Charlotte Bobcats forward Corey Maggette says the NBA lockout is hurting… (Kevin P. Casey / Associated…)
Less than 24 hours after the NBA announced it was canceling the first two weeks of the season because no collective bargaining agreement had been reached, several locked-out NBA players were playing pickup games at Loyola Marymount on Tuesday, looking to stay in shape while assessing the situation.
Al Harrington of the Denver Nuggets, Corey Maggette of the Charlotte Bobcats and Earl Watson of the Utah Jazz said their support for their union remains steadfast. The players also spoke of how the lockout, now in its fourth month, is hurting other people dependent upon the NBA for their livelihood.
"It's bigger than us," Harrington said. "We affect a lot of people's lives. We affect the economy.
"We've been working on this for three years now. The negotiations didn't just start July 1. It started three years ago and it doesn't make any sense that we haven't found a common ground by now."
Harrington was a rookie with the Indiana Pacers during the 1998-99 season when the games didn't start until February because of a labor dispute.
In his view, the owners are "kind of playing us" in the belief that if players "miss a couple of paychecks" the union will be willing to accept any deal.
"If the league was losing so much money and you have all these billionaire owners who are great successful businessmen who are great at what they do, why did four teams sell for $400-plus million this year in a bad system?" Harrington asked. "So you've got those people spending that kind of money and they are going to buy into a league that's not doing well? It doesn't make any sense."
Actually, the most recent NBA teams to change hands were the Golden State Warriors, who were sold last season for an NBA-record $450 million; the Detroit Pistons, sold in April for $325 million, and the Atlanta Hawks, sold in September for $300 million.
Maggette said he wondered why the previous labor agreement that expired June 30 wasn't "extended maybe for another year" so they could be playing now.
He called the National Basketball Assn. the "National Business Association."
Like Harrington, Maggette said the lockout's impact extended beyond the players.
"The people that are doing concessions, they are not getting paid at all," Maggette said. "Forget about us, I'm thinking about them as well, because those are the people that are middle class or lower class trying to make it and they are not. And they are looking at us as the billionaires and the millionaires arguing about money. It don't look right."
Watson, a former UCLA guard, expressed concern for the "loyal workers" with the Jazz in Salt Lake City.
"Some of them are elderly and this is all that they have is NBA basketball," Watson said. "Our [financial] hit is major, but their hit [from the lockout] could almost be 80 to 100% [of their pay]. So we've got to think about things like that."
One player at Loyola Marymount said he hasn't been thinking much about the negotiations.
Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest) said he hasn't "really focused" on the labor strife.
In fact, World Peace showed up about 45 minutes after the players were done with their pickup game.
"I really haven't been depending on playing. I'm about to fight [mixed martial arts fighter Quinton] 'Rampage' [Jackson] in a charity event," he said. "I've been able to get ready for my boxing career early. And I'm working on a movie too. But if they play, I'll play."