Tag:Knicks
Posted on: May 3, 2011 2:58 pm
Edited on: May 3, 2011 3:04 pm
 

Do LeBron and Wade share a brain?

MIAMI – From the day LeBron James and Dwyane Wade became teammates, they were the focal point of a social and basketball experiment. How they would react – to the pressure, to the spotlight, to each other – would be the subject of daily curiosity. 

After 82 regular season games and six playoff games – a very public journey that was launched in the seclusion of training camp on a Florida Air Force base – the questions are still coming about the on-court aspects of their relationship. In the huddle before the final possession, they were asked Tuesday in the hours before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Celtics, who gets the last shot? Who demands the ball? Does one back off when the other has the hot hand? 

But those who have followed the first steps in the Heat’s playoff run may have noticed something else about this superstar duo that is even harder to explain. For months, LeBron and Wade have been conducting postgame interviews while seated side-by-side at a table in the interview room. There is no one-on-one time with either star, and the only opportunity to ask James a question without Wade hearing the answer came in LeBron’s customary availability on game nights, about an hour before tipoff in the locker room. 

Even that tradition, the last proof that James and Wade were, in fact, separate humans, was scratched off their itineraries recently. Of late, James has stopped going solo with the media before games and instead sits at the interview table next to Wade before shootaround, as he did Tuesday morning. 

A few weeks ago, the two actually began the somewhat bizarre and unprecedented habit of answering questions on practice days while standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the court. It has led to some awkward camera footage -- you may have noticed Wade answering questions on TV while LeBron stands in the background, using up valuable oxygen – and has produced some awkward moments. How do you ask Wade about a last-second shot James missed when the guy who missed it is standing right next to him? 



Instead of shooting from the hip, LeBron and Wade are attached there.

The Celtics’ Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen started the trend of group interviews, but LeBron and Wade have taken it to a level never before seen in professional sports as far as I can tell. Their calculated decision to function as one not only on the court, but also in the court of public opinion, says so much about the relationship they have forged and the pitfalls that have always been present for two stars and friends joining forces in the prime of their careers. 

“I think from Day 1, we kind of understood even from our teammates that we’re going to be the two guys that everyone looked at – to see how we reacted to things, to see how we could handle the change, to see how we could handle playing with each other,” Wade said Tuesday. “We realized that. And that’s something that we communicated and talked about, even from the beginning, that we had to be always on the same page. If we're not on the same page, always communicating with each other and just having each other's backs, no matter if it's bad times or it's good times. We're always going to stay even-keeled, so that helps the success of our team.” 

Their refusal to be divided and/or conquered isn’t unique. During media availability at All-Star weekend, James sat shoulder-to-shoulder with Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul on the scorer’s table and ran interference for his friends when difficult questions about trades or free agency came up. James even chided the media for harping on his fellow All-Stars’ futures, when it was James who had escalated the trend of stars teaming up and put so much pressure on Melo and CP3 to find better teammates in the first place. 



But more than camaraderie and protectiveness, the controlled way James and Wade present themselves publicly speaks to a certain level of paranoia about what outside forces would try to do to them if they were separated and forced to stray off message. It was interesting that James referred collectively to himself and Wade Tuesday as “the voice” of the team. Do they not have their own thoughts and voices? Would James’ head explode if Wade expressed an independent thought, or vice versa? 

This strategy is straight from the playbook of team president Pat Riley’s “one voice” approach to maintaining organizational control. Riley, who orchestrated this three-headed monster of LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh, has conducted a grand total of two media availabilities the entire season – brief Q&A’s at two charity events. As with the Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick model in football, the one and only voice belongs to the coach. As a corollary, the two stars share a voice – rarely, if ever, saying something the other isn’t thinking or wouldn’t say. 

“I’m louder than D-Wade, D-Wade is louder than CB,” James said. “You can hear my voice from here to, anywhere obviously. Here to Akron. And D-Wade, he voices his opinion. He does it sometimes, also. But we don’t step on each other’s toes or anything like that. But at the same time, it's not a bed of roses with me and D-Wade and CB. We get on each other if we feel like you’re not doing your job. It's constructive criticism that we need to have with one another to help our team win.” 

It is a fascinating sidebar to the Heat’s journey through the playoffs, perfectly encapsulating the mindset of two superstars as they try to put the Celtics in the first 0-2 playoff hole of the Big Three era Tuesday night. And it highlights the luxury that they have off the court – the ability to look to each other for guidance before answering a question, exchanging small talk under their breath before deciding which one will speak – is one that does not exist on the court. The island they share in the public eye can be more easily divided in the course of a game, when split-second decisions must be made and when credit or blame unavoidably must be be assigned. 

“I also think that people forget that me and 'Bron were the best of friends before we played together,” Wade said. “We got criticized for being friends and hanging out before games with each other, when I'd go to Cleveland and go to his house. We got criticized for that: ‘Back in the day, the Lakers didn’t do that. Boston didn’t do that.’ Well, today, obviously that worked, because we're here together.” 

Together? Inseparable is more like it.
Posted on: April 25, 2011 12:07 am
 

Knicks considering two-year extension for Walsh

NEW YORK -- The Knicks are considering a two-year extension for team president Donnie Walsh, with the matter expected to be resolved in the next two weeks, a person familiar with the organization's thinking told CBSSports.com Sunday night. 

Walsh, 69, has an option for the 2011-12 season to be exercised by April 30, but the more likely scenario is a two-year extension that would keep the architect of the Knicks' revival at the helm through the critical next phase of the rebuilding plan. If the option is not picked up, Walsh's contract expires June 30. 

"It's basically going to be Donnie's call whether he wants to come back," said the person with knowledge of the organization's intentions. 

No final decisions have been made on Walsh or coach Mike D'Antoni in the wake of a 4-0 first-round sweep completed Sunday with a 101-89 loss to the Celtics, and sources cautioned that several issues could complicate both situations. For one, neither Walsh nor D'Antoni has been given a clear indication as to their respective statuses, which explains why D'Antoni took some off-guard with his postgame comment Sunday, "I don't know what the future holds." 

D'Antoni's comment was not made with knowledge of his status one way or another, one of the sources said. The coach's fate is strongly tied to Walsh, whose future has been shrouded in secrecy and subject to the whims of Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan. Even those with ties to Walsh who've had dealings with Dolan have been unable to decipher in recent weeks how far Dolan will go to try to keep Walsh. 

Another complicating factor could be an attempt to force something on Walsh that he's not comfortable with, sources said. Such a circumstance could be another attempt by Dolan to bring former coach and president Isiah Thomas back into the organization in an official capacity -- an unequivocally destructive move that is believed to be no more than a remote possibility, one of the sources said. Dolan's attempt to hire Thomas, the coach at Florida International, as a consultant last summer was shot down by NBA rules forbidding team employees from having contact with college players who are not yet draft eligible. 

Walsh has consistently sidestepped questions about his future and has grown increasingly aggravated that his status has become a news item as the Knicks made their first trip to the playoffs in seven years. Before the Knicks' brief return to the postseason ended Sunday with a 4-0 sweep at the hands of the Celtics, Walsh testily tried to deflect questions about D'Antoni's status and a looming decision on whether to guarantee point guard Chauncey Billups' $14.2 million contract for next season. 

Walsh appears to be leaning toward keeping D'Antoni -- "Overall, he's done a good job," he said Sunday -- given that the Knicks lost Billups for the final three games of the Boston series and were further compromised by Amar'e Stoudemire's back injury in Games 3 and 4. D'Antoni has one year left on his contract, had only two months to integrate Billups and Carmelo Anthony with Stoudemire, and hasn't coached a stable roster from start to finish for three seasons. 

The decision on Billups, 34, must come first due to a five-day clock that began ticking Sunday on a deadline to fully guarantee his contract for next season. But the most important call is on Walsh, who restored dignity to a lost franchise, cleared a mountain of cap space to attract stars, and now is expected to embark on the third phase of a massive reclamation project that began when he was hired to replace Thomas in April 2008. 

Walsh has endured several health problems during his tenure, including a successful bout with tongue cancer and hip-replacement surgery in November that has him still using a walker. But those close to Walsh have described him as being in good health and spirits as well as invigorated by the prospect of completing a rebuilding job that began with the signing of Stoudemire and escalated with the February trade that paired him with Anthony. 

After Sunday's loss, both Anthony and Stoudemire deflected questions about whether Walsh and D'Antoni would be back next season. 

"I'm pretty sure the front office will handle it to the best of their ability," Anthony said of the multitude of offseason decisions. "They have one of the best front offices in the NBA right now, so they will do their job. I'll let them handle that."
Posted on: April 21, 2011 8:55 pm
Edited on: April 21, 2011 9:00 pm
 

Stern envisions replay official, challenge flags

PHILADELPHIA – NBA commissioner David Stern defended the officiating through the first week of the playoffs Thursday night and said he envisions a time when the league will have a dedicated replay official and when coaches will be allowed to throw challenge flags in the final two minutes of games. 

“The officiating has been how officiating is,” Stern said during a stop on his playoff tour at Game 3 between the Heat and 76ers. “We have this issue. We have humans that officiate our games and they don’t catch everything. But they’re the best at what they do.” 

The opening week of the playoffs included several controversial calls, including one in which Oklahoma City’s Kendrick Perkins was incorrectly credited with a basket in the Thunder’s 102-101 victory over the Nuggets in Game 1 of their series due to a missed basket interference call. The league office issued a statement acknowledging the mistake, but a blatant trip by the CelticsKevin Garnett against the KnicksToney Douglas – helping to free Ray Allen for a deciding 3-pointer in Game 1 of that series – did not result in a mea culpa from Stern’s officiating department. 

Stern stressed several times the need to strive for accuracy through replay enhancement without further slowing down the games. 

“Eventually, you may have someone sitting at a desk rather than having a Talmudic discussion of three referees every time there’s a disputed play,” Stern said. “We might have one person whose job it is to keep the headphones on and always watch. And you might let a coach throw the flag in the last two minutes. We’re striving for accuracy. … We have to find a way to speed the game up, and to get it right. That’s the most important thing.” 

With developments Thursday further enhancing Sacramento’s efforts to prevent the Kings from moving to Anaheim, Stern said Oklahoma City owner Clay Bennett – chairman of the relocation committee – and several league officials are in Sacramento “verifying” Mayor Kevin Johnson’s assertions to the Board of Governors last week about Sacramento’s renewed financial commitment to the team. 

“Our preference was to understand that better, and the verification is under way,” Stern said. 

Asked if the recently agreed upon sale of the Pistons to Tom Gores and the expression of interest from Ron Burkle to buy the Kings and keep them in Sacramento was proof that the NBA’s financial state isn’t as dire as owners say, Stern said, “No. It just means they know we’re going to get a good (labor) deal and they’re already factoring it into their decisions to buy. And they know we’re not only going to get a good deal, but a deal that really makes it sustainable to buy a team.” 

Among the other topics addressed by Stern Thursday night: 

• Asked if the league needs provisions in a new collective bargaining agreement to prevent “player-made teams” like Miami’s, Stern said, “No, because I have grown up in this league with teams that had great players.” Referencing the Celtics and Lakers of the 1980s, Stern said, “To me, you may call me a players’ person, but the players made a deal that says they’re allowed to become free agents and decide where they want to go. And you’re making it into a federal offense to discuss where they might want to play with another player. It doesn’t warm my blood. In fact, if the team that can get those players is under the cap, that’s the way the system was designed to work. I don’t get too boiled for that.” 

• However, when asked about a Yahoo! Sports report from December that Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert – a key member of the NBA’s labor relations committee – had retained counsel to investigate tampering allegations against the Heat for signing LeBron James, Stern said, “I’m aware of the issue, but there’s been no formal complaint of tampering or anything like that filed. … If there was tampering that someone could prove, that would make my blood boil.” 

• Reiterating comments he made earlier Thursday in New York to the Associated Press Sports Editors, Stern said he and players’ association chief Billy Hunter are in agreement that a court battle such as the one consuming the NFL in its labor dispute “should be avoided. … We’re going to do our best (to get a deal). And we’ve got more than two months.” 

• After maximum contract lengths were reduced by one year in each of the past two CBAs, Stern said he favored ratcheting them down again. “Shorter and less guaranteed,” he said. “I have no idea what they’ll agree to and I’m not going to negotiate with them here.” 

• On whether the Heat have met expectations, Stern said, “They met my expectations, but they didn’t meet everybody else’s. Before the season, everyone thought they were going to win 75 games and we should just mail the trophy. In fact, it takes a while for a team. This is a team game, and they’ve done pretty well. They’re pretty darn good and they’re playing awfully well, but it hasn’t been the walk in the park that they expected.”
Posted on: March 29, 2011 12:35 am
 

Melo puts Knicks out of their misery

NEW YORK – Hours before the game, after the Knicks’ first home shootaround of the season, Carmelo Anthony called it “almost a must-win game.” When it was over – the game, and the Knicks’ six-game losing streak – Melo took the liberty of upgrading it to “definitely a must-win.” 

Forgive him that bit of revisionist history, since most of Anthony’s first month as a full-time resident of New York since he was 8 years old has been a nightmare. 

“Tonight was the starting point for us,” said Anthony, who scored at will to the tune of 39 points – 33 in the second half and overtime – in the Knicks’ bizarre 113-106 victory over Orlando. “We got that monkey off our backs.” 

The Knicks didn’t solve the world’s problems, or even figure out how to get consistent offense from both Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire in a game they won. They did find out that with supreme effort and intensity, they can defend well enough to win even without personnel built for, you know, defending. And they learned that as cruel as the basketball gods can become, they can be just as charitable. 

“We showed that when we play with energy, we play with intensity, and we just play hard, a lot of things fall into place for us,” Anthony said. 

And so the most compelling train wreck of the NBA season north of South Beach is over. Move along; nothing more to see here.

It took Orlando being without starting point guard Jameer Nelson and reserves Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon (who left the game with a jammed finger) for the Knicks’ chemistry experiment gone awry to snap a skid in which they had lost nine of 10. (Orlando, of course, also was without J.J. Redick, who missed his ninth straight game with an abdominal injury.) It took Gilbert Arenas to shoot a miserable 2-for-11, including 1-for-7 from 3-point range. It took Dwight Howard missing the final 1:17 of OT after recording his sixth personal foul of the night and 17th technical foul of the season – putting him one tech away from a second one-game suspension with eight games left in the regular season. 

And finally, it took Jason Richardson’s offensive foul for tripping Anthony, waving off what would’ve been a tying 3-pointer by Hedo Turkoglu with 51 seconds left and the Knicks leading 109-106. This after Anthony had first tripped Richardson after the two had scrapped for a loose ball. 

“That’s what happens in life, man,” Anthony said. “The second guy always gets caught.” 

At least Melo was honest about that one. A significant weight lifted from his shoulders, he finally could smile again Monday night. 

“I’ve seen him score 40 and 50 points before, clutch baskets and all that,” Chauncey Billups said. “But I just think that he was so locked in. The kid was rebounding, he was all over the place – grabbing extra rebounds, doing extra effort plays, steals, blocked shots. You know that he wanted to win this game.” 

Before Anthony and the Knicks could win it, of course, they had to almost lose it. And the end of regulation was a near catastrophe that would’ve sent the panic meter to new heights. 

Out of a timeout with 10.2 seconds left in regulation and the Knicks leading 100-97, coach Mike D’Antoni opted – as he always does – to defend Orlando’s search for a 3-point shot rather than foul. Some coaches are dead-set against fouling in that situation, while others believe that’s the only way to play it. This time, the Knicks got burned when Richardson drilled a tying 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left. 

“I played with him,” Stoudemire said of his former Suns teammate. “He makes shots like that all the time.” 

With the pressure building to win a game with his newly assembled All-Star duo, D’Antoni didn’t show it on the sideline as the Knicks prepared to inbound the ball for their final trip of regulation. As the Knicks were assuming their spots on the floor, D’Antoni was engaged in what looked like a good-natured and spirited debate with several fans behind the bench – presumably over why he didn’t opt to foul. 

“It’s kind of a tricky situation,” Richardson said. “If I was a coach, I wouldn’t do it, either.” 

On the Knicks’ final possession of regulation, the ball went to Anthony – as it did nearly every trip after he checked into a tie game (80-80) with 8:49 left in the fourth. He drove the lane, got up in the air and had to double-clutch. Realizing he had to clear shot at the rim, he said he deliberately tossed the ball off the backboard to himself – but missed the putback at the buzzer. 

“I should’ve thrown it on the other side (of the rim),” Anthony said. “There was nobody there.” 

Then came overtime, and the Howard foul and tech, and the curious case of J-Rich getting caught for doing what Melo had done to him – costing Orlando Turkoglu’s tying trey. But if you were expecting Magic coach Stan Van Gundy to have his usual fun with the league’s officiating and disciplinary system, you would’ve been disappointed. Asked three officiating-related questions in his postgame media session, Van Gundy each time responded with dead silence. Commissioner David Stern, who’d promised we wouldn’t be hearing from Van Gundy anymore on such issues, was right. 

And for one night, so were the Knicks. 

“They played really hungry,” Richardson said. “They dove, they hustled. It was a must-win for them. You lose six in a row, you start getting hungry. You start feeling that starvation kicking in.” 

Making the Knicks’ first victorious post-game meal in nearly two weeks a must-eat.
Posted on: March 28, 2011 1:25 pm
 

With Stan, Dwight chastened, some Magic is gone

NEW YORK -- The basketball microscope in New York is focused squarely on the Knicks, who stumble into their second game in six days against Orlando Monday night on a six-game losing streak and in full-blown crisis mode as they try to adjust to the franchise-shaping trade for Carmelo Anthony

But what of their opponent? The Magic, a perennial championship contender in each of Stan Van Gundy's four seasons as coach, are having an identity crisis of their own. Three months after a pair of similarly impactful trades, Orlando is still trying to relocate its bread and butter. 

After sending Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus to Phoenix and Rashard Lewis to Washington in December, the Magic are still top 10 in the league in the major defensive categories -- points allowed (fifth), opponent field-goal percentage (fourth), and opponent three-point percentage (eighth). They remain mired in an astonishing trend at the other end of the floor, averaging 15.5 turnovers per game. During that stretch, the Magic have beaten the Heat but lost to the Lakers, Bulls, and even the Warriors

What Orlando's identity will be come playoff time remains a mystery to Van Gundy -- and, to some extent, to the other person who should be creating the identity. Dwight Howard came into the season vowing to stop having so much fun and start getting serious, but that promise is up in the air -- especially since his aggressiveness has been taken away since receiving his 16th technical foul March 4 against Chicago. 

"Same guy," Howard said recently when asked if he's changed since the one-game suspension he received automatically for the 16th tech. "I get upset about the way guys foul me. But it's not about the way things are called. Somebody fouls and after the foul they continue to foul me, and I get upset at the refs because they allow that. My teammates are trying to do a better job of coming and consoling me so I don’t say anything else." 

Van Gundy, too, is trying to do a better job of filtering his opinions since being blasted by commissioner David Stern over a rant in which Van Gundy likened Stern to an evil dictator when asked to plead his case that Howard shouldn't have been suspended. All this means that the two most important figures in Orlando's push to get back to the NBA Finals, Howard and Van Gundy, have been muzzled -- Van Gundy off the court and Howard on it. 

"I'm not a dirty player. I'm not a dirty person," Howard said. "I would never try to hurt anybody on the court. That's not who I am. That's not how I play." 

How the Magic will play when the playoffs roll around remains a mystery. With Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkolgu all fixtures in Van Gundy's rotation, it's little wonder the Magic are a worse defensive team than they were before the trades. That was expected. But without backup from Gortat, Howard is faced with a dilemma: How can he be the lone enforcer around the basket for a team that badly needs one to make up for perimeter defensive deficiencies while at the same time worrying about flagrants, technicals and the growing (and unfair) perception that he's a dirty player? How can he live up to his preseason "no more Mr. Nice Guy" promise while still carrying his fun-loving demeanor with him from the locker room to the floor? 

"I'm still the same person," Howard said. "I just know when to turn it on and turn it off. One thing my teammates said at the beginning of the year is, they don’t want me to just be this mean guy because they look forward to me coming in the locker room and just having a pretty good time. And I know when it's time to get serious. They don’t want me to change who I am for other people. 

"Other people I guess wanted to see me get more serious, but I've never played around with basketball," Howard said. "But I just know that fans come to the games to be entertained. I'm not a UFC fighter. I don’t have to go out there and growl every two minutes to show my team. I just have fun and that's what it's all about." 

How much fun the Magic have in the playoffs will depend on solving their turnover mystery and regaining some semblance of defensive consistency. Both of those problems are fixable. The bigger dilemma will be getting Howard to play once again with abandon, without concern for whistles or perceptions, and getting the irascible Van Gundy to lose the filter that Stern surgically implanted between his upper and lower lip. For better or worse, the NBA needs the old Dwight and Stan back. More than ever, so do the Magic.
Posted on: March 23, 2011 8:12 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2011 9:53 pm
 

Van Gundy: Rose-y outlook for MVP

NEW YORK – Stan Van Gundy has read the tea leaves – and lots of NBA articles, including on this site, evidently – and declared the MVP race over. 

“I don’t think it’s wide open,” Van Gundy said before the Magic played the Knicks Wednesday night. “I mean, the media seems to have made their decision and they’re the ones who vote, so I think it’s over. … Derrick Rose has it. I haven’t really read or heard a media guy who is going another way at this point. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t win it.” 

Van Gundy, clearly chastened by recently having been called on the carpet by commissioner David Stern for voicing his opinions, suffered a momentarily lapse into his previous persona when asked about the MVP race – which he clearly believes, once again, that Dwight Howard should be winning. 

“To me, with his rebounding, his scoring and his defense, I just don’t think there’s anybody who impacts as many possessions in a game as Dwight does,” Van Gundy said. “I think Derrick Rose has been great. I will have no problem if Derrick Rose wins the MVP. They’ve got the best record in the East, and he’s been clearly their leader. You can make a great case for him. 

“He’s been great,” Van Gundy said. “But I still don’t think anyone impacts the game as many possessions in a game as Dwight does.” 

Howard, speaking in the locker room before the game, declined an invitation to state his own case for MVP. 

“Derrick Rose has been playing great basketball,” Howard said. “I’m not a guy that likes to talk about myself, but I think I do a lot for my team in order for us to have a chance to win every night. I think that’s about it. I don’t like talking about myself.” 

As chronicled here, my personal opinion for about two thirds of the season was that LeBron James would get my vote for MVP. But Rose has come on – not statistically or efficiency-wise all the time, but in terms of lifting the Bulls to elite status in the East and being their undisputed floor leader and scorer. Since losing two straight on the road in early February, the Bulls have beaten Miami and Atlanta twice and San Antonio and Orlando once apiece. In February and March, Rose is averaging 25.7 points and 7.1 assists in 23 games.

Earlier this month, Matt Moore and Ben Golliver had a spirited MVP discussion in our Eye on Basketball blog that you can relive here.
Posted on: March 11, 2011 7:20 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2011 10:39 pm
 

NFLPA's tactic will be blueprint for NBA talks

The decision Friday by the NFL Players Association to decertify and attempt to block a lockout by owners has wide-ranging implications for the NBA labor talks. While NBA labor strife is a few months behind football's timeline, legal experts expect the basketball game plans to play out in much the same way. 

For those keeping legal score at home, the first point to make is that there's no correlation between the timing of the NFLPA's decertification and the timing of such a decision by the NBPA. While labor attorneys view decertification -- the disbanding of a union and transformation its members into independent contractors -- as a potential deterrent to a lockout, the NBPA won't have the same time pressure to decertify that the NFLPA did. 

Once it became apparent Friday that no deal would be reached in the NFL talks before the 5 p.m. expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, the NFLPA had to decertify and put into motion its antitrust lawsuit or risk losing its sympathetic judge. U.S. District Court Judge David Doty in Minneapolis still has jurisdiction over any and all disputes stemming from the NFL's 1993 antitrust settlement -- but only when a collective bargaining agreement is in effect. If the NFLPA had waited until the agreement expired and/or the owners imposed a lockout, Doty -- who has a history of pro-player rulings -- wouldn’t have retained jurisdiction. Doty's jurisdiction stemming from the '93 settlement was included in all subsequent CBAs. 

The NBA and NBPA have no such provision, meaning lawsuits between the two sides can be filed in any court where the league or teams do business. In an interesting twist, Doty, 81, might want to clear his calendar for the summer. The NBA's collective bargaining agreement expires June 30, and one option at the NBPA's disposal would be to decertify and file an antitrust lawsuit -- guess where? -- in Doty's district. Legal experts say the case wouldn't necessarily be assigned to Doty, except that similar cases typically are assigned to the same judge to avoid differing opinions on the same legal issues within the same district. 

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The outcome of the NFLPA's decertification move will provide a "road map" and a "blue print" for the NBPA as it weighs its legal options when it comes to preventing a lockout or reacting to one once the NBA owners impose it, said a person familiar with the NBA's labor situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to address the matter publicly. 

The question of whether the NBPA follows the NFLPA's lead and decertifies will depend nearly 100 percent on how successful the move is for the NFLPA. If NFL players are successful in getting an injunction preventing the NFL from imposing a lockout against a group of employees that is no longer unionized, this would be a clear green light for the NBA players -- who, coincidentally, are represented by the same attorney, Jeffrey Kessler. If decertification works for the NFL players, you don't need a law degree to see that the NBPA will run the very same play. 

But if the decertification tactic winds up being, as NBA commissioner David Stern called it, "the nuclear option that falls on the party that launches it," then it becomes far less likely that the NBA players would pursue it. 

"If the NFLPA is unsuccessful in blocking a lockout, then the NBA players will lose leverage," said Gabe Feldman, director of the Sports Law Program at Tulane University. 

Despite different issues, the NFL and NBA labor talks are in lock step -- so much so that Billy Hunter, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, issued a statement this week announcing his full support of the NFLPA's efforts.

"The success of the NFL is built on the backs and shoulders of NFL players," Hunter said. "NFL players deserve nothing less than an agreement that recognizes the players' contributions and sacrifices, despite the owners' threats and tactics to impose a lockout. The NBPA offers unconditional and uncompromising support for the NFLPA's continued efforts to secure a fair deal."

The ability to watch how the NFL legal fight plays out months before their own labor D-Day is a clear advantage for both the NBA and NBPA -- but not necessarily for one over the other. On one hand, having clues as to how certain legal moves will play out could save the NBA and its players some time and lead to a quicker resolution. But Feldman, who has closely followed the issues in both the NFL's and NBA's labor strife, said the NBA situation is far more ripe for a lengthy work stoppage than the NFL's. 

"Looking back at history at what has caused significant work stoppages in sports, it's typically when one side is seeking a sea change and that side has determined that they're better off not playing than playing under the current system," Feldman said. 

That describes the NBA owners, who are seeking to switch from a soft-cap to a hard-cap system, but not their NFL brethren, who seem to simply want to make more money for the same reasons dogs -- well, because they can. 

But with superteams having been built or under construction in all the major NBA markets, not all owners are down with the notion of killing the sport for a significant time -- perhaps for an entire season. In that regard, Stern will have a much more difficult time unifying his owners than NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will have. 

On one hand, a significant number of small-market and/or low-revenue owners are unfazed by the NBA's skyrocketing TV ratings. As one person familiar with ownership's bargaining strategy put it, the obvious interest in watching NBA games on TV has no bearing on the league's financial health. "They don't correlate," the person said, asserting that the NBA gets no additional money tied to higher ratings.  On the other hand, is Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan going to stand idly by while the 2011-12 season is canceled after it was revealed Friday that Knicks season-ticket prices will increase an average of 49 percent in the wake of the team's acquisition of Carmelo Anthony

If enough NBA owners are willing to go to the wall with their position that the soft-cap system is broken and must be obliterated at any cost, then there's little hope the early weeks and months after the expiration of the CBA will go any better than what the NFL is experiencing now. Both sides in the basketball fight can simply get their popcorn, see how the NFL players' decertification tactic works, and proceed accordingly. 

All of which means a potentially long summer of watching athletes perform in the courtroom instead of where they belong.
Posted on: March 8, 2011 5:10 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 5:55 pm
 

Karl, Nuggets agree to three-year extension

After successfully navigating one crisis by getting good value for superstar Carmelo Anthony, the Denver Nuggets averted another one Tuesday when they agreed with coach George Karl on a three-year contract extension that could last as long as six years.

The deal has team options for the fourth, fifth, and sixth years, said Karl's attorney, Bret Adams -- a huge commitment from the Nuggets at a time when coaches have so little job security.

"I think with this team, they just have great confidence that this is a team that's coachable and there's not a more experienced or better coach to do it than George," Adams said. "They stuck with him last year with the cancer, and to take it the next step with this long-term commitment, I don’t think George could be any happier with his future. He wanted to be there, they wanted him there, and with this team it's a whole new re-energized George after the trade."

Contract talks ground to a halt during the months-long process in which Nuggets executives Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke were negotiating a trade that eventually sent Anthony to New York on Feb. 20. Once that complicated deal was complete, it didn't take long for contract talks with Karl -- the Nuggets' coach since 2004 -- to Heat up again.

"There was a whole lot of frustration with George having to coach a guy who didn’t want to be there," Adams said. "Only Masai and Josh knew how difficult it was to coach that team in those circumstances. It was difficult, and he kept them winning. To do that under those circumstances was pretty remarkable."

Karl, 59, has won at least 50 games for three straight years and led the Nuggets to the 2009 Western Conference finals against the Lakers. This season, he has dealt with his own personal battle against throat and neck cancer and kept the Nuggets alive in the playoff race despite months of speculation over Anthony's trade destination. The Nuggets are 5-2 since trading their franchise player to the Knicks along with Chauncey Billups for Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, and draft picks. Denver (37-27) currently is fifth in the Western Conference playoff race.

“I’ve always said Denver is the place I want to end my career,” Karl said. “This puts me one step closer to achieving that goal. Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke were very professional throughout these negotiations. The Kroenkes have been great throughout this entire process. They’ve been very supportive of me as a coach and during my battle with cancer. I’m excited for the remainder of the season and look forward to making another playoff run.”

Close friends say Karl is energized by the trade, both for the obvious reason of removing the daily distractions of trade speculation and because he's excited about coaching a new group of players. A coach's coach, Karl thrives on the teaching and team-building that comes with the job far more than he thrives on the accolades.

"Getting the Melo trade done and getting George's fairly complicated contract done because of the health issues is a testament to the future of the Nuggets," Adams said. "They've really given real confidence to the fans in Denver as to the direction of this team. They hit two home runs."

Karl, who underwent months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments that spanned from last season through the summer, received another clean bill of health from doctors Tuesday, Adams said. Karl's health issues "had to be addressed" in the contract, and Adams said the Nuggets addressed them "very fairly."

"Extending George’s contract has been one of our top priorities,” said Ujiri, the Nuggets' vice president of basketball operations. “He’s done a tremendous job since arriving in Denver, and particularly with the unique challenges of this season. With George on the bench, we have a bright future and everyone here is focused on finishing the season strong.”

For more on this story, check out our Eye on Basketball blog.
 
 
 
 
 
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