LeBron James’ candidacy as a possible Players Association president was always more chatter than it was certain. As Eric Freeman pointed out on Monday, other superstars like Bob Cousy, Oscar Robertson, Patrick Ewing, and Isiah Thomas have helmed the position, but those players were superstars in entirely different eras. Like, “not having to go sell shoes in China”-sorta times.
James has to sell shoes everywhere, while working up myriad other endorsement-driven functions, while also planning a wedding and preparing to defend his Miami Heat’s NBA championship by fall. James’ roles from now until the start of the 2013-14 season are clearly defined, something that cannot be said for the Players Association, an organization that is currently in flux and without an executive director or president. As you’re likely aware, James mused about taking on the president’s role in an interview with ESPN’s Brian Windhorst recently, but later backed off his short-lived candidacy. As it stands, James isn’t even his team’s player representative, with James Jones taking on that task.
Jerry Stackhouse, who helped stage a coup of sorts pitched in order to dismiss outgoing president Derek Fisher, seemed slightly frustrated with LeBron’s comments about the union “going backwards,” and tactfully shot back at the star in an interview with CBS Sports’ Ken Berger:
Stackhouse, one of seven executive committee members elected at All-Star weekend in Houston this past February -- when longtime executive director Billy Hunter was ousted -- said James' comments felt like a "kick in the stomach."
"I don't think he's had any dialogue with anybody since the All-Star break, but it is what it is," Stackhouse said. "To make that statement about where we are as a union right now, he was misinformed."
"I would've liked [James] to come to the meeting next week and hear it and then voice his opinion," Stackhouse said.
One of key criticisms of union governance in a January report on Hunter's tenure by the Paul-Weiss law firm was a lack of involvement among the union membership.
Stackhouse is referring to a Players Association meeting in Las Vegas on Aug. 21, one that James will not be attending due to his various offseason obligations. Berger reports that many players scheduled “informal team workouts” after a memo was sent to all players revealing the date of the incredibly important meeting, a curious move for a constituency that had its tail handed to them in the last round of collective bargaining in 2011, a group currently working without counsel in the form of an executive director, or top player representative.
Jerry Stackhouse would seem like a prime candidate for the latter position, but he is currently working without an NBA contract, and isn’t long for the league even if he does secure a roster spot this autumn. The same goes for Fisher, who was surprisingly handed yet another deal by the Oklahoma City Thunder in July, and Stackhouse dismisses the idea of either James or Chris Paul balancing their duties as both a team-leading superstar, and potential chief player representative.
Despite Stackhouse’s protesting, though, it’s hard to argue against James’ take on the union’s recent troubles – despite LeBron’s Monday morning quarterbacking from afar.
The NBA didn’t manage to create a hard salary cap in the last round of negotiations, but the players lost both income from 16 canceled games in 2011-12, and also signed up for a series of salary cap setbacks that will grow stronger as the years move along, as the punitive luxury tax penalties stiffen. James’ own Miami Heat squad just cut valuable role player Mike Miller in order to save money, a tough blow for a roster that – as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst noted in a radio interview yesterday – is made up entirely of players that took less money to join the Heat. Including Miami’s big three of James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
Stackhouse prefers his own line of depressing dialogue, telling Berger that “something’s not right with that picture” in regards to the shifting fortunes in NBA contract negotiations. How that differs from “the union is going backwards” is only a matter of semantics and not really worth arguing about. What does matter is representation, from the stars on down, and it would be nice for James to at least attempt to back up his supposed interest with a trip to Las Vegas for the round of meetings.
LeBron James has ironed out all manner of chinks in his particular armor in the years since 2010’s Decision. This sort of scuttle, before declining to attend the union meetings? This is a step backward.