After voluble Utah Jazz star Karl Malone called the owners’ offer “fair” and “decent” on Tuesday, the Toronto Raptors’ Kevin Willis joined the revolt and asked for a secret ballot among players on the proposed deal. Willis claims -- and this sounds a little familiar -- that the players’ hard-line leadership is dragging both sides down a path to mutually assured destruction. “The majority would vote for the owners' latest proposal, just to start playing ball again,” he said late Tuesday. Of course, players have more incentive to settle, since unlike owners who are still collecting money from a multi-million dollar television deal, NBA stars aren't exactly generating a positive cash flow. The last source of funding dried up Tuesday with Nike's announcement that it would not pay players any money for shoe contracts until they actually started playing in those shoes. If this isn’t resolved soon, audience turnout in 2000 could be a real problem.
Anybody remember the NBA season? League commissioner David Stern says forget about it. “If nothing happens in the next several days,” Stern said from his vacation in Aspen, “I think I'll be required to schedule a board meeting of our board of governors for right after the first of the year” and make his required request to cancel the 1998 season. Is he serious? Probably. But this is a labor negotiation, after all. And Stern smells blood.