Monthly Archives: October 2011

November Games Canceled, NBA Still Broken

Let me tell you a story

“Until this afternoon, we’ve had a pretty good several days of give and take,” David Stern said after negotiations broke down yet again on Friday. Then he offered to those in attendance at the press conference that the subject of Basketball Related Income was approached after making headway on certain system issues and that is when the talks. Stern said that the owners were willing to go as far as a 50/50 split on BRI. He then spun a half truth laden yarn about union president Billy Hunter packing up his papers and walking out. Hunter did walk out, the NBPA has lowered their desired share of BRI down to 52.5 percent from their previous stance of 53 percent, but he is not the only one to blame for the collapse of the talks.

Those who have paid attention to these frustrating negotiations know that Stern has played this game before. A pure 50/50 split was offered by the owners on several occasions. It is their olive branch. Only this branch has a snake on it. An even split on BRI seems to rear its head each time gains have been made by each side. For the owners it is their showing of good faith, a fair split of revenue. However, for the players it is just more double speak. To date, a 50/50 has led to a lopsided counter offer that favors the owners several times.

The players are still the ones making concessions on a grand scale in these negotiations. They have managed to keep guaranteed contracts, a $5 million mid-level exception, and kept the owners from implementing at hard cap. Owners have already won in terms of reducing players’ salaries $1.3 billion over the next six years with smaller raises, a more harsh luxury tax, and shorter overall player contracts.  However, at this point in all the folly, everyone is losing. After the talks (if the two sides actually do talk to each other while they are in the room together) fell apart, Stern made it official that all games through November 30 were canceled. He added further that squeezing in an 82 game season in the time allotted will not happen. (I have been opposed to trying to get that many games on the schedule in a very constrained timetable especially with the Olympics on the horizon. So there is my one happy point in all of this.)

With the month of November completely scrapped the NBA and the players stand to lose an estimated $400 million. Apparently, that is not enough Samolians to move a few percentage points in either direction. Ken Berger of has a good breakdown of what each side had to gain or lose now that November is lost:

…the only way it could possibly make sense to squander a chance to recoup two weeks of canceled games (worth about $400 million to the owners and players) and lose two weeks more (for a total of $800 million) by refusing to even attempt to close a two-point gap in basketball-related income (BRI).

Think of it another way: If Hunter had been willing to move from 52.5 percent to 51 percent Friday, that would’ve been a $60 million concession in Year One of the deal to get back the lost games worth $400 million — a net gain of $340 million. Instead, the players decided it was better to lose the games, and thus $400 million, which made it a $740 million decision to walk out of the room without a deal.

If Stern had been willing to move from 50 percent and meet Hunter at 51, it would’ve been a $40 million concession for the owners to get their approximately $400 million share of the lost November games — a net gain of $360 million. But instead of offering to make the economic move Stern had said Thursday night he was prepared to make, he decided it was better to lose the $400 million — a net swing of $760 million. So collectively, Hunter and Stern cost their business $1.5 billion by walking away without a deal Friday.

Whoa! That is quite a substantial amount of duckets that have been cast aside. Oh, to be a rich man and be care free with heaps of cash. One can only dream, or at the very least occupy a park.

The players have no business making further concessions. They should not meet the owners at 50 percent as they have already given up $1.3 billion in salaries for the next six years. Owners have given up nothing except a few hardline stances that were not on the books in the first place. What else is there to even discuss? Sure there are all the details of the system issues but those seem to have been worked out for the most part. Right now, it is time for the owners to give ground. Notorious B.I.G. should have qualified his famous line “more money, more problems.” It should have read, “more money begets self-imposed problems based on the perceived notion that money is power and with money comes invincibility vis-à-vis greed and the neglect of all others.” But that probably would not make for a good rap lyric.

Now, all that we can do it wait, flustered and tired. Both Hunter and Stern will meet again soon, perhaps this weekend, perhaps next week (no date has been set) and the broken record will continue to skip. If more games are canceled then both sides will lose more money but this is not about basketball anymore. It is about how two grown men, representing the interests of their respective parties, can spit folly, spin, and hold firm until one of them blinks. That is all it is. A show of bravado. They think that this is a title fight, everyone else sees it as a mockery of a league that enjoyed a dramatic upswing in popularity. Bravo! Keep grappling! Next time the meetings start I hope either Stern or Hunter quotes Henry V: “once more into the breach!” Oh, what a noble cause these negotiations are!


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Dirk Nowitzki’s Pitching Duel with MLB

Move over, Big Unit.

Yesterday was a landmark day for Major League Baseball. It was the start of the World Series between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals, Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden were on the mound with an injured veteran to throw out the first pitch, and the crowd was electric. Baseball could do no wrong yesterday, except they did.

The Texas Rangers reached out to Dirk Nowitzki, the most recent person to lead a Metroplex team to a championship, and asked him to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at one of the Rangers’ home games in Arlington during the World Series. Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks leapt into the national spotlight when they defeated the favored Miami Heat for their first NBA title in June. It seems that Nowitzki, who was named Finals MVP, is a perfect choice to be a representative of the area but the MLB did not think so.

Major League Baseball gave no real reason to deny Nowitzki the opportunity to throw the first pitch, his submission by the Rangers was simply declined. Some speculated that it was because MLB front office types did not want to be seen as not showing solidarity with their counterparts in the NBA who have locked out the players for 111 days and counting. However, Marc Stein of ESPN, who broke the story on Wednesday, believed the decision by MLB was based on Nowitzki not having “broad-based” appeal.

Shortly after the news broke about the decision to not have Nowitzki toss a first pitch a slew of negative reactions lit up the internet. In the never ending public relations battle that is professional sports (see: Stern, David), Major League Baseball struck out. Baseball is a funny sport, rooted in its past, but it must adapt to its present as well. denying Nowitzki was a further example of the stodgy hierarchy of baseball neglecting to notice the world outside their sport. Nowitzki is a regional hero. He has been the face of the Mavericks for over a decade. Perhaps MLB officials never noticed him or basketball, but in the world of the internet and Sports Center, that is unlikely.

With the negative press swirling, Bud Selig, the commissioner of Major League Baseball who was not involved in the original decision, and the Major League brass rescinded their earlier ruling on Nowitzki. Whether it was the bad press on the day that the World Series started or not wanting to become the latest Bryant Gumble opinion piece that changed their minds the public will likely never know.

Nowitzki will be throwing out the first pitch before game three on Saturday.

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Dwight Howard: “There’s more you can do in a bigger place.”

Should I stay or should I go?

Dwight Howard is well known for his smile, defense (he is the two-time Defensive Player of the Year), awkward post game, blocked shots, and poor free throw shooting. When the NBA resumes, if it ever does, Howard could very well have a new description to add to that list: most coveted almost free agent since that Carmelo Anthony character. First thing is first, though. He wants to shore up a rock part of his game. This summer he has been working on his free throw shooting with a new coach in an attempt to limit the amount of hack-a-Dwight he will see in games. From an interview in Esquire Magazine (via TrueHoop):

The only way my game is going to free up is if I start shooting 80 per-cent or better from the line. That’s going to be my main area of concern this year, getting my free throws better. I met the best shooting coach I could ever find — I’ve seen him make 200 free throws in a row with his eyes closed, all net, no rim, nothing. He’s all science, man — he’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.

200 free throws in a row? That is just silly. It is like a robot shooting free throws. The longest made free throw streak in the NBA belongs to Michael Williams, of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who made 97 consecutive free throws from 1993-2003. Obviously, he did not go the line very much. Howard attempted 916 free throws last season and connected on 546 for a percentage of 59.6. So, yes, Howard needs to improve that aspect of his game dramatically but shooting free throws in a gym is far different than an in-game situation. If he does, then Orlando Magic fans will have even more reason to love their lone superstar. Well, for a time at least, that is.

It seems that Howard feels that he is meant to do bigger and better things in life. To do those things it would behoove him to be in a location that was not in swampy central Florida. There is only so much one man, who is not named Disney, can do in Orlando anyway. More from Howard’s interview:

There’s more you can do in a bigger place. I’m stuck in a tough position because I feel like right now, where I’m at, I’ve done so much. And I just don’t know what else I can do. I can’t live for everybody else. I don’t know what decision I’m gonna make as of right now. It’s been crazy. Everybody wants me to come here, come play here, come to our team, do this. It’s a great feeling, though, to be wanted.

The toughest part for me is the city — the people. They’ve got burgers named after me in Orlando, they’ve got a Web site saying, “Please stay.” I love the people in the city. I’ve literally sat on the bench with a towel on my head crying, because I feel the passion in the stands. I just think about what’s going to be best for what I want to accomplish in my life. And I don’t want that door to close on me, wherever that door is. I don’t want it to close.

It certainly sounds like he is about to close the door on his time with the Magic, no reading between the lines necessary. Sure he will be sad about leaving. Who would not want to eat a burger named after themselves? However, when the time comes, there are bigger cities out there with greater planking opportunities. Until that time comes, Howard will continue to tout the union’s line during the lockout and hold out for the best deal possible.

It is important for all Magic fans to understand that the lockout and whether Howard stays in Orlando or not is all predicated on money. “I don’t want my money cut short,” Howard stated about the lockout, but the same can be said about playing for the Magic. Last season, the Magic surrounded Howard with the bloated salaries of Gilbert Arenas, who earns more than Howard, Jason Richardson, and Hedo Turkoglu. In return the team did not make it past the first round of the playoffs. It seems as though not only was his money cut short, but so was his season. If that happens again, it is almost a certainty that he will leave, however, he will not be doing so in an hour-long televised event.

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LeBron James to Seattle?

We all know that Pete Carroll is one crafty recruiter. He had lots of success illegally recruiting talented players to fill his roster during his time at USC. Then, like a wise man, he bolted to the NFL just before the NCAA came down on USC with the might of Zeus’ thunderbolt. Now, Carroll is the coach of the Seattle Seahawks and looks to have another trick up his recruiting sleeve. Carroll and LeBron James have been corresponding via Twitter about the potential of James joining the Seahawks during the lockout. None of this is too be taken seriously, however. It is just for fun. (But do not put it past Carroll to actively pursue it.) Take a look at the official jersey that Carroll had made for James. In the NCAA that would have been an illegal gift (official jerseys are expensive), in the NFL it is all good.

LeBron wears number 6, c'mon Pete get it right

James is not the first NBA player to show interest in playing for the Seahawks either. Earlier this year, Nate Robinson said he wanted to try out for the team. There must be some kind of intangible pull that players have towards the city of Seattle, too bad some commissioner conspired with some oilman to steal that cities basketball team…the same commissioner who is at the center of the lockout.

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Highlights from the Drew League vs. Goodman League Rematch

The phrase “going ham” has been garnering quite a bit of usage around the Twitterverse by NBA players so it is more than appropriate to use to describe the performances of John Wall and Kevin Durant on Sunday night. Wall dropped a game high 55 points and Durant had 50. Yet, the Goodman League, which both players played for, lost to the Drew League, 151-144.

James Harden, Marcus Banks, JaVale McGee, DeMar DeRozan, Matt Barnes, Rudy Gay, Michael Beasley, Brandon Jennings, and Gary Forbes, among other, also participated.

Despite the show that Wall and Durant put on, the highlight of the night was Nick Young‘s hair.

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NBA Players hold the Line at 53 Percent

Fishing for a better deal

Sunday evening saw the NBA and the NBPA sit down for further negotiations. Earlier in the week, talks had been broken off, with what looked like little hope of resuming, over the lingering issue of Basketball Related Income. However, as the deadline to cancel the first two weeks of the season, set for Monday by David Stern, quickly approached, the two sides sat down for what is their first round of eleventh hour talks.

The meeting in New York lasted for roughly five hours, finishing just before midnight on the East Coast. As with all previous negotiation sessions between the league and the players’ union, those who were involved were tight-lipped over what, if anything, was accomplished. What is known about the meeting is that the two sides discussed system issues; the salary cap, length of contracts, and the luxury tax for example. BRI was allegedly not a subjected that was broached during the meeting.

Another meeting is scheduled for Monday afternoon at 2 P.M. Eastern Standard Time. Union president, Derek Fisher said after the meeting Sunday night that the players and the owners were “not necessarily any closer than we were going in tonight, but we’ll get back at it tomorrow and we’ll keep putting time in.” Yet, time is something that both sides have little of if they hope to salvage the beginning of the season.

Due to the importance of Monday’s meeting in New York, the players canceled a union meeting scheduled in Los Angeles for Monday.

Before negotiations resumed on Sunday night, owners and the league had seemingly issued an ultimatum, according to the union, to the players that they must accept a 50 percent split on BRI before negotiations could resume. The owners reject the union’s assertion that they established any preconditions. Nonetheless, the owners  made it clear that no further meetings would occur because they would not go beyond an even split in revenue sharing.

All along, the players have been holding steadfast at their mark of 53 percent of BRI. They were receiving 57 percent of basketball related income under the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement. Many of the league’s marquee players were not present at the meeting on Sunday night as they were playing in the rematch of the Drew League and Goodman League in Los Angeles. However, they were very cognizant that the meeting was taking place and held rank when they spoke about the labor dispute.

“We’re going to stand firm no matter what,” Kevin Durant said. “If we miss games we miss games. We might have to sacrifice a few for the betterment of the league, but I don’t think we’re going to give in just because we missed a few games.” He added, “We moved down from 57 to 53 and I think the owners got to work with us.” Other players echoed those remarks.

It has been the players who have given up the most in the labor negotiations so far. The owners, and Stern, will be quick to point out that a hard cap is no longer on the table and that they have moved their demands that the players accept just 42 percent of BRI all the way up to 50 percent. In terms of monetary losses, however, it is the players who have sacrificed. Dropping from 57 percent to 53 percent represents a cumulative loss of approximately $160 million in player salary. If the players were to move down to the 50 percent that the owners want their losses would increase to $280 million. The owners have yet to concede one dime.

With the players and owners holding firm, the two sides have reached an impasse. Monday’s meeting could tell a lot about where the two sides stand or, more realistically, if either side will flinch. Monday will be the sixth time that the NBA and NBPA have met in the past eleven days in an attempt to resolve their issues. During the lockout in 1998, the league and the union only met once before regular season games were canceled. At least this time the two sides appear to be trying.

However, they will have to try harder. That will not be an easy task as the owners have a proposal for an amnesty clause to be included in the new CBA. The clause, nicknamed the Gilbert Arenas Clause, which would allow teams to shed a bad contract in which a team sees no dividends but is paying an exorbitant amount for a player. Essentially it would allow the owners to wipe clean their bad business decisions. In the real world only a government bailout can save a business from itself, bad business decisions are rarely rewarded with a provision to erase mistakes. Owners also want to do away with a player’s “Bird rights.”

The owners are asking for a considerable amount from the players but the amnesty clause and the Bird exception are not the elephant in the room. BRI is the point of contention. If the two sides cannot come to an agreement on it then the likely hood of the season starting on time is nil. The players have drawn a line in the sand at 53 percent and, judging by what has been said leading up to Monday’s meeting, will not move from it. For the players, this is their Alamo, they are taking a stand against a larger and more powerful foe, intent on extracting as much from them as possible. Hopefully for the players, this scenario turns out better for them than it did for the men inside the mission in San Antonio. If they are forced to capitulate, however, they will be the rallying cry at the next CBA negotiations.

No matter the outcome of the meeting Monday, it is unlikely that the NBA season will start on time. The two sides would need time to draft the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Then there would have to be a week of free agency, which would likely be one of the most frantic weeks that the NBA has ever seen. Beyond that, there needs to be time set aside for training came and the possibility of a few preseason games. In total, it would take and estimated three to four weeks, and that is if all matters were to be resolved Monday. The regular season is scheduled to begin on November 1.

Games will be lost, there is no doubt about it. Neither side has shown a willingness to compromise as the clock strikes eleven. Everything could change after the meeting on Monday, but why should it? The closest whiff of a deal between the two sides was “How u.” Get used to more exhibition games because they will be the only games that players will take part in for the foreseeable future. At least most of them are streaming online now.

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Box Score from the South Florida All-Star Classic

via @IraHeatBeat

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