JaVale McGee has earned a reputation for committing marvelously foolish acts. Normally, those acts are played out on the basketball court, and result in loud, demonstrative misses, turnovers, or goaltendings. But yesterday, McGee transcended boundaries, proving that his propensity for boneheaded mistakes extends to the bargaining table, as well.
The 7-footer told a horde of media members that a few players in yesterday’s union meeting were ready to fold. Not exactly the best tactic when you’re trying to negotiate for the best deal against 30 money-hungry owners. McGee later tweeted that he never said anyone was ready to fold, and that the media “always wanna turn it!” But he forgot that reporters actually record their interviews, and some media members even take videos.
Oh, JaVale. Don’t ever change.
Derek Fisher later denied McGee’s claims of players ready to fold.
“The person that spent the least amount of time in the room can’t make that statement,” Fisher said of McGee, who left the meeting early for unknown reasons. “He’s in no position to make that statement on behalf of the group. It’s obviously fair in negotiations of this magnitude that we’re going to have guys who have different opinions because we have guys in different positions.”
More important things came out of yesterday’s meeting than McGee’s ill-advised negotiating, um, strategy. Billy Hunter told the assembled media he is ready to engage in battle with David Stern if that’s what the union needs.
“Well I think it can only get worse for both of us,” Hunter said in response to a question about the owners’ future offers worsening over time because of the losses. “If somebody is pointing a gun at my head, I’m going to point one back at him. That door doesn’t swing one way. It’s not just the players that are going to suffer if there are games lost. What (Stern) has failed to reveal to you is the amount of economic damage they’re going to suffer as a consequence. He points out the players will lose $170 million every two weeks. The owners will lose the same … amount, coupled with any damage that their franchises sustained as a consequence. The pain is mutual.”
Players association vice president Maurice Evans spoke about the damage that would be done to the NBA if the lockout extends for a full season or beyond, alluding to the concept that the players gain leverage the longer the lockout extends.
“As they want to inflict these self-inflicted wounds, the gash is only going to get bigger, franchise values are going to decimate,” Evans said. “Best-case scenario — when we ran the numbers — 2023 is when they would recover [financially] and get back to where we are with BRI (basketball-related income) if we lost an entire season. So continuing to threaten that it’s a season and that it’s two years is only going to further damage your business. Again, that’s not even speaking for individual owners and what they stand to lose. Not every owner would be able to, again, come out of this lockout. There would be some contraction, potentially, if they want to lock us out for a year or longer.”
And Hunter fired one last bullet at David Stern and the NBA when he brought up contraction, after Fisher called Stern’s latest deadline “arbitrary, with no other purpose than to sway player sentiment.”
“If everybody begins to dig into their respective positions, then I think the league will be decimated. It took us five years to recover from the 1998 lockout and there’s probability that we may never recover [from this lockout],” Hunter told ESPN before Friday’s sit-down with players. “I think there will be some teams that won’t survive. Particularly if the season gets shut down, there will be teams that will not be around next year.”
Hunter singled out the Sacramento Kings as a franchise that may fall victim to “forced contraction.”
The comments were meant to show solidarity and strength, which was all well and good. But next time, Fisher and Hunter might want to think about misplacing McGee’s invitation.
“It got lost in the mail,” ought to work just fine.