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NBA lockout: The players union's identity crisis

October 18, 2011 |  1:42 pm

The numbers remain stacked against Derek Fisher.

It's not just involving figures with basketball-related income, the income and leverage disparity between NBA owners and players, and a hard cap. It entails forming the NBA players union's identity.

"We have 450 guys that are entitled to various opinions," said Fisher, the National Basketball Players Assn. president. "It's extremely difficult to try to not just control their thinking, but make sure as a group we're sending a collective message."

The message has become diluted.

Washington Wizards forward JaVale McGee offhandedly reveals some players considered folding during the union's meeting Friday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The union maintains its members stand together in demanding the owners offer a fairer deal.

Fisher launches a Twitter campaign with players writing out the hashtag #Letusplay. But the campaign appears condescending and even results in Denver Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin getting into a death-threat-laced argument with a fan.

Fisher maintains during a news conference Friday he understands the public won't offer the players union much sympathy during a sagging economy. Earlier this offseason, however, Stephen Jackson recorded a music video (Warning: Its language may be offensive to some.) mocking the work stoppage and flaunting his wealth. 

"For the NBA, that's easier to do when you have 30 different personalities to manage and have the ability to levy heavy fines on people that make statements," Fisher said regarding message discipline. "We don't have that ability to do so. We manage it the best way we can."

Derek Fisher

The NBA has more resources to control that message.

Commissioner David Stern forbids his owners from publicly talking about the lockout, and he goes on media blitzes. He isn't gaining much sympathy either, but he's managed to plant arguments disguised as facts, such as that 22 of the league's 30 teams lost $300 million last season, or that the players union rejected a 50/50 split. The players union argues that teams aren't including interest payments and outside revenue in that purported $300-million loss. Stern brought up the 50/50 split only as  apossible concession that would have to be taken up with the owners, but the players union didn't budge.

But that doesn't matter because the players union lacks message discipline.  Union vice president Maurice Evans maintained that "this battle is not going to be won in the media with one player making valid statements or one player making inaccurate statements." For negotiation purposes, however, the owners will try to exploit that perceived vulnerability. And that's why the odds of a fair deal appear slimmer.

Maurice Evans


Derek Fisher, Billy Hunter share sharp words for David Stern

NBPA disagrees with JaVale McGee suggesting union is divided

JaVale McGee on NBA lockout: "Some guys in there ready to fold"

-- Mark Medina