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Tag:lockout
Posted on: December 30, 2010 11:28 am
 

Post-Ups

After an appropriate cooling-off period surrounding Carmelo Anthony trade talks after the tragic death of his sister, teams are beginning to get a renewed sense of where the Nuggets are strategy-wise. And once again, multiple sources tell CBSSports.com that Denver officials are sending mixed signals and still appear undecided as to whether they're seeking veteran players who can help them now or some combination of cap relief, draft picks and young players. 

As a result of what one rival executive referred to as the Nuggets having "overplayed their hand" in negotiations with the Nets, frustrated New Jersey officials are in the process of "substantively" re-evaluating their pursuit of Anthony, a three-time All-Star who has refused to sign a three-year, $65 million extension with the Nuggets. 

No one is fully aware of Anthony's mindset after he's missed five games grieving the loss of his sister, Michelle, who died tragically at 38 last week. But with trade demands that another executive described as "too high and unrealistic," the Nuggets run the risk of alienating the team that from the beginning had the most assets to offer -- starting with Derrick Favors, multiple first-round picks and the expiring contract of Troy Murphy

The Nuggets' outward appearance of indecision could very well be a negotiating tactic, as a person with direct knowledge of Denver's strategy has told CBSSports.com that the team has decided it wants to get young and accumulate draft picks if and when they decide to trade Anthony -- not attempt to tread water with sub-par veteran replacements whose contracts would hinder the team's future flexibility. The other wild card, of course, is Anthony's reluctance to sign an extension with the Nets, which has been confirmed by a person with direct knowledge of his thinking. 

In view of their frustration, the Nets have not yet gotten to the point where they're ready to pull all their chips off the table. But it's clear that the Nets are "sick of the whole charade," according to one source and have "backed away," according to another. And with that, we move along to the rest of the final 2010 edition of Post-Ups: 

* Exploratory trade talks the Trail Blazers are involved in on multiple fronts hinge on what decision is made with regard to Brandon Roy's short- and long-term health. Team officials already have engaged in internal discussions about trading older players such as Marcus Camby, Andre Miller and Joel Przybilla. Such an avenue would seem to be more likely if it's decided that Roy will miss significantly more than the six games he just sat out due to a bone-on-bone condition in both knees. One scenario involved Miller going to the Bobcats, but those talks took place prior to Charlotte's recent coaching change. The Bobcats now are entering a new evaluation period under coach Paul Silas and have no current interest in straight salary-dump trades. "That's the furthest thing from the truth," one source said. "We want to do basketball deals if we can." 

* A person with knowledge of Camby's thinking confirmed a report that the 14-year veteran would indeed contemplate retirement if traded to a rebuilding team. Camby's overwhelming preference is to stay in Portland, and there is "no close second," the person said. But if a trade to a contending team in a city his family would be willing to relocate to were presented, Camby would be open to the idea. The Knicks, who from time to time have expressed interest in bringing Camby back to New York, are one team that would meet the 36-year-old's approval. 

* The Rockets have been engaged in trade discussions regarding Yao Ming and his expiring $17.7 million contract, but have been met with underwhelming offers thus far. One rival GM said that's because any team contemplating acquiring Yao would have to do so only for cap relief. "You have to do that with the assumption that he'll never play again," the executive said. The balance of Yao's contract for this season is insured due to his latest foot injury, and thus would provide current savings as well as future cap relief. 

* According to Kings GM Geoff Petrie, Tyreke Evans' injury prognosis may not be as bad as it seems. Petrie told CBSSports.com Wednesday that specialists have informed the team that if Evans elects to undergo a laser procedure to resolve plantar fasciitis in his left foot, he could be back as fast as 3-4 weeks -- not the 3-4 months that Evans told reporters after a one-point loss to the Clippers Monday night. In that game, Evans scored 32 points in 40 minutes. On Wednesday night, he hit a 50-foot game-winner to give the Kings a 100-98 victory over Memphis. "He seems to be managing it fairly well right at the moment," Petrie said. 

* The December holidays brought an intermission to labor talks, with no substantive negotiation expected until after the New Year. But in recent weeks, at least 10 teams have signed petitions approving decertification -- a tactic that would put the owners' right to lock out the players in legal question. National Basketball Players Association officials plan to continue meeting with teams in January and get further decertification petitions signed. If and when the owners notify players of a lockout at or near the expiration date of the current CBA on July 1, union officials will have the paperwork they need to dissolve the union and challenge the lockout as a violation of antitrust laws. But there are divergent views in the labor-law world on whether decertification is a legitimate tactic. In his most recent public appearance in Memphis earlier this month, commissioner David Stern described it as "a nuclear option. But I'm not sure whether it isn't the nuclear option that falls on the party that launches it."
Posted on: December 24, 2010 10:04 pm
 

NBPA prez Fisher disagrees with contraction talk

It didn't take long for LeBron James' idea of creating a new golden age of basketball by eliminating teams to reach the ears of National Basketball Players Association president Derek Fisher

"I agree that the '80s was a great time for NBA basketball," Fisher told reporters Friday after practice at the Lakers' facility in El Segundo. "But I don't agree that contraction or arbitrarily trying to get Hall of Fame or All-Star guys all on the same team is necessarily how you re-create one of the greatest times in NBA history." 

Via the Los Angeles Times Lakers blog: Derek Fisher disagrees with LeBron James endorsing league contraction

When asked Thursday night in Phoenix – by me, if you must know – whether the anticipation of Saturday’s clash between the Lakers and free-agent-fortified Heat was validation for the decision by James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to team up in South Beach, James went on an articulate and controversial tangent about how the NBA’s overall talent is “watered down.” 

“Hopefully the league can figure out one day how it can go back to the situation like it was in the ‘80s,” James said. “… The league was great. It wasn’t as watered down as it is. You had more [star] players on a team, which made almost every game anticipated -- not just a Christmas Day game, not just a Halloween game. I don’t ever think it’s bad for the league when guys decide that they want to do some greatness for the better of what we call a team sport.” 

Via CBSSports.com's BergerSphere: LeBron: Contraction would be 'great' for NBA

When it was pointed out to James that the NBA only had 24 teams back then, as opposed to the 30 it has now, James said, “That’s why. That’s my point.” 

Unsolicited, he then listed some of the teams in the ‘80s that had multiple All-Stars or Hall of Famers. But his soliloquy took a decidedly anti-union direction when he went so far as to name teams that are “not that good right now” – Minnesota and New Jersey were his examples – and spoke about what would happen if you took the good players on those teams and put them on better teams. Such a move would “shrink the guys” James said – a nice way of saying jobs would be lost through contraction, a concept that league negotiators have already confirmed is on the table as part of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. 

“I’m not saying let's take New Jersey and let's take Minnesota out of the league,” James said. “But hey, you guys are not stupid. I'm not stupid, but I know what would be great for the league." 

Fisher, whose union clearly would oppose such a move, said he disagreed with LeBron’s comments but didn’t believe they will hurt the NBPA’s cause in negotiations. 

"I don't think it's my place to tell one of our guys what they should be thinking or feeling or saying,” Fisher said. “But I don't necessarily agree with it." 

One of the biggest stars in the NBA talking about making the league great again by concentrating the talent on fewer teams? That’s certainly something the 30 worse players in the league can’t be happy about – considering that’s how many jobs would be lost if two teams were contracted. 

It’s also hard to see how the overall product wouldn’t be better. That’s something Fisher, union chief Billy Hunter, commissioner David Stern and his 30 (for now) owners will have to figure out.
Posted on: December 23, 2010 10:21 pm
Edited on: December 24, 2010 12:20 am
 

LeBron: Contraction would be 'great' for NBA

PHOENIX -- During a candid pregame discussion about whether the formation of Miami’s free-agent trio was good for the NBA, LeBron James said the most sensible thing I’ve ever heard him say. 

Contraction would be great for the NBA. 

Well, he didn’t us the word “contraction,” but James said he hopes that some day the NBA will be able to figure out how to bring the game back to the greatness that was experienced in the 1980s, when “ten teams had probably two or three All-Stars on one team, at least.” 

When someone correctly pointed out that there were only 24 teams then, as opposed to the 30 that exist now, James said, “That’s why it was great. That’s my point.” 

The conversation began when LeBron was asked if the nationwide anticipation of the Heat-Lakers game on Christmas Day was validation of Dwyane Wade’s plan to join forces with James and Chris Bosh in Miami. Oh, and before we’ve even gotten to the showcase game on Saturday, the league’s TV ratings are up 30 percent this season. Something must be working. 

But as owners of high- and low-revenue teams continue to debate how to enhance the league’s revenue-sharing system in conjunction with negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement, the greatness James remembers from the NBA of the ‘80s is only being experienced in a few cities. The Lakers, Mavericks, Spurs, Celtics, Heat and Magic – plus maybe Utah and Chicago – have a legitimate chance at winning the championship. The rest of the teams can only wallow in their own pity – and tens of millions in losses, according to commissioner David Stern. 

“Hopefully the league can figure out one day how it can go back to the situation like it was in the ‘80s,” James said. “… The league was great. It wasn’t as watered down as it is. You had more [star] players on a team, which made almost every game anticipated -- not just a Christmas Day game, not just a Halloween game. I don’t ever think it’s bad for the league when guys decide that they want to do some greatness for the better of what we call a team sport. 

“I’m a player," James said, "but that’s why the league was so great. You can just imagine if you could take Kevin Love off Minnesota and add him to another team and you shrink the guys … I’m just looking at some of the teams that are not that great. You take Brook Lopez or you take Devin Harris off teams that are not that good right now and add them to a team that could be really good. I’m not saying let’s take New Jersey, let’s take Minnesota out of the league. But hey, you guys are not stupid. I’m not stupid, but I know what would be great for the league.” 

He’s right. So you see, there was genius in LeBron’s decision to go to Miami. Because that was only part of the plan. 

I wish he’d announced on “The Decision” that after signing with the Heat, he was also eliminating six teams from the NBA. He wouldn’t have been nearly the villain he’s become.
Posted on: December 17, 2010 2:13 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2010 9:28 pm
 

Post-Ups (UPDATE)

Houston and Portland, we have problems. 

Two teams that have been tantalizingly close to championship contention in recent years are suddenly in turmoil due to injuries -- franchise-shaping injuries to their franchise players. 

Portland had no sooner come to grips with the loss of Greg Oden -- again -- when the gathering storm of controversy between ailing star Brandon Roy and veteran point guard Andre Miller popped up. The Rockets, struggling without point guard Aaron Brooks, now may have to completely rethink their style of play and strategy for the future with word that center Yao Ming could be out for the year with a stress fracture in his ankle. 

“They built around Yao and they’re going to have to change who they are and become a more transition-oriented team,” a rival executive said. * No one ever thought the Rockets would commit to Yao beyond this season until they learned whether he’d be able to return to the court and be productive. With the answer to that question now being no, it’s time to scrap the notion that Houston can rely on Yao to ever be the centerpiece of a title-contending team. 

Changes are needed in the short run, too. Once Brooks returns -- and that will be soon -- the Rockets will need to forget about Yao and push the pace in a way that fits the talent they have. Kevin Martin is a transition player, and Brooks certainly is. So is recently acquired Terrence Williams, who could be a key part of this new strategy if the change of scenery also changes his attitude. 

As for the Blazers, it would appear that their incredible aptitude for overcoming serious and numerous injuries has come to an end. In the past, winning masked the uncomfortable co-existence of Roy and Miller. Now that Portland is struggling, there’s no way to hide the fact that Roy and Miller aren’t a good fit in the backcourt together. Sources already have told CBSSports.com that Blazers officials are considering going young and moving some of their older pieces -- such as Miller, Marcus Camby and Joel Przybilla. Miller, with a fully non-guaranteed $7.8 million in 2011-12, has off-the-charts trade value -- especially for a contender in need of a steadying force at point guard. 
UPDATE: A person familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com Friday that Roy's recent comments about the difficulty he's having playing with Miller were no accident. "He's an unhappy camper," the person said. "A very unhappy camper. For Brandon to talk like that, he's got to be at his breaking point."
Sources continue to tell me that Orlando, which is concerned about not measuring up to Boston and Miami in the East, would be the perfect fit for Miller. The Magic are not going to accept carrying a $94 million payroll into the playoffs, only to lose in the conference semifinals -- which seems to be their fate as currently constructed. Rashard Lewis’ impact continues to diminish, Vince Carter is little more than a jump-shooter, and Jameer Nelson is too inconsistent to rely on as the floor general of a championship-contending team. 

Miller could be the elixir for Orlando. All he does is find open shots for his teammates, and Dwight Howard would be thrilled with Miller’s elite talent as a lob-passer. Howard, who will be part of a blockbuster free-agent class in 2012, has quickly grown frustrated with the Magic’s obvious limitations. 

The piece that could get it done is Marcin Gortat, who’s a starting center on any team but one that has Howard. Though Gortat’s contract goes out three more years, it’s at a reasonable rate for a starting center -- topping out at $7.7 million in 2013-14, when Gortat has an early-termination option. 

Blazers GM Rich Cho has liked Gortat since his days working as Sam Presti’s right-hand man in Oklahoma City, so such a deal would seem to make sense from all angles. Gortat would give Portland a reasonable insurance policy in case Oden never becomes worthy of his No. 1 overall selection in 2007, and Roy would have the ball in his hands more -- which is something he can’t have when playing alongside Miller. Whether Roy’s knees will hold up under those demands is a valid question, but one Portland may very well need answered one way or another. 

UPDATE: According to one source, Roy’s contract is insured against injuries to either knee. There is an outside, secondary policy, the person with knowledge of the policy said, and it also covers one of his ankles. Another person familiar with the details pointed out there are restrictions tied to the length of disability and stipulations related to the timing of a particular injury. Either way, that’s an insurance policy the Blazers never want to have to dust off. Better to put the ball in their franchise player’s hands and see what happens. What have they got to lose? 

Nothing, which is the opposite of what we have in the rest of this week’s Post-Ups: 

* Executives working the phones during these early days of trade inquiry say the teams that appear most determined to make deals before the Feb. 24 deadline are Portland, Detroit, Minnesota, Memphis and Charlotte. But while execs have seen the usual volume of calls, the urgency to clear cap space and/or dump salary isn’t nearly as high as it was last summer. Leading up to the 2010 deadline, multiple teams were hellbent on clearing cap space for a robust free-agent class. Not only will this summer’s free-agent class pale in comparison, teams also are unsure of how and when free agency will take shape due to labor uncertainty. 

* Amid commissioner David Stern’s latest CBA rhetoric, sources say there won’t be any bargaining meetings the rest of the year due to scheduling conflicts and the holidays. As of now, the goal is to gather key participants for a smaller negotiating session in January leading up to an all-important full bargaining session during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles. Union officials will be most disturbed by Stern’s assertion during a trip to Memphis this week that the NBA needs to transition to a hard salary cap in order to restore competitive balance. The players view this as a smokescreen, believing that the league wants a hard cap simply as a mechanism to reduce salaries. Meanwhile, Stern dismissed aspects of the NBPA’s proposal that were geared toward improving competitive balance, saying those changes actually would cost owners more money than the current system. So that’s where we are: nowhere. 

* One aspect of the players’ proposal, complete details of which were reported for the first time last week, has gone largely overlooked. The NBPA proposed a broad outline for redistributing draft picks as a way to respond to the owners’ desire to enhance competitive balance. The precise method would be subject to negotiation, but the union envisioned taking draft picks away from the top-tier teams and giving extra picks to the bottom feeders. For example, the top three or top five teams in the draft order would see their first-round picks go to the bottom three or five. So using last year’s lottery order and redistributing the top five teams’ picks, the Wizards would’ve selected first and 26, the Sixers second and 27th, the Nets third and 28th, etc. Not a bad idea, although I wonder if some of those teams would simply be inclined to sell the second of their first-round picks. Either way, it would give struggling teams more assets in their quest to return to playoff contention. 

* As the Nuggets continue to weigh their options with Carmelo Anthony, rival GMs and high-profile agents are divided on whether Anthony would even be a good fit for the Knicks if New Jersey wasn’t able to get him to agree to an extension. There’s no doubting the star power Anthony would bring to New York. Would he make the Knicks better? Clearly, he’d give them the closing perimeter scorer they lack, and in that way he’d be a perfect complement to Amar’e Stoudemire. But would Anthony make the Knicks that much better than a defensive- and transition-oriented wing, such as Gerald Wallace or Andre Iguodala? “I don’t think the Knicks win any more or less games if it’s Gerald Wallace vs. Carmelo,” a rival GM said. “They’re already scoring 120 points a game. I think they have enough offense.” Others point out that Anthony is a low-efficiency shooter and a ball-stopper; coach Mike D’Antoni could live with the former but detests the latter. But my point is, if the ball stops with Anthony and its next stop is in the basket, so be it. In some ways, the inside-outside combination of Stoudemire and Anthony -- with a capable point guard, Raymond Felton, divvying up the shots -- would be more dangerous than LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. But here’s what the Melo-doesn’t-fit crowd will tell you, and I concede this point: The Knicks controlled the pace of Wednesday night’s game against Boston for 47-plus minutes. At the end, when they needed someone to stop Paul Pierce, they had nowhere to turn. Anthony is capable of playing better defense than he’s been asked to in Denver; he showed it in Beijing with Team USA. But it’s worth wondering if a player like Wallace or Iguodala would get you just as much scoring in transition and as the second option on Felton-Stoudemire pick-and-rolls and be capable of defending the other team’s closer on the last possession. Other than the fact that Donnie Walsh never panics, this line of thinking could have a lot to do with why he isn’t crushed by the Nets’ all-out pursuit of Melo. “The Knicks are in a pretty good position to sit back and see where the cap falls,” another executive said. “I don’t think Knicks will give up much to get [Anthony], and I don’t think they have much to give up to begin with.”
Posted on: December 8, 2010 7:51 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2010 11:03 pm
 

Post-Ups: Nuggets ready to move Melo

After weeks of speculation and despite a strong start by the Nuggets, Carmelo Anthony's last days in Denver may finally have arrived.

The Nuggets have all but decided to trade Anthony if he does not sign an extension with the team by the trade deadline, and Denver's management team believes Anthony is fully prepared to play out the season and become a free agent, multiple sources told CBSSports.com.

The Nuggets’ strong start, coupled with George Karl’s inspirational return from cancer treatment and positive discussions about a contract extension for the soon-to-be-1,000-win coach, have the organization feeling they've done everything possible to persuade Anthony to stay. But according to people with knowledge of the team’s strategy, if Anthony doesn’t agree to sign the three-year, $65 million extension by the Feb. 24 trade deadline, the wheels are all but certain to be put in motion to part ways with the three-time All-Star rather than lose him as a free agent and get nothing in return.

According to people in contact with the Nuggets’ management team, there is far more clarity today about what the team is seeking in a potential Anthony trade than there was in September, when new GM Masai Ujiri was thrust into the tempest in his initial days and weeks on the job. Executives believe the Nuggets have decided they would like to receive the best possible package of young players and are not interested in stopgap options that would hamper their flexibility. Acquiring a high-priced veteran player -- such as Andre Iguodala, whose talent the Nuggets value but not his contract -- would only hurt the team’s ability to build around youth while maintaining payroll flexibility into the uncertainty of a new collective bargaining agreement.

The Nets’ package of 2010 No. 3 pick Derrick Favors, guard Devin Harris, the expiring contract of Kris Humphries and two first-round picks remains the most attractive option to the Nuggets, sources say. Additional trade partners such as Charlotte and Utah are not eager to get involved in the discussions again, but wouldn’t necessarily be needed this time.

The wild card remains Anthony’s desire to sign an extension with the Nets, who obviously would not be willing to offer the same package without such a guarantee. While rival executives continue to doubt that Anthony would be willing to spend the next season-and-a-half in Newark, N.J., sources who have been in close contact with the power brokers in Anthony’s camp -- William Wesley and Leon Rose -- say the Nets remain an option for Anthony.

Anthony and the Nuggets will play Sunday at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks, which remain his top choice via a trade or free agency -- even though the latter option could cost him millions depending on how successful owners are at imposing salary reductions in the new collective bargaining agreement. Sources say Anthony is so fixated on winding up with the Knicks that Denver management has become convinced that he will tempt fate and the new CBA by playing out the entire season in Denver and signing with the Knicks as a free agent on July 1 – or after the lockout. The only way that scenario could be positive for Denver would be in a sign-and-trade deal. But such an arrangement – like the pennies-on-the-dollar deals that sent LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami – would not be nearly as beneficial as what the Nets are offering now.

The Knicks, playing their best basketball in years with free-agent acquisition Amar’e Stoudemire, have believed that their best chance of landing Melo was for the process to play out slowly – and they’ve gotten their wish so far. But the Nuggets, sources say, are not sold on the young players New York could offer such as Anthony Randolph, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. Point guard Raymond Felton -- who has been on an offensive tear since gaining chemistry with Stoudemire and who becomes trade-eligible on Dec. 15 -- also does not interest the Nuggets, who view him as a halfcourt player who wouldn't fit their style.

Nuggets officials are said to be coming around to the idea that Harris could play in the backcourt with Chauncey Billups, who often played shooting guard this past summer with Team USA. But if Anthony is traded, sources say management also wants to show Billups -- who came to the Nuggets not just to come home, but to win -- the proper respect by engaging him in conversations about whether he'd prefer to be traded.

Other than hoping to persuade Anthony to sign the extension and stay in Denver, the biggest variable for the Nuggets is the sliding scale of quality on the Nets’ own first-round pick they’d convey in the trade. (They also would include Golden State’s protected 2012 first-rounder). The sooner the Nuggets trade Melo to New Jersey, the better the Nets get and the worse the pick gets. But that is a matter of timing and patience. As far as willingness to deal, it appears that the Nuggets are finally open for business.

And so are we in the rest of this week’s Post-Ups:

• With the Trail Blazers' obvious struggles and the health challenges (that's putting it mildly) of Greg Oden and Brandon Roy, two people with knowledge of the team's strategy told CBSSports.com that Portland management is contemplating trading older players and going young. The obvious targets for such a purge would be Marcus Camby (36), Andre Miller (34), and Joel Przybilla (31). Roy isn’t old, but his knees are -- though one of the sources said Portland would find no takers for the five years and $82.3 million remaining on Roy's contract, given the state of his meniscus-less knees. Przybilla ($7.4 million expiring contract) and Miller (whose $7.8 million salary in 2011-12 is fully non-guaranteed) are eminently moveable. Another candidate to be dealt, though not because of age or health, is Rudy Fernandez, who has wanted out of Portland for some time. Sources caution that the Blazers have engaged in only internal conversations about this strategy, and it is contingent upon the team (10-11) continuing to struggle. But the writing certainly is on the wall for major changes in Portland.

• Multiple NBA team executives told CBSSports.com this week they believe a significant number of college underclassmen will stay in school rather than risk losing a year of development (and pay) in a lockout. College coaches making the pitch to underclassman to stay in school will have more leverage than ever before. “They’ll have the hammer,” one exec said. “To lose a year of development at that stage of your career, that’s huge.” This could have a dramatic impact on a team like No. 4 Kansas, which in an ordinary year would have as many as three first-round picks: freshman Josh Selby (serving a nine-game NCAA suspension for accepting improper benefits); and juniors Marcus Morris and Tyshawn Taylor. Sophomore Thomas Robinson also impressed NBA execs scouting the Jimmy V Classic Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

• Speaking of Madison Square Garden, rival execs agree that New York would be a logical landing spot for Andre Iguodala, and they believe the Sixers will be more than open to discussing trades for the dynamic but high-priced swingman as the Feb. 24 deadline approaches. The Knicks, one of the few teams in a position to absorb salary in the uncertain labor environment, also would be looking for an attractive piece to pair with Stoudemire in the event the Nuggets follow through with an Anthony trade prior to the deadline. Team president Donnie Walsh would have to decide if, short of Anthony, Iguodala is the best option that will be available to him between now and 2011 free agency -- if and when that happens. And also, if Iguodala is worth giving up the cap flexibility he's toiled three years to create. Pricetag notwithstanding -- the 26-year-old is due $56.5 million over the next four years -- Iguodala would be an excellent fit for Mike D'Antoni's high-octane offense and would instantly become the best defender on the roster by a mile.

• With details of the National Basketball Players Association's July proposal finally becoming fully public Wednesday, the question of how prepared the union is for a lockout is naturally going to come up. According to sources familiar with the union's financial documents, the NBPA currently has just shy of $100 million in liquid assets in its war chest in the event of a lockout. The funds have been accumulated largely through players agreeing to put aside licensing money they receive from the league -- something they are doing again this season to the tune of about $30 million. If you add non-liquid assets, such as property, the union will have about $175 million on hand. This is a lot of money to you and me, but not to 450 NBA players. Consider that the players' salaries (without benefits) last season totaled about $2.3 billion -- with a "b." Now consider that players are paid 12 times during the season -- twice a month for six months. That means the NBPA's total war chest is enough to cover the players' first paychecks during a lockout in the 2011-12 season.

• With trade discussions typically heating up around the 20-game mark -- and also around Dec. 15, when summer free agents become trade-eligible -- execs league-wide are curious to learn what sort of trade climate will exist in light of the labor uncertainty. Many predict that teams that have typically been willing to take on salary between December and the trade deadline (Feb. 24) will be less willing (or unwilling) to do so in this environment. Similarly, teams performing below management's internal expectations (Houston, the Clippers, the Blazers) have a tough decision to make. They could try to fix their problems now, but without knowing what the rules will be under the new agreement, they don't know what conditions they’re planning for. Of the aforementioned teams, the Blazers are in the best position to dump salary because of the attractiveness of the contracts they'd be moving. Plus, Miller's value is not only in his contract, but in his ability to push a contending team in need of a steadying point-guard presence over the top. Full disclosure: this is my idea, not anybody else's, but Orlando would be the perfect landing spot for Miller depending on what the Magic would be willing to send back.


Posted on: November 15, 2010 9:42 am
Edited on: November 15, 2010 9:52 am
 

Kobe rips owners: 'Look in the mirror'

LOS ANGELES – With labor talks reaching a critical stage between now and the All-Star break, Kobe Bryant weighed in for the first time Sunday night with some strong words for NBA owners.

“I think the owners need to look in the mirror,” Bryant told CBSSports.com when asked about the $750 million to $800 million reduction in player salaries being sought by the owners. “They need to make the right judgment themselves and stop trying to force us players to be the ones to make adjustments. They’ve got to look in the mirror and decide what they want to do with the sport, and we as employees will show up and do what we’ve got to do.”

Bryant, the highest-paid player in the league under what is likely to be his final contract, is scheduled to join Michael Jordan as the league’s only $30 million players in the final year of the deal in 2013-14. Asked where he stands in the labor dispute that could be more punitive to stars like Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose – who likely won’t get new contracts until a new CBA is in place – Bryant said, “I’m going to fight for our players.”

“It’s about making sure we have the best deal going forward,” Bryant said. “That’s my stance and that’s not going to change. I’m not going to waver. It’s about taking care of the generation that’s coming after us. That’s what the guys before us tried to do, and that’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m not going to waver from that.”

These were the strongest words yet spoken publicly by an NBA player about the owners’ pursuit of a hard cap, enormous salary reductions and a rollback of existing contracts. Coming from Bryant, they carried weight – both with the players and owners.

“The onus is not on us,” Bryant said. “People are trying to put that responsibility on us. It’s not our responsibility. It’s the owners’ job. This is what they do.”

Bryant’s vow to fight for players who didn’t get max deals under the current system and will likely have to accept less in a new CBA comes as a divide is forming between two camps – the paid, and the not-yet-paid. CBSSports.com has learned that players like Howard and Anthony, Chris Paul and Rose are growing wary of possibly getting shut out of the kind of max money that this past summer’s free agents scored. If owners aren’t successful in getting across-the-board rollbacks, but do negotiate a reduction in future max salaries and guarantees, the players subject to the haircut are “not going to have it,” according to an influential person involved in the players’ side of bargaining strategy.

“They’re not going to allow those guys to sneak in a year before collective bargaining and say, ‘We got paid,’” the person said. “They can’t have their cake and eat it, too. There are too many powerful players whose contracts are coming up to let that happen.”

Bryant isn’t choosing sides in that debate; he just wants a fair deal for everyone. His point was primarily directed at owners who went on a spending spree this past summer before quickly shifting gears to claim player costs must be brought down to stem hundreds of millions in annual losses. And his comments come at a time when, as on the court, Bryant perhaps senses that the bargaining game is about to get interesting. Commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, union chief Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher of the Lakers will hold a 2-on-2 bargaining session Thursday to ramp up the intensity of talks heading into All-Star weekend, a key time-stamp in both sides’ efforts to avoid a lockout when the current deal expires on June 30, 2011.

Bryant’s comments also represent the strongest signal of commitment from the players since multiple All-Stars made a surprise appearance at a bargaining session during All-Star weekend in Dallas last February.

“If they’re gonna pay players to perform and this that and the other, then do it,” Bryant said. “It’s not on us.”

Posted on: November 14, 2010 10:56 pm
 

Heavy hitters set for Nov. 18 CBA meeting


LOS ANGELES -- As union leaders and ownership prepare for a pivotal bargaining session during All-Star weekend here, both sides are first gearing up for a two-on-two session involving the heaviest hitters in the negotiations.

Commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver will match wits with union chief Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher of the Lakers on Thursday, Fisher told CBSSports.com. Fisher, who will be in Minneapolis on an off-day during the Lakers' road trip through the Midwest, will participate via conference call.

"The smaller meetings allow us to get more accomplished," Fisher said. "We're going to be hard at work on this between now and All-Star weekend, that's for sure."

Since the last formal bargaining session in New York, the two sides have begun holding smaller staff meetings to address specifics of each side's proposal. But Thursday's meeting of the minds will be the first session involving Stern, Silver and Hunter since Stern dropped his bombshell after last month's Board of Governors meeting that owners are seeking a $750 million to $800 million reduction in player salaries.

Stern subsequently confirmed a CBSSports.com report that owners are considering contraction as one option to cut costs -- a threat that is viewed by most parties in the talks as a negotiating tactic -- and a person involved in bargaining told CBSSports.com that owners are seeking a rollback of existing contracts as part of a new CBA. The union has stridently rejected the owners' position on salary reductions, and a person with knowledge of the union's strategy has told CBSSports.com that the owners' bid for a hard salary cap is a "total deal breaker" for the players.

There will be plenty to talk about Thursday with time running out before All-Star weekend, which both sides have acknowledged will be a crucial turning point in the talks. If significant progress isn't made by All-Star weekend, both sides have acknowledged that the likelihood of a lockout when the current deal expires on June 30, 2011 will increase significantly.
Posted on: October 22, 2010 7:11 pm
 

Stern's tipoff: Let the rhetoric begin

The typically rosy tone of David Stern's tipoff conference call was mostly gone Friday, replaced by some more gloomy proclamations even as the commissioner admitted what should be obvious: 'Tis the season for rhetoric.

Stern didn't back away from his assertion a day earlier that the league is seeking to cut player salaries by $750 million to $800 million in a new collective bargaining agreement -- though he retroactively tried to downplay it as not news, since the figure was included in the owners' initial proposal to the players in January. He also confirmed a CBSSports.com report that contraction is "on the table" in negotiations with the players as a last-ditch means to restore competitive balance and profitability.

"The issue of contraction is one that has to be discussed in the context of collective bargaining with the players," Stern said. "Whether or if there are markets where there may not be buyers for teams that are looking to be sold, that raises the issue of contraction. It’s sensitive subject for me because I've spent 27 years in this job working very hard not only to maintain all of our teams, but along the way add a few. But I think that’s a subject that will be on the table with the players as we look to see what [is] the optimum way to present our game and are there cities and teams that cannot make it in the current economic environment. We’re not spending a lot of time on it."

But perhaps the most revealing moment in Stern's second straight day under oath in the court of labor negotiations came when he admitted what veterans of past labor strife know all too well: Nothing gets done until the last minute, and now is when the rhetoric runs deep.

After Stern's $750 million rocket made its way to the National Basketball Players Association offices Thursday -- and to union chief Billy Hunter's ear on the road -- the union issued a statement from Hunter that read, in part:

"If the owners maintain their position, it will inevitably result in a lockout and the cancellation of part or all of the 2011-2012 season. The players and union will prepare accordingly."

When I asked Stern if he shared this grim view, the commissioner said, "I don't believe that Billy wrote that because he wouldn't threaten me with a lockout And all I can say is that's what negotiations are for and we're looking forward to our next negotiating session."

So, this is par for the course, I asked?

"Absolutely," Stern said. "It's classic negotiating rhetoric, probably on both sides."

Of all the words spoken in the past 48 hours about the NBA's labor strife, those last four were the most revealing and important: "probably on both sides."

As Stern has pointed out numerous times, this isn't his first rodeo. He's participated in so many bargaining sessions that he could play the accompanying background music in his sleep. If I'm scoring this one at home, I say both sides have done a masterful job so far. The union has done an effective job of discrediting the owners' cries of poverty, and Stern is at the top of his game when it comes to tilting the negotiating table this way and that until the final result lands in the middle: a deal everyone can live with.

Stern and his army of lawyers and accountants threw everything including the kitchen sink in the owners' first proposal. On Thursday, he went public with just how much owners seek to reduce player salaries. Now, the old-fashioned trick of threatening to nuke struggling franchises -- and dozens of corresponding player jobs -- has entered the equation.

By the time he's finished, Stern will have given so much of that back to the players that they'll feel like they won. As Stern said Friday, "We know we're going to get a deal done."

Just brace yourselves, because there's a whole lot of rhetoric left to be spewed between now and June 30, 2011.

Somewhere underneath it all, there will be a pretty interesting basketball season.



 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com