Can NBA Lockout Progress Be Attributed To Absence Of Jeffrey Kessler?

Since the start of the NBA lockout, commissioner David Stern and the owners have made no bones about their negative view of union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, who has worked myriad collective bargaining effort for the National Basketball Players Association as well as the NFL's players' association. In its federal lawsuit seeking to block decertification, the NBA mentioned Kessler by name five times. NBPA executive director Billy Hunter was not mentioned once.

Kessler has not been at this week's fruitful lockout talks due to an urgent assignment in Russia. TrueHoop's ace Henry Abbott has talked to league sources who say Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen wasn't brought in to the talks a week ago to make funny faces at the union, but to observe how impossible it is to knock Kessler off of his position.

Much was made of Portland owner Paul Allen's appearance in last week's mediated session. The suggestion was that he was there to send a message that owners were holding a hard line.

NBA sources, however, say it was nothing of the sort. In fact, they say, he was there at the invitation of the NBA's negotiators to watch Kessler. Allen was one of several owners who thought Stern and Silver had made players an overly generous offer of 50 percent of basketball-related income. The league's lead negotiators essentially replied: go see for yourself. You think you can get Kessler to go for 47 percent? Good luck to you.

Since Kessler left the room, the negotiations have seemingly gone smoother. The union has surely conceded some points, as the league definitely has. That leaves a burning questions for fans who want basketball and won't be affected one iota if the players take 50 percent or 51 or 52: Kessler isn't going to be back on Friday, is he?

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