Timberwolves forward Anthony Tolliver is heading to New York City on a red-eye flight late tonight – Monday night -- for Tuesday’s meeting of team player reps sounding as torn about how to proceed as he says his teammates and league peers seem to be.
Their most obvious options as Wednesday’s league-issued, take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum approaches: Decide to put an offer that has universally angered players to a vote or proceed toward decertifying the union, a complicated move that if followed through would send the matter to the courts and almost certainly scuttle this season.
“Pretty much everything is split,” he said on his way to the airport after playing in a charity game in Salt Lake City on Monday night. “Half of the people want to decertify. Half the people want to vote on it.”
His unofficial polling includes some teammates and other players in the league. He said he hopes to speak to more of his teammates before the 30 team player reps meeting starting at noon Minneapolis time Tuesday afternoon.
Just like them, Tolliver also said he’s not sure yet what to think.
“Probably my best bet is to sit down and figure out what’s really important,” he said. “I don’t want to make any outlandish comments about it right now. I want to see what everybody else has to say before I decide what I want to do. At this point, I’m split down the middle like everybody else. I don’t know what I want to do.”
Tolliver suggested the best option is to try to talk more with owners, who have offered a 50-50 split of basketball revenues and perhaps more importantly a more restrictive system that would prevent the league’s richest, highest-pay teams from far exceeding the salary cap to pay players.
NBA commissioner David Stern says the league will revert its offer to a 53-47 split in favor of the owner’s and a hard “flex” cap if the players don’t accept by Wednesday’s close of business.
“I think if we get a chance to get back to the owners and adjust the deal a little bit one way or the other, possibly we can vote for it,” he said. “They might force our hand the other way. We’ll see.”
ESPN reported Monday night that several small-market owners – including Portland’s Paul Allen, Charlotte’s Michael Jordan and Milwaukee’s Herb Kohl – held a conference call Monday in which they discussed their displeasure with the league’s offer. The report suggested those owners are hoping the players will reject Stern’s current offer.
I asked Tolliver if “angry” accurately describe players’ mood after Stern’s ultimatum offer came after another long, late-night negotiating session ended early Sunday morning.
“Of course,” he said. “As players, we felt like we’ve been taken advantage of. The real reason why guys want to decertify is they felt like the owners really screwed us at the end of the day. I don’t blame them. I feel that, too. At the end of the day, it is what it is. Now we have to decide if this is the best of the worst or if we think we can achieve something better in the courts system.”
And one other thing that might interest you fatalistic Wolves fans:
ESPN's Ric Bucher tweeted Monday night that this might happen to the 2012 draft order if this season is completely lost: Teams would be ranked according to their aggregate record the last three seasons, the teams with the 14 worst record would be in the lottery.
Using that method, the Wolves, of course, easily have the worst combined record of any team in the three seasons -- 56-190 -- and under Bucher's formula would have the best chance of anyone to get the No. 1 overall pick in a draft that's supposed to be as deep as last year's draft was thin.
And, of course, the Wolves don't possess their own draft pick for 2012.
The Clippers own it thanks to that Marko Jaric trade from all those years ago.
Just one more reason to root for a resolution to this mess and a 2011-12 season, no matter how shortened.