Posted on: July 22, 2011 8:59 am
Edited on: July 22, 2011 9:38 am

The players may have enough loopholes to survive

By Matt Moore

When this lockout started to be discussed in real terms, there were more than enough questions about whether the players could handle it. There continue to be those questions.

NBA players are known to live extravagantly. A large portion of the league fit the same profile: men who come from low-income situations suddenly thrust not only into a situation where they are paid millions of dollars (and a million is still quite a bit of money today), but operate in a luxury atmosphere. The stark plummet off that cliff could crush the union, as could players complaining about it and then getting bombarded by the media for sounding wholly disconnected from the general public (which they are).

How would the players react if those paychecks stopped?

That's the whole argument for why the owners will win. Eventually, the players will cave because they'll need the money. 

Except, what if they don't?

There have been enough reports now to indicate that the union is as well prepared for this thing to go the distance as it can be. You've no doubt tired of a new report each day on a different player discussing going abroad. If you haven't, let me clue you in. Here's the formula.

"(Player X) is 'very interested' in playing overseas and plans to pursue opportunities there, though nothing is formal yet. The player is widely reported to be looking at (insert team who likely literally cannot afford to pay him)."

You've read about those other opportunities, like the Manila exhibition being planned this week.  There are endorsement and media opportunities, every manner of one-off chance for the players to pad their wallets while the lockout tries to starve them.

But what about a simpler approach? What about good old fashioned money management? 

The NBPA has been active in preparing its players for this lockout, much more so than 1999. The union distributed a handbook (which I keep imagining looks like the one in "Beetlejuice") that has information on everything from handling the media with their message, to how to conduct themselves around the owners. Most importantly, it talks about saving money. 

Now, that's not exactly penetrating advice. When you were 21 or 22, and your mother kept harping on you to open a savings account, did you do that, or did you go to that bar or buy that video game? If you did listen, congratulations, you're a momma's boy/girl. If you didn't, you're a normal person. But in the NBA, there are enough veterans that were around 12 years ago, and the NBPA has been proactive enough that it's likely made a difference. Players have been stashing cash away for this oh-so-rainy day. They have reserves to rely on if the lockout isn't resolved, some all the way through the season. 

But what about going farther than that? What about simply managing your paychecks for last season to last through the current one? It turns out, from a report from USA Today, that's exactly what some players have done.
Players normally receive bi-weekly paychecks from Nov. 15 to May 1, although some opt for a November to November schedule. But Aminu will receive payments from last season until Nov. 1, 2012. Randolph will be paid through May 1, 2012.
via Some NBA players planned ahead for lengthy lockout - USATODAY.com.

The owners can't lock the players out of money owed before the last CBA expires. Players that set up their paychecks this way will still be receiving paychecks, albeit smaller ones, throughout the course of the year. In short, they're fine. More than fine.

So let's just review here.

The owners have installed a lockout based on their debated losses stemming from an economic model they agreed to and the poor decisions they elected to enact as well as a flawed revenue system. Their entire plan is to starve the players into submission, but not only did they leave the door open for a possible mass exodus to Europe and other potential revenue sources, but they actually agreed to pay some players throughout the terms of their lockout. 

How could this plan possibly go wrong?

So the question has to be asked. Is a two-year lockout what it's going to take for the owners to get their petulant little way? What's next in the never-ending stream of ways that the owners threw this situation together, and at what point is someone with a little reason going to grab the reins? Until people start to understand that the players aren't asking for more, just not that much less, and that they are more than prepared to go the distance here, it's hard to see that day in sight. 

This is a Cold War, and both sides are waving their flags strongly. The only question is whose wall will collapse first.
Posted on: July 20, 2011 2:27 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 3:14 pm

Ron Artest comes up with his jokes in the can

By Matt Moore

Ron Artest recently started doing comedy shows. Because he's Ron Artest. And after his first few shows were a hit (see a full review of one here), he recently told Sports Illustrated he's got plans for more shows, plus his own sitcom on BET and to ball overseas (despite what his agent is saying). So he's pretty busy. But the real gem of the article was Artest discussing, in classic Artest fashion, how he gets his jokes.
SI.com: So what's your comedy process? You sit down and write your material, or go off the cuff or what?

Artest: I get most of my jokes in the bathroom. I go to the bathroom and come up with some silly stuff, some good stuff, and then I go get my pen and pad and my recorder, just to see how I'm going to do it. I'm not doing the whole set, but I'm trying to figure out which joke I'm going to say and how I'm going to say it. So I practice it, and then I go out there and do it.
via Ron Artest discusses comedy, movies, streetball, playing in UK - Sam Amick - SI.com

Of course. 

At this point, it's difficult to see where the real, confusing, silly, baffling Artest ends and the manufactured, "give the people what they want" Artest begins. Is he really as wacky as he puts on? Is this the same guy who told the story about a friend dying from getting stabbed with a chair leg after a game and who wakes up his personal assistant to track down "snake eggs" in his backyard? Or is this the guy who won the Walter J. Kennedy award for citizenship, shaved Laker things into his head, and goes on The George Lopez Show? The answer is it's all the same. Artest's life is a performance and his performance is his life. 

But it's good to know that the source of all his stage material is the john. 

The preceding post has been brought to you by the 2011 NBA lockout.
Posted on: July 20, 2011 10:05 am
Edited on: July 20, 2011 10:23 am

Could compartmentalizing help end the lockout?

By Matt Moore

As the lockout rounds into its true form now that we're about to start missing dedicated training sessions with players and the rhetoric ramps up with every passing interview, the new reality has sunk in for most. Those hopeful of a 2011-2012 season that starts on time are losing hope as the sinking realization of just how dedicated the two sides are to gaining/protecting ground sets in.

With Ken Berger of CBSSports.com's recent report that a full labor meeting featuring the key figures on both sides is unlikely to happen until August, there's definitely cause for doom and gloom.

But wrapped in the information that neither Billy Hunter nor David Stern would be deigning to meet with the other side until August is this little known fact. These staff meetings, which were dismissed because of their lack of star power, have a substantive subject matter. They're focused on the smaller issues. From KB:
But this time, the two sides have met once at the staff level -- last Friday -- and are scheduled to gather again this Friday for a second meeting. In the smaller sessions, which have not included commissioner David Stern or union chief Billy Hunter, the focus has shifted from the larger economic issues that led to the labor impasse to smaller-ticket system items such as how a new salary cap would be structured, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.
via Full labor session not likely before August - CBSSports.com

Wait a tick. So the lower staffs are meeting to discuss things like the salary cap, which is a huge impediment between the two sides? And we're supposed to feel bad about this because the big guns aren't in there to overcomplicate matters with politics and a media presence? 

NBA lockout
The reality is that this is a genius way to approach the lockout. Both sides are so far apart, there's got to be something done to bring the two sides to a closer chasm. Breaking out the issues into smaller groups and hammering those consistently to get the framework of a deal done is best for both parties and the fans. Get an agreement on everything but BRI, then hammer home the rest.

The question is whether there can be any substantive work done on the salary cap with the owners still pushing for that hard cap. If there's wiggle room there, that could get the players out of the corner, brandishing a chair against the lions. The players know they're not "winning" this negotiation, they've already conceded that there will have to be compromises based on the global economy and the economic model of the league. It's a matter of degrees. If these smaller meetings can just get some movement by both sides toward compromise, it could open the door for things to be settled outside of the BRI split.

And that's just money, which is what this lockout should be about, as opposed to the ideological split it's become. You can solve a disagreement over cash, even if it'll take awhile. It's trying to initiate a protocol revolution that puts both sides at Defcon 1.
Posted on: July 19, 2011 1:22 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 1:32 pm

It's not always 'shun-ny' in Seacaucus

By Matt Moore

When the NBA entered the lockout, David Stern's office issued what is essentially a nuclear gag order, more of a "shun order" to members of the league office, coaches, team officials and staff. Basically, the first rule of lockout club is you do not talk to the players about lockout club. The league threatened a $1 million (note: one million dollars) fine on anyone who broke the rule and there's been concern that people like Rick Carlisle could get tagged for it. 

Except when the league said that, it only really meant it in most situations, or ones they're not aware of. More specifically, they meant it for situations where the owner isn't present. Because apparently otherwise, it's fine.

A prime example:
But while Heat stars James, Wade -- recovering from Lasik eye surgery and sporting shades, both pictured below with Bosh -- and Juwan Howard were seated in an area separate from the suits', they later mingled on the dance floor with team GM Pat Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra, vice president Nick Arison, the son of Heat owner Micky Arison and former Heat all-star Alonzo Mourning, who now works in player relations. They got special permission from the league to attend the glitzy bash together.

One guest said, "The players were on one side of the ballroom, the executives on the other, and later they met on the dance floor."
via NBA lockout put on hold as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Miami Heat execs celebrate Chris Bosh's wedding in Miami - NYPOST.com.

And another:
Good to see the NBA gave its blessing for the Rockets to attend Kevin Martin’s wedding and Yao Ming’s retirement announcement.

Martin was married to his longtime girlfriend Jill Adler last weekend and with the league’s permission, Daryl Morey and Gersson Rosas were permitted to attend.

They did, however, have to be careful not to make too much small talk with the athletically gifted members of the guest list.
via NBA schedules out Tuesday — whether they’re needed or not | NBA | a Chron.com blog

So pretty much if there's a wedding, you can mingle with those on the other side of the iron curtain that's been dropped. It helps if an owner's involved. You can meet but only if there's the chicken dance, the Righteous Brothers, or Lil Wayne involved. But seriously, no talking! 

On the one hand, it's nice that the league can differentiate between personal and business. On the other, it's pretty typical that the league says there are no exceptions to the burden of its iron guantlet, except when it says so. 

More importantly (or not), though, how awkward would that conversation be?

"Hey, person who pays my bills except he just locked me out of my job because he wants me to take a drastic paycut?"

"Hi there, employee who I've stonewalled and who has launched a P.R. war against me and my colleagues in pursuit of denying me what I feel is the only way to profitability in the business I run which pays him?"



"...Great party!"

"Absolutely! Try the punch!"



"... Well, I gotta go, see you, you know, around."

"Yeah, it was good, er, seeing you."

/awkward hand shake

How bizarre must that have been? Of course, by the time they had five or six rum and cokes I'm sure they were more chummy.

Hey, wait a second. 

Guys! I have an idea for how to end the lockout!

Posted on: July 18, 2011 10:47 am
Edited on: July 18, 2011 1:50 pm

Chris Paul says the lockout is not about stars

Posted by Matt Moore

Chris Paul is not like a lot of the other NBA stars. Most of them only became interested in the lockout within the last year and a half (really All-Star 2010). Paul's been active for years in the executive side of the NBPA. And unlike a lot of stars, who are simply looking to protect the deals they've already signed, Paul's a free agent in 2012. He has the most to lose personally from this lockout and a potential restructuring of salaries. But in an interview with Business Week, Paul made it clear that he believes this lockout is about the good of the many, not the good of the few. From Business Week:
There’s a cross section of players on the executive committee, which has to represent everyone. I felt there should be a guy with a maximum contract to give perspective. [Paul will be paid $16.3 million by the New Orleans Hornets next season.] Whatever sacrifices have to be made are worth it to make sure we get a fair deal, a deal that represents the whole. Some kids go to college knowing they’re only playing one year before turning pro, and it was fitting that the last meeting we had with the owners came the day after the draft. We’re standing up for those players because they don’t have a say-so. We’re their voice: It’s a big brother mentality.
via Chris Paul on Risking a Lost NBA Season - BusinessWeek

Paul also talks about how the players have a responsibility to future generations of players, making the lockout seem like more of a moralist argument than a business deal. And Paul's right that players that aren't in the NBPA have no way of protecting their future. At the same time, the players need to make sure they don't overdramaticize the conflict any more than they have. This is a business deal and should be treated as such. 

But with Paul taking this kind of stance, publicly, it speaks to the resolve of the players. If it's just individual players looking out for their individual interests, there's a lot that can go wrong to fracture the union. But with the players looking to not only protect past work and present prosperity, but also the future, that becomes an ideological approach, which is much more difficult to crack. But in the end, this comes down to money, which is what always talks. The owners know all they have to do is survive and stretch out the lockout as far as the player's resolve will take them. It's a war of attrition, even if the players are rallying around their flag to stay the course. 

Posted on: July 18, 2011 10:01 am
Edited on: July 18, 2011 10:14 am

Could the lockout help Howard conquer China?

Posted by Matt Moore

When we told you about how Dwight Howard would choose China over Europe if he headed elsewhere during the lockout to play, it wasn't a shocker. When Dwight Howard told the Associated Press himself Sunday that he would consider playing in China or overseas, it didn't really surprise anyone, either. After all, most NBA players are making noise about playing overseas with the lockout in full effect. After Deron Williams signed his contract (to a team that may or may not have had its accounts frozen in a soccer/football match-fixing scandal) to play in Turkey, the exodus storyline got kickstarted full-steam ahead. Every player that runs into a reporter gets asked about it. This is the new NBA life in a lockout. And with China as lucrative a basketball option as any, it's no surprise that he's making positive comments about going, despite his free agent status in 2012. 

But consider what he said about what the opportunity would mean for him:
"If I decide to go overseas, the main thing is for me to continue to get better, not to do the things that I normally do, but do better at the things I'm not good at," Howard said. "So I can use that talent to go overseas, working on my skills and staying in great shape."
via Magic's Howard mulls playing overseas during lockout - NBA - CBSSports.com Basketball.

Notice that there's no "I want to compete" stuff in there. Which is fine. His real job's here in the NBA, he just can't do it right now. It's actually refreshing that he's not spinning tales of wanting to compete for a Chinese championship. 

But what's missing here is the real driving force behind Howard, or Kobe Bryant, or really any significant NBA star heading to China. How lucrative it is, and I'm not talking about basketball salary.

Since Yao Ming (enjoy retirement, big fella!) entered the league, the NBA and its players have come to a startling realization. There are a lot of people in China. No, seriously. There's like, tons of people. And despite its communist government, there's quite a bit of money to be made there. Yao opened up a whole new realization to the NBA, that there's dough there, and it's an untapped market. Versus Europe which is chock full of endorsements already taken up by soccer/football stars and other athletes, China has a basketball thirst, and the cash to spread it around. Howard's been one of several players who have hopped on board that train. 

Consider how he spent last summer. He filmed a movie there with Carmelo Anthony and when I spoke to him in the fall, he was pretty glowing about China and effusive about how much time he's spent there.
DH: Well, I love acting and the NBA asked me to come to China and film a movie and I was there for four or five days. I had a lot of speaking parts in the movie and it was very fun -- I enjoyed it a lot and actually the director wants to write a script so I can come back and do another movie.

CBS: What's the coolest thing you saw this summer?

DH: That's a good question. I've been to China like nine times, so just going there is always fun for me. I guess the last time I went they had an expo there and it was all the countries and built this one big brand building to represent their country and it was just an amazing site to see. And there were like 500,000 people there a day so it was just crazy.
via Dwight Howard on movies, the Heat, and tennis - CBSSports.com. 

Howard understands that playing in China is much more than just about the competition level or comfort. It's about expanding his profile. With Kobe Bryant nearing the end of his career (Kobe is huge in China) and Yao Ming retired, there's a void left for a NBA star to be China's hero. With what will essentially amount to a working vacation, Howard might be able to fill that void. 

Category: NBA
Posted on: July 18, 2011 10:01 am
This entry has been removed by the administrator.

Post Deleted by Administrator

This message has been removed by the administrator.

Posted on: July 18, 2011 9:24 am

NBA Lockout: Where did the money go?

Posted by Matt Moore

So here's a quick question.

Where did the money go? No, I mean, seriously, where did the money go?

The NBA is in the midst of what may end up being its longest lockout in league history. The owners are claiming losses of up to $300 million and attributing it almost entirely to the players (and, apparently, staff as they've become fire-happy).  But this isn't the dark days of the late 70's and early 80's, where games are shown on replay late at night and the league is skating a fine line between survival and bankruptcy. The league isn't trying to find its niche. The NBA is one of the largest sports entities in the world. 

How about a $7.4 billion media deal ($930 million a year) extended in 2007? How about $50 million a year in revenue from China alone? How about all that money from concessions, sponsorships, ad sales on the floor and in every spot you can find in every arena? How about suite seats, custom lunchboxes, jersey sales, deals with some of the biggest companies in the sports world like Gatorade, Nike, and AutoTrader.com (that last one was a joke). How about NBATV, which exists on most cable packages. How about League Pass Broadband, League Pass Mobile, League Pass Digital Calculator (again, last one, jokey-joke)? How about BRI being estimated at $3.8 billion for 2010-2011 alone? 

No, for real now, where did all the money go?

Well that gets to the heart of the NBA lockout. The owners believe not only that the players' slice of that revenue pie, the 57 percent of the $3.8 billion (Berger estimates it at $2.17 billion) is what does the damage. From there, it's costs. Costs, costs, costs that pull them under, and all of those costs are things which they feel are not a result of their own decision making, but of all these greedy people wanting too big a cut of what they feel is their pie. 

Before my blood gets boiling, go check out how I feel about those non-player cuts of those "greedy people."  

Here's an interesting question. Reports came out last week from the New York Times and Forbes about how the NBA had cooked the books. Those reports earned a swift rebuttal from the league regarding their accuracy. Naturally, the Times was pretty skeptical about the league's denial of the claims. It should be noted that in the pieces discussing how profit/loss was estimated, one blogger with a financial background took the reports to task independently. I would explain it to you, but my head would explode. 

Lost in all the shuffle about how the losses are calculated, what the ticket sales revenue is, or other complex accounting claims which would pretty much bore you to tears, there was one factor which was overlooked by most of the traditional media outlets. The "mystery meat."

Tom Ziller of SBNation.com wrote a piece earlier this month outlining an intriguing element included in the Forbes data (which may, or may not be Ziller fashion, the man made a chart so you can process it more easily. Republished with permission here. 

It's that "Other" percentage that has Ziller so up in a huff. From SBNation.com: 
In 2007, 2008 and 2009, "other expenses" grew more than revenue or payroll did. From 2006 to 2007, revenue and payroll each grew 6.6 percent. Given the NBA's claimed losses, non-payroll expenses grew 9.8 percent between those seasons. That's a massive uptick in comparison. The gap exists in 2008 and 2009, as well. Strangely -- very strangely -- the 30 NBA teams actually shrunk non-payroll expenses in 2010, despite modest upticks in revenue and payroll. Non-salary expenses had been growing at 4-10 percent over the previous years ... and the NBA cut it by almost 1 percent out of the blue.
via NBA Lockout: Have Owners Spent Themselves Into This Mess? - SBNation.com.
 Allright, so the question's got to be asked. What's in that "Other" percentage? Maybe it was partially those employees the league's been laying off that we've been complaining about. But if so, why did it take them so long to figure it out? And if that kind of problem is so big, shouldn't that be the focus of the league and not the players? Maybe they're unavoidable expenses. But if that's the case, why werent' those factored into the last CBA negotiation? The questions go on and on. 

Now, the League's going to say it's irrelevant. They say the data isn't wholly accurate, therefore no conclusions can be gleaned from it. Which is fine. Setting aside the Times' point that there's no way to confirm the league's claim that the data is inaccurate without the league releasing its own data (which will happen on a day when Satan has to break out a parka due to a severe temperature drop), the point's still going to be there regardless of how the data is formulated. Where did the money go? How did the NBA make this much, and wind up losing it? 

You would think the massive amount of income from the profitable teams would cover it. And you would be wrong for thinking so, so sayeth the league.

From the NBA's statement:
The Knicks, Bulls and Lakers combined net income for 2009-10 does not cover the losses of the 23 unprofitable teams. Our net loss for that year, including the gains from the seven profitable teams, was -$340 million.
via NBA responds to NYTimes.com blog based on inaccurate info | NBA.com.

So despite a system that allows big market teams to set their own prices, including what can only be considered an obscene new deal for the Los Angeles Lakers, your costs are still so high that you can't make a profit despite all that?

The league responds, "Of course not! Player salaries are too high!"

As if it were that simple. As if that accounts for why there isn't enough to go around, or why we still saw opulance this season and every season. Are we really to believe that the owners made every decision in good conscience and the system simply wouldn't allow them to profit? That they designed a system that denies their ability to profit?

If we're going to take the stance that failing teams get to fail (as the current revenue sharing system allows), shouldn't we take the same ideals for the league's approach before we start backing their demands to simply be gifted what they want?

These are the questions you ask as the lockout only really gets started, that leave you perplexed about why we're here in the first place.  And if we want to get to the bottom of those questions, there's only one way out. for the league to reveal its financials. They're under no obligation to do so. They have every right to keep their data to themselves as private businesses, and to simply keep swatting at these reports that pop up like gnats. But if they really want to tell us that they deserve the support of the media and fans, they need to be open and honest about what's happening and why. 

Otherwise we're just watching kids get sick in the cafeteria, munching on mystery meat and blaming the salad.  
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com