Peace, it’s wonderful.
Saturday, 24 hours after the players’ angry meeting with the owners, Commissioner David Stern called it collective bargaining as usual.
It’s definitely bargaining as usual in the NBA, with Stern able to ring thunder from the skies in meeting rooms and then soothe jangled nerves in news conferences like Saturday’s.
Signaling his intent to restore cordiality to the relationship, Stern invited union chief Billy Hunter to make a joint appearance, as they did at last year’s All-Star game.
Showing Friday’s anger wasn’t entirely “theatrical,” as Stern called it, Hunter declined this time.
“As [San Antonio owner] Peter Holt, the chairman of our labor relations committee, a Texan, says, ‘This is not my first rodeo,’ ” Stern said.
“I don’t even know that this may not be my ninth rodeo, or my 10th. So I would give yesterday’s meetings high marks on the list of theatrical negotiations.”
Stern did note that the union’s lawyer, whom he refused to identify, “was brought in to threaten us.”
The NBA Players Assn. counsel, Jeffrey Mishkin, reportedly said the players’ options included decertifying the union and filing an antitrust action.
Nevertheless, Stern was conciliatory toward players, pronouncing himself “offended” at quotes from unnamed owners saying that LeBron James could go play football and Dwyane Wade could become a model.
“If you know me and you know our owners, that’s not what we do,” said Stern. “That’s not us.
“And the players were upset with those quotes, which I find cowardly if they were actually said. And if I ever found out who said them, they would be dealt with. They would be former, former NBA people, not current, and we assured the stars of that . . .
“I took pain to tell the players that they should give such credibility as you would expect to give something that cowardly and anonymous as it was.”
Of Hunter’s assertion that the owners “tore up” their proposal, Stern said, “I don’t know what that means. We are talking semantics, and everyone around here knows that I am not anti-semantic.
“I don’t know what to say. If they don’t like it, you know, that’s what counters [counter-offers] are about. Speak to me, that’s all. Off the table, on the table, under the table.”