clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

JaVale McGee, Derek Fisher And The NBPA's Terrible PR

I was away this weekend, so I spent last night catching up on some of the stuff I missed.  One such thing was this whole thing with JaVale McGee and Derek Fisher. To review: McGee attended an NBA Players Association meeting in Beverly Hills (might have been a good idea to pick a different location, guys) and said the following:

"There's definitely some guys in there saying that they're ready to fold, but the majority are willing to stand strong."

As far as questionable quotes go, this is incredibly tame.  Of course some players are ready to fold, because they want to play basketball.  For McGee to come out and say it really isn't that big of a deal.  It'd be nice if he didn't, but in the grand scheme of things, it's incredibly minor.

But instead of spin the quote into a positive, NBPA president Derek Fisher chose to embarrass one of his own.  Here's the video:

"The person who spent the least amount of room can't make that statement. He's in no position to make that statement on behalf of the group."

And just like that, this thing became a much bigger story than it should have been.  It also speaks to the players' horrible PR savvy.

Hoopdata hit on this point yesterday, so we should start by noting the insightful things it tweeted.

As usual, NBA is running circles around the union in the area of PR and framing the issues ... NBPA should just repeat message: We agree to 7% pay cut, player costs didn't rise under old CBA, non-player costs did, we're not the problem ... Focus your message, get everyone on the same page with same talking points, stop feeding into irrelevant distractions. Message discipline.

This whole thing with McGee?  It practically defines the phrase "irrelevant distraction."  What exactly is gained by calling out one of the 30 players who actually bothered to show up a pivotal meeting in the first place? Think about that for a second.  Sure, McGee left early.  Sure, his statement probably wasn't worth making.  Sure, his Twitter backtracking was clumsy at best.  But by being there in the first place, he was doing something less than 10 percent of Fisher's constituents even bothered to do.  Do you think McGee is going to feel comfortable going back to an NBPA meeting after being called out like that?  I sure wouldn't if I were him.

Meanwhile, there are so many holes that the players could be poking in the owner's case that are not being poked because the NBPA president chose to call out a fellow player.  Like this one by David Aldridge on the fallacy of the "competitive balance" problem.

Of course, it was the Gasol trade that allowed the Grizzlies to rebuild in three short seasons, to the point where they made the playoffs this season, beat San Antonio in the first round and almost beat Oklahoma City in the second. And OKC has managed to put a pretty good team around Kevin Durant without breaking any banks; to the contrary, the Thunder have structured contracts with Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins that go down in the years to come, not up, freeing up funds that can be used to extend Durant and Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka.

How did Sam Presti do this? Ouija board? Short-selling on the stock market?

He did it the same way R.C. Buford did it in San Antonio, and the way Joe Dumars did it in Detroit when he built a champion in 2004 out of parts other teams didn't care for, and the way Donnie Walsh did it in Indiana for, oh, 20 years, and the way Kevin O'Connor does it in Utah this morning. Draft the right guys. Sign the right guys. Trade for the right guys. And pay the right guys the right amount of money.

Or this one by ESPN's Brian Windhorst on how NBA owners can still benefit financially by using their sports team to help out their other businesses.  He uses Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert as the primary example, but shows he's not the only one.

The Cavs aren't the only team to use such leverage. Just last month the Orlando Magic won approval to purchase land around their new downtown arena to develop a retail complex that promises to earn millions in upcoming years. The Orlando Sentinel called it a "sweetheart" real estate deal that upset competitors. The Magic might as well call it a thread.

It's not all just public projects. Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander's venture capital company got the chance at some Chinese IPOs after he drafted Yao Ming. Mark Cuban was a billionaire before he owned the Dallas Mavericks but that purchase made him a famous billionaire and opened the door to numerous other projects including a television career and a movie production company. There are numerous other examples and none of that scratches the surface on the taxpayer dollars that have built the arenas that teams play in.

All a great use of threads, Gilbert would say.

These stories, combined with the still-unanswered question of rising non-player costs, are stories the NBPA needs to be hammering away on when trying to make their case.  Instead, they're wasting time with stupid #LetUsPlay Twitter campaigns and in-fighting.  Somewhere, David Stern is smiling, knowing his media blitz on Friday served its purpose of fracturing the union.

The union has a tougher PR task on its hands than the league because there are more voices to get in line, but that doesn't give them an excuse for not staying on message.  The McGee/Fisher spat was stupid and could easily have been avoided.  There are much, much, much, much bigger fish the NBPA should be prying.