Reporting on the Reporting From Friday’s NBA Lockout Meeting (Updates)

Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams is staking out Friday’s NBA lockout meeting, and he’s e-mailing us updates throughout the day. Can someone send Jonathan Abrams a pizza or something? He’s probably in for a long day.

From: Abrams
Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 6:05 PM
Subject: Adios

It could have been much worse and much better. Worse, in that I was prepared to stay here through the night and watch as my e-mails grew more delirious and frustrated. Better, in that I thought the lockout could be solved today.

Instead of a handshake deal, Hunter said the union had been “snookered” into believing an agreement could be struck today. If I take nothing else away, snookered is now one of my top 5 favorite verbs.

All in all, it was only about eight hours of awkwardly staring at everyone who walked into the hotel and wondering if it was Mark Cuban.

But that is the life of a stakeout reporter: wait, optimism, wait, pessimism, rinse, repeat.

Please tip your reporters, who have delivered you such emotion since the first meeting. They deserve it.

From: Abrams
Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 5:41 PM
Subject: E-mail #whatever

These talks ended in the most predictable way. All of the optimism stemmed from just skirting the bigger issue: the actual split. When they got to it, neither side budged and now more games will be lost. Hunter and Derek Fisher already spoke to media, while a kind Mo Evans held up a tape recorder for a boxed-out reporter.

Stern and Adam Silver are warming up. The swarm of media is now by the elevators, blah, blah, blah. Why are you not getting ready for Game 7 anyways?

From: Abrams
Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 5:03 PM
Subject: E-mail 11

And the two sides are sadly and officially done for the day. Media has swarmed the lobby with cameras in hands, only to be moved twice by hotel security — somewhere to where the paying folk can’t see or feed the herd.

Some are sad that talks broke during the daylight. Kept hearing an entirely different clientele comes to this venue later in the evening.

From: Abrams
Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 4:47 PM
Subject: E-mail 10

The talks appear to be over for the day before 5 p.m., which a) means there is no deal today b) points out the hopelessness of getting too up or down unless there is an actual deal done and c) means that I should have taken the under on when Stern will talk. Reporters are scrambling to cover everything: elevators, exits and hallways. I am still hesitant to give up my prime location. It could be a set up.

From: Abrams
Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 4:22 PM
Subject: E-mail 9

There is a $1 pool that most of the reporters throw in on. The aim is to guess what time NBA Commissioner David Stern speaks to the media. The low wager tonight is 9:17 p.m. The latest one is for 2:24 a.m. I placed mine at 10:17 p.m., guessing that there are too many factors that have to fall in place for a deal to happen tonight.

From: Abrams
Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 4:00 PM
Subject: E-mail 8

I made a pact with Brian Mahoney on arrival here. We share a table and vowed to watch over one another’s computers and more importantly, power outlets. Mahoney, the capable basketball writer for the Associated Press, has been gone for an extended period of time. I will now auction off both for a bag of Doritos.

Meanwhile, we’re about six hours into the meeting.

From: Abrams
Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 3:21 PM
Subject: E-mail 7

The other reporters are moving away from me after becoming aware of these e-mails. The only thing worse than staking out the lockout meetings is being an ostracized reporter staking out the lockout meetings. The ones who do talk to me are still wondering who/what/where Grantland actually is.

From: Abrams
Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 2:44 PM
Subject: E-mail 6

The New York Post’s Marc Berman is the person directly behind Billy Hunter in the photo at the top of this page. I’ll let Berman explain: “I was very confused. I couldn’t hear Billy. It looks like a bad position, but it was actually good. There were a lot of people there that day and my tape recorder got everything.”

From: Abrams
Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 2:13 PM
Subject: E-mail 5

1) Reporters’ preferences for gathering intel usually fall in this order: witnessing an event themselves, talking face-to-face with a person who witnessed the event or talking on the phone to the person who witnessed the event. Because of the scarcity of information that the sides usually deliver after the day’s meetings, the late hour ending of said meetings and the competition to deliver fresh, original, material, there is a new category: source texting. OK, it’s not actually new. But the whole concept of owners and lawyers texting beneath the table during the negotiations is funny to me.

2) Never consume coffee and an energy drink the same morning. Just trust me on that one.

From: Abrams
Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 1:39 PM
Subject: E-mail 4

Some of the league’s pr mavens — Tim Frank and Mo Coyle — gather in the hotel lobby. From the balcony, TrueHoops’ own Henry Abbott breaks off a conversation to ask if anything is happening.

“Chipotle,” Frank responds, exiting the hotel.

Yep, that is lockout stakeout in a nutshell.

From: Abrams
Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 1:10 PM
Subject: E-mail 3

Many of the reporters are settled in for the long haul. The meeting is now past its second hour. The prime choice of real estate is a balcony that overlooks the stairway entrance to the hotel. This provides the three things every lockout reporter needs: the aforementioned crucial power outlet, a chair and a clear view of everyone who walks into the hotel from the main entrance. Yeah, that last thing is a bit creepy if you think twice about it. Please don’t call the police.

From: Abrams
Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 12:43 PM
Subject: E-mail 2

Ken Berger of arrives. Ken is a lockout mainstay and has missed just one meeting since the lockout started. His Twitter feed now toys between being serious, antsy, delusional and always informative. (Sample tweet: So @alanhahn and I just solved the lockout at local deli. He paid $22.43 for drinks, and I paid $22. That’s a 50.5-49.5 split. Done!)

He carries two grocery bags filled with water, nuts, an apple, two bananas and two power strips. With those, he can negotiate a seat from someone without a power outlet. The guy is a veteran.

By the way, waiters with champagne are lining up on opposite ends of the stairway at the hotel entrance. Put those on ice for later, guys.

From: Abrams
Time: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 11:56 AM
Subject: E-mail 1

The word “stakeout” sounds so much more exciting than the actual act. I avoided most of the NBA lockout stakeouts because of this reason. They are immensely boring, with reporters waiting hour upon hour to so far hear that the sides are cautiously optimistic, cautiously pessimistic or not commenting.

I came today to offer a rundown on what the NBA’s stakeout is like from the reporter’s perspective with the sides in striking distance of a new labor deal.

The meetings are held at posh New York hotels and often switched for reasons only known to the parties involved. Any reporter with access to a phone can determine the location. It would probably make more sense for the meetings to take place in either the league or union headquarters. Both are located in New York and the sides could alternate the home site if it were a point of dissension. But that would make too much sense for a league bleeding money and in this position in the first place, right?

The reporters post themselves in the lobbies at the hotels they are allowed in. (Seriously, some hotels don’t let us in, and reporters stand across the street.) When allowed in, it’s like sitting at a Starbucks all day with no coffee actually being served. There have been several reporters providing excellent work since the first stakeout, while maintaining their sanity. Kudos to them.

Today’s talks are taking place at a hotel that often holds magic shows. I imagine most of the meetings break at dinner for the sides to attend the show and ask the magician to pull a split out of a hat.

There is also decorum to the waiting game.

  • Abide by the double-edged sword of arriving absurdly early — like as the meetings begin. All the power outlets will be gone if you don’t and, with nothing else to do in the interim, you will question the purpose of your existence.
  • Mock the general wardrobe and overall professionalism of Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix.
  • Tweet early and often about anything. A quote, a passer-by, the food. Mannix’s clothes. Everything is fair game.

The sides are about an hour into the meeting. Chris Paul is here, presumably to ask the other owners to buy the Hornets. Gotta tweet that. See you later.

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Filed Under: David Stern, Jonathan Abrams, NBA Lockout

Jonathan Abrams is a staff writer for Grantland. His book, Boys Among Men: How the Prep-to-Pro Generation Redefined the NBA and Sparked a Basketball Revolution, is due out in March.

Archive @ JPdabrams