SALT LAKE CITY — Raja Bell doesn't agree with racial implications that accompanied Bryant Gumbel's claim that David Stern is like a "modern plantation overseer, treating NBA men as if they were his boys."
But the Utah Jazz guard did blame the NBA commissioner for the lockout mess.
"I feel like (Stern is) a bit in the way of us making progress here," Bell told Miami sports-radio station 790 the Ticket on Thursday before the owners and union broke off mediated negotiation talks.
"I feel like he might be in his last few years as commissioner and he is looking to make his legacy on what kind of deal he get can get these owners this time around. I feel strongly about that. I feel like he has been one of the biggest problems in this whole lockout."
Deputy commissioner Adam Silver described Gumbel's shot at Stern on HBO's Real Sports as being "outrageous." Bell doesn't agree with the commissioner's leadership style, but he didn't agree with "the racial part" of what Gumbel said.
"I don't necessarily touch on that. I don't know what David Stern's motives are. I don't know how he views us as players," Bell said. "I do think he rules the NBA with an iron fist, and it is his way or the highway.
"I don't necessarily agree with that philosophy, but the rest of it … I don't know. I don't know where Bryant is coming from. I don't know what he was thinking at the time. I am surely not on the same page as him with some of that."
Bell, who spends his offseason in Miami, also said he believes players and owners need to find a collective bargaining agreement compromise in the middle. But he told "The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz" that owners aren't budging and started with low numbers for players on the BRI and mid-level exception.
"I know this always comes across wrong to a fan, but I feel like us as a union we've made concessions," Bell said. "We've tried to get to a position where we felt like the owners would meet us and it seems like every inch we give up they ask for another one. For me that has been the most exasperating part of it."
Bell also made the point that the players are the product in the NBA, so they should be compensated as such. He drew a comparison with an oil company to make his point.
"Shell Oil — whoever runs that company — makes billions and billions of dollars, right? But without the oil they make nothing," he said. "The oil is the product they are selling, and the owners are selling us as the product and without that product there is nothing. You understand where we are coming from when we say 50-50 (split of revenue) isn't exactly 50-50, when you take your operating costs off the top?"
Bell also pointed out that the owners officially pulled the plug on NBA action so far.
"It is a lockout, not a strike," he explained. "We were in favor of extending the current collective bargaining agreement. … It's the owners telling us they won't let us play. On top of that, the fans need to understand that we really do want to play."15 comments on this story
Bell also said there is blame to go around in this impasse.
"I am mad at the NBA machine right now because I think there is a deal to be made. I don't mean to make it sound like I am just mad at David Stern," he said. "I am mad at all of us because I think we all play a hand in not getting a deal done. I think if it wasn't such a personal thing in my mind. I feel like it is more personal than business at times with him (David Stern) and that's just … I can't help, but feel that way. I could be wrong."
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