In some of the harshest anti-union comments yet by an NBA player, Tim Legler of the Washington Wizards said negotiations are stalled largely because the highest-salaried players are looking out for themselves.
"They're the ones who are going to feel it if we sign this deal," Legler told the Washington Post. "That's why the deal is not being signed. ... What this whole thing boils down to is the superstar players don't want to be maxed out on what they get paid individually. ... We're fighting for stuff only a few guys are going to benefit from."
Legler, whose comments appeared in today's Post, tried to back off some of his comments today by saying they were taken out of context.
"The (story) was way more vehement than I intended it to be," Legler told The Associated Press. "The last thing I'm doing is pointing fingers at anyone in the union and expecting them to capitulate so we can get a deal done."
"What I'm asking for is for some more creative thinking on both sides," Legler said.
The sides plan to meet Friday in New York after more than two weeks without a full negotiating session, and Legler plans to attend.
"It almost sounds to me like, from stuff I've read, there's nothing to talk about, but they haven't talked in so long that it's time to get together anyway. And I don't really like the sound of it," Legler said.
On Wednesday, Day 141 of the lockout found Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy rehabbing a Harlem brownstone, praising the Pacers, rapping about aster P and trying to adhere to the rule that prohibits him from speaking about players by name.
"What if I'm using pronouns?" Van Gundy asked, not grasping the intricacies of the gag order quite as firmly as he grasped Alonzo Mourning's leg last spring.
Speaking at a Knicks community relations project, Van Gundy summed up his feelings on a day when he should have been in Denver for the second game of a nine-day, six-city road trip: "Bored, yeah. Professionally bored."
Van Gundy has been watching videotapes of new acquisition Marcus Camby and reviewing players the Knicks might want to pursue as free agents, while also keeping in touch with other members of the coaching fraternity -- with one notable exception.
Asked if he had spoken to Miami Heat coach Pat Riley, his former mentor with whom he had a falling-out during the first round of the playoffs last season, Van Gundy squirmed and tried to avoid responding before finally answering "No."
To a question of whether a shortened season might benefit the more established teams, Van Gundy said it's a matter of who comes back in shape.
"The thing I read about Indiana is that their team is ready to go. They've got 11 or 12 guys working together each and every day, and I think that team will definitely have a jump on all the other teams because they are more committed."
"For our team, I haven't heard those reports."
Van Gundy had heard, however, about the exploits of rap impresario Master P, who after earning more than $50 million last year has been playing point guard this season for the Fort Wayne Fury of the CBA, totaling three points, no assists, four turnovers and seven fouls in 20 minutes in two games.
Master P, also known as Percy Miller, has made waves in the agent business by signing Ron Mercer of Boston, Derek Anderson of Cleveland and rookie Ricky Davis of Charlotte. Mercer had been represented by David Falk, and Davis was a client of Arn Tellem.
So far, the first seven weeks of the season have been scrapped and the chances are dwindling for a settlement that would allow for the NBA season to start before Christmas.
Wizards guard Mitch Richmond, who is on the players' negotiating team, said Legler's comments about elite players were "uncalled for" and that Legler "is definitely wrong."
"He hasn't been to one meeting," Richmond said. "He hasn't been to the negotiating table. ... The owners' proposal doesn't benefit anyone. We are not going to sell out the lower-paid guys for the higher-paid guys. ... Not to put down Legler, because he's my teammate, but he should talk to the players association about this."
Legler did not attend the players' meetings in Las Vegas (attended by 240 players) or New York (105 players). He also missed last Friday's conference call between the union and Wizards players.
"I think he is a voice in the wilderness," union director Billy Hunter said. "I dn't think (his comments) hurt our unity, but it sends the wrong message to the public and the owners. I think the owners are looking for any crack that might exist, in order to magnify it."
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