Excerpts from a media interview Wednesday with Phoenix Suns small forward Jared Dudley after an Impact Basketball League game in Las Vegas.
Dudley on what he's expecting from an NBPA meeting Thursday in Las Vegas: I'm expecting tomorrow them to come in and basically say we're at square one. We were where we were in July. Same offer, nothing. Just what their demands are and what they're sticking to. I expect us to come in with a game plan. I expect Billy [Hunter] to be open, talking to us about what we're going to do from here on. Because obviously the owners and David Stern have made their standpoint, so we have to make ours. I don't know what we're going to do. If we're going to accept the deal — which I almost 100-percent guarantee we're not — and where we're going to go from there.
Whether the increasing talk of decertification is distracting: I don't know if it hurts or not. At the end of the day it's going to come down to money, and basically how much the players are willing to give up. Because the owners really aren't right now willing to give up some. We already had an offer giveback, I think it was $200-300 million. We're trying to cut their losses as much as they can. For them … we're $800 million apart. So, is the decertification distracting? To me, it's not. To me, it's an option. It's an option that some of us are going to have to discuss. If we do do it, we have to do it the right way. But hopefully we don't have to. Hopefully we can sit down like they were doing last week and, hey, let's get to a common number. The hard cap? As a player myself, no guaranteed deals — that's basically what a hard cap is; no guaranteed contracts. It's not football. It's not injuries and everything. I understand that the common thing is they don't want players that make a lot of money not playing. Look, if you were a business or you were a restaurant, you don't pay someone that you think's not [working]. We're not going to put it all on the owners. We're going to take some of the blame. But, hey, we're willing to work on it. We're just not willing to give up guaranteed contracts and $800 million.
How much was the NBPA willing to concede in basketball-related income during a collective bargaining agreement meeting Tuesday in New York: I think they offered 53, 54 [percent]. We're at 57. They're looking more in the 40s. That's a huge jump — that's over 10 percent. That's where $800 million becomes a big gap. I think we have offered $300 million and they wanted more than that. At the end of the day, some owners wouldn't mind sitting out a whole year. Some owners don't want — you can't tell me [Jerry] Buss and [James] Dolan want to sit out the whole year. They might sound like; hey that's why they get fined overtime they talk. So, at the end of the day we can't worry about them. We have to come up with our own strategy. It's going to be curious to see what Billy Hunter's coming up with.
Players appearing to lack leverage during negotiations: The perception is probably the reality. Everytime we go in, we're trying to give them more and more. Obviously, let's be honest with you: we're all well off here. We make a lot of money. For me to give back a million dollars each year, it's a lot of money. But for us to play basketball and help the game out, I'm willing to do that. But to cut everyone's contract 40 percent, I might as well sit out a whole year. I can sit out two years. That's basically what's going to happen if I gave back 40 percent of my new contract.
NBPA's frustration level: We expected this. My frustration is at a five [out of 10]. Because when I was a rookie we knew there was going to be a lockout; why would anything change? Why would they want to start now? So for me being a player rep, I'm letting everybody know: Hey, this is what they're offering. At the end of the day we're not that dumb, to be honest with you. A lot of us went to college. A lot of us graduated. A lot of us are visual learners. Billy puts it out the platform: This is what they want, and this is what they're not willing to concede.
If owners don't relent on insistence upon hard salary cap, the season won't start on time: It has to come down. No, we won't start the season. I say that for me, my vote. And I say that, just in talking to Derek Fisher, talking to Billy Hunter. I mean, to not have guaranteed deals. We're not saying we'll give it back. I think [the NBPA] even went down, to be honest with you, to 53 [percent]. I talked to Roger Mason -- 53 percent. And you know what, let's say they went down to 52, 51. If that gets the season done, I guarantee you we would have the season if that's what it takes. But it's not just that, it's a lot. And right now, the owners want a lot and they're willing to sit out. Some are losing money, some are making money.
Push by players to decertify, or is the talk being driven by agents: You've got to look at it. Right now, we're looking at different options. The only option we have right now is stand our ground, be willing to wait a season or decertify. And decertify, the knowledge I know — which I'm not a lawyer — is after a year if you decertify, then you go to the law and it waits anyway. So basically, if you're going to sit out a whole year, you might as well decertify. Now, that's my opinion; I don't know. I want to start the season on time. So my goal is, hey, whatever you need us to do, we're united. You told people to save. If people didn't save their money, then they're going to be in trouble. They're going to be calling banks and maybe teammates, because we knew this is coming.
Reports about some players being unhappy with Hunter and ready to make a change: My general impression is Billy's doing the best he can. At the end of the day the people that aren't behind him don't know what's going on. Now, am I all for Billy and everything? All I do is what Billy tells me. We basically voted for these guys to lead us. So at the end of the day, it's like me and the Phoenix Suns. Steve Nash will give me the ball, now I'm going to ride with you until the end. We hired Derek Fisher, we appointed Billy Hunter, so we have no choice. At the end of the day, I'm going to give the ball to Steve. At the end of this negotiation, the ball's in your court Billy Hunter.
Owners seeing a division within NBPA because of agents' reported push for decertification: Agents are trying to change things. Agents are basically trying to switch up the game. Make the owners squeal a little bit. Right now, the owners are saying, Hey, this is our number, we want to sit out. Do we want to call their bluff? Agents try to decertify and switch it up. A lot of them are lawyers, so they know the implications behind it if somehow we won by lawsuit. And anytime you do a lawsuit it's 50-50, you have a 50-percent chance. Is there a division? I don't know. I have an agent in Mark Bartelstein. I know what he would prefer. At the end of the day I entrust him to do my contract. I entrust Billy Hunter to get a deal done. If Billy can't get a deal done and we have to wait a whole year, I'm still entrusting him and say, hey, we have to get something done.
Bartelstein being pro-decertification: Yes, he's pro that, and he's entitled to his opinion. And I'm entitled, hey, if decertification is a decision, I'm with it. I just don't understand why Billy and the agents can't sit down and do the pros and cons. To cut agents out would be foolish. That's what they're paid to do, is to negotiate. … [Arn] Tellem, [Dan] Fegan, I don't know why we can't be on the same side. … I would tell Mark, hey, I'm riding with Billy until otherwise.
Talking with Bartelstein and asking why the groups can't have joint discussions: His discussion is, Billy met with him. I don't think they want the agents with the players. I think their stance, I don't know. … If you're asking me my personal opinion, I would say because they don't want any division. Now our whole thing is united, us being together. And at the end of the day when you're losing money at the core, which everyone would be, you better be united. If not you're going to have — which I heard about today — meetings behind the door and all that. So that's what we don't want.
Clarifying comment that he's riding with Hunter now: When I say further notice, I classify that as Billy is looking, waiting for the antitrust [NLRB?] that they served … that's his whole thing. My personal thing in talking to Billy somewhat and hearing what he says, he wants to wait that out. My whole thing is, when is that coming? Do we know? Is there a time limit for that? And we'll discuss that tomorrow. I'll very openly in discussions, hey, how long are you willing to wait that for, Billy? December? January? His whole thing is the next two weeks. I think we're waiting on that to make a decision on what we're going to do. I think he's opposed to [decertification]? No. I think he wants it to be the right timing. That's the word he used is timing. David Stern in the meetings said we keep using that as a ploy. We haven't used it as a ploy. I've never even heard Billy — Billy's opposed to that right now. It's going be curious. On Thursday, I expect it's a general meeting. Some players are going to speak up. Some players are going to say, hey, what's the game plan, Billy?
Decertification adding to the slow wait: … My thing is, let's say two months from now we're here doing these same interviews, you might as well have decertified anyway. That's my thing. I asked Billy one time, what are the negatives of decertification? … And he was kind of iffy on the answers. And that's something I'll bring up to him [tomorrow] to very openly discuss that. And he needs to discuss that. He's our leader.
Brian T. Smith