- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- It is perfectly understandable for the Miami Heat's LeBron James to want to beat Los Angeles Lakers co-captain Derek Fisher's basketball team Saturday, but comments made by James on Thursday went against the other team Fisher represents -- the National Basketball Players Association.
Speaking before the Heat played the Phoenix Suns, James reminisced about a time when the league had fewer teams and consequently, in his opinion, each team had a better collection of talent.
"Hopefully the league can figure out one way where it can go back to the '80s where you had three or four All-Stars, three or four superstars, three or four Hall of Famers on the same team," James told reporters. "The league was great. It wasn't as watered down as it is [now]."
With the players' union in negotiations with the league's 30 owners for a new collective bargaining agreement -- the current one is set to expire June 30 -- it was a curious time for the league's reigning back-to-back MVP to support contraction -- a measure that would mean fewer jobs available for the player pool.
"I don't necessarily agree with [James' comments], but at the same time I understand and respect the fact [that] 460 opinions won't always be alike," Fisher, the NBPA president, said after practice Friday, citing the approximate number of players in the league. "I don't think it's my place to tell one of our guys what they should be thinking or feeling or saying, but I don't necessarily agree with the sentiment."
In January the league submitted a proposal to the players' union calling for a $750 million-$800 million reduction in player salaries when the new CBA is signed, among other concessions. Fisher didn't feel that having a high-profile player like James taking a stance that wasn't in line with the group would compromise the union's bargaining position, however.
"I don't know if it necessarily hurts our cause," Fisher said. "It's surprising I would say, I guess, maybe to a lot of people but I guess I'm just a realist in that regard. Even in the past when there have been guys that made comments that have been deemed detrimental to the cause, it's unrealistic to think that you have almost 500 people in one group and everybody is going to say the same thing and have the same responses to certain questions."
Fisher agreed with a portion of James' old-time sentiment, but not his suggestion on how to capture that level of competition once again.
"I agree that the '80s was a great time for NBA basketball," Fisher said. "I don't agree that contraction or arbitrarily trying to get 'Hall of Famers' or 'All-Star guys' all on the same team is necessarily how you recreate one of the greatest times in NBA history."
The 15-year veteran was asked if he planned on addressing the issue with James on Christmas Day.
"I guess it depends on if we win or lose," Fisher said. "The conversation will go a certain way based on that, I guess."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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