SALT LAKE CITY — Maybe it's the chaos of the debt ceiling debate, but I do not hold out a lot of hope for today's meeting between NBA's powers-that-be.
I am not even cautiously optimistic that we will have an NBA season this year. But I do think the players could ensure their survival and make the world a better place if they stop trying to figure out how to make millions and invest some time and attention to the neighborhoods that made them superstars.
It seems cynical, but I do not believe the NBA owners and players will come to an agreement this season.
All we've heard in the month since the NBA owners locked out players on July 1 is how far apart the two sides are.
On June 30, the players offered a six-year deal in which their take of the basketball-related income was reduced from 57 to 54.6 percent. That's estimated to be about $100 million per year (over six years).
Owners, on the other hand, want a 10-year deal, a hard salary cap and a reduction in what players take from basketball-related income from 57 percent to 40 percent. Players dispute the owners' assertion that 22 of the league's 30 teams lost money last season, and contend that the 57 to 40 percent reduction really means reducing player salaries by $2 billion in each of the 10 seasons of the agreement. I am no math wiz, but $100 million per year is light-years away from $2 billion.
Oh, and then there is the owners saying they will not sign a deal without a hard cap, and the players insistence that any cap be soft.
But there are other reasons to have a heavy heart if you're hoping for any kind of an NBA season. As rumors fly about players investigating opportunities to play everywhere from China to Turkey, the news that Keyon Dooling is negotiating a deal with Turkish team Efes Pilsen was most telling to me. Not only is he the vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, his agent said he was interested in signing a deal with Efes Pilsen to play the entire season — even if the NBA resumes play this season.
Makes me wonder what he knows.
Even if Dooling knows nothing — or just hates Milwaukee — it sounds like he's giving up on the season.
So with the reality sinking in that this basketball season is going to be lost to posturing and finger-pointing, I am hoping for a different kind of season.
I am hoping that instead of searching for overseas opportunities, NBA players will look to invest real time, real sweat and real emotion in the communities where they live and play.
Instead of taking off to a foreign country to make an extra couple million dollars, stay home and invest some of the millions you have already earned on the communities who made that life of luxury possible.
Need ideas? I have a list:
1. Run free clinics for organizations, schools and neighborhoods that can't afford them otherwise. No one will forget about you in a year if you take time to inspire their children.
2. Instead of a token few hours or days, spend some real time working with the homeless, jobless and hungry. The Utah Food Bank just announced it is running low on food. Imagine what someone like Andrei Kirilenko could do for his image (and the image of the Jazz and the NBA) if he'd spend just a little of the $17.8 million he made last year restocking those shelves.
3. Lend their influence and support to animal shelters and animal rescue organizations. What if young people like Gordon Hayward or Derrick Favors didn't just talk about donating to a cause, but actually showed up at a No More Homless Pets or Humane Society fundraiser and exchanged autographs for donations.
4. Host some meet-and-greets that raise money for causes that are near and dear to their hearts. YWCA, the National Ability Center, Shriner's Hospital or the Christmas Box House are just a few suggestions.
5. Help other athletes who compete in lesser-known and less financially blessed sports to accomplish their dreams. See www.rosspowersfoundation.org.
6. Put some elbow grease into making the world a better place. Imagine being an elderly veteran who was disabled while fighting for this country and is now a shut-in, dependent on the kindness of others for food and living essentials. One day, you're waiting for the happy volunteer who not only delivers your meals but also provides you with a few minutes of uplifting conversation, and Paul Millsap knocks on your door. In the four months that NFL players were locked out, there were at least two dozen players arrested, most often for alcohol-related offenses.
NBA players, please show the fans something different.
Instead of a lost season, the public would come to see 2011-2012 as the year the NBA players gave the fans something more lasting than great entertainment.
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