- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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"No matter how dominant the dad is, the mom is usually going to be the major factor in a kid's decision. In this situation, I told the mom I'd like to come out and visit her at work. She says, 'Fine, I work at the Los Angeles County Coroner's office.' She met me at the door and took me on a tour of the whole place. I even watched an autopsy being performed—for about five minutes. I won the mom, but I lost the kid to USC"
JOKE TIME IN THE NBA
Think those guys in the NBA can't play defense? Get this: The NBA Players Association has set an April 2 strike deadline (after having rejected one for a day earlier out of the fear that a threat to walk out on April Fools' Day might sound like a joke), and it claims to have done so as a. defensive measure. The union allows that its members are happy with the status quo—as well they might be considering that the average NBA salary is $246,000—but says the players want to bring the league's currently stalled labor negotiations to a head on a timetable of their choosing, i.e., just before the playoffs. The players say they're afraid that the owners, who aren't happy with the existing situation, will otherwise lock them out or unilaterally impose fundamental changes in the league's operations at the start of next season.
So much for the whys and wherefores of the union's strike threat. Now for a word about the biggest change the NBA brass has in mind. According to the owners, the NBA's huge payrolls have created a sea of red ink in which several money-losing teams will drown unless the players association throws the league a life preserver in the form of a "cap" on payrolls based on a fixed percentage, still to be negotiated, of the league's revenues. This proposal, which management wants to implement as soon as possible, would likely result in a dramatic reduction in some teams' payrolls. Apprehensive about the jobs that would be lost if franchises folded, Larry Fleisher, general counsel for the NBA Players Association, has indicated a willingness to accept a cap on salaries but only after the 1986-87 season, at which time the current free-agent arrangement expires.
If the NBA doesn't win an immediate ceiling on salaries and if franchises and jobs are lost, both sides in the dispute will have to swallow hard. But neither of those eventualities would necessarily be a bad thing. With reference to the owners' demands for a salary cap, it's hard to sympathize with pro sports entrepreneurs who love to talk about the joys of competition in business and sports yet keep pleading for competition-stifling bailouts from their unions and/or Congress. As for the possible loss of franchises, some of the weaker ones—those most often mentioned are Cleveland, Utah, San Diego and Indiana—may fold even if the owners get a cap. At any rate, the death of troubled teams could well produce a stronger and financially healthier NBA.
One thing that wouldn't do anybody much good is a strike. The old contract between the players and the league expired nine months ago, but both sides agreed to abide by it while negotiations continued. How long that may be is now in doubt; last week the parties met for the first time in nearly three weeks but broke off talks after 24 minutes. This was unwelcome news to Denver Nugget Coach Doug Moe, who says, "Football and baseball were strong enough to recover from their strike, but I don't know if we could survive one." That fear is sufficiently realistic to make the NBA players' threat to hit the bricks sound like a cruel joke, April Fools' Day or not.
THOUGHT FOR OUR TIMES
ON SIGNING UNDERCLASSMEN (CONT.)
In their avowed determination to keep other college football players from following Herschel Walker's lead in turning pro before completing his collegiate eligibility (SCORECARD, March 7), professional and college sports administrators and coaches gained a new ally last week. Their comrade-in-arms is Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who introduced a bill to grant an antitrust exemption allowing pro leagues to adopt rules against the signing of underclassmen; the NFL and USFL already have such rules, which they follow when convenient, and the NBA had one until it was struck down by an antitrust suit brought by Spencer Haywood in 1971. Specter insists that the purpose of his legislation is to encourage student-athletes to finish college, but it would really only force them to complete their eligibility, which is another thing altogether; even with the NFL's existing rule, fewer than one-third of the league's players have college degrees.
Specter calls his bill the Collegiate Student-Athlete Protection Act of 1983, but far from protecting athletes, it would deprive them of their freedom of choice in entering the pro sports job market. The only people the measure would protect are the college coaches and athletic directors who, by means of long practice hours, the imposition of academically worthless jock courses and the arbitrary withdrawal of scholarships, put the biggest stumbling blocks in the way of student-athletes' getting degrees.