View Full Version : NBPA coming around on Darko - from ESPN Insider

02-06-2003, 05:29 PM
NBPA coming around on Darko, Sofaklis

Whether it was a great lobbying job by NBPA president Billy Hunter, the influence of NBA ambassadors like Vlade Divac, or increasing pressure from the media, it appears that the NBA Players Association has had a change of heart concerning 17-year-old international phenoms Darko Milicic and Sofaklis Schortsianides.

Insider talked to a prominent member of the players' executive committee on Wednesday. He told me he personally had several recent conversations with Hunter on the issue and that the general consensus among the executive committee over the last few days was that the union should do everything possible to help Milicic and Schortsianides get into the draft this year.

"Our job is, and should be, to give players who want the opportunity to play in the NBA a chance," he told Insider. "We only have finite careers. If they're good enough, a team will draft them. If they aren't, they won't. I think it should be up to the teams to decide that, not David Stern."

And what about concerns, raised by several members more than a month ago, that there's no reason for veterans to fight for kids who eventually will take their jobs?

The executive committee member told Insider those concerns are legitimate, but they are outweighed by the unfairness of keeping these kids out of the draft. He expected the NBPA, when it meets in Atlanta on Saturday, to decide to file a collective bargaining agreement grievance.

That has to come as music to the ears of Milicic and Schortsianides, who were shocked when the league announced in November that they would be ineligible to declare for the 2003 NBA Draft.

Both international big men turn 18 before draft night, but the NBA has interpreted the language in the collective bargaining agreement to mean that an international player must be 18 when he officially declares for the draft. The deadline for declaring for the draft this year is May 12. Milicic turns 18 on June 20. Schortsianides on June 22.

The issue, for both sides, is charged with symbolism. David Stern has been railing on the NBPA for years to adopt an age limit that would keep anyone under the age of 20 out of the draft. The NBPA feels Stern's passion on the subject is the impetus behind the league's unusual ruling on the matter.

NBPA president Billy Hunter doesn't agree with Stern's overall philosophy on the subject. "My attitude is still the same," he recently told the N.Y. Post. "Young boys can go into the military and fight in a war in Iraq. They can get jobs. If you're mature enough to be sent off to war, there shouldn't be any prohibition to come into the league and play ball."