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Tag:Joel LItvin
Posted on: December 13, 2011 12:02 am
Edited on: December 13, 2011 12:02 pm
 

Clippers still resisting CP3 deal

UPDATED 12:01 p.m. ET

The Clippers were still resisting overtures for a Chris Paul trade Tuesday after the talks were revived for the second time in 24 hours under pressure from the league office to reach a resolution, sources told CBSSports.com.

Having claimed veteran point guard Chauncey Billups off amnesty waivers as a possible precursor to the deal, the Clippers nonetheless were under no pressure to dive back into the talks. The league office, which is assisting the Hornets in the trade discussions in its role as the de factor owner of the team, already has nixed a trade that would've sent Paul to the Lakers. The Knicks used what few assets and cap maneuverability they had to get free-agent center Tyson Chandler, and Paul has not indicated a willingness to give a long-term commitment as part of a trade to the Golden State Warriors.

"They have no choice" but to make sure Paul is traded to the Clippers, a person on the periphery of the talks said Monday night.

The talks that would never die were revived Monday night, with a twist that was enraging some rival general managers. The Clippers' winning waiver claim on Billups allowed them to include point guard Eric Bledsoe in the deal, which observers believed could push it over the finish line, league sources told CBSSports.com.

By claiming Billups for about $2 million, the Clippers were able to solve the dilemma of not having another point guard on the roster -- Mo Williams likely slides into the Jason Terry sixth man role, if he isn't included in the trade or waived with amnesty. Thus, L.A. could responsibly include Bledsoe in a blockbuster package for Paul.

The fact that Paul is dictating the terms by limiting the teams he'd agree to stay at least two years with to those that reside in L.A., Clippers GM Neil Olshey has plenty of leverage. So Olshey's resistance to including Bledsoe, sharpshooting guard Eric Gordon and the Timberwolves' unprotected 2012 first-round pick is no longer an issue. The deal, if finally consummated, will be better than what the league was demanding earlier in the day, when the Clippers wisely walked away from the talks.

Nonetheless, the Clippers were signaling to rival teams that they've "moved on" from the Paul saga and already had reached out to Billups in an effort to assure him his status as a leader and intergral part of the team were secure, sources said. Another person tied to the talks said he does not believe the league wants Paul traded out of New Orleans, where prospective owners are being sought to rescue the troubled franchise.

"Seems like a charade to me," the person said.

That set up a fascinating duel of who has the leverage and whether the franchise would be more valuable with or without Paul. In rejecting the three-team trade with the Lakers and Rockets, the league office obviously was saying that the franchise would be better off keeping Paul than trading him for veteran players Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic, plus draft picks. A package from the Clippers including Chris Kaman's expiring $12 million contract, Al-Farouq Aminu, Bledsoe and either Eric Gordon or the Timberwolves' unprotected 2012 first-round pick would seem to allow the Hornets to rebuild with prospects and picks -- which certainly would be preferable to Paul leaving as a free agent after the season with the Hornets getting nothing in return.

Paul's options, however, would be somewhat limited since the major-market teams he prefers are mostly capped out next summer, starting with his preferred destination, the Knicks. Paul would, however, have the option of going to Dallas, or to Brooklyn if Deron Williams opted out and decided to sign with his hometown Mavericks. Both players would have to take one year and about $25 million less than their current teams would be able to offer them under the new collective bargaining agreement.

The Paul negotiations were declared dead earlier Monday, after which Olshey spoke with the Los Angeles media and said, "We felt it was in the best interest of the team to keep this roster intact." But rival executives were circulating this conspiracy theory Monday night: Was it a coincidence that the Clippers were able to get Billups for $2 million when they were negotiating a related trade with the league office, which knew the competing bids?  The salacious banter was perpetuated by the conflict of interest inherent in the NBA's handling of the trade for the Hornets, who were taken over by the league in December 2010. 

A previous deal sending Paul to the Lakers was nixed by the league office in its role as overseer for the Hornets' personnel moves when commissioner David Stern and executives Joel Litvin and Stu Jackson determined that the package of players New Orleans was getting from the Lakers and Rockets wasn't acceptable. While rival GMs saw little problem with a package of Odom, Scola, Martin, Dragic and draft picks, the league wanted younger prospects and draft picks instead -- a package closer to what the Clippers have to offer, which would be more attractive to prospective buyers.

While it was understood that Paul would gladly sign a new five-year, $100 million contract next July with the Lakers if traded there, his commitment to the Clippers would only be for two years. As part of the deal, Paul would not promise to sign a new contract, only that he would not opt out of his current one after the season, sources said. That, and the league's limited options for trade partners, compressed the list of assets the Clippers were willing to give up.

The two-year period would give Paul time to survey the landscape in Clipperland and determine what notoriously penny-pinching owner Donald Sterling would do in two years with an $11 million center (DeAndre Jordan, whose four-year, $43 million offer sheet from Golden State was matched Monday); a 30 percent max player under the new rules in Blake Griffin; a close-to-max player in Gordon, if he stays; and himself. Those are a lot of big bills for the Donald, and Paul would need assurances that the Clippers are going to fully capitalize on their unique position of talent and cap flexibility and stop being second-class citizens to the Lakers at Staples Center.

As for Billups, a proud champion who'd warned teams not to claim him so he could pick his own team as an unrestricted free agent, does it make sense for him to spend perhaps the final year of his career on the Clippers' bench, watching Paul dribble between his legs and throw alley-oop passes to Griffin?

"That is not the league's concern," said a rival executive who is upset about the arrangement.

In finding the Billups solution to getting the Paul deal a chance to be completed, the league also sent a letter to Billups' agent, Andy Miller, warning him that there could be consequences if Billups caused problems for a team that claimed him off waivers, Yahoo Sports reported. Billups was waived with the amnesty provision by the Knicks to create room for a sign-and-trade arrangement that landed free-agent center Tyson Chandler in New York. Billups' $14.2 million salary came off the Knicks' books for cap and tax purposes, and the actual financial obligation to New York is offset by the $2 million that will be paid by the Clippers.

In a cruel double-whammy, Billups would become a pawn in delivering a superstar to a major market for the secod time in 10 months if the Paul-to-Clippers deal went down. In February, Billups was a necessary piece that facilitated the trade of Carmelo Anthony from Denver to the Knicks in another saga in which a star player threatened to bolt as a free agent if he wasn't traded to the team of his choice.

"I'm tired of being viewed as the good guy," Billups told Yahoo Saturday. "After a while, you just kind of get taken advantage of in these situations."
Posted on: August 1, 2011 6:54 pm
Edited on: August 1, 2011 7:17 pm
 

Stern accuses players of bad-faith bargaining

NEW YORK – The NBA labor talks took on a poisonous tone Monday, with each side lobbing rhetoric about the other not being willing to negotiate. The coup de grace came shortly before 6 p.m., from commissioner David Stern.

Standing in a midtown hotel lobby after a nearly three-hour farce of a bargaining session – the first between the two sides since owners imposed a lockout on July 1 – Stern fielded one last question in a terse and decidedly glum media session. After saying, “I don’t feel optimistic about the players’ willingness to engage in a serious way,” Stern was asked if he believes the players are bargaining in good faith, or not.

The grim-faced commissioner thought about it for several seconds and said, “I would say not. Thank you.”

And with those comments, Stern’s most direct public assault on the players during the more than two years of bargaining, the NBA lockout took its next step toward all-out legal warfare.

The National Basketball Players Association already has filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board alleging, among other things, that the owners have failed to bargain in good faith. The players’ hope is that this charge will result in a formal complaint from the NLRB, and then, an injunction from a federal judge reinstating the terms of the previous collective bargaining agreement. Short of decertification by the union, this would be the quickest path for the players to legally pressure the owners to back down from their demands of massive salary cuts as a cure for $300 million annual losses by the league.

With Stern firing back Monday that it’s the players who are not bargaining in good faith, he set the stage for a possible counter-charge by the league with the NLRB on the subject of good-faith bargaining. Such a legal strategy, which league officials would not confirm Monday as being on the table, could blunt the impact of the players’ charge and – more importantly – drag the lockout precariously into territory where it would be impossible to save all of the 2011-12 season.

As a point of reference, the NFL owners filed a similar charge with the NLRB in February, and that sport’s lockout ended before the board even finished investigating it. NBPA attorney Larry Katz has said he is hopeful that the NLRB will rule on the union’s complaint in the next 30-60 days. Training camps are supposed to open in about 60 days.

“I think it’s fair to say that we’re in the same place as we were 30 days ago,” Stern said. “And we agreed we’d be in touch to schedule some additional meetings.”

Asked why that would be necessary, given the lack of progress, Stern said, “There’s always a reason for more meetings because that’s the only way you’ll ultimately get to a deal, at the negotiating table. You never know, but right now we haven’t seen any movement.”

Earlier, NBPA president Derek Fisher accused Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver and the owners present Monday – San Antonio’s Peter Holt and Minnesota’s Glen Taylor – of saying one thing in the negotiating sessions and publicly and delivering quite another message by refusing to alter their proposal.

“I think Peter and Glen Taylor, Mr. Stern, Adam Silver are articulating certain things in the room, expressing their desire to get a deal done,” Fisher said. “But where their proposal lies makes it hard to believe that.”

Informed of Fisher’s comments, which echo the NLRB charge about failing to bargain in good faith, stern said, “He’s entitled to draw his own conclusion. We have absolutely the opposite take on it.”

While Fisher expressed optimism about “restarting this process,” Stern was asked what may have occurred Monday that gave him encouragement.

“Nothing,” he said.

The two sides agree on one thing, if nothing else: They’ll attempt to schedule at least one bargaining session in the next couple of weeks, with the ultimate goal of engaging in talks for consecutive days before Sept. 1. At that point, the league will be entering what essentially is a two-week window when it must begin contemplating the postponement of training camps and the cancelation of preseason games.

“There was a lot of discussion, a lot of ideas being thrown around,” said Fisher, adding that one irrefutable fact is becoming “clearer and clearer” about the owners’ position.

“What the bottom line is, is what the bottom line is,” Fisher said.

Stern disagreed, saying the owners’ offer of $1.4 billion in revenues to the players – a more than 33 percent pay cut in their initial proposal -- has consistently increased, and most recently was at $2 billion.

“We’ve made several offers, but we don’t feel significant movement back,” Stern said. “As we pointed out to the players, their last offer, 30 days ago, was to take their (average) salaries from $5 million to $7 million over a six-year period. So there’s still a very wide gap between us.”

The players dispute Stern’s repeated portrayal of their proposal, which they say starts off with a reduction in the players’ percentage of revenues from 57 percent to 54.3 percent in the first year of a six-year deal that would slow the growth of salaries by about $100 million a year.

Stern went so far as to use concessions made by NFL players in ending that sport’s lockout as justification for the NBA’s demands.

“From where we sit, we’re looking at a league that was the most profitable in sports that became more profitable by virtue of concessions from their players with an average salary of $2 million,” Stern said. “Our average salary is $5 million, we’re not profitable, and we just can’t seem to get over the gap that separates us.”

What Stern missed – and perhaps Fisher, too – was a moment in the Omni Berkshire Hotel lobby that summed up the sad state of affairs better than either man could. As Fisher addressed the media, a young boy walked by and said excitedly to his father, “Dad, that’s Derek Fisher!”

As his father fumbled for his camera to capture a moment more inglorious than he knew, the boy said, “This must be about the NBA lockout.”

And it’s only going to get worse from here, for kids like that.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com