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NBA lockout: Players remain disorganized

November 21, 2011 |  2:05 pm

NBA lockout

They've entered the conference rooms with solemn and defiant expressions. If only the players-union-turned-trade-association could translate that demeanor into how they've handled the negotiations surrounding the NBA lockout.

Criticize the owners for running up the score in these talks, much like the way the Lakers have often done in years past against the Clippers. Criticize the players, represented by Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher, for being like those past Clipper teams by allowing themselves to get run over time and time again. They've miscalculated nearly every step of the process, mostly because of their disorganization.

First, they appeared splintered. NBA players either threatened to play overseas en masse or help the union's cause by standing up to the owners. Deron Williams remained the lone superstar to take his talents elsewhere, followed by a handful of rank-and-file players. Meanwhile, superstars, such as Kobe Bryant, mostly remained silent in the labor fight, while participation on meetings remained fairly minimal. By wanting it both ways, the players accomplished nothing. 

Then they sought to evoke sympathy. In the hours leading into the NBA's first cancellation of games, Fisher formulated a Twitter campaign that featured players writing tweets with the #LetUsPlay hashtag. Most fans correctly didn't feel sorry for them. 

And last week, the players union formally disbanded and filed two antitrust lawsuits against the league. Blame the owners for disrespecting the players a bit too much. But blame the players for their timing. If they were going to fight in the courts, they should've decertified this summer. If they were intent on making a deal, they should've simply cut their losses and accepted the latest offer or responded with a counterproposal. Meanwhile, complaints surfaced that many players felt out of the loop because of their inability to contact player reps and vice versa. There were also complaints about the union's refusal to hold a formal vote. 

In this billionaires-versus-millionaires fight, the players aren't exactly the villains. They've hosted charity games. They've also spouted cliches expressing remorse about the disaffected team and arena employees. But when it comes to negotiating, they've remained disorganized and have continuously struggled to correct that. 


The players union's identity crisis

Players have zero leverage

Law professor predicts players union will file more lawsuits

-- Mark Medina
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Photo: NBA players union Executive Director Billy Hunter, seated at left, and union President Derek Fisher, seated at right, address the media after a negotiating session on Nov. 10. Behind them stand players Matt Bonner, left, Theo Ratliff, Etan Thomas, Keyon Dooling and Roger Mason. Credit: John Minchillo / Associated Press