On Day 136 of the NBA lockout, some owners talked Sunday about commissioner David Stern and his approach to negotiating a new deal with the players.
"We call him Easy Dave," Donald Sterling, principal owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, told the New York Times. "I don't think Stern would ever take advantage of anybody. I think he wants to leave something on the table for everyone. I have my own ideas and they're not consistent with Stern's.
"I think some owners feel that since we create and make the game and put up the seed money and take all the risk that perhaps we should get a more equitable distribution of the revenue. Stern is going soft on them."
Sterling spoke despite a league-wide gag order during negotiations. Owners are not supposed to talk about collective bargaining or the deal that is on the table and some teams already have been fined for violating that order. The names of the teams and the amount of the fines were not disclosed.
Still, as the number of canceled games closed in on 100 and with the earliest start of a season at least one month away, a few frustrated owners began talking last week.
"We're prepared to gut out the season," said Abe Pollin, chairman of the Washington Wizards and the league's senior owner. "We went into this knowing that if we can't make a fair deal, the season would be gone."
The league ordered the collective bargaining agreement reopened when the players' share of revenues reached 57 percent. The owners want a 50-50 split. The union has proposed 60-40.
Jerry Colangelo, owner of the Phoenix Suns, said, "I love the game, but not at the price of another mistake."
Colangelo said the roles of Stern and deputy commissioner Russ Granik as spokesmen and negotiators for the owners were appropriate.
b>"I've been in this league 32 years and I care about the game," he said. "It's been my passion. I believe David shares the same passion."
Another owner, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he did not share Stern's belief high-profile agents were blocking a deal.
"I do think there is a deference to the stars in this league that you're seeing now," he said. "And if the stars don't like the deal, everyone goes along.
"Some of the owners are hurting but everybody's hurting. And it's my perception that the owners can recuperate over time. I don't understand how players, with limited careers, guys that may not play for more than a few years, are going to make this money up. It's as if 400 of them are sacrificing for the needs of a few."
Some teams spoke with players over the past 10 days to explain details of the most recent offer the NBA made to the union. Those contacts were cut off this weekend.
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