All hell promised to unleash in the conference room of the Sheraton Hotel on the 52nd Street and Seventh Avenue. So bad that the man who wrote the book on collective bargaining guerilla warfare had retreated to the suburbs and left these unruly proceedings to someone who truly despises confrontation. Nevertheless,Portland Trail Blazers billionaire Paul Allen stepped out of the shadows, declared himself as the hardest line of the hardliners and played the part of the improbable boogeyman in these dysfunctional labor talks.
“Here came the Grim Reaper,” one exasperated union official sighed in a quiet corridor Thursday night.
For all the talk about the Robert Sarvers, the most strident of the hardliners thrust himself to the forefront of fear that this could be a lost basketball season. For the past 15 years, Allen’s been the wildest of wild spenders, the salary cap-buster hell-bent on buying an NBA title. Outrageous contracts, $3 million a pop to purchase late draft picks. And now, the NBA’s board of governors found him the perfect candidate to be the bearer of gloom and doom in Thursday’s meeting, even when a union attorney Jeffrey Kessler said: “I thought we were making progress toward a deal.
I have sensed that part of the owners’ wanting a reset of power came from the 2010 summer’s free-agent madness. LeBron James and his advisers sat in a conference room in a Cleveland office building, and listened while a parade of NBA owners and executives groveled for his services. There was clearly a line of demarcation as to who had the power. Of course, James then did what he and Dwyane Wade had planned on doing for years: joined forces in Miami. My sense is the power play by James, Wade, Chris Bosh and others (Carmelo Anthony in Denver) caused a reaction by Stern and owners that they would not let the players continue to have that power.
Meanwhile, the players don’t seem to get it. The longer they wait, the worse their deal is going to get. The NBA isn’t going to offer them a 53/47 BRI split after missing two months of games. It’s not worth missing time and calling David Stern a tyrant or Melo saying he wants Chris Paul on the Knicks isn’t helping matters.
And that’s the thing, these super teams. A decent amount of Cleveland fans seem pleased with the way these lockout talks are headed. They want Gilbert and company to create system where teams like the Cavs won’t get screwed over by a LeBron type situation again. The thing is, I’m not sure how, short of a franchise tag, you can stop something like that. If a player wants to leave a team, that player is going to leave a team (and I have a hard time killing LeBron for wanting to play with two All-Stars as opposed to Antawn Jamison). You’re never going to get competitive balance in basketball because of the simple nature of the sport. Unlike in football, baseball or hockey, the addition (or loss) of just one player can drastically change the competitiveness a team. Basically, I don’t see any CBA that would’ve kept LeBron a Cavalier.
In the meantime, this current Cavs team suffers with each and every game lost. I’m not thrilled with the idea of No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving playing just 11 competitive basketball games in his two years following high school. Even if they start playing games after Christmas, a short college season followed by a short NBA season cannot be good for his development. Plus, the Cavs were one of the teams that got really hurt by the last lockout. They looked like a promising young team heading into that offseason and combo of the lockout, Z’s feet and Shawn Kemp’s waistline killed that squad.
There’s no guarantee that a prolonged lockout will help this franchise (or hurt the Heat, if that’s your thing). It might help Gilbert keep the team competitive, it might not (and I’d argue they were pretty damn competitive under the old deal, no? Just because they didn’t win with James, doesn’t mean they didn’t have a shot. You can’t be blowing top 10 picks on Luke Jackson).
The sooner Kyrie Iriving learns Byron Scott’s offense, the better. This is what Cavs fans should be rooting for.