Mavs Donuts: 9 Out Of 10 Doctors Say...
DONUT 1: In the latest installment of "As the NBA [Doesn't] Turn," David Stern met with the owners on Thursday via conference call, something that reportedly produced absolutely nothing in the way of a timeline, strategy or, you know, plan for how to react to the players' decision to decertify the union on Monday.
Now, neither I nor anyone else from the 75-member staff was on the line – Fish, KBro, Dugat, and I were exploring our options to report for overseas teams – but I'm reasonably confident that no decisions were made for the exact same reason the owners have had issues since June these shenanigans began in June: they aren't on the same page.
DONUT 2: Want to know how I know that? Well, when it is being reported universally that half the owners were praying for the players to reject the very offer THEY COLLECTIVELY PROPOSED (built around a 50-50 BRI split), they aren't on the same page.
And when big market owners like Jerry Buss, James Dolan Micky Arison, and our own Mark Cuban are purportedly in favor of making a deal to salvage the season, yet the owners wind up spending every round of negotiations concocting new ways to draw and quarter Billy Hunter in a Manhattan board room, they aren't on the same page.
DONUT 3:Let's make this clear: Hunter's George Custer moment of decertifying four months too late best case reeks of being a Pollyanna ("If we decertify now, how could we be negotiating in good faith?") or, worst case, is the single most baffling decision in a bargaining process that has become a five month-long rendition of Simple Jack (why pull the trigger this late, without a public counter-offer, with an endgame that all but guarantees your troops no paychecks for a year?).
Even clearer; there is no chance in hell Houston that the players come out of this with a better deal than what they just turned down. Oh, it sucked – any time you hand over roughly $3 billion in revenue, you aren't going to like the way things turn out. But it was the best they were going to do.
DONUT 4: Yet I'm not putting this on the players. Not when they demonstrated a repeated willingness – and by willingness, I mean resignation – to accede to damn near everything the owners wanted, only to sit there helpless as the owners reached across the table to snap up even more.
Case in point, after all the bellyaching about dollar bills, this deal eventually broke down over movement rights via the mid-level exception, bi-annual exception (or some new form of it) sign-and-trades, and a couple of other mechanisms that affect at most 15 to 20 players per season. After taking a prolonged, gruesome beating for months on end and after handing over a small country's GDP in revenue, all the players wanted at that point was some moral victory show to the public for their troubles, one small cluster of success to trumpet around as just cause for why they didn't capitulate earlier as we were all held hostage by their clumsy negotiations. The owners, flush with cash and intoxicated with power, wouldn't even let them have that.
DONUT 5: Nowhere was it better summed up than by a tweet courtesy of Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski on November 6th: "Owners had won labor deal by 30 points but want to press on, throw alley-oops, win by 40."
DONUT 6: Then again, they aren't to blame either. It was insidious, sure, and megalomaniacal, I grant you that, to mercilessly pummel the players into submission on every tiny point instead of ceding a few they could care less about to mollify their primary investments. In the long run a condescending, if slightly inconvenient, pat to the head of the players could have saved a lot of time, animosity, and perhaps even a 70-game season.
But the owners have leverage – all of it. Just like they can't help themselves from dishing out fat contracts to the likes of Eddy Curry or Jerome James, so too is it impossible to pull the reigns in when they know they can get whatever they want from this deal because, frankly, what's stopping them? The players and public resent them, but that has little impact on the overall bottom line; the players have to earn a paycheck (goodbye, Dirk, DoJo and JJB?) and the public, disenchanted as we all may be right now, will come back into the fold because we love the product.
Why do the owners keep taking more? Because they can.
DONUT 7: Which is why the finger of blame should be pointed squarely at David Stern.
To say that Stern once had everyone's ear in NBA circles to is to imply that the Kardashian-Humphries marriage didn't go as planned. These are not those times. Lost in the tired rhetoric of every media outlet in the world waiting for Stern to "rally his owners" together is the fact that these are no longer his owners, but a loose confederation of member states who want different things.
What isn't certain is whether the complete failure to marshal them toward a common agreement is simply a byproduct of the gap in revenue between big and small market teams that fissured into a chasm with the advent of new revenue streams that didn't exist 13 years ago (such as the mega TV deals that the Lakers and, soon, Celtics have signed), or whether Stern simply doesn't the juice that he used to.
This is, though; when a commissioner cannot convince his owners to acquiesce on even the most peripheral of details to ensure his league has a season, he has failed. The owners ran amok because their governing force let them, and the players ushered in the advent of the league's so-called nuclear winter because, rightly or wrongly, they saw no other recourse. Ultimately, both sides dug in their trenches and played their roles until the casualties mounted past the point of no return.
David Stern's role in these negotiations was to prevent such an impasse. This catastrophe occurred on his watch, because he could not prevent it.
DONUT 8: So it's only fair to ask aloud now if someone else should fill that role.
Of course, that may raise far more questions than solid answers.
Will it even matter?
These, friends, are ones I don't think anyone knows how to respond to.
But for perhaps the first time ever in the Stern era, it's time to start asking. If staring down the barrel of a missed season doesn't merit such discussion, what does?
DONUT 9: Again, I don't have the answers to that. But here's what I do know: nine out of 10 doctors also recommend you follow @mikelikessports on Twitter. and @FishSports, too!
The 10th is Conrad Murray.
DONUT 10: I've tried to stay away from Sandusky-gate because, like you, I'm beyond the point of mortification. But as much as I want it to go away, like you, I know it's going to get much worse before it gets better. So, I wanted to bring up two things that I feel bear mentioning.
DONUT 11: The first one begins with a preface because, more than any sports story I can ever remember, this one demands that everyone draw their battle lines lest the message get lost.
For as rampant as the speculation has been over what Joe Paterno did, or did not, know about what Jerry Sandusky did or the degree to how much more he should have done, the fact remains he could no longer coach at Penn State. I don't think his firing was handled anywhere in the same zip code of appropriate – after all he's done for the University and to raise its profile both academically and athletically, he deserved better than getting dismissed over the phone. But he needed to go.
Having said that, allow let me say this:
If you took someone from a foreign country who hadn't the slightest tangential idea of the details of what had happened… and you sat them in front of a TV for 10 minutes of coverage at any point last week… and you told them that a football coach at Penn State had sexually assaulted children, and you asked them who it was, their response would have been "Joe Paterno."
That is the degree to which the media honed in on Paterno last week instead of Sandusky or the administrators who actively lied to investigators about what was going on under their roof. Again, I don't know what JoePa knew nor am I condoning how he handled the situation. But last week, the coverage was disproportionally aimed at the wrong football coach.
DONUT 12:Secondly, there hasn't been a more insulting tangent to this entire Penn State scandal than the Rose Bowl coming out yesterday and, without a hint of irony, making a statement that they would accept Penn State should they qualify for the Granddaddy of Them All.
Newsflash: The Penn State football team, the 100+ college athletes between 18 and 23 who don those drab Navy and white threads every week, have absolutely nothing to do with this. Nada. They simply are hard-working kids who want to do right by themselves, their families, and what's left of their school's dignity.
The Rose Bowl isn't doing anything to help those harmed by Sandusky's actions by contemplating whether to take away a potential opportunity from a group of players who hadn't even gone through puberty when Sandusky was caught by Mike McQueary in 2002.
Nor was anyone who thought last weekend's game should be cancelled without considering what that would mean for the seniors who were playing their last game ever in Happy Valley.
Penn State football will always have this scandal on its conscience and its legacy. Nothing will change that, nor should it.
But today, Penn State football is no longer Joe Paterno or Jerry Sandusky or Mike McQueary. It is the players who wear its uniforms, who ache for the victims like anyone else, who like everyone else wish this never happened. They are becoming collateral damage, and they shouldn't be. As this saga drags on, it's important to remember that the face of the evil isn't Penn State itself or the athletes who play for her; it's those who misrepresented what the school stands for.
These players are the furthest thing from that bastardization. It's a distinction that needs to be kept clear with the worst days of the scandal yet to come.
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