As much as anything Stern wants his professional shame in the shadows, narrowing the scope, the coverage. For Stern, the strategy is simple: Step out of the way, and let the players impale themselves in the public eye. Two weeks of the regular season are gone, more promise to be wiped away, and Stern will feed that public desire to tear apart his star players and feed into all the worst stereotypes. Only, this lockout will eventually end, and he’ll need to repair those images to make the NBA thrive again.
Stern is the master manipulator, and that’s never been easier to see. Throughout these talks, he’s had the Players Association leadership on a string. His agenda, his deadlines, his conditions to meet. One minute, the union’s calling for player meetings in Miami and Los Angeles, urging players to get on planes. Emails went out with locations and times, players purchased airline tickets. And then Stern says he wants to negotiate more, pushes back artificial deadlines of his creation, and soon the union is hastily canceling the player meetings and retreating back to his bargaining table.
League negotiators insisted that the 50-50 split they were trying to sell to ownership was not one of those car dealership ploys — accept it today and drive it away, otherwise it’s no way, José. Asked if the league was leaving the talks last Tuesday having gone back to its previous offer of 47 percent for the players, Stern replied, “Back-schmack.”
“You know, we’re not … we’re ready to meet and discuss any subject anyone wants to talk about,” Stern said. “We’d like not to lose the first two weeks of the season, but it doesn’t look good.”
Yet, as Stern himself said, back-schmack they were at 47 percent as the talks broke down Monday night. And yet we were led to believe that it wasn’t about the money, it was about the system — key rules and competitive engineering devices the owners insist they need to help small-market and low-revenue teams compete.
Hunter had planned to meet with players in Los Angeles on Monday, but postponed that trip in a last-ditch effort to find compromise with commissioner David Stern.
Hunter’s last regional meeting for players was held in Las Vegas, where roughly 40 players turned out.
Now the owners want to drastically change the system, particulary the way players are paid. They have taken away the game from us to reach their objectives, and Stern — who works for the owners — has no choice but to cancel regular-season games.
Shame on them. Shame on them all.
Owners and the league are largely too blame for this mess. They gave away too much of the family store to the players years ago.
Magic fan Derrick Boatwright said he just wants to see his team back on the court.
“”Us fans, we miss basketball. We don’t look at it as a salary or all of the benefits that come with being a basketball player. We look at it more as being able to watch the games and are more connected with what basketball means to our society,” Boatwright said.
Stern says both sides are “very far apart on virtually all issues. … We just have a gulf that separates us.”
Seven Orlando Magic games were cut: appealing, traffic-generating match ups against teams from last year’s playoffs: the Charlotte Bobcats, Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks and Eastern Conference champions the Miami Heat.
Orlando Magic Spokesman Joel Glass said season ticket holders will be refunded “plus interest” for cancelled games.
But there’s no recompense for lost revenue at downtown Orlando businesses. Several restaurateurs and retailers have repeatedly told me they depend on Amway Center.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, ESPN 1080’s Magic Insider (http://espn1080.com) and is the co-host of the ESPN1080.com Insiders Show Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).