Posted on: November 14, 2010 10:56 pm
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: September 24, 2010 5:27 pm
With one of the NBA's biggest stars, Carmelo Anthony, possibly on the verge of being traded, the offseason still hasn't ended. But it ended three months ago for the Lakers, who celebrated their second straight championship, made a couple of mundane moves, and got ready to do it all over again. The defending champs didn't make a Miami-like splash this summer, but they didn't need to. And the moves they did make clearly made them better. Word is that Kobe Bryant, entering his 15th season, can't wait to go to work. Miami won it all in July, but the Lakers are the undisputed Kings of June until proved otherwise.
Training camp site: El Segundo, Calif.
Training camp starts: Sept. 25
Key additions: Steve Blake (free agent), Matt Barnes (free agent), Theo Ratliff (free agent)
Key subtractions: Josh Powell (free agent), Jordan Farmar (free agent).
Likely starting lineup: Derek Fisher, PG; Kobe Bryant, SG; Ron Artest, SF; Pau Gasol, PF; Ratliff, C.
Player to watch: Andrew Bynum. As you can tell from his name being omitted from the training camp starting lineup (which matters only for scrimmaging purposes), Bynum is hurt again. Well, not so much hurt again, but rather still hurt – or better yet, not recovered. After the praise Bynum received for playing through a significant knee injury during the Finals, he’s receiving equal parts scorn for delaying surgery until after he completed a planned trip to the World Cup. Both were deserved. Coach Phil Jackson said Friday that he can’t see how Bynum will be ready for the start of the regular season.
Chemistry check: All the tension over Jackson’s future was relieved when the Zen Master decided to return for one more season. His unique ability to handle strange personalities (he has a few on this team) and his knack for getting under the opponent’s skin will be needed in a big way. If the Lakers started the NBA arms race by acquiring Gasol a couple of years ago, the Heat went nuclear by teaming Dwyane Wade with LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Suffice it to say, a certain Laker who wears No. 24 took note. Sources say Bryant’s competitive fire – always an inferno – has burning even hotter with the prospect of this challenge.
Injury watch: Besides Bynum, Bryant will be limited as he continues to recover from a laundry list of ailments that hindered him throughout last postseason. Lamar Odom is coming off a busy summer with Team USA, and Jackson plans to take it easy on him in camp. Luke Walton (back) will miss significant time, perhaps the entire season.
Camp battles: The Lakers really only face their usual battles with drama, with Kobe’s moods, and with Artest’s Twitter ramblings. Once Bynum is healthy, the rotation is pretty much set.
Biggest improvement: Mitch Kupchak watched LeBron’s decision only out of curiosity; the Lakers weren’t landing any marquee free agents this summer. But they did improve in a key area that will prove to be of utmost importance the deeper they get into the postseason. Their bench got a lot better. Blake is the best backup Fisher has had in a while, and his presence will allow re-signed Shannon Brown to be used more in a scoring role. Barnes brings Artest-like toughness to a second unit that also includes Odom, Ratliff, Blake and either Brown or Sasha Vujacic (until he’s traded.)
Biggest concern: They’re the two-time defending champs, so there are no glaring weaknesses. The biggest concern, as always, is Bynum. He is forever the wild-card for the Lakers. When it’s time to play the Spurs, Mavs, Celtics or Heat in May and June, the Lakers will go as far as Bynum can take them.
Posted on: September 22, 2010 6:09 pm
NEW YORK – After a three-hour bargaining session with NBA owners Wednesday, complete with a reportedly off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday” to recognize commissioner David Stern’s 68th, players union chief Billy Hunter set forth the first unofficial negotiating deadline for making progress toward a new labor deal: All-Star weekend in Los Angeles.
If the owners and players aren’t able to “develop some momentum” and “resolve some of the issues” by February, Hunter said, “We’ll know what the bottom line’s going to be.”
Both sides know that bottom line will be a lockout, the first the league has experienced since the only failed labor negotiation in NBA history in 1998.
“I would anticipate that by All-Star, we should know whether there’s a likelihood of a deal,” Hunter said outside the Omni Berkshire Place hotel, where owners and players conducted their second bargaining session in six weeks.
As was the case Aug. 12, the meeting was characterized as “cordial and productive” by union attorney Jeffrey Kessler and others, with Hunter going so far as to call the talks “amicable.” Still, there were no significant breakthroughs on how to arrive at a new agreement that both sides would be willing to sign to forestall a work stoppage after the 2010-11 season. The current CBA expires on June 30, 2011.
“Progress was definitely made,” said Derek Fisher of the Lakers, the president of the National Basketball Players Association. Fisher also told CBSSports.com that, unlike the NFL Players Association, the NBA players have yet to take the step of collecting signatures to authorize decertification of the union – a legal tactic that would challenge the league’s right to lock out the players.
“Decertification is an option that is available to us, but we’re genuinely focused on the positive side of getting a deal done,” Fisher said. “The only time decertification has ever even been mentioned for us is as a last resort and something that’s our only choice. Right now we view our choices as working as hard as we can to get a deal done. That’s why we haven’t taken that step.”
If nothing else, Wednesday’s bargaining session did nothing to disrupt the constructive tone of the talks, which have progressed cordially after a contentious meeting at the most recent All-Star weekend in Dallas. A working lunch midway through the session, in fact, was punctuated by serenading the 68-year-old Stern for his birthday. Somehow, the opposing sides were able to agree on how to divide up the cake.
“There’s, at least to me, an optimistic feel to how things are going at this point,” Fisher said.
But the owners and players made little progress on actually closing the “gulf, not a gap,” as Stern described it during the August meeting, on major issues such as the players’ share of revenue, the proposed imposition of a hard salary cap, and drastic reductions in maximum salaries and guaranteed deals. The next step, Hunter said, is to break down into smaller groups to begin tackling “the smaller issues that are not quite as divisive.” Hunter and deputy commissioner Adam Silver will begin scheduling those meetings in the next two days, Hunter said.
The players also for the first time had a chance to walk the owners through their proposal, which was submitted to the league in June. Silver called the process “conciliatory and constructive,” but said, “There remains an enormous economic gap between our two proposals.” Silver also took issue with Hunter’s notion that All-Star weekend represented any kind of deadline.
“I think deadlines are helpful,” Silver said. “I don’t necessarily agree that All-Star is a deadline for us. As you know, this deal expires at the end of June. So we view that as the ultimate deadline.”
Posted on: July 13, 2010 2:47 pm
Edited on: July 13, 2010 5:24 pm
The Heat took another important step toward assembling a supporting cast for their Big Three, agreeing to terms with former Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas Tuesday, a person with knowledge of the decision confirmed to CBSSports.com.
Miami has used the cap space created by Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh accepting less than maximum salaries in the first year of their contracts, plus the salary dump of Michael Beasley, to add shooter Mike Miller, Juwan Howard and Ilgauskas while retaining forward Udonis Haslem. Miami officials met with Lakers point guard Derek Fisher, but the five-time champion elected to return to L.A.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer first reported Miami's agreement with Ilgauskas, a longtime teammate and friend of James. The Cavs had a standing offer on the table for Ilgauskas, who decided to join James in Miami for the chance to win the first championship of his 12-year career.
The Heat have several more roster spots to fill and are able to offer mostly the veteran's minimum. Miller fit into Beasley's $5 million slot, and the money for Haslem and Ilgauskas resulted from Wade accepting a first-year salary of $14.2 million -- about $2.4 million less than the max -- according to sources. James and Bosh took first-year salaries of $14.5 million.
Posted on: July 1, 2010 6:34 pm
Nobody was staking out Phil Jackson's ranch in Montana Thursday. There were no banners, no protests, no fleets of Mercedes, no fancy presentations, and certainly no Gulfstream jets. Depending on what happens with all this LeBron-o-mania in Cleveland, the most impactful transaction of this crazy NBA summer may very well have happened somewhere far, far away.
Phil Jackson is coming back.
For days, a person with close ties to Jackson was saying that all signs pointed to Jackson coming back. There were no early signals from his season-ending physical exam that indicated his health would be the factor preventing him from returning. Once Jackson got the green light from doctors to coach one more season, the only other question was money. That, evidently, was handled, too.
How could it not be?
"The money will be there," the person with ties to Jackson said.
Jackson, 64, follows Doc Rivers from the precipice of vacation/semi-retirement and comes back for one more run at one more title. Rivers may have a few left him, though only one with the current core in Boston -- assuming that core stays together. For Jackson, this will be it.
"It'll be the last stand for me," he said in a statement released by the Lakers, "and I hope a grand one."
There was little doubt that Jackson would be back, barring any physical reasons preventing it. But with Jackson, with the drama-prone Lakers, you never know until the i's are dotted and t's crossed. The financial arrangement tied to Jackson's return was still being finalized Thursday, according to a source. But the bottom line is that the Lakers -- in the face of the possible pie-in-the-sky creation of some dream team in Miami, or other bizarre, free-agent creations -- will be back to forcefully defend their title.
All that is left to do, aside from exploring sign-and-trade creations of their own, is to re-sign Derek Fisher, who will do what I expect Paul Pierce and probably Ray Allen to do in Boston: Follow the best chance for another ring. That chance rests with Rivers in Boston and with Jackson in L.A.
As if there was ever any doubt.
Posted on: June 17, 2010 7:32 pm
LOS ANGELES – Among the subplots swirling around Game 7 of the NBA Finals is what happens next for both teams. Regardless of the outcome, big changes could be on the way for the Lakers and Celtics.
Boston’s Big Three aren’t getting any younger, and Doc Rivers hasn’t tipped his hand about whether he’ll step away from coaching next season to spend more time with his family. The Lakers’ roster is far less fragile than it was when they lost to the Pistons in the 2004 Finals, but the key figure who holds everything together, Phil Jackson, has the power to blow it all apart.
“There’s a lot of questions in terms of what Phil’s going to do,” said Derek Fisher, the Lakers’ only core player who isn’t under contract for next season. “He’s probably the biggest thing that turns the trifle in terms of how the future looks, as far as whether he’s back or not.”
When the Lakers have experienced playoff failures in the past – the poor showing in the ’04 Finals, the back-to-back first-round losses to Phoenix – the threat of major changes has never been far behind. The ’04 team was a different story, given the way it was patched together with future Hall of Famers Gary Payton and Karl Malone. After the 2007 loss to the Suns, Kobe Bryant went on the infamous offseason rampage when he issued, then rescinded a trade demand.
“You talk about franchises where there’s tradition to win championships, that’s what you expect,” Lamar Odom said. “This is the type of pressure that we live for. This is what makes us. This is what makes being a sportsman, playing for an organization that’s established like this: the Cowboys, the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the Boston Celtics, the L..A. Lakers. That’s just the way it is.”
The key figure who could prevent all hell from breaking lose in Laker Land, Jackson, hasn’t tipped his hand – not even to his players and coaches.
“Although it appears that I’m a lot closer to it, I’m actually in the same seat that you are,” said assistant coach Brian Shaw, one of those who would be in line to replace Jackson if he retired. “He hasn’t let us know or given us an indication one way or the other. So we have to just sit and play it by ear just like everybody else.”
Said Fisher: “I have no clue to be honest. I don’t think he does either. He tries to teach us in terms of just embracing the now and the moment and being here in the present and not really worrying about what’s coming down the line. I think it’s the same way for him. I think he’ll gage where he is emotionally and physically. Obviously, the result [of Game 7] could play a part in it.”
Same goes for the Celtics, who face the prospect of losing Rivers and seeing that trigger major roster changes. Ray Allen will be an unrestricted free agent, Paul Pierce can opt out of his contract and become one, and Kevin Garnett – though under contract for two more years – clearly is in decline.
"It’s one of the toughest things, which Boston will face here probably pretty shortly,” said Shaw, a former Celtic and Laker. “KG is getting up there, plus Pierce, Ray Allen, and Rasheed [Wallace]. I know the Boston team that I played on in the late 80s, they had [Kevin] McHale, [Robert] Parrish, DJ [Dennis Johnson], [Larry] Bird – these guys all kind of got older at the same time. Do you show loyalty and keep everybody until the wheels fall off and then have to start over? Look how long it took Boston to get back to where they are now. Or do you say, ‘Some guys are getting kind of towards the end,’ and try to infuse some youth?’”
Critical decisions that both teams will be facing, days or even hours after one of them is crowned champion.
Posted on: June 7, 2010 3:45 pm
LOS ANGELES – The game wasn’t even over for an hour, and already Kobe Bryant’s mind was back in Boston. Back to the scene of one of the most bitter disappointments of his Hall of Fame career.
It was two years ago when Bryant walked out of the new Boston Garden with a 39-point loss to the Celtics in Game 6 of the Finals haunting him. It had been four years since Bryant had been back to the Finals, and this was the memory he’d carry with him into a long, painful offseason: Celtics fans pelting the team bus with expletives and garbage.
So Bryant’s mood deteriorated rapidly on Sunday night, after the Lakers lost home-court advantage with a 103-94 loss to the Celtics that evened the Finals at 1-1 going back to Boston. On the chartered flight, memories of the 2008 Finals surely were on his mind, not to mention the screech of the referees’ whistle.
Bryant was a non-factor in Game 2, taken out of the mix by foul trouble. Bryant finished the game with five fouls, and backcourt mate Derek Fisher had three – emblematic of the Lakers’ defensive struggles against the devastating combination of Ray Allen’s 3-point shooting and Rajon Rondo’s mastery in the open court. So when it comes to adjustments for Game 3, it begins and ends there for the Lakers.
Phil Jackson made a choice heading into the series that Rondo would be the player most deserving of Bryant’s defensive attention. It worked in Game 1; not so much in Game 2, due in part to a tough whistle on Bryant and also to the Celtics’ improved defense and rebounding, which were the catalyst for Rondo’s latest playoff triple-double. Rondo makes the Celtics’ engine go, but the problem with putting Bryant in his path played out in Game 2, with Fisher unable to reroute Allen around screens or shrink his air space enough to contest his shots.
So with the series shifting to Boston for the middle three games, will Jackson consider putting Fisher on Rondo, with the knowledge that the Lakers’ point guard has fared OK against Deron Williams and Steve Nash in the two previous series? Will he need to use Bryant’s length and strength to slow Allen’s 3-point rampage?
It’s a tricky proposition for Jackson. Though Bryant’s aching knee has improved during the course of the playoffs, putting him in a rat race around screens with Allen could sap the energy he needs on the offensive end. But if Allen keeps getting the looks he got in Game 2, the Lakers will be in for another disastrous outcome in Boston.
What to do? Before watching the film or deciding what strategic adjustments to make, Jackson first took aim at the officials in the aftermath of Sunday night’s loss. With a fine from the NBA office almost certainly to follow, consider it a $25,000 down payment by Jackson to get the officials’ attention should he decide to stay with the same defensive approach in Game 3.
“When they take away any bumps, when Fish is trying to make him divert his path and they don't allow him to do that, they call fouls on Fish and that really gives him an opportunity to take whatever route he wants,” Jackson said. “That really makes it very difficult. We just have to adjust to the ballgame [and] to what the referees are going to call. Are they going to allow us to take direct line cuts away from him so he has to divert his route, [or] get a foul called on Fisher? That makes for a totally different type of ballgame. Then Fish has to give the routes that he wants to run and then he's got to play from behind all the time. That's an adjustment we all need to make in the course of this series.”
One that will have plenty to do with the outcome.
Posted on: May 24, 2010 5:27 pm
PHOENIX – Having completed his media obligations outside the Suns’ practice court Monday, Steve Nash took a couple of steps and the horde of reporters and cameramen parted like the Red Sea. When this guy goes into a crowd, blood can never be far behind.
Sporting a fractured nose that he noted is “nicely curved,” Nash was on his way to have what the team described as a “minor procedure” to put it back into place. Easy for them to say. Nash is accustomed to all kinds of procedures, and has even been known to perform impromptu surgery on himself – as he did Sunday night after a collision with the Lakers’ Derek Fisher knocked his nose out of kilter.
Thankfully for all involved, there was no blood this time.
“I think he just needs to put on, not just the mask that Rip Hamilton wears, but like a whole helmet or something like that over his whole face,” teammate Jason Richardson said after practice. “You watch the play over and over again and you’re like, ‘What happened?’ And then you see that his nose is on one side of his face. And he’s there adjusting his own nose, and I’m like, ‘Ah, man, come on.’ But that’s Steve Nash, man. He’s used to stuff like that. He gets hit in the face all the time.”
Death, taxes, and a bloody and/or battered Nash in the playoffs. These are the things we can count on every spring.
There was the infamous bloody beak that caused him to miss the final crucial seconds of a loss to the Spurs in Game 1 of their 2007 playoff series … the hip check into the scorer’s table from Robert Horry that got Amar’e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw suspended for leaving the bench later in the same series … Tim Duncan’s elbow turning his eye into a swollen, bloody mess in Phoenix’s second-round sweep of the Spurs this year … and now this.
“I’m lucky,” Nash said. “I’ve had a couple bumps or bruises that haven’t affected my play. Those don’t bother you. It’s the ones that limit you that you hope you don't have to face.”
Luck? What kind?
“I think it’s just bad luck,” Richardson said. “Bad luck and bad timing.”
Nash, who quietly helped the Suns climb back into the Western Conference finals with a 118-109 victory Sunday night that cut the Lakers’ advantage to 2-1 in the best-of-7 series, will not wear any sort of protective gear in Game 4 Tuesday night in Phoenix. The Spurs’ Manu Ginobili tried a plastic mask after breaking his nose this postseason, then switched to good old-fashioned tape. He was never the same after the injury.
“This guy’s gone through a lot of stuff the last two or three years in the playoffs,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of Nash. “I don't think it’s going to bother him. “On second thought, Ginobili, it really curtailed his game. I thought his game really tailed off after the broken nose, so it’s probably an individual thing.”
Nash presumably has been hit in the head enough to understand how to work around it. As a Canadian, he perfectly embodies the kind of toughness that his homeland’s national sport requires.
“That’s what the hockey guys do, man,” Richardson said. “Get your teeth knocked out, get your nose broke, get five or six stitches on your eyeball and you still play. He’s a tough guy and he’s going to play through stuff like that. I know in the back of his mind he’s like, ‘Why are people getting in my face?’ But he’s fine.”
Through the first three games of the conference finals, Nash has been even more of a facilitator than usual. He’s attempted only 28 field goals in 102 minutes on the floor, shooting 50 percent – but only 1-for-6 from 3-point range after making 124 treys in the regular season.
“Sure, I’d love to get 15 or 20 shots up, but my job in this offense is to read the defense,” Nash said. “That’s really our offense – pick and roll and I read the defense and try to make the defense pay for how they decide to play us. At different times in this series, a lot of people have benefited. I have a lot of faith in my teammates, and that’s the way we play.
“We don’t really play a game where we say, ‘Steve’s not getting enough shots, let’s go to offense B,’” Nash said. “That’s just not the way we play.”
Clearly, Nash only knows one way to play: hard-nosed. Even if that nose doesn’t always stay in the same place.