NBA labor talks take bizarre turn for worse
The contentious negotiations between the American pro hoops league and its players' union broke down again today, and now it appears that at least the first half of the season is not going to happen. The union reportedly walked out after the team owners, in a highly questionable move, sent Blazers owner Paul Allen into the mediation session to tell the players off.
We are not making this up:
But this time the trouble wasn't caused as much by the disagreement on the two main issues -- the revenue split and the salary-cap system. No, the real fireworks involved an alleged attitude the owners brought into Thursday's meeting in Manhattan after what Silver called a "robust'' Board of Governors meeting in the morning, which involved heated discussions about improving the revenue-sharing plan.
"Something happened in that Board of Governors meeting,'' Kessler said.
Without Stern in the room -- though he was said to be in constant communication with the owners' side via conference call -- Silver was joined by Spurs owner Peter Holt, chairman of the labor relations committee. But there was a surprise guest, Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen.
Said Kessler: "We were told Paul Allen was here to express the views of the other Board of Governors and that view was, 'It's our way or the highway.' ''
The owners really have to be kidding. They let Allen do his hardnosed-businessman act? You couldn't come up with a less effective way of making money if you tried.
Here in Portland, we remember vividly when Allen marched into then-Mayor Tom Potter's office with his dopey spiel, "The economic model is broken." He actually expected a local taxpayer handout. The mayor laughed and wisely showed him the door.
Then there was the time that Allen started playing hardball with the pension funds that held the mortgage on his Rose Garden arena. He pouted, whined, and threw his arena corporation into bankruptcy, trying to get out of the bad interest rate he signed up for, but it didn't get him anywhere at all. The mortgage holders took over the building and waited him out. Eventually he caved in completely.
Then he was putting the Blazers up for sale -- remember that? We're not sure whom that was supposed to impress, but it too was a meaningless gesture.
There's something about Allen's business demeanor that seems to alienate everyone who sits across the table from him. But they don't give in, and eventually he backs off. He's got a terrible track record as an investor and as a judge of people. If he's the owners' mouthpiece -- if league commissioner David Stern doesn't get off his sickbed and put Allen back in the box immediately -- it's a virtual certainty that there will be no season at all. And in the end, the players might get a deal to their liking.