Buck Harvey: In private, would Spurs take the deal?

NBA players aren’t being greedy. They haven’t been given a chance to be.

Their leadership made the decision for them Monday. Their player representatives said they “unanimously” agreed to begin anti-trust action rather than put the owners’ proposal up for a full vote.

That’s the nature of unions; the reps don’t forward to their members what they don’t like. But this isn’t another union, and this isn’t just another wage scale they are debating.

That’s one reason all of the players should have been able to vote.

There are a few million more.

As it is, the NBA took a step Monday toward what David Stern called “nuclear winter.” Billy Hunter responded with something that hasn’t happened often. He agreed.

Hunter said there is a “high probability” there will be a lost season.

All of it still falls under negotiations, no matter how many lawyers are now collecting fees. That’s why it is too early to say there won’t be a season; at this point in 1998, the agreement was still six weeks away.

Still, everything is at risk, including the players’ reputations. To the majority of fans, they are greedy or worse, undeserving in today’s job market.

The average salary of an NBA player, $5.1 million, equals the combined average salaries of the NFL and Major League Baseball. And they can’t come to a deal?

The details say something else. The players are the ones who have compromised, yet as recently as last Friday, were blindsided by further owners’ demands.

Stern’s arrogance also has done little to reach compromise. He’s already won, yet keeps running up the score.

Little wonder the union stood in defiance Monday. “The players feel that they’re not prepared to accept the ultimatums,” Hunter said.

But only about 30 players felt that. These are the reps, some of whom got the job because no one else wanted it. They try to do the best they can, but a few things are working against them. One is a confusing business world that is out of their comfort zone.

Another is a dynamic that has a locker-room feel to it. They’ve built their careers trying to be tough-minded teammates. So, given the group mentality, who wants to be the one arguing for surrender?

Individually, however, they are like their teammates in their respective cities. They have their own careers to worry about. Their shelf lives as NBA players are short, and, for every insulting clause Stern throws at them, the pay is still good.

So imagine what was going through Matt Bonner’s head as he stood at a press conference Monday as the Spurs’ rep. He’s 31 years old, with a contract that will pay him through 2014 — yet he would prefer to sacrifice something tangible for something that is not?

If Tim Duncan had a vote, he would likely be divided. He would want to be loyal to the cause. But he would also be voting against the largest one-year salary of his career, as well as perhaps his last season.

Tony Parker would have little reason to vote no; he’s under contract until 2015. Manu Ginobili is facing the last two years of his career at a combined $27 million. He wouldn’t want to play?

Richard Jefferson not only is under contract until 2014, he would also be an amnesty candidate. If the Spurs cut him, he would get his money, as well as a chance to sign with another team.

The younger players could have a different agenda. But they also might need the money more, too. DeJuan Blair, back after a brief adventure in Russia, could use some dollars to make up for lost rubles.

Not all NBA rosters are like the Spurs, but there is a similar thread that runs through all of them. They are angry, and they are not sure if that should matter to them personally.

So given a private ballot on Monday, weighing their own lives against a tactic that might backfire, what would they have done?

Here’s a guess.

The Spurs would be preparing for training camp right now.


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