NEW ORLEANS – Prior to the latest work stoppage, the NBA had weathered three previous lockouts. Former Seattle SuperSonics and Denver Nuggets guard Dale Ellis was a player during all three: a three-month hiatus in 1995 in which no games were missed; another in 1996 that lasted only a few hours; and the most damaging one in 1998-99 that led to a 50-game shortened season when Ellis was 38 and nearing the end of his career.
But if you ask Ellis, only the last qualified as a true lockout. And that's also why he's not ready to call the current labor impasse a lockout.
"They haven't missed one game," Ellis said. "Miss a game and then it's a lockout.
"They might as well calm down. The kind of money these guys are making now it shouldn't hurt them anyway to miss a few games."
Ellis was in town to participate in Chris Paul's(notes) celebrity golf tournament – an event that New Orleans Hornets' employees were forbidden from attending because of the work stoppage. Paul is a member of the Players Association's executive committee, and even he wasn't overly optimistic about the lockout ending anytime soon. Asked if the NBA could lose next season in its entirety, Paul said, "Anything is possible."
"You just have to be prepared for everything," Paul said. "Everyone knows what negotiations could be like. It could last a long time or you can come in one day and everything would be good to go. Me? I'm approaching it like we are playing the very first day of training camp. I'm training. I'm getting ready, that's the way I can continue to do it.
"It's tough. Obviously, everyone knows that we are very far apart right now. I'm hoping like everyone else that something turns and happens. But if not, we're prepared."
Paul said players should have the financial means to wait out a lengthy lockout because they've been told to prepare for a few years. He also was optimistic that the players would stay united.
"We got to stay together," Paul said. "It's one big group. We are the game. We have to stay unified. I think we will be fine. As players we are just going to communicate as best as possible. We just want a fair deal, and we are going to continue to negotiate as much as possible so that we can give our fans the game."
"They've been warning me since I stepped into the NBA," Beasley said. "I'm prepared. I'm ready. I'm not going to be borrowing money from anybody."
If the lockout lasts long, Paul plans on going back to Wake Forest to take classes toward completing his degree. Beasley wants the T'wolves to work out together in Los Angeles during the lockout. If it lasts too long, he'll consider playing overseas. Ellis remembers barnstorming in Japan 16 years ago with Dominique Wilkins and Clyde Drexler to make some extra money during the lockout.
"They are making so much money right now that it really doesn't matter much to them, to be honest with you," Ellis said of today's players. "When I was playing, the money was totally different, but it was a lot of money then still. You just concentrate on doing what you do and figure this thing is going to work out.
"The NBA is not going anywhere. The NBA is going to be around here forever."
- Dale Ellis