As league's newest players bask in the afterglow of Thursday night's draft selections, it's important to recognize that we have no clear idea when they'll first step on an NBA court. With a lockout looming and no Summer League, they might not even get to start working with coaches and staff until the fall. The NBA's top story from now until its resolution is the labor battle between the players' union and the owners.
As such, players are showing a measure of unity across team lines. In fact, 50 players in attendance at Friday morning labor talks showed their solidarity with a basic decision to wear the same clothing. From Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com:
About 50 NBA players arrived at collective bargaining talks Friday morning wearing matching T-shirts with the word "STAND" written in large block letters, perhaps sending a signal that the union is taking a harder stance after its $500 million giveback was dismissed by commissioner David Stern as "modest." [...]
Only the players' bargaining committee was expected at Friday's negotiations across the street from league headquarters, but dozens of men in matching dark gray shirts, many of them very tall, exited single-file from a bus and strode past wide-eyed tourists as they entered the meeting site.
"I was informed late last night that they had met among themselves and decided that they were all going to show up at the session," union director Billy Hunter said. "The message is just solidarity. We have to stand together, be unified and address whatever the circumstance is -- and address it together."
Increased attendance and T-shirts are ultimately cosmetic decisions unlikely to have direct substantive effect on labor talks, but that doesn't mean they should be dismissed. David Stern and the NBA owners have put some ridiculous proposals on the table that should prove to the union that it's in for a long fight to work out a reasonable proposal. It'll be a tough process, and in order to be successful it'll need to prove to the league that it won't buckle and accept an inferior offer. The shirts don't prove that by themselves, but they don't hurt, either.
Plus, maybe moves like this will help sway public opinion to its side. NBA players sometimes get a bad rap for being selfish, but in this case they are doing something for the greater good (although a very specific kind of greater good that affects their particular interest group). It's nice to see NBA athletes standing up for greater principles and not just the league's profits.