Posted on: August 5, 2011 4:22 pm
This was all working out so well for the players. Deron Williams said hasta la vista to the lockout and took his talents to Turkey. Kevin Durant lit up Rucker Park with 66 points. Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony went to China and supposedly came back with lucrative offers for themselves and all their pals.
To this point, no superstar has followed D-Will to Turkey or anywhere else. There are complications with these supposedly lucrative offers in China. And oh, we now bring you the widely anticipated and sadly inevitable news of Michael Beasley shoving a fan in the face and Matt Barnes punching an opponent during pro-am games on either coast.
We don't even want to get into the escapades of three former NBA players in the news this week -- Darius Miles, who was arrested for trying to bring a loaded gun through airport security, Rafer Alston, who was sued over his alleged role in a strip club fight, and Samaki Walker, who allegedly tried to dine on eight grams of marijuana during a traffic stop in Arizona, during which police also confiscated prescription drugs and liquid steroids.
Guns, strip clubs and weed -- the trifecta of ammunition for those quick to stereotype NBA players as outlaws, lawbreakers and menaces to society. Great job, guys.
It’s a lockout, so NBA players must be behaving badly. And they are.
I’ve written previously on my disappointment that the stars with all the clout aren’t speaking up for the union in the ongoing labor dispute, preferring instead to stay quiet and tend to their own affairs. The latest flare-up from the NBPA’s knucklehead contingent is proof why union officials disagreed with my premise all along. Simply put, they were happy that the players, by and large, had been conducting themselves professionally during the lockout and not stepping out of line – a la Kenny Anderson, who turned the public on the players when he lamented having to sell some of his luxury cars during the 1998-99 lockout.
The union, it appears, will give up a few sound-byte points to David Stern so long as it can avoid the Kenny Anderson moment. Except now, they have the Michael Beasley moment and the Matt Barnes moment.
The NBA has gone to great lengths in recent years to curtail on-court behavior, clamping down on gesturing, complaining to officials, and the like. But no such rules were in effect at New York City’s Dyckman Park, where Beasley “mushed” the face of a heckler Thursday night. Nor were they in effect at Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco, where Barnes punched an opponent in a pro-am game on the very same night.
Such offenses in an NBA game would’ve earned an ejection, a hefty fine and a pointed rebuke from Stern. But the commissioner has no authority over the players now except in how he nonchalantly eviscerated all their bargaining positions with a smile on ESPN Tuesday night.
“They’re not serious about making a deal with the NBA,” Stern said, with no on-air response from any union representative. “They’re so busy talking about their decertification strategy, following the lead of their attorney, Jeffrey Kessler who did it for the NFL players, and engaging in conversations with agents about it and talking about it constantly, that we think that is distracting them from getting serious and making a deal.”
And now, some players are busy slugging playground wannabes and “mushing” the faces of hecklers from coast to coast, failing to realize that everyone in attendance has a phone capable of recording video and uploading it YouTube for all the world to see. Big difference from the last lockout, when we only got to read about a fraction of the follies the next day in the newspaper.
Making matters worse, just when it seemed that the players had a Kenny Anderson moment to pin on Stern – his bloated salary, which was reported to be between $15 million and $23 million – well, never mind. The Associated Press weighed in, citing multiple league sources who said Stern makes less than baseball commissioner Bud Selig ($18 million) and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell ($11 million). A person with knowledge of the activities of the NBA’s advisory/finance committee – a group of 11 owners who set Stern’s salary – confirmed to CBSSports.com that $10 million or less was “in the ballpark.”
So to sum up, the best strategy the players have against the owners is to walk a straight line (except, now some of them are not) and the threat of stars going overseas (except only one star has done so). And even if more follow – even if 20 more follow – where does that leave the other 400 players? To stay home and receive weekly updates from NBPA president Derek Fisher about how the owners still haven’t moved off their “my-way-or-the-highway” proposal – or to go out and play for free in some exhibition game, where one union member or another might just have to slug somebody?
It’s a tough act to follow, but several star players will try. Even if a dozen or more of them get lucrative deals in China or somewhere else for $1 million a month, that’s still a small fraction of their NBA salaries. Don’t you think Jerry Buss would jump at the chance to pay Kobe Bryant $1 million a month? That’s a hefty discount off his NBA haul of $25 million a year.
How is all of this intertwined? Everything is intertwined during a lockout, and must be viewed through the prism of whether it helps or hurts the players’ bargaining position. Going off on a heckler or opponent at some exhibition game does not qualify as helpful. Except to the traffic on YouTube.
Posted on: January 10, 2009 9:38 pm
The NBA Players Association won't file a grievance on Darius Miles' behalf now that the former No. 3 overall pick has received a 10-day contract from the Memphis Grizzlies despite threats of legal action from the Portland Trail Blazers.
"Our concern is that the players' marketplace is protected and that there’s no chilling of the marketplace and no collusion," Hal Biagas, deputy counsel for the players' association, told CBSSports.com Saturday night.
The union will continue monitoring the Miles situation and will take action if further investigation warrants it. One area that has yet to be fully explored is one that was raised by Miles' agent, Jeffrey Wechsler, earlier Saturday -- whether some teams backed away from offering Miles a contract due to Portland's threat of a lawsuit.
It would be a complicated case to prove, not to mention unseemly in how it would play out. If such a legal action were pursued, it would present the uncomfortable possibility of team executives testifying under oath as to whether they backed away from signing Miles after Blazers president Larry Miller emailed 29 teams Friday and threatened to sue any team that signed Miles simply to inflict harm on the Blazers. Other than Wechsler's assertion, there is no evidence at this point that other teams intended to sign Miles but backed away due to Portland's threat.
Miles, 27, retired in 2006 after failing to recover from microfracture surgery -- two years after signing a six-year, $48 million extension with the Blazers. If he plays two more games with any team, he would reach the 10-game threshold for canceling the salary-cap relief Portland was granted when he was deemed medically unable to play. It would result in $18 million returning to the Blazers' books, plus about $8 million in revenue sharing money from Portland that would be split among all teams under the tax threshold -- about $260,000 per team.
It would be exceedingly difficult to prove that collusion took place. Even if other teams were pursuing Miles, none would've been willing to give him more than the pro-rated veteran's minimum on a 10-day deal -- which is what he got from Memphis. Just as difficult to prove would be Memphis' motives in signing him. But if the Grizzlies were found to have signed him as a favor to any other team or teams that may be in competition with Portland for future free agents, that would be a matter that would attract intense scrutiny from league and union lawyers.
Something else to consider: The union's loyalty in the Miles case isn't necessarily obvious to pinpoint. While the players' association's job is to protect Miles, a person with knowledge of the situation pointed out that the union would prefer that the Blazers kept their cap space. That money would in turn increase the competition for a player or players also represented by the NBPA in the future.
Either way, it's safe to conclude that this story isn't over yet.
Posted on: January 10, 2009 10:19 am
Edited on: January 10, 2009 10:28 pm
Darius Miles is back with Memphis. The Grizzlies better be ready to lawyer up.
Amid swirling controversy and threats of a lawsuit from the Portland Trail Blazers, Miles signed a 10-day contract with the Grizzlies Saturday, less than a week after being waived. Miles played two games for Memphis but was released so his contract wouldn't be guaranteed for the rest of the season. He cleared waivers Friday, the same day a flurry of memos and threats flew around the NBA.
"Our focus is on Darius' career," Miles' agent, Jeffrey Wechsler said Saturday. "He doesn't want to hurt Portland." Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace announced the signing in a news release that praised Miles for his first stint with Memphis but made no mention of the Portland controversy.
"Darius did everything asked of him in his initial stint with the Grizzlies and was well received by his teammates,” Wallace said. “In the last Minnesota game (Jan. 6), his length, experience, rebounding, shot blocking and defense on one of the elite post scorers in the league, Al Jefferson, were all impressive. Our young team is short on frontcourt players and can use a veteran with his attributes."
If Miles plays two more games, he will satisfy the criteria to cancel the cap relief Portland received when he retired due do a medical condition. Miles signed a six-year, $48 million extension with the Blazers in 2004, but never recovered from microfracture surgery in 2006. In 2008, Portland's petition to have the injury declared career-ending was approved, but the requirement was that Miles remained retired. Clearly, he is not. He played six preseason games for the Celtics before logging two for Memphis.
Before Miles cleared waivers, Blazers president Larry Miller sent an email to the 29 other teams warning them that they would face litigation if they signed Miles specifically to hurt them. If Miles passes the 10-game threshold, the $18 million remaining on his contract goes back on Portland's books -- half this season and half next season. That would not only remove the Blazers from free-agent contention in perhaps the two biggest free-agent summers in NBA history, but it would also cost Portland about $8 million in luxury tax.
In return, the league office issued a memo to all league executives Friday reinforcing that they are welcome to sign Miles and that any uniform contract with the former No. 3 overall pick would be honored and approved by the NBA. NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter said he was "appalled" and that he would challenge any legal action taken by the Blazers.
UPDATE: But the players' association won't file a grievance at this time in support of Miles, Hal Biagas, the union's deputy counsel, told CBSSports.com Saturday night. There's no evidence at this point that collusion occured, other than assertions by Wechsler that certain teams may have backed away from offering Miles a contract in the wake of Portland's threat. The players' association is looking into Wechsler's assertions, but the fact that Miles received a fair-market deal -- the prorated veteran's minimum on a 10-day contract -- leaves little to fuel a legal case.“Our concern is that the players' marketplace is protected and that there’s no chilling of the marketplace and no collusion," said Biagas, who indicated that the union will continue to investigate and monitor the matter.
Miles winding up back in Memphis is curious and may satisfy the Blazers' definition of malicious, if they choose to pursue their case legally. A person familiar with the Grizzlies' front-office dealings said Miles is not a long-term solution and is viewed as a long-shot to stick around for any significant length of time.
Wechsler disagrees, saying Memphis gave Miles a chance in his first stint and has no ulterior motives in bringing Miles back. Wechsler should know; as Miles' agent, it was his job to make sure he didn't get his client in a situation where a team was using him simply to hurt Portland. "He just wants to play, and Darius can play," Wechsler said. "He's long, he can defend, and he's jumping and dunking off either leg."
Wechsler was conferring with players' association attorneys Saturday, but wouldn't rule out pursuing legal action outside the scope of the collective bargaining agreement if the Blazers' actions were found to have eliminated teams from the bidding for his client.
"We are going to vigorously defend Darius' rights and pursue all avenues to preserve Darius' ability to earn a living," Wechsler said. "If we have to bring in outside counsel, we're in the process of evaluating all of that."
Posted on: January 9, 2009 6:06 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2009 8:52 pm
Neither David Stern nor the NBA office had any public comment Friday about the Portland Trail Blazers' memo to teams warning them they would face litigation if they signed Darius Miles. That doesn't mean the league was silent on the matter, though.
League sources confirmed that the NBA office sent a memo to all 30 teams Friday letting them know that they are permitted to sign Miles to a contract, and that the league office would approve that contract. It was a blow to the Blazers' efforts to prevent teams from signing Miles, whose remaining $18 million spread over this year and next would go back on Portland's books if he plays two more games this season.
It was an unprecedented step and another twist in the Miles saga, which could cripple the Blazers' bid to be a force in free agency over the next two summers. Miles cleared waivers Friday and has the full support of the NBA Players Association, whose executive director, Billy Hunter, said he was "appalled" by Portland's actions.
UPDATE: Blazers president Larry Miller was defiant in a national conference call with reporters Friday night, defending the team's threat of legal action and insisting he'd heard "rumblings" that teams were considerig signing Miles once he cleared waivers specifically to hurt the Blazers. He declined to name the team or teams involved.
"This was our way of responding to that and letting folks know that we weren’t going to take that sitting down," said Miller, noting that the top decision-makers in the organization were involved in the step of warning rival teams with a league-wide memo saying they would be sued if they signed Miles for "malicious reasons." The decision was made by Miller, general manager Kevin Pritchard, business executive Tod Leiweke, and owner Paul Allen.
Miller also revealed that he consulted with the league office before the litigation notice was sent. "I told them this was what we were planning to send out," Miller said. "And they told us if that is what we felt we should do, we should do it."
Miller said he'd received feedback from rival executives about the unusual threat -- some of it positive, some of it negative. "We wouldn't change the way we approached this," he said.
Confronted with the notion that the players' association could use collusion as one basis on which to challenge the Blazers' threat, Miller said, "Hey, that's their job, and we have no problem with that because we’re not trying to do anything to hurt Darius Miles. This was about other teams trying to hurt us."
The unprecedented step taken by Portland to protect the disabled player exemption on Miles was fueled by financial implications -- about $8 million in luxury-tax money to be paid to all teams under the tax -- plus the desire to maintain cap flexibility for future signings. Miller also mentioned that making the Blazers profitable, which he said they've never been, also was factored in. Attorneys were not consulted before the memo was sent, Miller said.
"This was a business decision," he said. "We felt maybe this was a way for us to protect our organization."
Posted on: January 8, 2009 1:52 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2009 11:19 am
Turns out the Portland Trail Blazers aren't in the clear with Darius Miles' cap-killing contract, after all.
A person with knowledge of the situation has confirmed to me a Yahoo! Sports report that the six preseason games Miles played for Boston count against the 10-game threshold that would cause MIles' $18 million to go back on the Blazers' books. The money would be split evenly over this season and next, thus crippling any plans the Blazers might've had to be a player in free agency.
It had been believed -- even among GMs who were monitoring the Miles situation -- that the Blazers dodged a bullet when Memphis released him this week after playing only two games. Not so; according to the CBA, Miles is only two games away from wrecking Portland's cap situation.
It is hard to empathize with a team trying to get out from under a bad contract. If you sign a player to a bad contract, you should be prepared to live with the consequences. The Blazers have been in that frame of mind all along, so they're not looking for sympathy. G.M. Kevin Pritchard told me in an email that he "planned for all the scenarios."
The part of this that makes me queasy is the notion that rival GMs are salivating at the prospect of signing Miles and running him onto the floor for two games just for the sake of hurting the Blazers. There has to be some mechanism, some power at David Stern's discretion, to prevent such obvious abuse. I will let you know if such authority exists, but there is one reprieve at Portland's disposal for sure: If Miles' salary goes back on the books, the Blazers can apply after a year to have the final year taken off. Depending on the motives of the team that signs Miles and plays him for those two games, excusing the final year would seem to be a fair compromise -- one that doesn't fully forgive Portland for giving Miles the contract in the first place, but doesn't over-penalize, either.
UPDATE: Here is how it would work if Miles reached the 10-game threshold and the Blazers applied to have the second $9 million installment wiped from their books. According to a person familiar with the situation, the rules allow Portland to apply for relief one year after the injury that caused the disability. The team applies to the league office, which works in conjunction with medical experts and the NBA Players Association to reach a consensus. It would have to be determined if Miles is unable to play due to the injury or due to lack of skill -- a gray area if there ever was one. If it is determined that Miles can't play anymore skill-wise, Portland clearly wouldn't be given relief on the second year of the money.
UPDATE: Now the Trail Blazers have put the other 29 teams on notice: Sign Miles for the expressed purpose of harming us, and we'll sue you.
Although the notion of a team using Miles to hurt the Blazers is just wrong, the fact that Pritchard has prepared for this situation from the beginning tells me that this isn't as catastrophic to Portland's long-term plan as some of suggested. It would be nice to have cap flexibility, but Pritchard has some other valuable assets -- young, appealing players on reasonable contracts that could be packaged in a trade for the piece that might push the Blazers over the top. And remember: Regardless of the Miles situation, there's nothing to prevent a marquee free agent from going to Portland in a sign-and-trade.
Posted on: January 7, 2009 12:58 pm
The Memphis Grizzlies' decision to waive Darius Miles after he'd played only two games comes as quite a relief to the Portland Trail Blazers. Had Miles lasted long enough with the Grizzlies to appear in 10 games, the $18 million remaining on his contract would've returned to the Blazers' cap. Now, unless Miles can persuade another team to take a chance on him, Blazers G.M. Kevin Pritchard should have some cap flexibility in the next two summers.
Now isn't exactly the time for Miles to catch on with another club. Teams are in the process of cutting players with non-guaranteed contracts because those deals become guaranteed if they aren't released in time to clear waivers by Saturday. Go ahead, Blazers fans. You can exhale.
Posted on: December 13, 2008 3:12 pm
The Memphis Grizzlies finally look like something close to a professional basketball team, having won three straight after coach Marc Iavaroni benched Rudy Gay. Now Yahoo! Sports has reported that someone in Memphis has come up with the idea to sign former No. 3 overall pick Darius Miles to a minimum contract.
I ask, why? And I say, bad idea.
With five NBA coaches already shown the door before Christmas, Iavaroni was hanging on by a thred in Memphis. This despite starting three rookies at times and having a team with an average age that is comparable to that of the Memphis Tigers. (This from a person familiar with the team's situation who did the math.)
The players were looking for structure and direction, and Iavaroni gave it to them when he benched Gay, whose tendency to perform a solo act didn't sit well with his teammates.
Now, with a roster spot cleared after a three-team trade that sent Javaris Crittenton to Washington, the Grizzlies evidently have decided that the best use of that roster spot is to fill it with Miles, who has not played since 2006 due to a debilitating knee injury. Miles also will be suspended for the first 10 games he's on an active roster for violating the league's anti-drug policy.
"When it ends -- and it doesn't end well, because he never does with Darius -- all it can do is blow up the team," a person familiar with the Grizzlies' situation said.
If the signing goes through, the result could be devastating for another team -- Miles' previous one, Portland. The Trail Blazers got a retired player exception when they waived Miles after last season and his injury was determined to be career-ending. But if MIles, 27, plays 10 games for someone else this season, the Blazers will have to account for the $18 million remaining on Miles' contract against the salary cap. It would remove what little flexibility the Blazers' have in free agency over the next two years.