Tag Archives: labor

5 for 5: The Longest Shortest Season

thunder western conference champs

5 for 5: Tragedies, Courtrooms, and Beginnings | 5 for 5: The Rivalries  |  5 for 5: The Run  |  5 for 5: The Thunder’s Godfather

This past season, the Oklahoma City Thunder completed their 5th season in the state of Oklahoma. In a world dominated by round numbers, getting to the midway point is always a cause for celebration. In any relationship, you look back at key moments that made it possible to arrive at certain anniversary marks. In the next few weeks heading into training camp, I’ll be looking at 5 defining moments that made it possible for the Thunder to not only roar into the Plains, but also to do it in winning fashion.

The first part of this series focused on the beginnings of the Thunder organization in Oklahoma  City. For the second part of the series, I want to focus on what was the apex for these first five years of Thunder basketball, the 2012 NBA Finals. For a little comparative perspective, there are 9 NBA teams (in their current city/team format) that have never reached the NBA Finals. The Toronto Raptors, Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings, Memphis Grizzlies, Charlotte Bobcats, Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, and New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans have never tasted the fine champagne of a conference championship. I’m excluding the Brooklyn Nets from the list because they’ve only been in Brooklyn for one season and went to the Finals as the New Jersey Nets twice. The proximity of Brooklyn, NY to Newark, NJ (about 15 miles apart) negates a huge change of fan base because of distance. I’m also excluding the Washington Wizards because they made it to the Finals as the Bullets, but decided to change the team’s name in 1997 due to the negative connotation between actual bullets and WashingtonDC being mentioned in the 90’s as the murder capital of the US.

The road to the Finals that season was like the Grateful Dead’s greatest hits album; that is to say a long, strange trip. To begin with, it was a season that almost never was. Although this lockout never reached the DEFCON 4 levels the ’98-‘99 lockout did, it was still nerve-wracking to watch every labor meeting end with the two sides having separate press conferences to disparage the other side. It was like watching your parents, after a nasty divorce, arguing over your custody.

nba lockout

When you are a fan of a team that is drastically improving and just entering the prime of its championship window, the last thing you want is a work stoppage. Anything that cuts into a year of your team’s development when you are close to becoming a perennial contender is the ultimate of detriments. The chemistry built from the previous seasons basically gets thrown out the window if players are allowed to sit for 15-18 months with no access to team coaches or trainers. Not to mention, the veteran players would be a year older and there would be a ton of questions regarding roster moves.

But alas, on November 26th, 2011, after months of hearing about BRI, luxury tax, hard caps, and mid-level exceptions, cooler heads prevailed and an agreement was reached between the NBA and the players’ union. Instead of playing an entire 82 game schedule, the regular season would be trimmed to 66 games with the first day of the season beginning on Christmas. If seeing your team in the NBA Finals is Christmas in June, then seeing the NBA come back from a lockout was, literally, Christmas on Christmas. Continue reading 5 for 5: The Longest Shortest Season

Seeds of Discord

There are two reasons for sending out a state of the union letter. The first reason is to inform your constituents of your progress and where you stand as a whole. This is the reason the President holds a State of the Union address at least 2 – 3 times a year. It allows the citizens to be a part of the process/progress. The second reason to send out a State of the Union letter to quell any feelings of discord or doubt. The back to back letters sent out by union President Derek Fisher and Executive Director Billy Hunter on consecutive days should be seen as more of a plead for unity than an informational guide to the progress/process of the labor negotiations.

 In surprising fashion, the most important person in these labor negotiations has become FOXSports.com columnist Jason Whitlock. His article about Derek Fisher’s backdoor wheelings and dealings has sent the player’s union into a damage control frenzy. Stephen A. Smith has also said that what Whitlock wrote in his article is basically true. If anything, even if this story is not entirely true, there still is some truth to it. Unfortunately, the seeds of discord have already been spread and the damage has been done.

Within the past 24 hours, the divide between players has become very evident. This morning, Boston Celtics free agent Glen “Big Baby” Davis tweeted , “Take the 51% man and let’s play.” Houston Rockets swingman Terrance Williams tweeted, “Hey @TheNBPA Let’s play BALL enough with the stare off”. Recent reports have said that Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant have both indicated that they would take a 50/50 split. On the other side of things, Oklahoma City Thunder big man Nazr Mohammed tweeted, “Since I have @NBA & @NBA_Labor’s ear…Why can’t y’all come up to 52.5% since we already gave in 100’s of millions & on system issues?” A later tweet by Mohammed stated, “Don’t know what the percentage will be but I’m willing to #StandUnited with my union cuz players b4 me did it when I was a rookie. #OnlyFair”.

Another thing that lends credence to the fact that there may be discord among Fisher and Hunter is what’s at stake for both of them. Hunter’s legacy is on the line as this seems to be his last hurrah as union Executive Director. He may be reelected to lead the union into their next labor negotiations in 6 – 10 years, but with how much the union has given up in these negotiations, that does not seem so certain. Hunter is trying to get the best deal possible (52.5%) to lessen the blow the owners are trying to place on the players. On the other hand, Derek Fisher is still a player, and at the bottom of his core, probably wants to do everything possible to get this thing done and play ball. Fisher is on his last leg as far as his playing career is concerned and the Lakers are still one of the favorites to contend for a championship.

It is pretty fascinating to see the middle to lower tier younger players start to bite their nails at the prospect of missing paychecks, while the older veteran players (who have, more than likely, been saving up for this day) are pressuring all the players to stay united and stay the course. Add to that, the dialoging in the media by the NHL players who suffered through a lost season and a lost season’s worth of pay, while coming out on the other side of the lockout in a much worse position than when the lockout started.

The cracks and fissures are starting to become chasms. The quiet whisper of discord is starting to become a booming roar. Eventually the person with the most money, usually wins the battle. The owners are billionaires whose income is not solely dependant on the ownership of their teams. The players, on the other hand, are completely dependent on the paycheck that comes from playing the game of basketball. The most important meeting of this labor negotiation has yet to occur. Many people think the most important meetings of this labor negotiation happened within the last two weeks. The truth is that the most important meeting of these labor negotiations will come on Thursday, when the players’ union meets to discuss their next plan of attack.