Things were not looking good coming out of Thursday’s meeting. We have our first cancellations, as the NBA announced that the first two weeks of training camp and the preseason are postponed. The regular season is not too far behind that as many speculate the league has until the end of the month to solve the lockout before the regular season is in jeopardy.
The issues have been explained and analyzed en masse.
The one thing nobody knows is what it will take to actually get a deal done. The players have reportedly made major concessions, but what the owners will do or what they will accept is still a complete mystery.
One of the faces for the NBA’s problems is not going to stand for it much longer.
“I’m willing to sacrifice my salary to get a fair deal,” Lewis said. “It’s only fair.”
Lewis, fairly or unfairly, has become something of the face for the lockout — along with Eddy Curry, who I guess is the stomach of the lockout. Lewis accepted a maximum contract from the Magic in 2007. The deal was roundly criticized and everyone believed Lewis’ agent simply got Magic general manager Otis Smith to bid against himself.
Orlando was not complaining (too much). Lewis, along with Dwight Howard’s maturation and Stan Van Gundy’s coaching, became the key cog to turning the Magic into an NBA championship contender. The Magic won at least 52 games in each of his three full seasons in Orlando. He helped get Orlando out of the first round for the first time in 11 years in 2008. The next year, Lewis was the matchup nightmare that sent the Cavaliers packing and the Magic to the 2009 Finals.
For whatever reason, he went into a strange shooting slump this season and had one of the worst years of his career. He averaged 11.7 points per game in 57 games for Washington and Orlando. The usually reliable 3-point shooter hit on only 35.7 percent of his 3-point shots.
The down year made him an easy target with his $19.5 million salary. That salary only bumps up to $22 million next year (the second to last year of this contract, it should be noted).
Lewis has been up front about his thinking process in accepting the contract ever since J.A. Adande asked him that question for an article a few weeks ago. Lewis was offered a contract and accepted it, simple as that.
“Talk to the owner. He gave me the deal,” Lewis said. “When it comes to contracts, the players aren’t sitting there negotiating that contract. I’m sitting at home and my agent calls me, saying, ‘I got a max on the table.’ I’m not going to sit there and say, ‘Naw, that’s too much. Go out there and negotiate $20 or $30 [million] less.’
“I thought my agent did a good job of negotiating my contract, and at the time I was coming out of Seattle, averaging 23 points, playing well. It was perfect timing for me. At the same time, I understand the owners don’t want to overpay players, but you’ve got to do better negotiating. Try your best to save money.”
That is about the best way to summarize one of the main issues in this lockout. The players are perfectly willing to take less to get games going again, but really the owners were the ones that got them into this mess with poorly thought out contracts — like, perhaps, Lewis’ deal.
This statement from Lewis might endear him to fans, but it is actually a bad thing for the union as an organization. The union is fighting for the future of its organization and its members (and future members). They probably do not want to hear any players saying they would be willing to give up their guaranteed contract of any kind — especially since that is one of the major bargaining points the two sides disagree on.
But it also displays what makes this lockout different from the 1998 lockout.
The 1998 lockout was about a lot of stubbornness from the players and their attempt to keep salaries high. Especially with the owners fearing the runaway of superstar salaries. It took until January for them to cave.
This lockout has seen the players willing to make concessions while keeping the structure of the current bargaining agreement and meeting something of a stonewall from the owners. On we go back into bargaining. Maybe Derek Fisher can bring Lewis’ offer to the table.