September 26, 2011
If we've learned one thing about the NBA lockout over the past few months, it's that, no matter when a deal is finally reached, the entire process is going to take a while. The players and owners started too far apart and held too fast to their demands for anything to be resolved after only a few meetings. We can only hope that we don't miss a large portion of the season.
Apparently no one told former NBA superagent (and current regular agent) David Falk about these intractable disagreements. Armed with the powers of magick, or some other supernatural force, Falk thinks he could solve the lockout in just one day of meetings. From an interview with Toronto's The Fan 590, as transcribed by the fine folks at Sports Radio Interviews (via PBT):
"There are no bad guys. I think that the owners are trying to change a system that they feel isn't working. Obviously there's a number of teams losing money. … The players are reluctant to give up gains made over a long period of time. So there are no bad guys. This is a difficult challenge, but this is what you hire agents for. In my career, which spans 37 years, I've never once had a player that I represented that I didn't make the deal. The agent for the owners is David Stern … and the agent for the players is Billy Hunter. It's their job, collectively, to get a deal done. … We all lose if there's no deal. [...]
"I volunteered. I've given both sides very, very specific suggestions on how to get over the hurdle. … I think that I could make this deal in one day, with either party. I really do. I know it sounds egotistical saying that, but I know all the owners well. … Obviously I've represented players for 37 years. … I'm disappointed that the young stars of the NBA today, the LeBron James(notes), Kobe Bryant(notes), Dwyane Wade(notes), Dwight Howard(notes), those guys need to be involved full-time, not part-time. … I think that they are allowing other people to determine their future financial fortunes, which is a terrible mistake."
There you have it: Falk is some kind of negotiating wizard whose mere presence can make dogs and cats fall in love with each other. I don't know exactly how he intends to move beyond the current impasse, but apparently "you guys should totally not be so mean and work it out" is the general concept.
It bears mentioning that Falk has played a major rule in collective bargaining negotiations twice before, most notably during the labor fight of 1998 and 1999, when he was widely identified as one of the key mover apart from union and league executives. At that time, at least one of Falk's "young stars," Kobe Bryant, voted against the eventual deal because it barred him from making as much money as possible on the open market. Why exactly does Falk think that everyone came come together now to reach a deal when he has firsthand experience with the stubbornness of people who pursue their own interests without much room for compromise?
I don't have an answer to that question, but it's important to realize that Falk is not an impartial observer here -- he still represents NBA players Greg Monroe(notes), Corey Maggette(notes), and Elton Brand(notes), among others. If he thinks a deal can get done with respect for everyone involved, then he's either being disingenuous or negligent of his responsibilities to his clients. These negotiations will take a long time to be resolved because both sides are serious about their goals. For Falk to suggest a deal would be so easy to reach is either a case of supreme self-promotion or embarrassing ignorance. The lockout fight is not a debate. It's a battle of wills and media spin.