Thursday is a big day for the NBA’s lockout. If progress is made when the two sides meet in New York, there is a good chance the majority of the season can be saved. If there is no progress, training camps and preseason games start getting canceled. And then we really hit crunch time to saving the season.
The general consensus is that one side will break because of divisions within the bargaining units.
The players will say the owners are divided between those who profit in the current system (save for a few tweaks) and have found success and those that demand a hard cap and cost certainty. The owners will say the players will not be able to survive once the checks stop coming and the games don’t exist. The owners know they can outlast the players if this becomes a waiting game.
There are numerous interests that are pulling and prodding those at the negotiating table. Among those are the agents, who have urged decertification throughout the lockout.
Chauncey Billups, the consummate captain that he is, is having none of it. He has spent his summer — especially recently — urging players to stand by their union and fight for the rights their forerunners earned for them and to remember this is a fight not only for the present, but also for the future.
“Over the past few months, as Chauncey Billups read and heard stories about the decertification of the NBA players’ union, one thing seemed odd to him: it was always the agents calling for decertification,” Chris Broussard of ESPN the Magazine writes. “To Billups, the notion of agents telling players they need to decertify was backwards. After all, the agents work for the players, not vice versa.
“So Billups became proactive, telling players wherever he found them to stick with the union. While training in Las Vegas, he spoke to guys before or after workouts. While at Chris Paul’s wedding in North Carolina a couple weeks ago, he pulled LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony aside for a moment.
“After speaking with nearly 50 players, Billups is now convinced that most of the league’s players understand they should not let their agents lead them towards decertification.”
Wow, quite some work for Mr. Big Shot — a clutch one at that as decertification would slow the process of getting a deal done as the players sue the owners and the league in federal court.
Billups has long been admired for his work on the court. He was the leader of the Pistons squad that was a fixture in the Eastern Conference Finals and made two Finals appearances, with one championship and a Finals MVP for his efforts against the Lakers in 2004. Winning seems to have followed him since then as he helped Denver get to the 2009 Western Conference Finals. If not for an injury in last year’s playoffs, we never know what the Knicks’ playoff hopes would have been.
Billups has not been intimately involved in the player negotiations. New York’s player representative is Amar’e Stoudemire, one of the few player representatives with All-Star experience — Paul Pierce, Carlos Boozer, Danny Granger, Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant being the others (none are on the executive committee, who are directly involved in negotiations).
Still, Broussard writes that Billups is one of the most respected and trusted players in the league. That is mostly because Billups has risen from the very bottom to reach superstardom. He truly understands the interests of every player in the league. After all, the Celtics drafted him and discarded him to the Raptors. Toronto sent him to Denver where injuries slowed him down. After a mid-season trade to Orlando, he finally found a home in Detroit.
He moved from fringe player, fighting to stay in the league to mid-level player to superstar. He is the union’s renaissance man.
“My message [to younger players] is to be in tune with what’s going on . . . what happens now will affect the younger players the most,” Billups told NBPA.org. “Guys like me, who don’t have many years left in the league, we aren’t going to feel this so much. So the younger guys need to get involved. And like for me, maybe there will be another lockout at some point during their career.”
Billups has been a resource for the union and someone working behind the scenes, it would seem, to keep the union unified. Billups has been through it all (his second year in the league was the lockout-shortened 1999 campaign). And now, he is working to keep the union strong and together for this fight… that hopefully concludes soon.