Tag:Minnesota Timberwolves
Posted on: July 22, 2011 4:43 pm
Edited on: July 22, 2011 5:45 pm
 

Should the NBA contract? A CBSSports.com debate



By Matt Moore and Ken Berger

As part of his thorough and systemic plan for a CBA resolution to end this lockout madness, Ken Berger topped things off with a piece saying that the most logical solution to the NBA's remaining problems was contraction. Berger singled out two franchises to be chopped off the NBA forever in contraction,  New Orleans and Sacramento (Memphis, Indiana, and Minnesota were all only saved due to their relative leases in their buildings). Being a champion of small market teams and not wanting the good fans in those cities to have their souls ripped out just to make sure the bigger markets sleep easier at night (which I also believe harms the league by shrinking its nationwide fanbase), I took umbrage. We decided to debate just some of the many issues surrounding contraction. What follows is our conversation. 

Matt Moore: From your contraction piece:
And the question is: If the NBA is losing so much money -- $300 million last season and $1.845 billion during the six-year collective bargaining agreement that just expired -- then why continue to pour good money after bad into markets that have proved beyond any doubt they cannot support an NBA team without massive transfers of wealth that have failed to make them viable?
Let's start here. We're still talking about relatively young frames of reference, aren't we? Yeah, New Orleans is a hole right now. It was owned by one of the worst owners in the history of the league. It's still recovering from one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States. Itn't it slightly possible that the right ownership could turn this thing around? And if we say that's possible, isn't the opposite true as well? What about the other small market franchises that are considered so connected to the league they could never be moved?

Let's say Popovich retires after 2013, same time Duncan retires. Buford is unable to recapture the Magic, especially with Ginobili gone. The team goes into a slump. A 10-year slump. We've seen it happen. Do we contract them, if that was now? How about Oklahoma City? If the core falls apart, if Kevin Durant (God forbid) went down with a career-ending injury, and Presti can't recover, do we just ditch those fans who have shown that with any semblance of a contender, they can be profitable and supportive? Are we really torching Sacramento just because the Maloofs' money has vanished in the recession and the team took what is pretty much the normal amount of time recovering from 2002... when they were one terribly officiated game away from the NBA Finals?

Basically, aren't all your candidates simply based on who is having a rough time... right now? And if that's the case, isn't it impossible to really give a fair estimation of who should be contracted? And what happens if another team can't make money in the new, better NBA? Isn't there always a loser, for long stretches in sports? If that's the case, are we just going to contract again in 10 years when San Antonio, or Orlando, or Utah is trapped in the cellar?

One more question.

If we're looking at truly terrible teams that haven't performed well or made good decisions, like Minnesota, why aren't we punishing Philadelphia, with that prime market and one of the worst attendance rates in the league? Sure, the Knicks make a world of money because of their market. But isn't that the real problem? A terribly run team can still make money? Bad teams that don't get enough support from the NBA's system isn't the problem, the fact that James Dolan and Donald Sterling turn a profit no matter what they do, that's a problem.

Ken Berger, CBSSports.com: 
To your first point, this isn't about blindly eliminating teams that aren't competing at the moment, or in a short-term frame of reference. In fact, we wouldn't even be talking about contraction if the owners hadn't put it out there that they can no longer survive with the NBA in its current state and thus locked the players out to get a better deal.

If player salaries are on the table, as well as guaranteed contracts, rookie scale, contract length, hard vs. soft vs. flex cap, the split of BRI, and literally everything else that has an impact on the NBA business model, then it is not only fair and appropriate, but prudent to evaluate whether the NBA has A) teams in the right markets, B) too many teams, or C) both.

If it's fair to ask the players to take a 33 percent pay cut, and to ask the owners in markets that are doing exceedingly well to fork over tens of millions more to support struggling franchises, then it's absolutely fair game to discuss whether some of those teams in some of those markets will never be able to thrive regardless of what salary structure and revenue-sharing system is in place. Apple wouldn't continue to fund an under-performing store or produce a failing product, and neither should the NBA.

Your San Antonio point is a non-starter. First of all, San Antonio is the 37th TV market in the United States, according to Nielsen, compared to No. 52 New Orleans -- the smallest in the NBA. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the San Antonio metropolitan area (2.1 million) was nearly twice the size of the New Orleans metropolitan area (1.2 million) in 2009. Further, there is a long, established history of success in San Antonio -- both on and off the court. There is a history of success in Philadelphia, as well, by the way. There is no history of the NBA succeeding in New Orleans.

Granted, the city endured a catastrophic natural disaster that was nobody's fault. But the team relocated from Charlotte, a failed expansion market, and now the NBA has teams in two hopeless markets. Given the arena lease in Charlotte, there is no way to contract the Bobcats. But the Hornets, given that they are owned by the league and have only a $10 million penalty to break the lease, simply have to be examined for contraction if the owners are serious about addressing their money-losing problems.

If the owners simply want to use the losses as an excuse to put the players in their place, well, that's another story.

Your point about San Antonio or Oklahoma City someday winding up on the grim end of the cycle is valid. That can happen almost anywhere in the league; it's happened in Sacramento, where the Kings were thriving for years and then got obliterated by an unforgiving system that makes it difficult to recover from bad decisions or poor performance -- or both. That's why I'm in favor of a comprehensive plan to fix the league's problems. It's not an either-or game with pay cuts, a more flexible cap system, more robust revenue sharing, or eliminating a couple of teams. It should be all of the above. Teams like the Kings, Sixers, Timberwolves, etc., who've been successful in the past would be able to regain that success more quickly with a more flexible cap system, shorter contracts, and enhanced player movement. It's not about which teams are at the top of the cycle and which teams are at the bottom right now. It's about much more advanced metrics capable of measuring whether NBA franchises in all 30 markets have a chance to be successful and make a profit -- given some reasonable sacrifices on the part of the players, enhanced revenue sharing and a more flexible system that allows teams to get out of a bad situation faster.

I find it illustrative that those in the industry like yourself who are so adept at unemotionally evaluating on-court performance with advanced metrics that often betray what the naked eye sees suddenly allow emotion to infect your opinions about contraction. If you applied the same clear-eyed, sobering, numbers-driven approach to the viability of certain markets as you did to pick-and-roll defense, you would see the reality that emotion and gut-reaction thinking currently are obscuring for you.

Lastly: Part of the contraction argument is specific to certain markets -- New Orleans, Charlotte, Memphis -- and whether they are viable. But there are two other components: 1) the broader discussion of whether fewer teams would result in a better and more profitable product; and 2) the narrow, practical debate over which teams are feasible candidates to contract. The lease and arena situations in New Orleans, Sacramento and Milwaukee simply make those teams candidates to satisfy the broader goal of creating a better, more profitable product because there are fewer barriers to contraction. Contracting a team isn't an emotional decision. It's about dollars, practicality and a path to achieving the NBA's stated goals of competitive balance and profitability.

To your last point about Sterling and Dolan: It is difficult to imagine a system that would justify having Sterling as one of 28 people in the world lucky enough to own an NBA team. If a new CBA could contract Sterling, that would be a victory for all concerned. As for Dolan, he clearly deserves much if not all of the venom he has received. But Madison Square Garden is paying every penny of an approximately $800 million renovation to the arena. The same cannot be said in smaller cities where politicians gave up the farm due to the threat of losing their team or never getting one in the first place. The system has to be changed to narrow the gap between the haves (like the Knicks) and the have-nots (like the Thunder). It's the have-no-chance teams that are the problem.

Matt Moore: Well for starters, we're basically saying, "Well the owners have a problem (losing money). So naturally, let's punish the players (salaries) and the fans (losing teams). That should make for a better NBA!" All this despite the dubious nature of many of ownership's claims, and the fact that if they are in fact losing money, at least part of it is due to their own decision making regarding revenue sharing and their decisions to give those insane contracts. Before we start lopping off markets which at some point in the future could be just as viable as any other given a good string of luck, narrowing the NBA's fanbase and making it even more of an elitist sport, maybe we should look at some other options and make sure ownership's done everything it can to take care of itself. Finally, if we're going to go down the row of "we need to do what's best for the owners' profitability (in the context of their being "the league" despite their ownership only lasting at most a few decades versus the overall legacy of the sport), isn't the best thing for them to hold a four-year lockout so they can get every little desire they want, including $100,000 max non-guaranteed contracts?

I'm just not in the business of looking out for ownership. I'm in the business of looking out for the well-being of the entire league and the fans. Especially when, as you've pointed out brilliantly in this contraction argument, they're the ones who end up paying the most for these arenas.

I'm not so sure the San Antonio argument is a non-starter. To begin with, if we're going to go with market size? How about Charlotte at 24, Sacramento at 20, Indianapolis at 25, or Utah at 30? You talk about a "history of winning" which is entirely contingent on the luck of the lottery and a good owner (which changes constantly in the NBA). Those teams have a combined zero championships. Why not just lop them all off, in favor of a lower market, San Antonio, which is reportedly also losing money (as reported by David Aldridge)? I mean, if the Spurs aren't profiting despite the Duncan era, isn't San Antonio a viable market to cut? There are already two markets in Texas, after all. But no one would suggest that idea, because it fits in with the older idea of the league. Getting rid of the Spurs is incomprehensible, mostly because they've been around and won championships recently. If Indiana manages to squeak one out, when they were title contenders as recently as five years ago, by the way, are they in the same group?

And while I'm very emotional about the possibility of losing these markets, I have a clear-eyed reason not to. This league for too long has depended on two to three teams leading the way. The league is constantly praying for Celtics-Lakers to save them, because it hasn't established itself in the other markets in the country the way the NFL, or even MLB has. The Knicks are allowed to remain the sacred cow because of the money they pull in from market and a championship four decades old. But instead of weakening the rest of the league and strengthening the top of it, the NBA should be looking for competitive balance, because that activates the whole of the country as a fanbase, and subsequently as a market base. For whatever reason, it's become insanely popular to essentially submit to our big market overlords, likely out of some emotional fondness for the halcyon days of Lakers-Celtics or Bulls-Knicks. But a more sustainable approach which will help the entire league, not just those select few owners blessed to operate in a big ol' market, is one that raises the league's profile to where every team is profitable. Build up. Don't tear down.

While we're at it, I find the disregard for the financial hit in these communities deplorable. Setting aside the job losses, which are actual people (and I don't find that the fact owners are currently laying off personnel to save themselves some dough to be a viably equal comparison), you've got the damage to local businesses. You've got local charities losing that source of revenue. You've got effects all over the place. You think if you lop off the Kings, they're all going to start buying Lakers jerseys, as seems to be the end goal of most of these big-market advocates? One, that'll never happen, and two, it's not a sustainable strategy for league growth.

Finally, let's talk about that whole public-financing issue, since you seem to think that's the real death knell. Isn't the better option in those cases to force the owners to take on more of the financing? Furthermore, cities that don't want an NBA team don't vote for arenas. They don't support efforts to keep them. Seattle's representatives failed the Sonics fans, but that's the cost of representation. Meanwhile, markets that do want the league vote to support it. Are we really to say that neither the people, nor the owners, should be held accountable for their decisions, but only the fans of those teams who live and die with them? That's who we want to punish, as they continue to pump money into the team which bolsters the local economy?

Ken Berger:
So, you don't take the owners' loss claims at face value. Neither do I; so at least we can agree to be circumspect when it comes to the owners' claims. We will find out over the next two months just how staunchly the owners will stand behind their loss figures. If they are willing to lose an entire season, and thus sacrifice nearly $4 billion of revenues, then they should be smart enough to examine ALL aspects of their business model that are failing ... including whether they are doing business in the right places with the optimal number of teams.

As has been made very clear from my coverage of the lockout, I am not in the business of looking out for the owners, either. I am not in the business of advocating for either side. I'm trying to find solutions.

Teams like the Spurs and Blazers, who compete and still allegedly lose money, clearly fall under the category of teams that are viable but need the system and revenue sharing system to change to make them more viable -- and to ease the transition from bottom of the standings back to the top, if they get hit with that cycle. I'm glad you brought up the Pacers, who have lost money nearly every year of their existence and continue to ask the city to take on more and more expense associated with their business. But you are ignoring the fact that teams like the Spurs, Blazers, Pacers and others would have their talent level enhanced by absorbing some of the best players from contracted teams. This would make the product better in those cities, and across the league, and would make for a more compelling, competitive product. This is the "good of the league and fans" aspect that you mentioned. Nobody is saying, "Contract the Hornets and Bucks and send all their good players to the Knicks and Lakers." The combination of more concentrated talent, system changes that would enhance the mid-level teams' ability to compete and revenue sharing that would mute the competitive advantages in the biggest markets would achieve much of what you are seeking to achieve.

Though I do like many aspects of the NFL cap system, the comparison between the two sports has serious limits. There are nearly four times as many players in the NFL. Role players and specialists are far more prevalent and important in football. Basketball is a game driven by singular talents and stars, and there is no way around that. You will never find as many people in the country who will sit and watch your average Wolves-Kings regular season game. But the fact that the Wolves and the Kings are so inept only magnifies this fact. And don't tell me that the Wolves and Kings could be championship contenders in five years. Then we fill in the blanks with whomever is at the bottom of the barrel then. But we don't simply contract the team with the worst record in any given year. We examine whether there are markets in the NBA that have never been, and will never be viable -- and whether reversing the dilution of talent caused by expanding or relocating to such markets would be good for the product. It unquestionably would be.

Stars and big-market teams have always driven interest and ratings for the NBA, and always will. We shouldn't be asking whether this is right or wrong; this is the DNA of the sport, and it can't be dramatically altered. But the gap between the haves and have-nots can and should be narrowed. Can the NBA have a business model that achieves all its goals with 30 teams, some of which are in markets that cannot keep up? And if you insist on doing that, what is the cost? And who pays it?

Nobody supports the idea of anyone losing his job. But if you're going to champion the cause of those who'd be left behind if the Hornets and another team were contracted, then you cannot ignore the public cost of forcing teams to stay in those markets. How much more money do Louisiana and New Orleans have to divert from legitimate needs to support a failing basketball team? In Memphis, the city can't find the money to open schools on time, yet it pays $13 million a year in debt service for FedEx Forum -- and an accompanying parking garage that was the subject of an FBI investigation for misuse of public funds. How can you say that the public cost associated with contracting the Kings would be greater than the cost the city and region would bear to build the team a new arena -- which will be financed with decades of public debt, lost tax revenues and misallocated resources?

It's a vicious cycle because the cities that are too small to support an NBA franchise on their own merits are those that must pay the most to get the teams there in the first place. And once the team is there, the initial cost is never enough. The Pacers go back to the city and get $33.5 million more to operate Conseco ... the Timberwolves get millions in public funds to duct-tape the Target Center back together, and then will want a new arena built for them in five years. A sales tax is passed in Wisconsin to fund a new ballpark for the Brewers, and now the politicians want to extend it to build a new arena for the Bucks.

When does it stop? When the Kings move to Anaheim and in five years say, "This arena sucks, build us a new one?" 
Go ask people in Minneapolis if the Timberwolves have bolstered the local economy. The team has been a drain on the public coffers there for years, and will be for years to come if they stay there. That's what I call deplorable.

Matt Moore:
I think it's difficult to argue that professional basketball, with $930 million in annual media buys alone, is simply unsustainable. This isn't about how the business is structured, it's about how it's run. The owners, as you've pointed out in the past, are asking not for a "Get out of jail free" card, but a "Don't ever be allowed to put in jail." And if we start chopping off franchises that we think are the drain, what's the next result if the owners continue to find ways to circumvent the intent of the cap structure (as they did with the current system using the luxury tax)? Are we just going to be back here in five years, looking to contract down further, to the point we're left with the big markets and some Midwestern Washington Generals for them to pound upon?

Right, but if we were having this conversation in 2005, we're calling the Pacers "viable." The Blazers are the mess of a franchise who haven't won a championship in 30 years and are mired in mediocrity in an ancient building. But we're not going to liquidate the Blazers now because they're a playoff team. This is the issue. We're not contracting teams here because they're unsustainable, it's because it's convenient right now. And that's not a good enough reason to hurt fans, local economies, and the strength of the league.

You talk about how those players would be allocated across the board to all those San Antonio's and Portlands. Has that been your experience? Or do the players nearly always drift towards those same teams time and time again. If you've forgotten, I can refer you to the seven months of hell you spent covering the Melo debacle. I'm severely dubious about the prospect of talent being equally distributed. It may look that way immediately following the dispersal draft, but in a few years, we'll be back to the same formula.

A better idea? Get great players in wounded market like Andrew Bogut, Tyreke Evans, and Chris Paul the ability to compete on par with the rest of the league. Then you've got more superstars, which as you said, drives the league. We have the talent. You can't tell me Chris Paul's not a star worth following. But the league continues to promote only following those five or six teams, to the detriment of the total strength of the league, which hurts their television packages, which hurts their bottom line, and here we are. There are obviously bigger problems in New Orleans than that, but nothing that couldn't be fixed with a decent ownership group. That's what's really missing is this league. Not ripping the hearts out of loyal fanbases, but owners with vision and a will to win. Instead, as we've covered and both dislike, we get Donald Sterling.

As far as the DNA of the sport goes, if we're admitting in this exercise that the DNA is the exact thing that's causing the profit loss, which leads to the sickness that is this lockout, why are we not talking about trying to build a better animal, for lack of a clear analogy? The league isn't limited in how it's portrayed. You're absolutely right in the ways that the NFL and the NBA are dissimilar. But just because their comparisons are not perfect does not mean that there shouldn't be efforts to emulate the model. The model works, which is that at the start of every NBA season, 32 fanbases of rabid, loyal fans believe in their team, their players, their coaches can win the title and are willing to spend money to be a part of it. That's the successful model, not praying the Heat and Lakers wind up in the title game every year until the next big market juggernaut is born.

As far as Memphis goes, I direct you to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal and a report on the economic benefits the Grizzlies have directly held on the area.

Memphis, like the rest of the country, is mired in the ongoing effects of the recession. To insinuate that blowing up the major tenant of a building that's already built, that already exists will somehow fix or even improve things is flawed logic. Sacramento loses one of the few major public events it has going for it. New Orleans still has the building. And for every complainer in Minnesota or wherever about the drain on the Wolves? I've got another to talk about the Vikings, or the Mariners, or the Chiefs. If we're talking about eliminating all waste in a community, these franchises exist among a litany and don't serve as the way out.

Ken Berger: 
You seem to think I am taking a pro-owner position here. The owners don't WANT to contract. It would cost them MONEY to contract, because they would have to pay an owner to go away. Unless we are talking about the Hornets, in which case there is nobody to buy out because the rest of the league already OWNS the Hornets -- who are, bar none, the clearest-cut case for contraction in the history of contraction. You've seen the financial statements. They're hopeless. Shinn was a deplorable owner, but that's what happens when you put teams in cities where they don't belong. You get bad owners leaching off the public, because no sane, competent businessman would try to operate a team there. Oh, and by the way, the public has to PAY for all this incompetence. These public boondoggles to put teams in places that can't support them, in the name of "expanding the fan base" and "promoting the brand" is one of the saddest commentaries of sports in our society over the past quarter century.

These loyal fan bases you speak so wistfully of wouldn't have been part of the NBA -- and thus wouldn't be a burden to the NBA business -- if the league hadn't over-expanded in the first place. Don't tell me the NBA would wither away and die without teams in New Orleans, Charlotte or Memphis. It was doing fine without teams there for years. And in fact, in the case of New Orleans and Charlotte, each city is on its SECOND team and it still isn't working. What demigod or savior of American business are you hoping will come along and make these markets profitable? Anyone who had all those great ideas would've stepped up and put a team there. Instead, we got Shinn and Robert Johnson, and in Memphis, we got Heisley.

You're a little hysterical about turning the NBA into a league of five big cities and the Washington Generals. Nobody is saying that. I am saying that, if you're going to look at the entire business, then you need to look at the number of teams and the location of them. In the case of New Orleans, where the team is buried in debt, owned by the league as a charity case, with no track record or hope of ever being viable, and with the most reasonable cost imaginable to get rid of, contraction represents the easiest business decision for the NBA during David Stern's commissionership. A much saner and financially viable decision than expanding and then relocating there in the first place. Nobody is going to nuke the Rockets if they don't find a replacement for Yao Ming.

You're also obsessed with the notion of, as you put it, right now. Well, Matt, this is right now. This is where we are: The NBA is shut down for the foreseeable future, the players are locked out, and the owners -- who take all the risk, make all the investments and write all the checks -- are saying that two-thirds of them are losing money every year. We can choose to believe them or not, but you can't ignore the fact that they are in control. And so right now, we have a team in New Orleans that is a burden to the league and to the residents of its city and state -- a team that never would've existed in the first place if not for the grandiose and overambitious expansion vision of David Stern. Now, due to the grandiose and naive visions of Matt Moore, we are supposed to compound the mistake of overexpansion by further burdening the NBA -- not to mention the good, tax-paying people of Louisiana -- and keeping the team there? For what? So we can save a few hundred jobs at the expense of tens of millions of dollars that could be better used?

I didn't wake up one day and say, "Let's get rid of the Hornets." But right now, the NBA is in crisis. Whether you're on the players' side or the owners' side, now is the time to evaluate everything. The sport is shut down. Some aspects of the business clearly aren't working. Why ignore such a sensible solution simply to be able to say you saved a team that is in no way a healthy or productive member of the NBA?

As for how the talent will be dispersed, I have no experience with this, because based on my rough recollection, I've never seen the NBA contract -- only expand, and expand too much, says the evidence. And you've twisted my argument about Memphis. I am not drawing a straight line from the city schools crisis to the Grizzlies' arena. I am merely highlighting what a shame it is that the taxpayers of Shelby County will continue to pay millions of dollars a year in interest on a basketball arena at a time when children could be held out of school because there is no money to pay the teachers to show up for work.

And since you brought up the Commercial-Appeal, you may want to check out the rebuttal to that homerized and pitiful piece of shameless boosterism. In this piece, someone who doesn't live in Memphis and may never have even visited actually bothered to contemplate how many jobs might have been created if the city had sold $250 million in bonds for some other, perhaps even useful purposes -- and also calculated that the 1,534 jobs allegedly created by the arena project came out to a cost of $150,000 per job. If the Commercial-Appeal had been doing its job, it would've analyzed the costs and benefits of that arena a tad more carefully instead of printing verbatim the schmaltz from the Chamber of Commerce. Instead, the city will pay millions in interest this year while it struggles to find money to pay teachers and open schools, but at least it will have a basketball arena that may not be used for its intended purpose this season -- because the NBA is shut down, in part, because it has too many teams in cities where they don't belong.

If that makes sense to you, then move to Sacramento and brace for tax increases and shoddy services so that a new arena can be built at no cost to the Maloofs or any other NBA owner, for that matter. Go Kings!
Posted on: July 21, 2011 9:05 am
Edited on: July 21, 2011 9:22 am
 

Derrick Williams expresses regret if season lost

By Matt Moore

Derrick Williams, like a lot of college kids, enjoyed being at college. It's a fun atmosphere, as a star athlete, you're treated as a demigod, there are lots of fun activities (and, you know, partying), and no real responsibilities (relative to the "real" world).

Williams elected to leave college as a sophomore to cash in on his draft value coming out of the NCAA tournament. Only problem, that cash is locked up in the lockout.

On Wednesday, after announcing his signing with Under Armour, Williams did the press circuit, and The Basketball Jones asked him about that decision to jump. Williams made it clear that if the NBA loses the entire year, he's going to be pretty upset at how things turned out. From TBJ:
“If they told me I was going to miss all 82 games next season I would have stayed in college and enjoyed myself and enjoyed all of my teammates and everybody else who is involved with Arizona. I definitely would have went back.”
via TBJ Q+A: Derrick Williams on Under Armour, the lockout and staying in school | Blog Archive | The Basketball Jones | Blogs | TheScore.com.

You have to wonder how many draft picks feel this way. It's not as if they weren't aware of the lockout coming out. There's a reason so many player decided to return for this college season, knowing the lockout would affect things. But the way it's worked out, there's been so many negative signs, it's looking as if those players will lose a whole year of income and a year of campus hijinx. 

Williams made the best decison he could at the time, but it's still frustrating for these players that the one year that's best for them to enter the draft, this whole disaster happens. Forces out of your control, and all that. Just another victim of a lockout that didn't need to happen the way it did. 

Posted on: July 20, 2011 7:14 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 7:46 pm
 

Report: NBA fines teams for gag order violations

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

It's about time.

Yahoo! Sports reports that the NBA has levied fines to two teams for violating the league's gag order, which states that team executives are not to have any contact with, or make public reference to, any current NBA players without pre-approval from the league office. 
The NBA's fined two undisclosed teams for speaking on players in media during lockout, league source says. Kahn's a good bet as one of them.
Minnesota Timberwolves president David Kahn was indeed the most obvious violator of the league's gag order. Last week, Kahn called a press conference to announce the firing of coach Kurt Rambis. During the question-and-answer portion of the press conference, Kahn specifically referenced center Brad Miller and point guard Ricky Rubio by name, and his comments were broadcast on a live streaming video feed on NBA.com/Timberwolves.

Another possible recipient of a fine is Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who conducted a radio interview in Portland, Oregon, and made reference to multiple members of the Trail Blazers before cutting the interview short, apparently by someone reminding him of the gag order.

Many observers have decried the NBA's gag order as a petty, ridiculous policy. It probably is that. As noted last week, though, failing to enforce the policy would be worse for the league and its owners than the policy itself.
Until someone gets fined, and fined big, violations of the gag order will continue ad nauseum. Each time a coach or team executive accidentally steps out of line, the NBA looks less and less in control and united.

In the public's eye, they start to look like they're full of it. Why should the Average Joe believe the NBA is losing millions of dollars a year if the league won't follow through on its promise to fine people? Say what you mean and mean what you say. Hammer the offenders or offer a really, really good explanation for why you didn't. Otherwise, the impression is that you're tough-talking bullies who don't need to be taken seriously.
In the past, the NBA has reportedly threatened teams with a $1 million fine for violating the gag order, however the size of the fine in these cases is not yet known.
Posted on: July 20, 2011 4:53 pm
 

Derrick Williams signs with Under Armour

By Matt Moore

2011 has definitely been a huge step forward for Under Armour as a basketball brand. Coming into the draft, Under Armour had only Brandon Jennings and Greivis Vasquez in their stable. They added Kemba Walker soon after the draft for a huge addition, the first major "star" coming into the league (without having played a game, of course). Walker's a named name. Now they've added a new one as the brand announced today that they have added the No.2 overall pick in the draft, Derrick Williams, to its stable. 

From an Under Armour press release:
“Derrick had a terrific college career and emerged as an absolute force on the sport’s biggest stage,” said Matt Mirchin, Senior Vice President of Sports Marketing, Under Armour. “We love Derrick’s passion and hunger to play better every time he steps on the court. He’s a great representation for the Under Armour brand and a terrific example to all young basketball players who are dedicated to becoming game-changers.”

After winning the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year award in 2010, Williams raised his game to the next level in 2011, receiving finalist honors for the John R. Wooden Award and a second-team All-American selection. He exceled in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, helping the Arizona Wildcats reach the Elite 8 with a 32-point and 13-rebound performance in the regional finals.

“It’s exciting to join a young brand that brings such a strong, new voice and look to the game,” said Williams. “Under Armour is a great fit for me because they are just as passionate as I am about working hard and striving to be the best.”
Yes, exciting stuff, but still, it's a presser. It's an interesting development for Under Armour, which has experienced in full-effect the domination of Nike in the market. Interestingly, as Rufus on Fire notes, Walker plays for Michael Jordan, the face of Nike Basketball. Now Derrick Williams becomes the highest drafted player Under Armour has signed. It's unlikely anything will touch Nike for the next, oh, several decades, but Under Armour's approach is pretty solid. Go after established names coming out of college, instead of high-upside guys. Those are players that are more marketable off the bat. 

Williams' attitude alone is worth investing in. Now we'll have to see if they can transform that... whatever word you like better than swagger... into a platform that gets traction. 

(Photo via Under Armour PR, HT: IamaGM.com)
Posted on: July 19, 2011 5:52 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 6:00 pm
 

Andrew Bynum caught parking in handicapped spot

Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum has allegedly been caught parking in a handicapped spot. Posted by Ben Golliver.

andrew-bynum-parking

Surprise, surprise.

Who would have guessed that a big man best known for spearing smaller guys out of the air would have the audacity to illegally exploit one of the rare benefits afforded to our society's most vulnerable citizens? (Allegedly.)

Yes, that's correct. Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum, who made headlines this season when he knocked Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley and Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea to the floor with hard fouls, has reportedly been caught parking in a spot reserved for handicapped or disabled persons. 

NBCLosAngeles.com reports and displays photos allegedly showing Bynum parking illegally while shopping at a Bristol Farms Market in Playa del Rey, a beachside area of Los Angeles near the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo. 
The photos, provided exclusively to NBC4, were taken by an LA Parking Enforcement official at the upscale Bristol Farms Market in Playa del Rey. NBC4 questioned Andrew Bynum, 23, about the alleged incident as he was getting into his car recently. He slammed his car door and drove off without comment.

“It’s a terrible image and perception when something like this happens,” said Vito Scattaglia, DMV deputy chief, after NBC4 showed him the pictures. 

The photos show Bynum loading groceries into a dark BMW convertible that is double-parked in a clearly marked handicapped area. Multiple available parking spots for non-disabled drivers and passengers are pictured in the near background, just yards away.  

Shake. My. Head. 
Top image via NBCLosAngeles.com.

Hat tip: LakersNation.com.
Posted on: July 19, 2011 8:51 am
Edited on: July 19, 2011 9:31 am
 

Timberwolves interview Mike Woodson



By Matt Moore


David Kahn told reporters at the press conference after Kurt Rambis was fired that he was looking for a  coach with "uptempo DNA." That's all the rage in Minnesota. Kahn is aware he can't force the team or its fans to endure another rebuilding stretch to demolish the current rebuilding scheme and survive with his job intact, so he's doing what you do when you have a fast team you can't do anything with: Try and go faster. 

But based off the first couple of candidates Kahn has interviewed outside of Don Nelson (which is all sorts of crazy), the phrase "I do not think that word means what you think it means" comes to mind.

We brought you word Monday that the Wolves were interviewing former Blazer player and former Suns coach Terry Porter. Porter's teams have always erred on the fast side, but much of that is likely due to the makeup of the personnel he was walking into. He hasn't "built" a fast team, he's just coached them. And not very well, at that. He tried to slow down the Suns, which, if you're going to slow them down, you have to go all the way and reshape the entire tempo of the team, not go halfway (and ditch Steve Nash, but that's another conversation). Porter does have experience as an assistant in Minnesota, but that still seems like an odd fit. 

Then there's news Tuesday of the Wolves interviewing Mike Woodson. As for Woodson's fast-break pedigree? Well, let's let SBNation.com point the way:
In announcing the firing of Rambis, Kahn said he'd be looking for a coach more committed to the fast break. Like Porter, Woodson is puzzling in that context. The Hawks finished No. 27 in the NBA in pace factor in Woodson's final season in Atlanta, and over his tenure averaged a finish of No. 20.
via Mike Woodson To Interview For Timberwolves' Head Coach Job - SBNation.com.

Woodson's a good overall coach, and the work he did with the Hawks was underrated (just look at the job Larry Drew did in his first year for reference, despite the team's record and second-round appearance). But he's a poor fit for the Timberwolves, especially within the context of bringing that "uptempo DNA." He has more of a "slow it down and most likely have the ball wind up in an ISO situation DNA" kind of guy (though the ball movement on the Hawks in his term was better than it was with Drew this season). 

It seems like we're piling on here just to pile on Kahn, and maybe that's the case. After all it doesn't make sense to criticize the Wolves for wanting a fast team, then criticize them for bringing in slower coaches. It just doesn't speak well to have a flawed plan to begin with, or rather to say you have a plan that's obviously flawed, and then to take steps which act in total denial of that plan.

But then, them's the breaks, and at this point, the only happy ending for this Wolves team (with Kahn) is for things to just randomly work out, which has happened from time to time. But let it be noted that from this vantage point at this moment in time, the sausage factory looks awfully weird.
Posted on: July 16, 2011 3:13 pm
Edited on: July 18, 2011 3:42 pm
 

Some teams are probably missing Summer League

Posted by Royce Young



The NBA's annual Vegas Summer League would be wrapping up right about now. Young players would be finishing up a week of gambling, partying and hopefully, at least for their coach, getting better.

Summer League has always been sort of approached by most as nothing more than a perk of July, just something to sort of help bridge the gap. Nobody really pays attention to it except for the hardest of hardcore fans, general managers, scouts and coaches. And bloggers. Summer League basically is blogger paradise, because it's something to write the crap out of for a couple of weeks in mid-July.

Except this summer, because of the you-know-what, there is no Summer League. No rookies to overhype because of a good, random game against a bunch of D-Leaguers. No second-year fringe players to latch onto and get excited about because of a quality week. And no players to completely write off because of a 2-12, five-turnover game. For shame. For damn shame.

And while most just write off what happens in Vegas as unimportant, any time players take the court and compete, there's something of value there for the players, the organization and the coaches. Basketball is about development. It's about getting better. Summer League is a vehicle for new draft picks to get a feel of pro basketball and a feel of playing with a couple of teammates. It's a place for guys to prove themselves a bit. In reality, it's kind of important, even if it's generally ignored by the general basketballing public.

But I can guarantee you a good number of teams were mighty disappointed when Summer League fell through because of the lockout. There's progress to be made, and a week in Vegas is an excellent place to start, especially for rookies. Some teams and players are going to feel the sting of missing out on the opportunity. Here are the ones I see feeling it most.

Minnesota Timberwolves
No team would've benefited more than Minnesota's young roster. First, it would've been the first look at Ricky Rubio on American soil. He would've played against NBA talent and had a chance to run the show for his new team.

It also would've given all of us a chance to rush to snap judgments about his game and, therefore, his career, based on a couple of Summer League games. It would've been great.

But on top of some run for Rubio, Derrick Williams, Wesley Johnson and a few other youngsters could've put away a week or so of games. Every second those guys play together, the better they'll get. They need time to develop, and Summer League is a place for that. Instead, it's going to have to happen on some private court without any coaches. Not the ideal situation for young players to learn and improve.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Pretty much the same scenario for the Cavs as it is for the Wolves, or any young team with talent. Kyrie Irving could've used the extra time on the floor, but not just because he could get a feel for offense or learn the pace of the NBA game or anything. For Irving, it's more that he just needs to play, period.

He only played in 13 games for Duke last season and after returning from his foot injury, played a couple of games in the NCAA tournament. He has barely played any competitive basketball at all in the last year. For a 19-year-old, that's not a good thing. The more play you get, the farther you move ahead.

Not to mention the No. 4 overall pick, Tristan Thompson, getting some play, too. Obviously, that would be great, but to me, it's more about Irving. It's his franchise now, and the objective in Cleveland now is moving him along. Something small like Summer League is one of the first steps forward in doing that.

Sacramento Kings
The Kings' inclusion really is more of a selfish reason. Because with Summer League, you know that every game with Jimmer Fredette woudl be a total experience. Vegas is close to BYU, and Jimmer has quite the following in the area. But, really, it could be in Maine and The Jimmer would walk in like a rock star.

The Kings do need him and Tyreke Evans, though, to get some experience playing together. Who's running point? Is it Jimmer? Is Reke going to handle those duties too? Are they going to tag-team it like Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry? These are some of the questions you can sort of at least start to find answers for, if only they were actually playing.

Oklahoma City Thunder
Despite reaching the Western Conference Finals, the Thunder really do have a ton of room to grow. The roster is extremely young with some pieces that need developing. Two of the most important being Cole Aldrich and this year's pick, Reggie Jackson.

With Aldrich, he simply needs to play a little. He spent most of his rookie season in the D-League with the Tulsa 66ers, and while that's good for development, Summer League gives him a chance to be a focus in a competitive setting as well as a primer for what he needs to work on heading to fall camp. Aldrich is far from a lost cause, and the Thunder are willing to stay patient. But part of that being patient comes because you think a guy is going to improve. And to do that, he's got to play.

With Jackson, Summer League could've helped signal a little where he might fit in. Is he a point guard? Shooting guard? Combo guard? Is he a scorer the Thunder want to use off the bench next season? Is he someone that even will challenge for minutes? The Thunder clearly liked Jackson enough to promise him a spot in the first round, but without him working out for anyone before the draft, he's still largely an unknown for everybody.

Miami Heat
Yes, seriously, the Heat. No doubt that for the most part, the roster is set. LeBron, Wade and Bosh handle pretty much all of the heavy lifting, and veterans Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem pick up the remaining slack.

But the Heat need to develop young talent. Players like Dexter Pittman need an opportunity to grow a bit. Where the Heat lacked most last season was having cheap, young talent to infuse with LeBron, Wade and Bosh. Instead, Pat Riley went with trying to work in guys like Mike Bibby, Juwan Howard, Eddie House and whoever else was willing to take the veterans minimum to chase a title.

A week in Vegas for Miami's youngsters like Pittman and rookie Norris Cole could go a long way to restructuring the role players on the roster. And on top of that, it's a chance to maybe scout three or four other unsigned guys to take a look at later on. Miami needs some young talent, and the Vegas Summer League is one of the best places to look.

Washington Wizards
John Wall is going to be a star. I don't have any doubt. But he's still raw and still has a whole lot to learn about running a team. I remember how much Summer League did for Russell Westbrook a couple of years ago as he was prepping for his second season. It helped Westbrook learn how to slow down a bit, learn when to look for a shot, when to look to set up and when to push. Wall would've been the best player in Vegas, much like Westbrook was always on another level when he was there. But it taught him how to play under control -- to a degree -- while also being able to run around anyone. That would've been a good lesson for Wall.

Then there's Jan Vesely, who is mostly a mystery as he prepares to maybe step in as Washington's new small forward. We know he can jump and dunk, but can he defend? Can he rotate over and help? Can he shoot? If Wall and Vesely are the offensive attack of the future for the Wizards, having them play together, if even for just a week, would be huge.

Utah Jazz
Even more than Kyrie Irving, Enes Kanter hasn't played competitive basketball in a long time. He was forced to sit out all of 2010-11 for Kentucky because of a NCAA violation, and while he's had some workouts and a little five-on-five action here and there, he hasn't been in a real game setting since he moved from Turkey to the United States. The Jazz liked him enough to take him fourth and maybe force a re-shuffling up front, so obviously they're invested in the young big man.

And on top of him, don't forget the Jazz had another lottery pick in wing Alec Burks, who could surprise a lot of people as an NBA-ready scorer. He was terrific at Colorado as he sort of came out of nowhere to climb into the lottery. A little burn for both him and Kanter could've gone a long way for the Jazz, who are committed to the youngsters in life after Deron.
Posted on: July 13, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2011 12:41 pm
 

NBA threatens Blazers GM Buchanan with $1 M fine?

The NBA reportedly threatened Portland Trail Blazers Acting GM Chad Buchanan with a $1 million fine. Posted by Ben Golliver. lockout

The second the NBA lockout went into effect on July 1, the league took great care to make its players disappear. The NBA ordered mammoth fines if team executives made public reference to current players and, in a particularly petty move, scrubbed NBA.com of references to current players.

As of yet, no fines have been publicly announced for violating the league's lockout-induced gag order on team executives.

However, the Portland Tribune reports that at least one has been threatened with a $1 million hit for a seemingly innocuous comment.
The league office has prohibited the teams’ employees from commenting on players. Employees can talk about team issues, evidently, but not about players.

“There’s a line in the sand that the NBA has drawn for everybody, but nobody knows exactly where the line is,” one NBA team employee says. “Everybody is scared, not wanting to be the first to be hit with a fine.”

Witness a recent interview with Trail Blazers acting General Manager Chad Buchanan. When it was observed that it’s too bad there is no summer league scheduled, Buchanan replied, “Yeah.”

Shortly thereafter, the league threatened Buchanan with a $1 million fine, according to one source. 

Update: Buchanan went a little further than simply saying "yeah," telling The Oregonian in June that the cancellation of Summer League was "disappointing" and "not ideal." 

Clearly, that's ridiculous. It's also a little scary that the NBA league office is monitoring public comments that closely. But, hey, it's their perogative and their policy.

That policy faces a much more interesting test case thanks to Minnesota Timberwolves president David Kahn.

On Tuesday, the Timberwolves called a press conference to announce the firing of head coach Kurt Rambis. During the question-and-answer portion of the press conference, Kahn made reference to at least two current Timberwolves: center Brad Miller and guard Ricky Rubio.

Speaking about the youth of his team, Kahn said it was possible that even with the addition of the 35-year-old Miller, who was acquired in a draft day trade with the Houston Rockets, the Timberwolves could still have the youngest average age in the NBA. Kahn also briefly discussed Rubio in response to a question about what the Spanish point guard would do during the lockout.

To make matters worse, Kahn's comments were streamed live on video on the team's official website, NBA.com/Timberwolves. In other words, the NBA league office can't help but be aware of them. (An edited, condensed version of the press conference archived on the site leaves out the references to both Miller and Rubio.)

The NBA has reached its first pivotal fork in the road during this lockout period when it comes to this policy. Commissioner David Stern can either look the other way on a blatant violation of his very clear, oft-repeated and referenced  gag order policy or he can fine Kahn as his office has reportedly threatened to fine Buchanan. If the league chooses to fine Kahn, who was fined $50,000 last year for comments made about forward Michael Beasley, does it keep its word and go for the full million dollars? After posing in dictatorial fashion for the last two weeks, the NBA can't let the first obvious violator off easily, can it?
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com