Mike Monroe: Players should swallow pride, but won’t

When the National Basketball Players Association’s representatives meet in Manhattan on Monday or Tuesday — hey, no need for urgency — their choices are simple: accept a deal most of them hate and play a 72-game season starting in mid-December; or reject it, decertify and know cancellation of the entire season is a virtual certainty.

Don’t be surprised when the player reps choose Doomsday.

Player sentiment was running hot against approval the day after they received the last, best offer the NBA says it will make.

There was this tweet Friday from Spurs swingman Danny Green: “The email I just received on this update got me HOT … we would be fools to take this deal.”

It took only a few minutes for Green’s disdain to get multiple retweets from other players, including this from his former Spurs teammate, George Hill: “Yeahhhhhh.”

Here’s the truth about the revised offer the NBA made to its players Thursday night in Manhattan: It’s a huge economic giveback the players should hate.

Commissioner David Stern knows this and so does Billy Hunter, the union’s executive director.

This is true, too: The players will be fools if they do reject it, no matter how bad a deal it is for them.

If they think the pattern that marked the course of the 1998-99 lockout is bound to repeat itself, that there is a deal to be struck in January, on terms they like better, they are miscalculating the new dynamic inside the tiny club of those who own the 30 teams. When Michael Jordan is identified as the hardest of the hard-line owners, be assured obstinacy rules the day when the full board of governors chooses a course.

Stern isn’t bluffing this time. Rejection of this deal means the next bargaining session — midtown Manhattan next July, anyone? — will ?begin with an offer from the league that will slice another ?3 percent from the players’ share of basketball related? income and impose a “flex” ?salary cap that’s really just a ? hard cap that can be imposed incrementally.

Gone will be the salary cap exceptions the players hold most dear. Ditto guaranteed contracts.

Ask any NHL player that lost the entire 2004-05 season after negotiations that followed an arc eerily similar to these NBA talks, and they will tell their basketball compatriots a principled stand isn’t worth the wasted fortitude.

No fair-minded fan questions the reasons for player anger. How difficult must it be for a player as competitive as union president Derek Fisher to stomach deputy commissioner Adam Silver lecturing about how much more competitive the league will be under the system the owners propose?

“We believe we will be proven right over time that this new model … will create a better league,” Silver said Thursday, campaigning for union acceptance. “It will create one where fans in more markets will be able to hope that their teams can compete for championships, that fans can believe that a well-managed team, regardless of market size, regardless of how deep the owners’ pockets are, will be in a position to compete for a championship, and that more players will be in a position to compete for rings as well.”

Every player knows Silver is a brilliant lawyer but hardly a basketball expert. When he talks about what is best for competitive basketball, it’s a bit like Kris Humphries lecturing on the secrets of marital longevity.

Phil Jackson, Fisher’s now-retired coach, advises that anger is the enemy of instruction. It is also the enemy of common sense.

On Monday or Tuesday, what’s best for the players is the common-sense realization that they are out of good options.

It is the very competitiveness of players, which Silver doesn’t comprehend, that likely means the league is headed for basketball Doomsday.


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