Much like Derek Fisher did, NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith emphatically told locked NBA players that, despite opposition from key agents, they must stick with their union in the battle against team owners. From “You must stay together, the NFL Players Association Executive Director told the 30-plus NBA players that made it for the union’s regional meeting here, piggybacking onto the ‘Lockout League’ playing at Joe Abunassar’s Impact Sports facility on Harmon Drive. Smith had a message for those who were looking for the NBA’s superstars to lead the way in labor negotiations with the league, instead of Derek Fisher’s group of hard hats. During the NFL’s lockout, most of its star players were not front and center either, Smith said. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was one of the few elite level players who was a constant presence during the talks. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady lent their names to the lawsuit the union filed against the league, but it was the rank and file, people like Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday, who did the heavy lifting to get a deal done–the same kinds of players who are leading the NBPA’s fight. In fact, Smith said, when Kobe Bryant expressed public support for the NBPA’s leadership last August during a regional meeting in Los Angeles, Smith had a PDF made with Bryant’s comments and sent copies to every NFL player. Smith’s words had the intended effect. A week that began with talk of agents plotting decertification and disparaging National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter’s leadership ended with three dozen players standing alongside Hunter and NBPA president Fisher, all wearing the ‘STAND’ t-shirts that they’d donned after a labor meeting in June. ‘I don’t think they were ever not behind us,’ a member of the union’s executive committee texted Thursday, ‘but getting that kind of confirmation can only help.’ Of course, many of those who were in the room were among the truest of believers. The question remains whether the solidarity inside the room will be matched by those who are not as engaged, and who could be swayed by family, friends and agents all looking to turn the money spigot back on as soon as possible.”