It was only a matter of time.
At some point, you knew a player was going to come out and speak his mind.
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley on Sunday did just that about the stalemate between players and owners in the NBA’s labor dispute. After talks between the two sides broke off last week, Beasley apparently couldn’t understand why. The union had come off their insistence to not accept less than 53 percent of basketball related income. The players union had offered to take 52.5 percent. But the owners rejected that concession and maintained their stance of an even split. The union then said no deal and added there was nothing left to discuss.
Following the US Fleet Basketball Invitational, Beasley shared his feelings of the latest rift.
Fighting over 3 percent, that’s kind of retarded to me. But it is what is. We’ll come to an agreement. The quicker we can get a deal done, the better. Like I’ve been saying before, the main ones suffering are our fans.”
I’m kicking myself for not having my tape recorder in Beasley’s face when he said this. One of my goals Sunday night was to get as many players as possible explaining how they would feel about a 50-50 split. And at the start of the night, I knew there was a good chance that Beasley would be the player who would most freely speak his mind. Turns out, I was right. It’s just I was preoccupied with interviewing James Harden and trying to chase down others to get this quote. But I would have loved to have gotten it so that I might have also gotten Beasley to expound on it.
At any rate, you might disagree with the adjective Beasley used, or even consider it offensive. But you get his point. He thinks it’s ridiculous that the union and owners are haggling over 3 percent and costing the league games in the process. It’s hard to argue with him there. Unfortunately, few will pay attention to Beasley’s feelings because he’s largely been a basket case since entering the league in 2008. Had LeBron James or Kobe Bryant said the same thing, even choosing their words more carefully, it’d be huge news.
What’s most interesting about Beasley’s opinion is that it is one of a rank and file player. As a former No. 2 overall pick, Beasley was projected to be a star. Three years later, however, he’s fallen into the talented-but-too-inconsistent category. The irony is that in many ways, Beasley is one of the faces of what this fight is all about. He’s a middle-of-the-road player. A player whose likes the union is striving hard to protect. And a player whose likes owners are desperately seeking to stop overpaying.
That’s why Beasley’s opinion matters. How many others like him share his view? If a vote of the players was taken today, how many of these same rank and file guys gladly would accept an even split? That’s where things get interesting. The widespread belief is the vast majority of them would deal in a heartbeat. And there are hundreds more middle of the road players than there are megastars. As CNBC’s Darren Rovell pointed out on Twitter, some guys might already be in financial trouble.
But I asked one of those megastars Sunday night what is the issue with 50-50. Here’s what New Orleans guard Chris Paul told me.
It’s more than that. It’s also about the system. People that came before us fought hard for guaranteed contracts, (Larry) Bird rights and a lot of other things. A lot of people think it’s just about the economics, but the economics is something we’re willing to talk about. But at the same time, the system and the economics have to go together.”
That, too, is a piece of logic that’s hard to argue with. An even split might sound fair on the surface. But if the salary cap system that surrounds it is suspect, 50-50 could really be 55-45 in favor of the owners. That’s what the players are guarding against.
And that’s where we currently stand in this lockout.
A good way to move things forward is for the union to go ahead and accept what more and more appears to be an inevitable even split of BRI and start focusing their attention on securing all they can in the system that surrounds it.
If they don’t now, this lockout will continue heading nowhere fast.