Granik breaks down NBA labor issues

New NBA Business Analyst Russ Granik prepares for his next SportsCenter appearance. 

The NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement expired Friday, and the league locked out its players.

In the hours leading up to the deadline to negotiate a labor deal, who better to provide insight into the impasse than Russ Granik?

ESPN’s new NBA Business Analyst was the lead negotiator for the league in the past four collective bargaining negotiations with the NBA Players’ Association.

“I’ve stayed up to date with what’s happening. You don’t just lose interest after being involved with something for 30 years,” said Granik, NBA Deputy Commissioner for 22 years and a league employee until 2006.

“I still have friends on both sides of the table.”

The past 48 hours, he’s run the Bristol Marathon in preparing his analysis.

Granik’s day at ESPN began Wednesday afternoon, when he was met by News Editor Barry Stanton, an acquaintance from the days Stanton covered the NBA for the then Gannett Westchester Newspapers.

Granik cited another familiar face for helping him navigate between studios — Coordinating Producer Bruce Bernstein, who directed Granik and Commissioner David Stern backstage during ESPN’s telecasts of the NBA Draft (Granik followed Stern at the podium each year to announce each team’s second-round pick).

Talking NBA on-air was the easiest part of the whirlwind stay at ESPN for Granik, who seemed surprised when he counted up his total appearances.

“I’ve done four SportsCenters in the past 18 hours, and taped two segments for the late shows,” said Granik, who also lent his expertise ESPN Radio’s Doug Gottlieb Show and did a “Cold Hard Facts” segment for SportsCenter.

“It’s amazing how many things get done in a day here. I only saw a small part of it, but the amount of programming that’s produced — in short order — is pretty amazing.”

As President of USA Basketball, Granik played a major role in the NBA’s international expansion.

His lobbying for the eligibility rule change that allowed pro players to participate in the Olympics paved the way for the “Dream Team” in the 1992 Summer Olympics.

“Russ Granik is a man who has been at the table in past NBA labor negotiations, inside the room, and consequently brings an understanding of the process that few have,” Vince Doria, ESPN’s Senior VP, Director of News, says of the value analysts like Granik bring to viewers.

“As the lockout approached yesterday, he provided a perspective on what to expect, the likelihood that little if anything would happen in the way of substantive talk over the next month, indicating that we are likely in for a long work stoppage.”

With the lockout in place and no news of a resolution on the horizon, Granik says: “They’ll remain locked-out through the summer, and there’s a good chance they’ll miss some games.”

What are the major hurdles to a settlement?

He paused, smiled and said, “It’s all about the money.”

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