Monthly Archives: November 2011

A Tentative Agreement reached by the NBA and Players

Goal tending

Nuclear winter is a relatively short season after all. The lockout is not over. Not yet at least, but the two sides in the 149-day long lockout have come to a tentative agreement that should end the NBA lockout. Before a season can begin both the players and the owners will have to ratify the agreement.

After a long and bitter lockout, the league has plans to begin the NBA season on Christmas Day with a triple-header. From there, a 66 game season will take place. Training camps will begin on December 9 which will also mark the beginning of free agency. Of course, this is all predicated on whether the two sides will agree to the proposed deal.

For players, who dissolved their union on November 14, their lawsuit, the players initially filed two separate ones but they consolidated them into one in the Minnesota courts, against the NBA must be dropped and the union must reform before a vote can take place on whether or not to approve the agreement reached. The players need a simple majority vote to ratify the deal. As for the owners, Commissioner David Stern will take the proposed deal before the NBA labor committee later on Saturday where they are expected to approve the deal. Fifteen of the 29 owners, the league owns the New Orleans Hornets, must vote in favor of any new collective bargaining agreement.

Throughout the duration of the lockout, seemingly every issue brought to the table was a contentious one. Basketball-Related Income and system issues became the focal points of the talks and were frequently the reason that the two sides would abandon negotiations all together for periods of time. Now what remains is six pages of “B-List” issues that need to be sorted out. These include the NBA age limit, drug testing, and rookie salaries. All of these items will have to be resolved before the NBA Board of Governors can vote on the deal.

Details have not fully emerged on how the new CBA is structured but it appears that the previous 49 to 51 percent band of BRI will remain in place. Also, as Larry Coon reports, there will be a relaxed stance on the mid-level exception that the owners had pushed for with the elimination of smaller mid-level exceptions for tax-paying teams. Sign-and-trade contract extensions, which hardline ownership had vehemently opposed, will remain in the new CBA and penalties for teams paying luxury taxes are not as significant as some owners had wanted. However, they will be harsher than they were under the last CBA.

With the impending  ratification of a new agreement there is room for celebration. Yet, that celebration is marred with the knowledge that there is no winner. Basketball wins, but as Nike has pointed out during the lockout, basketball never stops. This was an ugly dispute and the two sides have no one to blame but themselves. They had two years to come to terms on a new labor agreement but instead chose to go down a path of no return. This is their doing.

When the season begins there will no doubt be a high degree of animosity between some players and owners, especially those owners that were singled out as hardline, wanting the players to concede more and more on every issue. These are the Michael Jordans, the Dan Gilberts, the Rob Savers, and the Paul Allens. These are the small market teams that preached “competitive balance” but who really wanted to bleed the players dry. There will be a rift. Over time though, it may close.

For now, fans and players wait. Fans wait for confirmation that there will be an NBA season. Players wait for the opportunity to approve the agreement that has been reached. They will ratify it. There is no doubt that they will. However, there will be voices around them that will say that the deal does not benefit them, that they lost. Yes, the players conceded to the owners. Yes, their share of BRI is significantly less, but without a season they would have no income at all (endorsements aside).

This Christmas, NBA fans will not rush to see what is under the tree. Instead, they will rush to see what is on TV. Whether they have been naughty or nice they should be treated to the gift that is NBA basketball. If the schedule stands as it is fans can expect to see the Boston Celtics play the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, the Miami Heat playing the defending champion Dallas Mavericks in Dallas (oh, what a day for Mark Cuban to raise the banner), and the Chicago Bulls travel west to play the Los Angeles Lakers. That is quite a lineup and it will be a good present. However, the bitter pill that we were forced to swallow since July 1 will still loom large as the NBA starts its second shortest season in history.

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President Obama to hold Basketball Fundraiser

Ballin'

It is not every day that a President comes along that likes basketball. College football? Sure. Golf? Of course. Now we have Barack Obama. The Baller-in-Chief. President Obama is currently campaigning for reelection, while concurrently, with the rest of us, bewildered by the inaction of the Congress. (Really?! Pizza is a vegetable? Tomatoes are a fruit!)

In a fundraising event, the President will host a basketball game in Washington D.C. on December 12. On the slate to play in that game are Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Amare Stoudemire, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Derek Fisher, Ray Allen, Vince Cater, Baron Davis, Tyson Chandler, Jamal Crawford, Blake Griffin, Rudy Gay, Chris Bosh, Tyler Hansbrough (who the President has scrimmaged with while Hansbrough was attending UNC), Juwan Howard, Antawn Jamison, Dahntay Jones, Kevin Love, Reggie Miller, Cheryl Miller, Quentin Richardson, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Tina Thompson, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutombo.

The teams will be coached by Doc Rivers and Patrick Ewing. Even though the lockout currently would not let these two have contact with the many of the players, the league has bowed down before the authority of President Obama and allowed them to participate. It must be nice to have that kind of power.

Talks between the NBA and what was the NBPA have renewed this week. At present, both sides are looking for a date of December 25 to start the season which will consist of roughly 66 games. However, there is still a lot to be hashed out. Until the players and owners can see eye to eye we have President Obama’s game to look forward to. Oh, and the jerseys for the game? Dope.

Unfortunately, the President will probably not lace up for the game. We know he and Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, have mad handles so their street cred is not in jeopardy. Hopefully, this game will be streamed online.

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You Maniacs, You Blew it Up: NBPA rejects Owners’ Offer, Disbands

David Stern was offering a 72 game season starting December 15. Of course that offer came with plenty of strings attached to the tune of some $300 billion in concession and restricted player movement. The players, who the owners though would cave to their demands, did not care for any of the deals placed before them. That is a concise version of what has transpired up to this point. Today the players threw down the gauntlet and rejected the ultimatum issued by Stern and will dissolve their union.

The union issued a notice of disclaimer on Monday afternoon which officially begins the process of union dissolution. Issuing a disclaimer is a quicker process in terms of moving legal filings to the courts rather than waiting 45 days for a vote from players on decertification. From there a anti-trust lawsuits will be filed against the league by the players. The dissolution of the union voids the ability of the league to not be sued by the players. These filings will be handled by attorney David Boies, who was hired by the players. Boies was involved in the NFL’s anti-trust suit.

Some players and many agents pushed for the union to decertify in July once the owners began the lockout. Union director Billy Hunter dismissed those early calls but has now, along with the players, decided that the league has not negotiated in good faith and begun the process.

The fate of the next CBA will have to wait until what will likely be a lengthy courts process is concluded. That means that the possibility of an NBA season is very dim. Courts are notoriously slow moving and will not move more quickly just because professional athletes are involved.

So here we are. We, at the Beef, have held a rather pessimistic view of the entire lockout so the events of today are not surprising. It was foolish to think that “cooler heads will prevail” in this matter. There are no cool heads. This has not been about the money or system issues for a long time. It was always about ego and wanting to watch those who opposed you crumble to your demands. This was the position of the owners and the league.

The players conceded across the board and the owners wanted more and more. It has not been stated yet, but the owners will likely reset their offer to the players and revert back to their 53/47 percent split of basketball-related income and a hard cap. This helps no one. This is not a tactic of  “good faith” negotiating. In no way does this bring either side closer to a resolution.

Understand this: there will not be an NBA season (I hope I am wrong). Stern has stated that there needs to be 30 days from an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement before the season can begin. Time is not on the side of a season, especially with the involvement of the courts, and the league will not flinch at the players’ move to decertify. If anything, the hardline owners will be given the reins in all future negotiations. This is simply a disaster. If you have followed the lockout in any amount you have to be rolling your eyes. This is just frustrating. Grown men using the media to wage a public relations war equates to playground bickering.

Stern stated on SportsCenter that the union used the threat of decerticification as a tactic. Yes, they did. Just like Stern used every tactic, especially scare tactics, in the book throughout the course of the lockout, the latest being the ultimatum.

If certain teams were losing money at alarming rates how can they hope to recoup those loses now that there will likely not be a season at all. Smart move. At this point there is nothing nice to write about what took place today. Both sides are at fault. A complete overhaul of the people involved seems to be the only way that progress can be made but that will never happen. Both sides will never admit that they are the problem.

In the meantime, we lose. We all lose.

Damn you! Goddamn you all to hell!

 

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Josh Howard’s Celebrity All-Star Basketball Game

Charity rocks!

Oh, you had better believe we were there, and we live Tweeted it. The NBA is not going on right now, and may not be for quite some time, so we took in the best basketball game our city has seen since game five of the NBA Finals. No, it was not as hype as a playoff game. No, it was not super packed and yes, the game was played on a DISD court, but this is all we have right now and dammit, we enjoyed it.

Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas estimated about 2,000 spectators to be in attendance for the game. However, having tweeted him during the game he might have had that number confused with the amount of three-pointers that Damon Jones took. Seriously, Kevin Durant was just feeding him the ball all night (Russell Westbrook take notice). Honestly, the game could not have been more entertaining. It was a perfect mix of pickup game, meets no defense, meets traveling galore, with sprinkles of flash.

Josh Howard, Nick Young, Andray Blatche (yes, it was a Wizards’ scrimmage essentially), Jarrett Jack, LaMarcus Aldridge, Desanga Diop, Corey Brewer, D.J. Mbenga (in Dallas we still love him), Reggie Evans, Marquis Daniels, Damion James, Jeremy Evans, Anthony Randolph, Trevor Booker, who coached the blue team, Damion Wilkins, Jason Maxiell, Hamady N’Diaye,  and would-be rookie Isaiah Thomas were among the notables playing.

Unfortunately, both Jeremy Evans and Mbenga had to leave the game after both being walloped in the face at one point.

Other than Durant shoveling the ball to Jones on every possession, Young was doing everything in his power to command this game. He was streaking out on the break (there was no transition defense), he was driving the lane (there was no interior defense except for a couple of Diop and Mbenga blocks), and he was knocking down an off-balance outside shot (sometimes). Look, this is what we have and it was fun. Jason Terry and John Wall were in the building as well but they were not dressed out.

Yes, it was sloppy. At one point Durant just tossed the ball out-of-bounds intentionally. It looked as though he may have been going for the off the wall dunk but he missed horribly. He was more concerned about assists on this night. At one point he ran over to the scorer’s table to ask if they were keeping statistics because he wanted to set a personal high in assists. They were not. However, he probably did set that mark.

Without an official score keeper it is safe to say that Damon Jones led all scorers. All of those three-point attempts (and they were plenty) gave him that edge. Yet, his game is boring and he is not even in the NBA anymore.

Howard’s team won the game, despite him not playing in the second half, 139-128.

Thank goodness there were people with Ball is Life t-shirts on there filming the event. The highlights will be posted here when they are available for YouTube embedding, but right now you can view them here. We will post our grainy camera phone pictures on our Tumblr.

After the game was over outside, I shouted at Blatche and Young that I hoped they have a season. Young said that he hoped they did too. Blatche was more occupied by the two women in front of him. Oh, Andre.

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Team USA continues Despite the Lockout

 

What the future may hold

LeBron James is in, Kobe Bryant is a go, and Kevin Durant will likely suit up. After that the state of USA Basketball for the 2012 Olympics in London is up in the air, especially with the possibility of losing the entire 2011-12 NBA season.

Monday looks like the day that could make or break any possibility of an NBA season. This has been stated many times over during the course of the lockout but with the players union preparing to rejected the latest offer from the league, this is quite possibly the last grasp at a 72 game season before talks completely break down with the owners reverting to their hardline 53/47 percentage split of basketball-related income and the decertification of the NBPA. With that possibility looming, where does Team USA stand?

USA Basketball are not conjoined at the hip, though they are virtually inseparable. The national team, since FIBA altered their rules in 1989, has been comprised entirely of NBA players. This will not change even with a lockout. It would be foolish to send a team of college players to the Olympics and expect to compete with the likes of Spain, Argentina, and Lithuania. Yet, there can be no denying that the lockout could strain the eventual formation of Team USA.

Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski has no NBA affiliation as he coaches the men’s team at Duke University. There should be no complication with him returning to coach the program. However, aside from Jim Boeheim who coaches at Syracuse, the assistant coaches coach in the NBA. Mike D’Antoni is the current head coach of the New York Knicks and Nate McMillan coaches the Portland Trail Blazers. As per the rules of the lockout, neither D’Antoni nor McMillan is allowed to have any contact or communication with the lockout players.

Herein lies the first hurdle for Team USA. They will be without two of their assistant coaches if the lockout persists. With Krzyzewski, D’Antoni and McMillan have successfully orchestrated the present liquidity that embodies Team USA. The Redeem Team that won gold in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics was completely dismantled two years later, partly do to lack of interest and previous engagements by the players who were a part of that team, and transformed into a lengthy and quick, uptempo and undersized bunch who won gold at the World Championships in Turkey in 2010. D’Antoni is fluent in the rules and style of the international game having coached for years in Italy which has helped NBA players transition to FIBA rules and style. Losing both coaches will be a hit for Team USA but not one that will completely derail the coaching staff.

The coaches can be easily replaced. Though this means that the staff may not have the same continuity with the pool of players eligible to fill out the fifteen man roster. However, other college coaches such as John Calipari, who is always looking to increase his recruiting pool, Tom Izzo, and perhaps even Roy Williams could be considered to fill the roles of the assistant coaches. Other names may also be included if D’Antoni and McMillan cannot return to the bench. Larry Brown jumps out as a possible candidate having been head coach of Team USA before. Yet, this is all just speculation at this point and is predicated on the length of the lockout.

Team USA could also be without their trainers Casey Smith and Keith Jones, who work for the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets respectively. If the NBA season is lost, not only will Jerry Colangelo have to recruit players to join the 2012 incarnation of the national team but he may also have to rebuild his coaching and support staff.

Colangelo is still a minority owner of the Phoenix Suns. His position as managing director of USA Basketball, however, has allowed him to remain apprised of players’ interest in joining Team USA, though he cannot discuss the lockout in any terms. Colangelo believes that despite the lockout, a team can be assembled with players from both the 2008 and 2010 squads.

According to the official team roster at USABasketball.com, the pool of players available is much greater than just those who have played on the national team before. Other than Bryant, James, who have both committed, and Durant, how the roster will fill out is anyone’s guess. It is likely that Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony will return, and Chris Sheridan has speculated that Blake Griffin is a “shoo-in.” Chris Bosh will probably return, as will Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul. After that it becomes dicey (as if speculation was not already). There are still six spots open on the roster if these players to indeed return.

To fill the remaining vacancies will require coach Krzyzewski to determine the style of play that his team will execute in London. As stated above, the 2010 national team was swift and agile relying more on their athleticism than on physical size.

The candidates that are left are Lamar Odom, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, possibly Kendrick Perkins, and perhaps Eric Gordon. None of those players are slouches and if Team USA prefers to reincarnate the 2010 team then Andre Iguodala should also be considered.

At this point, nothing is certain. The Olympics are where players build their brand. It is not completely about national pride, do not delude yourself. This is a stage on the global market. In most countries outside of the U.S. everything stops so that they can watch their nation compete. NBA players fortunate enough to be selected to the national team know that and so do their agents and sponsors. The Olympics are a big deal and London has been a world city since the middle ages. That is not lost on the players.

With the season in flux and headed towards what might be complete and utter fail (pardon the meme), the Olympic games in the summer of 2012 are the last remaining legitimate basketball that NBA players could see for some time. As of now, Team USA is keeping their summer schedule conservative, understandably. Official rosters must be submitted in June. On the slate for Team USA is two exhibition gamed against Spain in July 2012 as well as a friendly against Great Britain. France will also likely get a friendly in too before the start of the summer games. However, a quick resolve to the lockout could change everything.

The lockout threatens only the NBA at this point. Team USA is still in good hands.  No matter what happens to the 2011-12 NBA season, there will be a formidable team fielded by the United States. They will be the favorites to win it all. Haters will pick Spain with their frontcourt of Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka. Honestly though, a team representing a country in as many financial hardships as Italy cannot be taken too seriously. There is a reason all their players moved to the U.S. (financial aside). The United States has reestablished itself as the dominant force in international basketball. Do not for one second, or one lockout, that players do not want to maintain that supremacy. A gold medal might not be the Larry O’Brien Trophy but it still speaks wonders unto itself.

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David Stern issues Ultimatum to Union

Wednesday, bloody Wednesday

The latest round of mediation between the NBA, its owners, and the NBPA ended, after nearly eight and a half hours stretching into Sunday morning, the same way that every prior mediated session and talks have. There is still no deal. However, without directly referring to a proposed deal on the table as an ultimatum, NBA Commissioner David Stern did in fact issue one. A fact that was not lost on the union and its players.

Steve Novak of the San Antonio Spurs was one of  the first player to react using the term ultimatum on twitter, “U gotta love an ultimatum! How does basketball ever even get to this point?” He was not the only player to express his disbelief in the owners’ proposal, Tony Allen of the Memphis Grizzlies also tweeted after the terms of the proposal were made public last night, “57 53 49 : wow.”

The proposal that is on the table for the players to accept by the close of business on Wednesday, which Stern set as the cut-off point when the deal would be removed and the owners would again revert to their previous stance that the players should receive 47 percent of basketball related income and that a flex cap (read: hard cap) be in place, inches slightly closer to what the players have been asking for but does so in a way in which the owners proposal of a 50/50 split of BRI is the more likely outcome. Under the previous collective bargaining agreement, the players received 57 percent of BRI. As Allen referenced in the above tweet, the union has come down from 57 percent to 53 percent, then 52.5 percent and now is faced with close to earning just 49 percent of BRI.

Under the current proposal, which is a band deal, the players could earn between 49 and 51 percent of BRI. However, union attorney Jeffery Kessler, who was representing the players at the talks with union president Billy Hunter under the weather, along with Derek Fisher scoffed at the proposal. Under it the players would receive 50 percent of BRI with the ability, if league revenue grows at a projected four percent annually or further “significant growth” Stern said, to earn 51 percent of basketball related income. If revenues were to remain stagnant or decrease the players would earn just 49 percent of BRI. The reason Kessler flatly rejected the proposal is because “the proposal that this is a robust deal at 51 is a fraud,” he stated. Under the deal the players could not expect to legitimately earn 51 percent and that it would take “the wildest, most unimaginable, favorable projections and we might squeeze out to 50.2.”

“They came in here with a prearranged plan to try to strong-arm the players,” Kessler added. “They knew today they were sticking to 50, essentially 50.2. They were going to make almost no movement on the system, and then they were going to say, ‘My way, or the 47 percent highway.”

During the mediation the NBPA issued a proposal of a 51/49 percent split of BRI in which one percent would go towards benefits for retired players helping them with heath care, insurance, and pensions. This proposal was never addressed by Stern and the owners.

Where the two sides could also not make headway was the issue of the luxury tax. The proposed deal on the table would fine each team over the tax limit on a one-for-one amount for every dollar over the tax a team spends. That is down from their previous offer of a $1.50 penalty for each dollar over the limit. The union wants to see a 50 cent tax on the first $10 million over the salary cap limit and then raise it to one dollar after that.

What the league is proposing would make it difficult, if not impossible, for championship caliber teams to retain certain players under their proposal. This would adversely effect teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, and Orlando Magic, and New York Knicks. In the case of Dallas, the reigning NBA champions, starting center Tyson Chandler spoke bluntly about this proposal earlier in the week as reported by the Dallas Morning News:

“With the collective bargaining agreement and some of the things that they’re trying to enforce, it would basically prohibit me from coming back,” Chandler told KESN-FM FM in Dallas. “It would take it out of my hands — and the organization’s — because it would almost be pretty much impossible for me to re-sign. I just think that can be the worst thing that can happen.”

“For years, the Lakers have been able to win championships and re-sign their players and keep them there so they can go out for another title,” Chandler said. “Now, to put that deal in place after we win ours, I don’t like it one bit.”

Mark Cuban, Jerry Buss, and James Dolan are probably none too thrilled with the potential ramifications of that scenario. But they are not the ones spearheading the move to limit the power of the players. However, teams just above the luxury limit will be given a reprieve under the owners’ proposal with their taxes cut in half.

Further, the two-sided disagreed on the length and money of the mid-level exception, which teams over the salary cap use to sign players. The players want an MLE that is worth $5 million for four years occurring every other year. The league’s proposal is $2.5 million for two years every other year.

Teams who are playing luxury taxes, the league insists, would also be exempt from any sign-and-trade deals like the one that sent LeBron James from Cleveland to Miami.

These hardline proposals from the league are the result of a few owners in small markets, which it was revealed this week are led by Michael Jordan. Hardline owners want to wrest the money-making power from the players and limit the ability of large market teams to willing spend beyond the cap to put together winning teams. The irony of Jordan leading the charge to clamp down on the players is that he is the man who embodied the move towards player control in the league. It was he that wanted more money as a player, it was he that the league bowed down to for a decade. During the 1990’s the NBA saw its highest ratings and ratings have almost come back full circle to those levels now. Yet, he is one of the owners strangling any potential growth the league could have seen this year. Strangling is a job for Latrell Sprewell, but he left the league long ago to feed his kids. Jordan’s position is understandable and his drive to constantly win and/or crush is opposition is well documented but a stricter set of regulations on the players and teams willing to spend is not in character with Jordan the player. He famously told Abe Pollin who owned the Washington Bullets and then the Wizards during the 1998 lockout, “If you can’t make a profit, you should sell your team.” How the tables have turned.

Now, the players have until Wednesday to decide whether to accept the deal, replete with the demands of the hardliners, that the league has proposed. It is not the deal that they want. It is nowhere close to what they will accept. Kessler stated as much after the mediation process ended and Stern singled out Kessler as the one who rejected the league’s offer.

This morning, Novak chimed in again on Twitter, “I was really hoping I would wake up and the owners were gonna say jk!U guys have already given us 200M a year! But no,I guess they want more.” Novak, a trillionaire in his own right, expresses the sentiment of just about every NBA player. They want to play but they do not want to kowtow to the owners demands. Now there are rumblings that a move to decertify the union are more than underway.

Union decertification, a step the NFLPA took early on during their lockout, requires 30 percent of players, about 130, to sign off on the idea. From there it would be another 60 days before a vote would take place for or against decertification. Boston Celtics’ forward Paul Pierce has reportedly taken the lead to decertify the union with many other players, including Deron Williams who tweeted, “I’ve been ready to sign a decertification petition since July? Can’t believe we are just now going this route! SMH,” and agents supporting the move. If the union is disbanded, which would require a favorable vote from at least 50 percent of the players, the players could then file an antitrust lawsuit against the league. A move to decertify could also give the players more leverage in the negotiations with the owners but it is uncertain just how anything will play out at this point.

Wednesday means nothing. It is just an arbitrary day that Stern chose before the league reverts its position back to what it was. It is merely a talking point for the media. The players have already rejected it. The owners have not changed their stance. They have not moved beyond the 50/50 split to meet the players. All this is, as it has been all along is a public relations war of attrition. There can be no winner in this lockout, yet that is what each side is angling for. Not even a Pyrrhic victory is attainable at this point. At the very least the lockout will grow uglier as it drags on. Small pieces of false hope are continually leaked from the meetings between the two sides. It is unclear why people believe them still. There is no hope. This is not even a tug of war. This is two sides hunkered down in their trenches prepared for a protracted engagement. It would be nice to have an NBA season this year, but at this point it does not look likely. Both sides know that and neither is willing to move with the owners more than willing to wait until the players surrender to their demands and because of that everyone has already lost.

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