Derek Fisher, Billy Hunter share sharp words for David Stern
No matter what proclamations the NBA owners and players' union make that they're both prepared to absorb a lost season in favor of a collective bargaining agreement to their liking, the proof will come once both experience the pending financial losses.
But for now, neither side is hesitant about pouring gasoline on the fiery rhetoric. With the National Basketball Players Assn. planning to meet with league owners, Commissioner David Stern and federal mediator George Cohen on Tuesday, Stern suggested Thursday that he would cancel games through Christmas Day should the sides fail to reach an agreement. He's also suggested that the increasing financial losses will result in the owners feeling less compelled to compromise. NBAPA Executive Director Billy Hunter didn't buy the tough talk one bit.
"It can only get worse for both of us," said Hunter, who estimated that both sides will stand to lose $170 million every two weeks the season is delayed. "If somebody is pointing a gun at my head, I'm going to point one back at him. The door doesn't swing one way. It's not just the players who will suffer if games are lost. What he failed to reveal to you is the amount of economic damage they're going to suffer as a consequence."
There is reason behind the tough rhetoric. Fisher acknowledged Stern's recent sentiments that there is "an extremely wide gulf" between both sides. That includes how they'll split basketball-related income, with the union dropping its offer from 57% to 53%, the owners increasing their offer from 46% to 49% and both sides disagreeing on who actually raised the possibility of a 50-50 split. It also includes various system issues, such as the union refusing to accept a hard salary cap and the owners proposing various tax increases that the NBAPA feels is a hard cap in disguise. Then, of course, there is the issue of revenue sharing and guaranteed contracts that haven't been met much agreement, either.
"That's an arbitrary deadline to throw out on Commissioner Stern's part," Fisher said after the NBAPA's nearly three-hour-long meeting Friday at the Beverly Hilton. "We don't see it that way. Obviously he's entitled to make a statement, but it seems very arbitrary and with no real purpose other than to try to sway players' sentiment."
"It creates an extremely wide gulf, and one I don't know will be closed by Tuesday, which makes his statement more arbitrary," Fisher said later before a small gathering of reporters. "If the gulf is that wide, to make a statement that we have to make it all figured out by Tuesday is not the best way to say it."
-- Mark Medina
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