March 11, 2011
The NBA Players Association brain trust has given its constituents the clearest signal yet that there could be missed games (and, subsequently, paychecks) as a result of the impending NBA labor strife, and possible lockout. They've sent an instructional handbook to each of its players, warning of the days ahead.
As we approach a potential lockout this offseason, it's important to remember that "lockout" doesn't have to refer to actual missed games. You can lock players out while negotiating terms of an expired collective bargaining agreement for however long it takes to structure a new CBA. It could be for a day. The NBA had a lockout in the summer of 1995, but terms (very distinctive and lasting ones, it should be pointed out) were developed, and the league was back in business by September of that year.
Of course, the NBA lockout during the 1998-99 season actually meant missed games. The "lockout" spread into the season. And while neither side will say so publicly, there is growing sentiment that both sides will eschew the common sense approach, and decide to cover their own tails in order to make up for their poor use of the billions of dollars the NBA earns in revenue every year. In the owners' case, it's the terrible and short-sighted decisions regarding player personnel and negotiating deals.
In the players' case? Poor financial planning. In the handbook, as obtained by Bloomberg News, the NBAPA warns players against buying extra clothes and jewelry, as these trinkets hold little resale value. There's more, and it comes in the form of your buddy Glen asking for a loan, as he rides in your superfluous German car on the way to the casino.
The NBA guide includes tips on how to handle household expenses such as mortgages and rents; suggestions not to purchase new cars, clothing and jewelry, or travel to gambling destinations such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City, New Jersey; and advice on communicating with wives, children, agents and entourages.
In it, the 56-page handbook quotes advice from two of the longest-tenured NBA players, Shaquille O'Neal(notes) and Juwan Howard(notes). Shaq and Juwan were actually on somewhat opposite sides of the table in 1998 and 1999 (Howard was part of a David Falk-led clique that Shaq hoped to bust up in order to start play again), but years later they are steadfast in trying to warn their younger colleagues to, seriously, stop before buying that 37th Japanese Fighting Fish.
Bloomberg also rounded up a cynical quote from former NBA center and NBAPA treasurer Jim McIlvaine, one of the few recipients of a so-called "middle class contract" from the lacking CBA that held sway from 1995 to 1998:
"You're going to have people that aren't smart with their money or make poor decisions," McIlvaine, who was in New York for the Big East men's basketball tournament as part of Marquette University's radio broadcast team, said in an interview. "They can wallpaper the inside of guys' houses with these things and there's still going to be a guy who's a knucklehead and not make good decisions."
They're on both sides of that table, Jim. This summer is going to be miserable. Here's hoping this fall won't be.