Amar'e Stoudemire made a recent call to fellow Knicks teammate, and players' union vice president, Roger Mason Jr. to do what most players are doing these days: checking in on the collective bargaining situation with the NBA.
But Stoudemire wasn't focused on things like flex caps, revenue sharing and percentage of BRI. What he wanted to know was much more pure than any of these issues:
"When should I start training?" the Knicks all-star power forward asked.
The doomsday rhetoric has intensified since the lockout began and another log is tossed on the fire every time some in our business pens an evidentiary foundation for either side. (Let me take a moment to advise caution to my brethren when so passionately defending someone else's millions and billions. Reporters don't get retainers...unless you consider access and information as such.) There are many players who don't know who or what to believe at this point. But the prevailing concern for everyone is that the lockout could at the very least delay the start of the season.
Mid-July is usually the time most players start to get back into the training grind, with August as the prime workout period. But if there isn't going to be a training camp in late September, then the schedule is all out of whack.
Consider this the first casualty of the NBA lockout: one of the game's most notorious fitness fanatics is wondering if he should begin training for the upcoming season. (If he's thinking this way, just imagine what kind of shape Eddy Curry must be in right now. I'll take "Human Inertia" for $100, Alex).
Let's clarify something here: It's not as if he's loafing on the couch. Stoudemire has a daily workout routine. Carmelo Anthony, too, has been working out on his own (he recently tweeted about two-a-days he's been doing). But players need to condition their bodies for the season and that doesn't start in camp, but in the summer.
And when there's an indication that the season might be delayed, there's an inclination to push a little less, lounge a little more and, yes, party a little harder.
Stoudemire was at the ESPY's last Tuesday in Los Angeles and brought longtime girlfriend Alexis Welch, the mother of his children, and presented an award flanked by the uberhotness of Maria Sharapova and Rachel Nichols (the actress, not the ESPN reporter and friend of the Fix). Amar'e went Kanye style, with a black a v-neck and bling and tux coat with the sleeves pushed up.
The scene immediately brought to mind the character Ralph Malph from the old "Happy Days" show:
"Even during a lockout . . . I still got it!"
Amar'e originally planned to bring his teammates together this week for some on-court bonding to go along with whatever L.A. might have to offer off the court. He, Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony were all in on it. Mason, Landry Fields, Andy Rautins, rookies Iman Shumpert and Josh Harrellson, Jerome Jordan and, yes, Jared Jeffries -- Fixers, Jared is clearly a "made guy" in the NBA. Knows everyone, knows everything and always taken care of. He even wears the shoes of a made guy: Jordan Brand -- were all on the list of players expected to join in. Ronny Turiaf is not expected to be there mainly because he's training with the French team for Eurobasket. There will likely be more players in the group, so don't consider an exclusion from my list to mean an exclusion from the workout.
As of now, the original schedule has been changed, we're told, from mid-July to now August. It's probably best, considering that Amar'e wants to be completely free of any back muscle twinges, Chauncey wants that left knee completely healed and Carmelo can get in some New York time after vacationing in Cabo with his family.
Say what you want about Melo, but have to give it up for this move:.to celebrate his one-year wedding anniversary, Melo took his wife and family to Cabo, where he originally popped the question to Lala six years ago.
(And to celebrate the anniversary of his toast at that memorable wedding, Chris Paul officially began his countdown to free agency.)
August is a big month for Lala, whose show on VH-1 has morphed from "Lala's Full Court Wedding" to "Lala's Full Court Life" and the new season begins Aug. 22. With J-Lo and Marc Anthony officially split -- but they were obviously so much in love with themselves -- Melo and LaLa move up on the celebrity power couple list in New York.
Of course Knicks fans prefer to see Melo and Amar'e move up as a power couple in the NBA. And though we're now reaching what is usually the quietest period on the NBA calendar, it is what happens now that determines what kind of success the team can have whenever the game does return this winter.