Do either of the following things surprise you?
1) After a brief respite from the doom-and-gloom surrounding the CBA negotiations last week, the prevailing mood has again darkened, with apocalyptic talk of missing half the season or more.
2) Jermaine O’Neal told CSNNE’s A. Sherrod Blakely that he intends to retire after the 2011-12 season.
Let’s look at each in turn.
There’s again some alarming labor talk being soundbyted all over the media, even if it’s less inflammatory than it was back in June. But both the players and owners open themselves to financial risk if they start cancelling games in a poor economy, in the wake of NFL labor peace, after a 2010-11 season that drew more global interest than any season in memory. I continue to think this context is ultimately going to lead to a quicker resolution.
Hunter said there had been “little or no progress” made, and said he was “a bit pessimistic and discouraged” about the ability to start the season on time. A short time later, speaking in another room, Commissioner David Stern conceded: “We did not have a great day. I think it’s fair to say that.”
“We have a sense that, within a certain tolerances, there’s a potential economic deal that may be within view,” Stern said.
No additional meetings are scheduled, although there will probably be some informal dialogue this weekend, after separate meetings of the owners (in Dallas) and the players (in Las Vegas) on Thursday.
Yet the gloomy commentary on Tuesday obscured the fact that the parties are inching toward each other on the financial component of a new labor deal. Each side put a new proposal on the board last week, when the top negotiators met in a smaller group, according to a league official. A significant gap remains in dollars, but it is gradually shrinking, the official said.
Stern referred multiple times Tuesday to the prospect of an agreement on the financial parameters.
With the players now apparently willing to make concessions on BRI, the issue of a hard salary cap remains a key sticking point going forward. But if you can stick your head in the sand for the next few weeks of volatile back-and-forthing between the players and owners, and resign yourself to missing some exhibition games, there does appear to be a gap between parties small enough it can be bridged in time to get the season started on time.
(This, of course, is just my opinion and when we’re providing you with updates on the labor impasse in February, feel free to throw this back in my face. Or maybe Brendan’s face. His mighty beard will protect him.)
And to O”Neal’s proclamation… let’s get it straight from the pivot’s mouth, as quoted by Blakely:
“I’m going into my 16th year, so I know my time is near,” O’Neal said. “I know someday the ball is going to go flat; you have to plan for life after basketball and that’s what I have been doing.”
He won’t completely shut the door on playing beyond this upcoming season.
“You never say never, but like I said earlier, my kids are getting older,” he said. “The only thing left that I want to do in this league is win a championship. That’s why I came to Boston last year, because I felt this was the best place for me to do that: Win a championship.”
Few C’s fans would have expected J.O. to be around past the end of the coming season, but this provides some additional clarity nonetheless. And with confirmation this is his final kick at the Larry O’Brien trophy, this would be a good time for J.O. to arrive in training camp in better shape than he did last year. After all, it might be a short one.
It’ll be nice when we can really start worrying about this kind of thing, won’t it?