Mo Evans, Wizards guard, and vice president of the players union, has been in nearly every meeting since the NBA owners locked the players out more than 100 days ago. Commissioner David Stern has canceled the first two weeks of the season, and has stated that more cancelations are likely to come, probably in two week increments, if a deal isn’t reached soon.
A lot of people are wondering exactly what soon means. The season was slated to begin on Nov. 1, and the chances are slim to none that a full 82-game season can still be played, even by pushing back the calendar.
Which is why next Monday and Tuesday loom large for the future of the season, and the league. Both sides have agreed to have federal mediator George Cohen talk with each side separately on Monday, then meet with the two sides together on Tuesday.
Stern went on a media blitz this week, appearing on various networks to champion the desire of “his owners” to get a deal done. A few days later, players union executive director Billy Hunter, and union president Derek Fisher, launched a return salvo of their own, stating that it was the players who have made concessions so far, while the owners just want to be guaranteed a healthy profit margin.
Evans spoke with NBA TV on Friday after the players union meetings in Los Angeles.
“We got 30 players and we were able to inform them about the issues and combat a lot of the things the’ve heard in the media from David Stern, and really gage where our players are in this fight,” Evans said.
Evans was asked by former NBA player Steve Smith, now an analyst with NBA-TV, what the biggest mis-conceptions are about the negotiations.
“It’s that the 50-50 split [of BRI] is not contingent upon the system,” Evans said. “I don’t think guys understand that 50, 51, 53; the number will not matter if the system is not properly in place. Otherwise, it will do nothing more than function as a hard cap system,” Evans said.
The split of BRI [basketball related income] had been thought to be the major stumbling block in the labor talks for weeks, but now both sides admit that a bigger problem is the system under which a new collective bargaining agreement will operate.
Evans also responded to Stern’s assertion that Tuesday could be a deadline day to get a deal done to save the NBA’s Christmas Day schedule, usually a slate of four or five highly desirable, and highly rated, match-ups.
“I think it’s very unfortunate. Again, the players want to play. This isn’t a strike, it’s a lockout” Evans said.
“Each and every one of us players understands that there’s nothing to gain in the face of a lockout, no matter if we play a week from now, two months from now, or if we lose the entire season.”
“But what’s not being said is that the owners stand to lose an awful lot, too. The hit that they would take in franchise values, the depreciation. Best case scenarios, they won’t recover until 2023.”
“Each franchise can’t stand to lose an entire season or more, and if they continue to implement this self-inflicted pain upon themselves, it will just be a travesty.”
“I’m fortunate to have been in the room for the majority of these meetings, and the players are willing to make a deal, but it’s not going to come at the cost of the players completely capitulating on every system issue in order to make a deal. Our players are strident, and willing to stand and fight and preserve our system that the great players who have come before us shed blood sweat and tears for.”
“We’re just fighting for what’s right. We’ve lessened the risk for the owners. The players have not asked for raises. The only thing we ask for is that we grow with the game. As BRI grows, we would like to grow with that, and that’s not unreasonable.”
Evans was also asked about the Twitter comments made by Wizards teammate JaVale McGee. According to multiple media reports from the Los Angeles meeting, McGee left the meeting early, then Tweeted that there were players present who were shows signs that they were ready to fold.
McGee then retracted his comments, and blamed the media for misinterpreting what he said, despite the fact that about a dozen reporters recorded McGee’s comments as he spoke.
“JaVale is one of my teammates, he’s a young player in this league, and it’s unfortunate that JaVale left when he did. [It was] way too early to really make an accurate assessment of what the true tone in the room was, because we did have a spirited debate,” Evans said.
“This does affect each and every player differently, but once the players were informed, and brought up to speed with the issues, everyone agreed that this is not a deal that we can take.”
“Unfortunately with JaVale, he may have done more damage to himself than he did to the process,” Evans said. “Guys are strident, and we are together.”