuff a long time ago,” Wafer said. “I don’t even pay attention to it. I’m just over here in Italy trying to get better.”
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