By Matt Moore
The whole point of the actual lockout is to pressure the players into submitting to the owners' demands, or at least to gain as much leverage as possible for the owners in the dispute. And as much as the players will talk about just wanting to play, the money is what matters here.
A phrase that's been used a lot in discussions is "the lockout doesn't start until the players miss a paycheck." The idea is that once the players start missing regular paychecks, no matter how much they say they've prepared for a long lockout, they'll start to get anxious, apply pressure to their union, and the result will be a deal even more amicable to the owners than what is expected (which is a pretty pro-owner deal to begin with).
But in an interview with the L.A. Times last week in Las Vegas, union head Billy Hunter mentioned something that could have a big impact on the players' ability to hold out through the financial siege. From the Times:
What role will NBA superstars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James play as this moves forward?"
"They've been deeply involved in the meetings we've had. I know Kobe is intimately involved in interfacing with colleagues and sharing in a pool of revenue to help the others get through this. Kobe has volunteered to do that in the event others need, he and others are prepared to loan money if necessary."
via Monday Q&A: NBA players union executive director Billy Hunter - latimes.com.
There's been talk of a potential pool for a whle, but this is concrete talk from a union head on the matter. It's a sign of how deeply, at least on the surface, the players are in surviving this lockout to get at least some of what they want from the negotiations. Think of it this way. If you were involved in a labor dispute at your job, would you offer to give money so that workers who aren't as good at their job as you are can continue to live comfortably?
At the same time, Bryant has more than enough career earnings to survive the lockout, as most of the stars do. It's also a two-way street. In helping the lower-paid players, the stars decrease the chances that those players will circumvent what the star players want in order to get a deal. The role players watch the stars' backs in negotiations, the stars help out with the roleplayers' finances. It sounds pretty noble until you start to factor just how much moeny we're talking about in terms of "living comfortably."
The players have also started receiving their escrow checks from multiple sources, and that's just icing on the cake. But this is still September. The union will have to show this resolve into November and potentially beyond in order to force the owners off the hard line, if the owners don't get their house in order and put the moderates back in charge of talks first.