Commentary

Williams, Beasley are dumb and dumber

Planning to play in Turkey, pot charge do players no favors at NBA's bargaining table

Updated: July 8, 2011, 4:00 PM ET
By Stephen A. Smith | ESPNNewYork.com

The only thing worse than unmitigated selfishness is a selfish fool too preoccupied to notice the collateral damage caused from his actions, and too distracted to care.

Forgive New Jersey Nets star guard, Deron Williams, and his ignorance. The man just doesn't know any better. We can't say the same about Michael Beasley, but that's primarily because his ignorance appears beyond repair. The former has decided he wants to play in Turkey if the NBA lockout continues; the latter simply was ticketed for alleged misdemeanor possession of marijuana. But the fact that the two have decided to commit their respective acts in the midst of a contentious collective bargaining negotiation dismantles any notion of togetherness on the part of NBA players.

[+] EnlargeDeron Williams
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty ImagesDeron Williams' plan to play in Turkey if the lockout persists reeks of ignorance.

Since that's the likely perception of league owners right now, a show of hands to those who believe this will actually help negotiations in the coming weeks?

Thought so!

Billy Hunter, the executive director of the NBA Players Association, and Derek Fisher, union president, have stated on more than one occasion that the players "are together." But when a player such as Williams, who made $14.9 million last season, literally runs for the border to collect more cash, and one of the pieces left behind to represent the NBA product is allegedly caught with weed in his car after being stopped for speeding, how can anyone expect Hunter and Fisher to do an effective job?

These latest occurrences are not about Hunter and Fisher. It's not about their capabilities as union leaders. It's about players who talk a whole lot but don't know the difference between talking smack on the court and having to walk it in the boardroom. It's about players who don't have a clue about what togetherness is -- outside of blaming the media for everything.

It's about players who clearly have not grasped the magnitude of these CBA talks, and the potential ramifications for anyone outside of themselves.

"It's not good," one player told me on Thursday, demanding anonymity before saying a word. "Williams' move makes sense if you're about getting that cash. Nobody can blame him for that. But when you're talking about these negotiations, it's suppose to be about unity."

Exactly. A union -- any union -- is supposed to personify that. They're supposed to exude togetherness as opposed to coming across as a filthy-rich scab looking to do nothing else aside from bloating his bank account.

What's lost in all of this, as a result of Williams' selfishness and Beasley's stupidity, is how the owners must be feeling right now. Sure, NBA commissioner David Stern may not like the idea of Europe benefitting from the NBA brand without the NBA benefitting themselves. And he's probably keenly aware that if more stars consider the option of playing overseas (i.e. Kobe Bryant), that it could ultimately prolong a lockout that already appears on the verge of skipping the entire 2011-12 season.

But if Stern were to do the obvious and look deeper, the actions of both Williams and Beasley are far more detrimental to the players than it could ever be for the owners. Particularly when taking into account hard-line owners such as Dan Gilbert (Cleveland), Robert Sarver (Phoenix) -- who are actually leading the league in these negotiations, sources say -- hell-bent on getting that $800 million rollback in salaries, a hard salary cap and maximum years on guaranteed deals reduced to three years.

The owners never gave two cents about the court of public opinion when they thought they would be perceived as the bad guys for locking players out. So what doesn't anyone believe they'll feel now?

Michael Beasley
Rocky Widner/Getty ImagesThe Wolves must figure out what to do with the talented yet troubled Michael Beasley.

"Here's the bottom line," a league executive told me Thursday. "Not only does Williams help the Nets by remaining in basketball shape and helping to globalize the brand, but he divides the players in a way without even knowing it.

"With the money he made last year, with him in position to collect on the $16.3 million for next season, assuming the lockout ends, if he's going to go and collect more cash in Turkey while mid-level, relatively unknown players remain here waiting for a deal -- because Turkey ain't inviting them overseas -- how is the union going to stand up and tell players they need to stand together? It ain't happening."

It's not happening because those mid-level players are the ones who'll need the money the most. They're the ones who'll complain the loudest. And the one argument the stars normally would have on their side, about sticking together and standing unified like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and others have done in the NFL, fly right out the window with any credibility they once had.

All because of acts of selfishness, as usual, committed by the players. Of their own volition, no less.

Don't blame Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher for this. Just blame the body they represent.

If some would disagree that these selfish acts started in July 2010 with LeBron James, there's no arguing that Williams and Beasley provided further evidence.

To quote Hunter when he's angry and off-camera: Damn!

Stephen A. Smith | email

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Stephen A. Smith is a featured columnist for ESPNNewYork.com, host of a weekday show for ESPN New York 98.7 and a regular on "SportsCenter" and "First Take."

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

ALSO SEE

MORE NBA HEADLINES