Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller & NBA Agent Mark Bartelstein Dish On The Lockout

Earlier this week, NBA legends Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller and powerful player agent, Mark Bartelstein, jumped onto NBA TV’s Game Time to talk about the depressing state of affairs in the NBA. Barkley has voiced his opinion constantly for the last six months or so, and he’s always believed we were going to miss the entire season. Both Barkley and Miller don’t see this lockout playing out like the last one (1998-99) at all, and Miller especially voices his criticism of today’s stars not stepping up the way MJ did. That’s not a good look. We could be in for a long wait. Check out some of the highlights from the conversation after the jump.

Barkley: “I do not see it playing out like it did in 1998. You can’t compare the two. We have been in a recession for three years and I think we as players have to be realistic. These owners are hurting and the only thing that hasn’t gone down in the last three years is players’ salaries and those are going to continue to escalate. We can’t have all our stars playing in major markets. It’s not fair to the game and not fair to the system. We have always had great players in smaller markets. And to be honest, it’s always been about money. You can have a bad team in a small market but if you at least have one star, that team can make some money as they have something to sell to the public. But, if we don’t have stars in these smaller markets, they are not going to survive. The owners have drawn a line in the sand. Unless they get 50/50, a hard salary cap or a better luxury tax, they are not going to play. Period.”

Miller: “If you listen to Billy Hunter‘s words when he said, “because of the economy, I don’t think the league or the owners want to loose the season”, well they (the owners) absolutely do want to lose the season. In 1998-99, we weren’t in the middle of an economic downturn. We were coming off some of the biggest ratings ever with Michael Jordan retiring with the second of his three-peats. The fan base was there and the TV ratings were there in ’98-’99. We are now just getting back our casual fans that Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan helped bring to the game. We are now just getting them back and that is because of the whole “I’m taking my talents to South Beach” (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) that just started to bring back the casual fan to basketball.”

Miller: “In ’98-’99, we were having a meeting in New York and all the players were supposed to be there. Michael Jordan supposedly had just retired. When we all got there, there was Michael Jordan getting ready to face off with some of the owners and the commissioner and he almost got into a shouting argument with the late, great Abe Pollin. Michael Jordan was going at Commissioner Stern and Pollin talking about if you keep writing these bad checks to these bad players maybe you need to give up ownership of your team. Michael Jordan was, and still is, the greatest basketball player ever and he was stepping up for the players. I have wished all along that Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and others would step up. Yeah, they came on two weeks ago, but from day one, if they would have been standing up saying, “No, we are not going to tolerate this,” there would have been more strength in numbers and they should have been supporting Fisher all along for the 3-4 months as opposed to coming in as a home run hitter two weeks later.

Barkley: “Why are all these stars that carry the league, why are they showing up in New York the week training camp is supposed to start trying to show power then? They should have been doing this a month ago. Let’s be realistic. I know some things about the NBA. The NBA has been prepared to not play this season for two years. They (the owners) went through the LeBron thing (hype over where LeBron was going to go play) for the whole season, then the same thing with Chris Bosh and then Dwight Howard on going to L.A. Then it stated last year with talk of where Chris Paul would play and you could hear the NBA saying, “We’ve got to stop this.” It’s not fair to the fans in New Orleans next year and it won’t be fair to fans in Orlando. The owners finally said, “Hey listen, if all these guys want to play in major cities, what can we do to stop it?” And, they are going to stop it one way or the other. I can promise that.”

Bartelstein: “It’s a complex issue. The goal going into this and Billy’s (Hunter) hope going into this thing, was that the league would negotiate in good faith and try to make a deal. The player’s association has made some gigantic leaps here. They have come a long, long way since the last deal to try and make a new deal, and they have not been met with that same effort by the league. And for David (Stern), with all due respect, to say the league has made some concessions is characterizing it in an unfair way when the players are the ones that made the concessions and tried to make a deal. They really haven’t been met anywhere near half way.”

Miller signed off by criticizing the players, saying most believe they are better than they really are and are leaning on the laurels of the players who came before them – specifically pointing out Rashard Lewis, Joe Johnson and Travis Outlaw and their contracts. Both are very skeptical of having a season at all.

If you want to check out the full interview, go here.

Do you agree with them?

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