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NBA lockout: Players' union's anger may be justified

October 21, 2011 | 12:40 pm

David Stern, left, and Billy Hunter

Clenching his fists on the podium, National Basketball Players Assn. President Derek Fisher delivered some sharp words.

"I want to make it clear that you guys were lied to earlier," Fisher said. "It's that simple."

Both the owners and players union have appeared guilty with inflaming the rhetoric. At this point, the players' union willingness to fight back may prove counterproductive. But forget for a second that the players have little leverage in this debate. They are completely justified in feeling angry with the owners continuously failing to negotiate in good faith. 

Of course, the public could read the dispute after Thursday's meeting as nothing more than mindless he-said, she-said arguments. NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver and San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt said the players' union broke off talks after refusing to drop their proposal of accepting 52.5% of basketball-related income (BRI) down to a 50-50 split with owners. Fisher and union Executive Director Billy Hunter maintained that talks broke off because the owners refused to allow them to negotiate the system issues (such as hard salary cap, luxury tax, etc.) after both sides couldn't reach an agreement on the BRI.

But based on the league's track record in making dubious statements, I'm more inclined to believe the players' union than the owners.

Only 11 days ago, the league said talks broke off because they couldn't solve the system issues. After Thursday's meeting, Silver and Holt maintained that BRI proved more important and that the two issues aren't correlated. But of course, they are.

Only seven days ago, Commissioner David Stern threatened to cancel games through Christmas Day if the sides didn't reach a deal by this past Tuesday. Although it's possible the NBA will soon cancel further games, Stern's threat meant nothing. Instead, both sides met with federal mediator George Cohen for over 30 hours in a three-day span.

And on Thursday, Holt suggested it's not big of a jump for players to go from 52.5% to 50% on BRI. But it's a big jump for owners to go 50% to 52.5%? That's some twisted logic.

Meanwhile, the players union offered to go from 57% to 53% and even made further concessions Thursday to 52.5%. Hunter said not only did the owners reject a proposal to outline a band between 50-53% depending on how much the league generates in revenue, they refused to hear any of the details.

The players union will soon have to accept that they can't win this battle, but it's understandable why they feel the need to ball their fists and fight back.


Four issues reportedly delaying a deal

Negotiations defy logic

The players union's identity crisis

-- Mark Medina

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Photo: NBA Commissioner David Stern, left, and Billy Hunter, executive director of the players' union, arrive Monday for a round of negotiations in New York. Photo: Louis Lanzano / Associated Press