Labor peace likely but never a lock
David Stern and NBA owners figure to extend the current CBA to avoid a summer lockout. But you never know.
As of Saturday, there was exactly one month left for commissioner David Stern and his 29 teams to decide whether to exercise the league's Dec. 15 option to extend its Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players through the 2004-05 season.
The prevailing sense around the league is that Stern and the owners will indeed opt in for one more year, with the hope that the recent spirit of cooperation with the union -- since last All-Star Weekend -- will lead to terms being reached on a new long-term deal by next summer, before the current pact expires.
That, of course, is the best-case scenario ... and assuming the spirit of cooperation isn't just myth.
In a worst-case scenario, the owners would refuse to extend the current CBA -- and league sources say there are owners out there who favor this option -- and thereby put a clock on negotiations. "In that case," said one source, "there is the possibility of a lockout before the NHL has one."
After the damaging lockout of 1998, which cost the NBA its previously unblemished record of never losing a regular-season game to a work stoppage, all parties have been unusually willing to open talks well before any deadlines to guard against the prospect of losing games in the future. Yet there remains much to hash out even if the 2004-05 option is triggered.
Teams contend that their players take home too much of the league's revenue and dream of shortening guaranteed contracts, which can run for six or seven seasons in the NBA. Players complain about the increasing difficulty to change teams ... which is tied in to the dreaded luxury tax that neither side cares for. Among the teams themselves, the luxury tax has spawned numerous philosophical debates.
Stern has said that he's not married to the idea of a tax -- perhaps because it tends to pit high- and low-spending teams against each other, which could make it difficult to maintain a consensus among the owners. Stern has made it clear, though, that he will insist on some sort of mechanism that punishes overspending and ensures a level playing field for teams of all market sizes -- something baseball and hockey sorely lack.
The NBA's owners and players, mind you, have yet to exchange any formal proposals, so there have to be some serious negotiating in coming months -- with or without the option -- to secure a new deal by July.
Seattle's Ronald Murray is hoarding all the Surprise O' The Season pub, but he shouldn't. Brian Cardinal has to get some.
Cardinal was Golden State's last invitee to training camp. After he spent three seasons mostly on the injured list in Detroit and Washington, all Cardinal wanted to do was make the team.
It helped that he picked the right team to go to camp with, and the right coach. Cardinal had multiple invites but scanned the Warriors' roster and believed that his pick-setting and loose-ball-chasing and high energy -- along with accurate shooting from the floor and the line -- would have some appeal to Golden State. Eric Musselman, the coach who proved what he could do last season when given his shot-of-a-lifetime, didn't hesitate to give Cardinal meaningful minutes when no one had before.
Not that Cardinal complains about the past. He was drafted by Detroit in 2000 and still wound up spending this past summer under the Pistons' watch despite leaving them before last season as part of the Jerry Stackhouse-Rip Hamilton deal. Cardinal spent most of last season in Washington and, in a rarity for the Wizards of 2002-03, came away feeling privileged to have logged some time as Michael Jordan's teammate.
"I looked at it as a learning opportunity with the greatest player ever," Cardinal said. "There were some other guys who probably couldn't handle his competitive drive. I'm sure some of them thought they were better than him. It was disappointing. I wish we had more camaraderie because I think we could have been a pretty good team."
Released by the Wizards late in February, Cardinal finished the season in Spain with Valencia. That gave him the opportunity "to have the ball in my hands again." It's unexpectedly happening now with the Warriors, too, and Cardinal, who knows his minutes are bound to be cut if Golden State can ever get healthy, is so giddy that he says "it's nice just to be interviewed."
"It's nice to be included more than anything," he said. "Even though you're in the NBA, when you spend the majority of your time on the IR, you don't feel as much a part of the team. I'm not going to be an All-Star, but I've always believed I could contribute in some capacity."
Orlando isn't the only team whose plans in the pivot haven't clicked. The Magic has not yet managed to get by with a tandem of Juwan Howard and Drew Gooden up front, much as we believed that would make Orlando big enough in the size-challenged East. Indiana has likewise not seen much from Scot Pollard, who is supposed to be the Pacers' replacement for Brad Miller, but there's a difference.
O'Neal, meanwhile, insists that all he needs is somebody of legit center size as a tag-team partner to spare him all the down-low duty at both ends.
"The problem before Brad came is that I had to play the other team's best post player and then I had to come down and score every time," O'Neal said. "I don't really have a problem playing the five, but that wore me down."
It remains to be seen if that's really all O'Neal needs over 82 games. Miller's ability to hit the perimeter jumper helped open up the inside for O'Neal last season. Neither Foster nor Pollard can shoot it like Miller can, so it might not be as easy as Jermaine claims.
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