Players Union Preparing for Pivotal All-Star Weekend Meetings
"I'm an optimistic type of guy,'' said the Lakers guard and president of the NBA players association. "I believe as long as there's time left in the game, you can figure out a way to win.''
It was Fisher who took an inbound pass with 4 tenths of a second remaining in a 2004 playoff game and beat San Antonio with a jumper. He knows it will be a while before negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement get that down to the wire.
Still, Fisher knows there's plenty of work to do between now and when the current CBA expires June 30, 2011, and a possible lockout could begin.
"We're open to a lot of things but mainly open to realistic dialogue that's focused on real solutions rather than just throwing things out just to see how their response is,'' said Fisher, who spoke to FanHouse on Thursday in Denver as did union vice president Theo Ratiff, Lakers center.
As far as the union is concerned, not falling in the category of such realistic dialogue are comments last month by NBA commissioner David Stern about cutting NBA salaries by a third. Stern says the NBA lost $370 million last season.
"Obviously, we don't feel that way,'' Ratliff said of Stern's proposed cut. "If (NBA owners) come in with that type of hard line, then nothing is going to get accomplished. I think they know that also.''
Ratliff also scoffed at contraction, an issue Stern brought up last month, although Stern admits not a lot of time will be spent on it.
"When you're selling teams for $450 million, a lot of people are looking to get in this league,'' Ratliff said. "So, I mean, the contraction part, it's a stretch. It's a stretch for me. (Stern) said it. So we'll take it for what it's worth.''
Of the eight players on the union board, Fisher and Ratliff are the only two who have been through a lockout. Fisher was in his third season and Ratliff in the fourth when the 1998-99 season was shortened to 50 games due to a labor dispute.
So both veterans know what they're talking about when telling players around the league to prepare for a possible lockout by saving their money.
"It's something you've got to deal with,'' Ratliff said of a possible lockout. "We want to make sure everybody prepares themselves for the worst.''
It will be considered pivotal when the union and NBA owners get together during the Feb. 18-20 All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles. If no significant progress is made by then, the general belief is a lockout would be much more likely.
That's why the union is trying to get as many players as possible to come to Los Angeles that weekend.
"We hope we can get a big majority,'' Ratliff said. "It is a time of urgency. When you talk about that being a critical time whenever everybody can get together at one time during the year, it's definitely a big deal.''
Although it's difficult for players to attend meetings during the season, Fisher said they are continuing. He said there was a get-together Wednesday in New York although it didn't include any players, union executive director Billy Hunter or Stern.
"There have been some smaller group meetings,'' Fisher said. "We're continuing to try to keep lines of communication open and we're not trying to wait until All-Star break before we all talk again .... There were 10 to 12 from each staff (at Wednesday's meeting). ... Just legal counsel and those kind of things. So the lines of communication are still open and we're not going to just rest.''
The key issue is salaries. NBA owners want to cut them and players seek the status quo.
"They actually feel that way,'' Fisher said of the owners' desire to cut salaries by a third. "(Stern) has a position to uphold, to represent the owners. And myself and Billy, we have a position to uphold in terms of representing the players in the best fashion. We don't necessarily believe that the losses are to the level (of $370 million) that we've been told they are.
"At the same time, we fully understand and respect that there are some teams in some markets that are having a very difficult time. And so we're not interested in seeing any teams go away because that means less jobs. But we're also interested in what's best for the game of basketball going forward. ... We're committed to really trying to keep NBA basketball at the level it is right now, which is at an all-time high. It makes no sense to put a stop to it for any reason.''
Even if it goes down to the wire, Mr. 0.4 will be prepared to try to pull off another buzzer-beater.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson