The NBA and the newly re-formed players union resumed negotiations on Friday in New York to determine the final details of a new collective bargaining agreement but Wizards free agent guard and union vice president Maurice Evans was not in attendance.
Evans plans to join the discussions after taking care of some other important personal business: He will receive his diploma during the University of Texas commencement ceremony on Saturday morning.
“I’m walking tomorrow to complete my graduation,” Evans wrote in a text message. “All my family is meeting in Austin, then I’m leaving afterward to finish up the “B” issues.”
Evans finished his degree in education last summer, while balancing school work and sitting down for bargaining sessions with the owners. It was grueling schedule that required him to drive two hours each way from his home in Katy to take classes in person. He finally completed his degree after leaving the Longhorns after his junior year, only to go undrafted in 2001.
After leaving Texas, Evans will quickly turn his attention toward completing the other important task of the past few months. Owners and players still need to resolve several important matters, such as the drug-testing policy and the age minimum/draft eligibility requirements
Evans was excited that the two sides were able to reach a settlement last week that saw the players receive around basketball-related income to around 51 percent and the owners receive stricter luxury tax penalties for high-spending teams. The deal required several fruitless negotiating sessions and antitrust lawsuit against the league that has been credited with prompting a settlement.
“David Stern said they weren’t affected by it and maybe they weren’t,” Evans said last week of the litigation, which was settled this week. “Regardless of what it was, I’m just happy that we were able to get it done. We still had to get a decision on our part and decision on their part. There had to be a willingness on both sides to stay and get it done.”
As with any compromise, there have been some people who were unhappy with the deal. CBSSports.com reported that several agents are pushing for National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter to be returned on an interim basis. Roger Mason Jr., a union vice president, defended Hunter and credited him for helping get the two sides together.
Evans has heard some of the complaints, but he said most of the dissenters either don’t know the full details or “never go on record.” He has mostly received positive responses from players and fans. “Everybody that I’ve spoken to has been elated and they are excited about the opportunity that’s out there,” he said. “People on the street have come up there and thanked me for hanging in there. They’ve been supportive. And for all those fans who were supportive. We appreciate that more than know.”
After working out at Verizon Center on Friday, Mason said he would join the talks on Sunday. He added that player representatives and other all other players have been invited to New York on Wednesday for a meeting to discuss the new agreement. An electronic vote will be held the next day and if a majority of the players and owners ratify it, training camps and free agency will begin simultaneously on Friday.
Evans will have a chance to partipate in free agency, with Wizards among a handful of teams that have reached out his agent, Roger Montgomery. Evans would like to return to Washington and embraced the role he received in his reunion with Coach Flip Saunders, but he is unsure what his future holds.
“I’m looking forward to free agency and hopefully, it’ll yield a great result as well,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Ernie [Grunfeld] and the people in Washington, regardless of what happens with me. I wish them luck.”