Lakers guard Derek Fisher talks NBA lockout, Kobe Bryant’s health
Even within the comfy confines of his basketball camp Friday, Lakers guard Derek Fisher couldn’t escape the question that follows him everywhere.
Fisher, president of the National Basketball Players Assn., fielded persistent questioning from campers this week about the current NBA lockout and whether it will alter the 2011-12 season.
That will continue Monday when Fisher and the players union restart labor negotiations with the NBA in New York, the first meeting since the work stoppage became official on July 1 and a monthlong period that Fisher described as “weirdly quiet.”
“I don’t know if there’s going to be any major movement” Monday, Fisher said outside of his camp in downtown Los Angeles. “We’ve agreed maybe to table some of the economic issues and really focus on the system issues and non-economic items that are still extremely important to rounding out a collective bargaining agreement.”
Fisher sounded more optimistic about another question concerning Lakers fans: Kobe Bryant’s health.
The two played last weekend in a pair of exhibition games in the Philippines, and conversation quickly centered on Bryant’s surgically repaired right knee. Although Bryant underwent another procedure this off-season involving platelet-rich plasma therapy on his right knee, Fisher said Bryant insisted that he felt healthy.
“I saw it for myself that his knee is the best that it’s been in a long time,” Fisher said of Bryant. “I didn’t believe him when he was telling me he was doing some stuff at his basketball camp. I didn’t believe it. But when I saw him a little bit, I believe him now.”
Bryant plans to meet Saturday with a Turkish basketball team, Besiktas, about the possibility of playing for them during the work stoppage.
The International Basketball Federation, FIBA, announced Friday that it will clear NBA players under contract to play in overseas leagues so long as they return to the NBA once the lockout ends.
Fisher said the union supports this step and said player “movement puts more pressure on the league to reach a new collective bargaining agreement.”
Still, there are many labor issues to resolve.
NBA owners want to cut player salaries from 57% of basketball revenue in the last deal to about 45%, while players offered to take 54.3%. The NBA says the league lost $340 million in the 2009-10 season and that 23 of 30 teams were unprofitable, but the union blames most of the problems on bad ownership decisions. The league also wants to reduce the size and length of players’ guaranteed contracts, while the union opposes that.
The players union is also waiting for the National Labor Relations Board to act on a complaint the players filed in May, alleging that the NBA did not bargain in good faith before the collective bargaining agreement expired June 30.
That’s why Fisher didn’t think it was a good idea for the players union to consider decertifying.
“If as players we feel we can operate under a fair system, then we can maybe work toward a fair number” on a new labor contract, Fisher said. “Our counterparts feel differently where they want to get a number set and not be concerned about the way the system looks if they get the right number. We don’t think that’s the best way to approach it.”
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