There’s a simple way for Spurs fans to know how to feel after what transpired in a hotel meeting room in midtown Manhattan early Thursday evening: Turn back the calendar to May 13, 2004.
Remember the elation you felt when Tim Duncan nailed one of the toughest shots of his career, a jumper over Shaquille O’Neal that gave the Spurs a 73-72 lead with four-tenths of a second left in Game 5 of a Western Conference semifinal series at ATT Center?
Will you ever forget the punched-in-the-gut feeling you felt when the Lakers’ Derek Fisher’s 18-footer hit nothing but net, turning a certain Spurs victory into a numbing loss.
How ironic was it that on Thursday it was Fisher, president of the National Basketball Players Association, on the receiving end of a numbing shot from the owners, including the Spurs’ Peter Holt?
Just when momentum that had seemed to build towards the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement had raised hope for an end to the lockout, all the goodwill blew up when the owners made an offer that union executive Billy Hunter called an ultimatum.
The take-it-or-leave-it position that soured everything, according to Hunter: Accept a 50-50 split of revenue if you even want to talk about the system by which your 50 percent will be distributed.
The goodwill that had seemed to prevail during marathon talks under the guidance of Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service chief George Cohen evaporated in a series of charges and counter-charges in a pair of post-blowup press conferences.
NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver and Holt went first, contending the players didn’t budge far enough from their prior position on revenue split.
This time, the union spoke second, getting the last words. Said Fisher: “I want to make it clear: You guys were lied to earlier.”
Hunter was more pointed, naming names, good and bad.
Good: James Dolan, Mark Cuban, Mickey Arison and Jerry Buss, big market owners he said wanted to make a deal.
Bad: Mostly Dan Gilbert.
Hunter said Gilbert, the Cavs owner who behaved like a spoiled brat after LeBron James decided to take his talents to South Beach last summer, wanted his trust. Agree to a 50-50 split, a giveback of roughly $300 million next season, and we’ll make sure there will be a system you can live with.
That Hunter would have revealed this after two days of gag orders issued by Cohen spoke volumes about the nastiness of the emotions, so raw they need to be numbed.
How numb will you feel without an entire NBA season? Because that’s where this dispute between billionaires and millionaires is headed.
The scariest comment was Silver lauding the National Hockey League’s collective bargaining agreement for being “so successful from a competitive standpoint with their flex-cap system that has a hard, absolute cap at the top of the band.”
The NHL got that deal the NBA’s small-market owners covet by locking out their players for the entire 2004-05 season.
Anyone for a Rampage game?