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NBA Union Urges Players ‘Prepare for Worst’ in Lockout Book

NBA Union Urges Players to Prepare for Worst
The National Basketball Players Association's Lockout Handbook. Photographer: Jonathan Fickies/Bloomberg

The National Basketball Association’s players union has a message for its members, and it has put it in writing: “Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.”

That’s the motto on the front cover of the National Basketball Players Association’s Lockout Handbook, which was distributed at team meetings between November and February, according to Dan Wasserman, a union spokesman.

A copy of the 56-page handbook was obtained by Bloomberg News.

The collective bargaining agreement between the union and league is set to expire on June 30, and this is the first time such a handbook was created to prepare NBA players for financial burdens that may arise from a work stoppage, Wasserman said in an interview.

“There’s no magic pill,” Wasserman said. “As long as they’re thinking about what they’re spending, it’s a step in the right direction.”

The National Football League’s players union recently issued a similar handbook to prepare members for a possible lockout. That league’s collective bargaining agreement, which has been extended twice, is set to expire tonight unless it’s extended again or a new accord is reached.

The NBA guide includes tips on how to handle household expenses such as mortgages and rents; suggestions not to purchase new cars, clothing and jewelry, or travel to gambling destinations such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City, New Jersey; and advice on communicating with wives, children, agents and entourages.

‘Protect Yourself’

“Clothing and jewelry often have little or no resale value, so if times get tough, you will not be able to liquidate it quickly,” the handbook says in the section labeled “Clothing and Jewelry.” “Instead of making large purchases in the next year, save the money you were going to spend on clothes and jewelry in a lockout fund to protect yourself and your loved ones.”

Billy Hunter, the union’s executive director, warns in the handbook that “a lockout is VERY likely.”

“The revenue increases and unprecedented growth the league is experiencing has done nothing to assuage ownership’s demand that we drastically reduce player salaries and benefits,” Hunter says in the guide. “Commissioner (David) Stern and the owners have given us but one option and that is to fight for a fair deal.”

Expenses Up

The revenue growth Hunter mentions doesn’t speak to the financial health of the league, said Mike Bass, an NBA spokesman.

“He disregards the increased expenses that have generated those increased revenues, and that 57 percent of those increased revenues go to the union off the top,” Bass said in a telephone interview. “Expenses, led by players’ salaries, have substantially exceeded revenues during every year of the current CBA. Such a system is not sustainable.”

Players Juwan Howard and Shaquille O’Neal, both of whom were in the NBA during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, also are quoted in the handbook.

“Remember the last lockout,” says Howard, now a member of the Miami Heat. “Remember the experience that we all had to go through. From a financial standpoint, please save your money. Invest right, budget yourself the right way, because it is very important -- no matter lockout or not, you are supposed to save up for a rainy day.”

Media Spotlight

The handbook contains a section on interacting with the media, pointing out how one player “garnered a lot of undesirable attention and took the focus away from our agenda” in 1998.

That player was Kenny Anderson, who in October 1998 told the New York Times that he was “thinking of selling one of my cars.”

“I don’t need all of them,” Anderson told the Times, laughing. “You know, just get rid of the Mercedes.”

Also included is a timeline of potential key dates from July 2010 to July 2012. Under Jan. 7, 2012, it says: “Season canceled. Approximate deadline for league and owners canceling 2011-12 season. NBA becomes only second North American professional sports league to have its entire season canceled due to labor struggle.”

Jim McIlvaine, a former NBA center who was secretary-treasurer of the union in 1998, said he wished there had been a similar handbook then. He added that not every player is likely to heed the advice now being offered.

“You’re going to have people that aren’t smart with their money or make poor decisions,” McIlvaine, who was in New York for the Big East men’s basketball tournament as part of Marquette University’s radio broadcast team, said in an interview. “They can wallpaper the inside of guys’ houses with these things and there’s still going to be a guy who’s a knucklehead and not make good decisions.”

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