Isiah thomas is a master negotiator. He somehow convinced Eddy Curry to take a six-year, $56 million contract to play "center" for the Knicks. Must have been a very difficult negotiation.
The fact this specific contract has been painfully singled out as one of the reasons the NBA is in such trouble right now might make one think Thomas has some responsibility to fix the NBA. Or it might make you think he should be as far removed from the NBA as possible.
In any case, Thomas offered his two cents on how to clean up the NBA and get back to playing:
"The key word that will always be thrown around from the owners' standpoint is certainty. In the last lockout, the owners wanted certainty in terms of guaranteed profits and certainty in any business very rarely happens," Thomas told The Fan 590 in Toronto (h/t Sports Radio Interviews). "Certainty in terms of guaranteed profits very rarely happens when you're taking this risk. From the players' perspective, there's no such thing as unlimited cash and unlimited play. So at somewhere in the middle, those two ideologies and philosophies have to meet. That's when you can start talking about coming to some kind of conclusion. What I'm hearing now is the system and the ideologies and the philosophies that you divide the money under, those are kind of the deal-breakers right now."
Thomas is still a trusted authority among some NBA players and even owners. James Dolan of the Knicks was rumored to talk with Thomas before pulling the trigger on the Carmleo Anthony deal and several NBA players still talk to Thomas and seek his advice. It is unlikely Thomas will ever get back into the front office, but having been on the front line for both the players and management in the past, maybe his perspective is worth thinking about.
Thomas stressed in his interview that the two sides have to think not only with their pocketbooks in these negotiations. And, for once, Thomas is probably right for not thinking about future financial ramifications.
Unfortunately, it is not a realistic approach to solving the lockout. Because this is all about the future financial ramifications of the deal.
Thomas said he believes the players and the owners have to look back at the history of their bargaining relationship and realize what is best for the game in bargaining. He said that when his generation of players were helping to build the league throughout the 1980s, the relationship between the owners and the players was much more collaborative. That might have been because it had to be considering the NBA Finals were still being shown on tape delay or played live in the afternoon.
Things have changed.
And so too have the owners as just about every owner in the league bought in with the thought of increased revenues and owning a national brand in an NBA team.
So yes, as Thomas says, "in time, we've always put the game ahead of our own personal interests. Right now it seems the game is being held hostage by the personal interests of the owners and the players." But when that realization is not going to come until either party satisfies those personal interests.
This is not a bargaining of rainbows and bubble gum where everyone is walking out holding hands for the "good of the game." Often what is ideal is not practical. And maybe that is where Thomas always seems to go wrong.
Photo via DayLife.com.