At times, the fear of a lockout has also come up. Michele Roberts: Nobody wants that. When the players ask me now: Michele, do you think the owners are going to try to lock us out? I use the analysis: the revenue hit is not to be ignored. But do I think we’re not going to rebound and make money again and again soon … I do think we will. You don’t kill the golden goose. I would bet there is not a chance of a lockout. If it happens, it will be absolutely because they are unreasonable and folks without any foresight are driving the train. I happen to think that Adam is neither of those.
In light of recent standoffs between teams and superstars like Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Anthony Davis, some commentators, including TNT’s Charles Barkley, have predicted that the NBA is headed for a lockout. Aggrieved owners, critics reason, will not stand for players repeatedly forcing their way to greener pastures by issuing public trade demands and sitting out long stretches of games. “When you only have one winner every year, there’s always something [for an owner] to be unhappy about,” Silver said, noting that holdouts were more common when he first started working for the NBA in the 1990s than they are today. “We don’t want to see that sort of conflict, but this is nothing new. A star player seeking a change is always going to have leverage. Bill Russell had the leverage to make himself the coach of the Boston Celtics. Wilt Chamberlain made himself the coach of the 76ers and then demanded a trade. There are a lot of stories, including former players on television, who weren’t shy about exerting leverage when they were players.”
Falk: From the very beginning Billy Hunter was very, very opaque. He did not provide much information. He didn’t communicate much. I told my clients, “Listen, this is your livelihood and if I can’t access Billy, then you have to get involved and know what’s going on and sit down and plan out strategies on how to protect your interests.” They’re intelligent people. Patrick is a very intelligent man. Juwan Howard is a very intelligent man. Alonzo is a very intelligent man. Dikembe Mutombo is a very intelligent man. People accused me of trying to hijack the union—you couldn’t pay me a billion dollars a year to run the union. I have zero interest in doing that. But I think if I’m going to do my job for my clients, it’s important that I understand the dynamics of what’s going on. And so that’s why I had to get involved.
McIlvaine: We had meetings where we felt a certain kind of owner wasn’t being represented; they brought in a lot of hawks and none of the doves. We got them to bring in Dr. Jerry Buss, who was viewed by a lot of guys as a dove. He looked miserable the entire time at the meeting. He looked like he didn’t want to be there.
Glass: I’d like to think racism wasn’t involved. Although in the last three years, who knows, my opinion of the country has changed. I mean that. It’s been very disturbing to see the underbelly of what’s been unleashed here. In retrospect, who knows. I just think that the color the public resents is green more than black or white. I’ve always felt that way though I may be wrong. Do people resent the fact that black people are making a lot of money? I think that’s true. At that time, I was naive to that. Looking at the Kaepernick situation, I think that’s a big part of that.
Elie: A lot of the stars wanted to get back and play. I remember John Stockton in Vegas trying to speak out, and a lot of the guys just shot him down. It got a little ugly at times. Hunter: It was Stockton, Jeff Hornacek, and Adam Keefe. They got up and said we were making enough money and we should be happy with the 53 percent and take the 53 percent and this, that, and the other. McIlvaine: I remember that not being a popular sentiment. It seemed popular amongst guys with one particular owner.