Tag:lockout
Posted on: July 15, 2011 5:52 pm
Edited on: July 17, 2011 6:59 pm
 

So you want to win people's support: NBA Owners

How can NBA owners win the public relations battle during the NBA lockout? Posted by Ben Golliver.

silver-stern

On Thursday, Matt Moore took a look at how NBA players can curry favor from the general public during the ongoing NBA lockout. His plan included circling the wagons, being honest and educating fans and taking the high road. All great ideas for any negotiation, especially one as high-profile and public as the NBA's.

With the players' PR plan in place, how about the owners? What can this group of billionaires due to help gain support, if not sympathy, for their plight? 

Let's start off by acknowledging that this is an impossible task. The common man cannot relate to the billionaire. It's impossible. The gap is too wide, the lifestyles are too different, the realities are too disparate. Likewise, the billionaire, no matter how hard he tries, cannot put himself in the common man's shoes. Once your income hits the eighth or ninth digit, a bubble forms around you that is impervious to real, everyday struggles.  When people are hired to pick up your dry cleaning or answer your telephone or manage your Twitter account, it's over. There's no going back.

The goal for the NBA owners, then, shouldn't be unrealistic. They don't need to come off like Santa Claus. Instead, they just need to appear a little bit less like Montgomery Burns. Right now, the general air from ownership and the league is that it doesn't much care for the public relations side of this battle. It has remained very quiet, refused to open its books publicly and responded to only a few accusations with prepared statements. Otherwise, pretty much total silence. 

In that vacuum, the players have shined. They've put together funny spoof commercials, shown off their skills in pick-up games and camp across the globe, continued their massive presence on social networking sites and done a very good job of communicating their desire to not miss any games. Put all of that together, and the owners have a tough uphill battle to climb.

Here are five things they should do to get started on the public relations war:

1. Pledge To Protect All League Jobs

The No. 1 complaint against any professional sports team owner who locks out players is that he is greedy. That's the No. 1 complaint because it's pretty much always true. There's no good, direct answer to that question. The owners have made it clear they want more money, significantly more money, and that makes them look greedy.

A good work-around solution: Do what you can to make the players look greedy. Put all the pressure and attention on players' salaries -- they make millions to play a game -- while doing whatever you can to make yourself look like a philanthropist. Encourage your teams to increase their efforts in the community. More camps! More hospital visits by team employees! More everything! Then, to cap it all off, pledge to protect all jobs -- within the team and at the league level -- throughout the duration of any work stoppage. 

See what that would do? It would isolate the players, making them look like the bad guys. "We're all over here doing our jobs and protecing our hard-working employees and their families while you guys make so much money it threatens to put us out of business!" The general public highly values loyalty and commends those who put their employees' interests before their own. 

Oh, wait. Wait. You're telling me the NBA announced less than two weeks into the lockout that it's laying off 11% of its workforce and then said it was due to a desire to cut costs? In other words, because the league wanted to keep more of the money it was generating? Oh boy. We're off to a rocky start here. 

2. Don't Make Idle Threats

Appearing tough is very, very important during a negotiation. You can't blink first. You've got to make it clear that every word that you speak is to be taken seriously and every demand you make must be met or the entire deal is at stake. Those are basic negotiating principles. Whatever you do, owners, do not make idle threats. If you say that you will take an action if something happens, you have to take that action when that something happens, or you look both soft and like you're blowing smoke. Your credibility gets crushed and the other side has no real incentive to take any of your other demands seriously. 

Unfortunately, the NBA has failed this one too. As soon as the lockout went into effect on July 1, the league made it very clear that a gag order was in place. No team employees were to make public reference to a current player or they would risk a $1 million fine. In addition, the NBA scrubbed its website of references to current players. 

Granted, that's a fairly ridiculous and petty decision, but it was their decision. What's happened since the gag order went into effect is even worse. Minnesota Timberwolves president David Kahn mentioned multiple players during a press conference streaming live on his team's official website. Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle mentioned multiple players during a radio interview. Both were clear violations of the supposed gag order and yet the NBA has tap-danced around whether it will fine the offenders as threatened. Guess what? 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.

3. Take The Lead On Meetings

This is an easy one. Fans do not want to miss games whatsoever. The players seem committed to doing whatever it takes to not miss games. At least some portion of the owners seem content to miss a whole season. That's a huge public relations black eye.

The best way to fix it? Go way above and beyond to make it clear that you're willing to meet to negotiate at any time and place. No two-to-three week breaks after the lockout is imposed. No waiting until the players start to feel a pinch in the fall. No delay tactics. If you're seriously committed to potentially losing a season, you absolutely have to be able to point to your track record and say, "Look, we did everything in our power to prevent this from happening. We killed ourselves to make a deal." Get up early, stay late, use videoconferencing tools, use subcommittees. Whatever. It. Takes. If you want a new, restructured economic system then you must do everything in your power to prove your commitment to the goal. 

Missing a season would be a bitter pill to swallow, but it will be 10 times worse if it happens without continued negotiations and contact between the sides between now and the start of training camp. The general public hates billionaires and millionaires arguing over money. But the general public really hates billionaires and millionaires who can't even be brought to the same table to argue over money.

4. Use The Past As A Guide For The Future 

The NBA just completed a Collective Bargaining Agreement that both sides, obviously, signed off on. The owners chose to lock the players out because they felt an overhaul was necessary. Other than repeating a desire to guarantee a profit to its teams and increase competitive balance, the owners have not done a good job of communicating exactly what portions of the framework need to be reworked, and why. An important ingredient in this communication is explaining what didn't go according to the owners' plan at the time.

While the league has maintained that it won't conduct negotiations in public, finding a way to present the flaws or unexpected outcomes from the previous deal would help the general public have a much better idea of where they are coming from. Just about everyone can relate to changing interest rates on their mortgage, car loan or credit cards. No one likes to pay more after the fact than they were expecting, especially if it's something that is out of their control. The owners would be wise to own up and lay out the areas where that occurred. "We didn't anticipate this" or "This wound up costing way more than projections" or "This competitior came in and influenced this revenue projection" or whatever.

Lay those out as mistakes or needs for correction. Then, and only then, provide the remedies and explain why those remedies protect the league from future risk. Belts have been tightened across the country. People have spent more conservatively on discretionary items. Connect your goals to that behavior and you've got a real chance to make some headway.

5. Paint A Pretty Picture 

As any GM worth his salts knows, you absolutely must sell hope. There needs to be a pot of gold over this rainbow. All the dreary talk about losing money gets people down. Nobody cares if you're losing money. Again, you've got to flip this for fans. What is in it for them? 

The owners must start painting the dream. How great will the NBA be in three years if you get your way? How many homes will be watching games then compared to now? How many teams that would have had to move will be safe in their current locations? How many teams won't have to be contracted? How many jobs will be saved and/or restored? How many hours of community service can be added? What cool new events can be added to All-Star Weekend? What preseason showcase tours will pop up on the schedule? What interactive TV or internet programming will now be possible?

Sell. Sell. Sell. You made millions selling products or services. Do not stop selling the future of your league in your vision. People want to hear it. Just make sure it sounds better than the status quo for someone besides yourselves.

Conclusion

When it's all over, offer the fans a blatant kickback. Discounted tickets or jerseys. Public autograph sessions. Free NBA League Pass for an extra few weeks. Whatever. Have a goodwill gesture on tap because, regardless of how long the lockout extends, you'll need it. 
Posted on: July 15, 2011 2:09 am
Edited on: July 15, 2011 9:38 am
 

NBA decides 114 jobs are the price of opulence



Posted by Matt Moore


Unless you started covering it from the beginning, which removes your frame of reference, spend enough time around the NBA and you'll learn the real meaning of "opulence." It's everywhere. From the cars the players drive, to their jewelry, to the locker rooms where they spend a grand total of about four hours every night. It's in the banquet halls and the hotels reserved and the equipment used. It's in the gift bags for friends and media, the free food, the superstar (or Lenny Kravitz) performances, the pyrotechnics, everywhere. It's astounding. Everyone stays at the nicest clubs, eats at the nicest restaurants, travels in the nicest cars and buses.

It's in even the tiniest things. At the NBA Finals, along with All-Star Weekend, the NBA gives away gift bags for the media. A little thank you to say "We appreciate you bringing attention to our business, even though half the time you're jumping on our mistakes like cobras on an injured mouse." This year it was a simple wireless mouse and a mousepad that has the Finals logo on it. A schlocky little thing that was still pretty nice when you think about it being free. I kept it mostly because I wanted to give it to my newborn son when he is older to say "Your father got this at the first Finals he covered."

Tomorrow I'm taking it to the nearest charitable donations joint and dropping it off. Because now it's just a reminder of how opulence wasted has cost 114 people their jobs tonight when it shouldn't have. It's nothing but a guilty reminder of how the mismanagement of resources and revenue can wind up costing real people their jobs, jobs they need. All I can think about is the stacks and stacks of mouses and mousepads, most of which were most likely never claimed, sitting there on a table. How much could have been saved without their purchase, transport, or handling? It's not just a trinket, it's a guilt trip after what the league has decided this week.

From Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:
Word of the planning session came as the league laid off 114 employees from its New York, New Jersey and international offices this week in what it described as an ongoing cost-cutting effort aimed at shedding $50 million in expenses. The layoffs represented 11 percent of the league workforce and were felt across multiple divisions. The NBA also closed its offices in Tokyo and Paris.

The job reductions were "not a direct result of the lockout but rather a response to the same underlying issue — that is, the league’s expenses far outpace our revenues,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement released to media outlets inquiring about the layoffs.
via League, union to hold first post-lockout meeting - CBSSports.com.

114 people.

These aren't stats on a page, figures tossed around in an analysis. These are real people. Most of whom probably badly needed this job and unless you know of another professional basketball league happening in the states right now, probably are going to have a hard time making a seamless transition elsewhere. 

Now in this economy, that should be easy to forgive. Even as there are signs of a slow recovery, inching along at a snail's pace, that the corner has been turned and there are brighter days ahead, everyone has had to tighten their belt. It should be easy to forgive the NBA for having to go through the same pains as everyone else. But they haven't. They're not struggling to find a consumer base. They're not dealing with dwindling income. They're not drowning as their target audience shifts towards something else. No, instead, attention hasn't been this high since Jordan graced the court. Ratings are up and showing no signs of coming back down. The league is interesting, and marketable, and boy, is it revenue-inducing.

Merchandising is reaching an all-time high. In 2004, they were projected to make $3.3 billion in merchandising sales. The league earns $900 million from their television contracts, and even that's undersold. David Stern reportedly made $23 million last year. Even if he didn't, he made a whole lot more than those 114 people make combined. Eddy Curry made a little short of $12 million last year. Mike Dunleavy Jr. $11 million. I'm not arguing they weren't paid market value. I'm not sayingany of them are overpaid. I'm saying with all of thism oney floating around, with coaches being fined every night, how do you lose the money to pay for 114 people all of a sudden?

There are probably some executives included in the cuts. And the employees were given severance packages. But this was unnecessary. 114 people are out of a job right now, because a professional sports league in 2011 that had its biggest year in a decade, one of the biggest ever, can't figure out how to properly manage its expenses?

I worked for two non-profit organizations during the recession. Both went through the same problems as all non-profits have during the recession. It's not exactly a booming industry. But they planned. They held back. They dipped into reserves. They went into furloughs if they had to, but they avoided firing people. Because this isn't a game, which is what the owners have made this into. The league says this was not impacted by the lockout, a theory exactly zero people believe.

Don't have Lenny Kravitz play at All-Star Weekend during the introductions. Boom, you've just saved five people's job, counting the pyro, production value, and various expenses for travel. Cut back on a few league sponsored parties at All-Star Weekend. Don't cater the bargaining sessions. Hold them at a Motel 6 by the airport (that'll get the deal done faster, I promise you). Do any of these things and you've saved jobs. Jobs people need, who are depending on them. What about all that money from finding Mark Cuban and David Kahn and Phil Jackson? I understand that money went to charity. Couldn't that money have been saved to keep a position? With as much money as is thrown around the NBA, couldn't someone, somewhere have socked away enough cash to let people keep working at their jobs?

While we're at it, why don't we throw in all the money David Stern should have fined Donald Sterling over the past few decades. Wouldn't that have taken the sting out a little bit?

Shane Battier won't be getting his paycheck in the fall. Which means if he doesn't play abroad, or take another position, or find some endorsement money, he'll have to dip into his mountainous reserves. The same for every player. Even the lowest level guys are looking at things getting tight and possibly having to sell one of their multiple cars.

The people that were laid off this week by the NBA, the 114? They're out of a job, now. They didn't have to be, but here they are. Maybe they deserved to be. Maybe their positions were utterly useless. If that's the case, why not just reassign them? Have them work on creating efficiency plans or, I don't know, creative ways to end the lockout. Maybe they were just lazy. Maybe 11 percent of the NBA's total workforce really was just lazy and redundant. But doesn't that reflect the people at the top and their organizational structure more than it does the people who were actually affected by this?

The NBA has a right to run its business towards profit and to act in its own self-interest. But to trot out their opulence time and time agian, to splurge on so many little things that when you add them up it looks like one of those trash mountains from "Wall-E," it's not only off-putting, it's downright nauseating. David Stern has probably frozen his salary during this lockout that they've seen coming for two years. Maybe if he'd started sooner, those 114 people would still have their jobs. 

The owners are grumpy from greed. The players are indignant out of a perceived necessity. The fans are angry on principle and just want their game back. 

And 114 people are out of a job tonight, 114 jobs which could have been saved with a little more restraint, a little more compromise, a little more consideration.

Just like the lockout.
Category: NBA
Posted on: July 14, 2011 4:49 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2011 10:56 pm
 

So you want to win the people's support: NBPA



Posted by Matt Moore

Imagine you're the players of the NBA. You've known this was coming, you've hoped it could be avoided, you've even made a few compromises to try and avoid it. But here you are, locked out of the league you tried desperately for years to get into, staring at whatever the Istanbul version of Craigslist is. You know it's going to be a long fight, but it's one you're committed to winning (you even had T-Shirts made and everything!).

And while you understand that the people, the fans, the public have no real bearing on who ends up winning this thing, that neither side is going to look good in this lockout, every little bit helps. So how exactly are you going to get the public's support on your side of this ugly little spat with the powers that be?

Here's a five-step plan.

Step 1: Circle the wagons. And that means wrangling a few wild horses. You want the public to sympathize with you? Playing up the human interest angle isn't going to work here. You make zillions of dollars playing basketball while most people work in an office with a coffee machine that makes sludge and a terrible boss who likes baseball or something. But you don't need to engender sympathy, you just need to engender respect. And that means staying out of trouble.

It's the offseason. Guys aren't even under the leashes of their respective teams during workouts or events. But if the players want the public to take them seriously as a group of professionals fighting to protect their earning potential and wage-earning, they need to represent themselves as such. And respected professionals aren't arrested. When that happens respected professionals become disrespected (often former) professionals. DUI, assault, even things like speeding in extremely fast cars, all of these things contribute to an image the NBPA needs to keep at bay. This goes for every member of the union, regardless of age, race, or background. It's one thing when a player's irresponsible actions hurt himself, but now it can damage the collective efforts of the union.

Whether it's applying pressure to the right people, making personal pleas, or just downright babysitting, the player's union needs to make sure its athletes come across as suit-wearing professionals who are being prevented from going out and doing their job. That's harmed if it looks like they're having the time of their life, blowing the money they supposedly need to protect and getting in trouble.

Step 2: Spin the Euro bottle. Right now players escaping to Europe seems like a vacation. Fans feel like their favorite players (or Zaza Pachulia) are skipping out to go make money somewhere else while they're stuck without a team. The players need to first commit to who's going to go and who's not going to go. A decent combination of stars and role players should go, with players who have planned well enough to survive the lockout on their own staying home. Then the trick is to push this publicly as something they were forced to do. "Well, I need to play and I'm not allowed to here, so I went elsewhere." It should be made about staying in shape for their careers (for the NBA fans) and not about the money. In fact, players should pledge a certain amount of their income to charity, and a certain amount to a collective fund for the union.

The worst thing that can happen is this looking like a selfish avoidance of the problems here in the States. Every player is affected by the lockout, and every player should be working to bring it to an end. Pitching their European defection as an effort to do just that, to get the owners off their gulag-prison-guard-like stance, is the best way to go about it. Don't pretend your "family needs to eat" is the reason you're going. Make it about basketball.

Step 3: Level with the fans. A certain amount of PR in ugly situations like this involves saying things and taking stances you know make you sound like a moron. But those are often things to keep you out of trouble, a defensive position. What the players need to do is capitalize on the fact that they were the ones locked out, not put on strike, and level with the fans about how this looks.

When I asked Kevin Love about the lockout earlier this week, he said that fans "don't want to see billionaire owners and millionaire players bickering over money." This was a golden quote that could be dangerous if Love distanced himself from the rest of the union. But he didn't. He's firmly behind the union's efforts, but recognizing that people aren't going to feel sorry for the players, no matter how upset they are with the league's approach.

Being honest with the fans and acknowledging that there's a certain amount of ridiculousness to this process considering the amount of money involved doesn't hurt the players' case. They're not asking for change. They're just asking for things to stay the same. That should remain firmly in their wheelhouse of approach.

Step 4: Educate as much as possible. Your average person is going to be offended that players are doing anything but being grateful for the money they earn playing a game. Once again we return to the fact that so many people's jobs suck. It's offensive that someone who's life is awesome is saying his life isn't awesome enough.

So instead, focus on putting things in terms people can understand. "If your boss walked in one morning, even though your company has experienced record growth and critical success in the past year, and asked you to take a significant paycut, how would you react?" While spending time and resources on investing the public isn't going to win you anything with the players, it does remove something from the owners. The players aren't directly beholden to ticketholders and sponsors. The owners are. So the players need to spend some time to make the average season ticket holder understand that the players want to play, they aren't being allowed to.

No one needs to hear about BRI, or the difference in a hard cap. Just make it plain, that "billionaire owners made poor decisions and now say they want more money, and they want it from us, their workers, while they've fired their staffs until they get what they want." That's the reality of what's going on with the owners, and it paints them in about as bad a light as possible. If you really want to get in the trenches, release some information about how much some of these owners are actually worth, compared the amount of money they're squabbling with the players over.

But above all, follow Step 5.

Step 5. Be the better men.

This "negotiation" process quickly turned into one of prideful bickering and overdramatic gestures. The owners refuse to provide a counterproposal. The players release statements about how ridiculous the owners' proposal is. The owners bully up and take a hard line. The players show up in synchronized t-shirts. The owners let Stern do the talking. Kevin Garnett yells in a meeting.

This is not how business should be conducted.

This is not "Norma Rae." There's no moral high ground to be won. This is a business deal between two entities, both of which are doing exceptionally well in life. The players have every right to stand and fight for what they believe they deserve and protect the future earning potential of those in their profession. Anyone would do that, from plummers, to software designers, to middle management, to media members. No one wants to be sold up river or sell future people who will share their position up the river.


But behave with superior class. Don't get dragged into the mud. Peel back on the rhetoric. The public isn't sold that the players are greedy, they just haven't been sold on their requests being reasonable yet. By being the bigger men and taking the high road, they let the owners hang themselves by looking ridiculous and petulant, all the while the union is earning income through exhibition games and European contracts. The world's a smaller place, which means voices can carry more loudly. All the more reason to speak quietly, but firmly, and simply let the owners' red-faced bombastic approach peter out as the tide turns against them.

The union needs to be vigilant, reasonable, and clear. Do those things and their chances of putting the pressure back on the owners to crack will improve significantly.

Check back tomorrow for Part Two of our series and how the owners can crush the union's public support.
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?
Posted on: July 13, 2011 12:09 am
Edited on: July 13, 2011 12:28 pm
 

Kevin Love on Rambis, overseas, lockout

Posted by Matt Moore

Kevin Love had himself quite the day on Tuesday. Earlier in the afternoon, his team (which has locked him out along with the rest of the NBPA) fired his head coach, Kurt Rambis, the second coach Love has seen go in his three years in the league. His general manager took to the stage and said a number of bizarro things. Then Love attended the Gatorade Athlete of the Year banquet for the third time. Had himself quite the day, the first-time All-Star and NBA's Most Improved Player for 2010-2011 did. 

Love's one of the more focused guys in terms of his approach to the game, which is part of the reason Gatorade has put him front and center, and you can tell the lockout is grinding on him. 

"Basketball's my first love," Love said via telephone interview Tuesday night. "To have an extended summer, I'm not completely mad at it, but at the same time, this is what I do, basketball's my life." 

Love made it clear that the players are not oblivious to how the lockout which began on July 1st appears to the public. 

"For the fans, with both the NFL and the NBA, not only do they want to see the games on Sundays and Thursday nights for football, but they want to see us. And we know they don't want to see billionaire owners and millionaire players bickering over money." 

But since the lockout is out of his control, Love's going to take a look around at other options to pursue that "first love" of his. After Deron Williams' suprising exodus-in-wait announcement about playing for Besiktas in Europe, the headlines have been flooded with comments and rumors about players possibly headed overseas next year. I told Love I would be the 9,000th person this week to ask him about his plans for playing overseas, and Love made it clear as most players are: nothing is done yet, but the option is being considered. 

"We're definitely checking out our options," Love said. "We're definitely open to hearing from them. I'm going to sit back and wait to see what a lot of the other guys do, but it's definitely intriguing. At the same time, though, I just want the lockout to be settled."

As for Rambis, Love called the firing of the second-year head coach a "tough situation" while also supporting Rambis by saying he expects the former Laker assistant to have another job soon with all his experience. Love also made reference to how the front office approached the situation, a process Ken Berger of CBSSports.com called "embarassing" which was echoed by most who cover or operate in the league's coaching circles. 

"(Rambis) was put in limbo for a while by our front office. They took their time and weighed all their options. Kurt's going to find another opportunity. He's going to get another job soon."

Love has had an embattled relationship with both Rambis and General Manager David Kahn amid subtle comments from Love questioning the direction of the franchise and both the front office and coaching staff's decision to bury him up until the second month of this season -- at which time Love exploded into an All-Star and the Most Improved Player. He set a record for consecutive double-doubles in a season and had a 30-point, 30-rebound game for the first time since Moses Malone. So, yeah, looks like KLove may have been right about that whole "needing more minutes thing." Tuesday night, though, Love said he was hopeful the relationship with his next coach would be better. 

"You always hope for the best," he said. "I want to have a great relationship with whoever coaches the Timberwolves or whoever coaches me throughout my career."

So what kind of coach does Love think the Timberwolves need as one of the youngest in the league, but one that David Kahn says is "through rebuilding?"

"As far as us having a young team," Love said, "we're going to need, I won't say a disciplinarian, but a guy who can teach us how to win and has been there and done that."

Good luck with finding a coach with that kind of resume this late in the game. At the same time, not like there's an upcoming training camp to worry about so maybe the Wolves do have some time. 

While the Wolves figure out their coaching situation and the league sorts out its lockout, Love said he'll be splitting his time between training in Minnesota and southern California where he was born, raised, went to school, and calls home. He'll be training at his former school -- UCLA -- and said he would "definitely" be playing in the infamous pick-up games on campus. He'll also have plenty of time for his charity events and for nights like Tuesday's Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year Awards banquet in Hollywood. 

The award is for the top national high school competitors in twelve sports who excel not only on the field but in the classroom and off the field through charity and community service. The award, which has been given since 1985, is selected based on those who "achieve in the classroom and demonstrate strong character." Winners are selected by a panel of nationwide sportswriters and commentators. Love himself won the award in 2007, and has attended the event as a representative for basketball the past two years. 

So Love had a pretty good time, since he also said Tuesday night he planned on attending again in 2012.

"Every time you can come back to see the new wave of high school athletes, it's great," Love said via telephone interview Tuesday night. "I was here in 2007 accepting it, and seeing the new winners is so rewarding. I'm looking forward to next year as well."

Hey, at least Love knows one thing that'll be happening next year.
Posted on: July 12, 2011 7:51 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2011 8:24 pm
 

What teams risk in a lockout: Pacific Division

Posted by Matt Moore

Talk of losing an entire NBA season is a bit ridiculous. But it's a possibility. And with all this hardline talk going on, it seems like neither the players nor the owners are wanting to budge. There's incentive for teams to get a deal done and not just for the money, but because a year without basketball and, more importantly, basketball operations, could greatly affect every NBA franchise.

Earlier this week, we took a look at the Southeast Division, the Atlantic Division, the Central DivisionSouthwest Division, and Northwest Division.  We finish our series with the Pacific Division.

Los Angeles Lakers

The quick answer here is: it depends. A lost season would remove what could be the final year of this Laker core together. Kobe Bryant will be 34 in the summer of 2012. Bryant will be able to play until he's 40 thanks to conditioning. But his body is already showing significant wear and tear at age 32. Losing another year of Bryant, along with 30+ players Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol guarantees the end of meaningful contention, most likely. That doesn't mean it's not possible. It just becomes more difficult.

But on the other hand, if the team's already moving toward the future, making the requisite good faith effort to keep this core together but planning around Andrew Bynum (as rumors have suggested), then the lockout doesn't affect things much. The question is whether the team believes the run is over. It probably doesn't, but their actions over the last few months haven't exactly spelled confidence. They haven't indicated an "abandon ship" attitude either. Far from it. But there's enough there for it to be confusing.

Some other good news from a lockout for L.A.? Matt Barnes comes off the books, Lamar Odom enters a non-guaranteed year, and Derek Fisher, Luke Walton and Steve Blake enter contract years, so their contracts finally become easily movable. The bad news? Bynum enters a contract year without a fully healthy season in four years. Good times.

Phoenix Suns

The lockout would probably be a good thing for Robert Sarver's organization, based simply on the fact that the Suns' salaries will drop by close to $40 million from 2011-2012 to 2012-2013. (Note: Vince Carter and his bought-out contract make up $18 million of that, so it's kind of a fake $40 million. But still!) They lose the last year of Steve Nash's contract, which is a bummer. But considering most of us think Nash deserves to be freed from a sinking ship like the Suns, it's not that terrible. Plus the Suns manage to clear off Mickael Pietrus and Aaron Brooks (assuming they decline to match him in free agency, which they may not, but it's a nice thought) and Hakim Warrick and Robin Lopez could both enter contract years depending on if the Suns elect to pick up or not pick up various options.

That would leave just Jared Dudley, Channing Frye and Josh Childress as their only long-term contracts. And don't get me wrong, those contracts are horrible. But if the Suns want to rebuild (and they need to rebuild), they'll be in a great position to do so. The Suns are unlikely to improve next season, so there's no big risk in losing next season. Imagine paying no salary for a year plus the money Sarver will make when he sells his 2012 first-rounder! (A joke, and a bad one. Sorry, Suns fans.)

Sarver may actually sabotage the negotiations.

Golden State Warriors

Lacob and Guber spent a pretty penny on this franchise. So you can imagine they'd want to get started early. On the other hand, after spending that much, they need the profit-guaranteeing, value-increasing measures the lockout is geared toward. They're likely to commit to a full-season lockout, especially since it chops off $20 million they'd have to pay David Lee and Andris Biedrins for what will naturally be a losing season.

And hey, it's taken them two years to figure out what to do with Monta Ellis. They could use another twelve months.

But the Warriors still have a lot to fix, and they need to get on it. Time's a wastin'.

L.A. Clippers

The Clippers would see their payroll drop by $20 million dollars if they lost the entire 2011-2012 season. They've already activated Blake Griffin's 2012 option, naturally. Mo Williams would be entering a contract year, taking the sting out of the money they paid to get rid of Baron Davis (now about that draft pick...). Eric Gordon would have to get paid, but the fact remains that the Clippers would only have six players on roster, and two of them would be entering expiring deals.

Thanks to their market, the Clippers make a profit no matter what happens, so this wouldn't harm them tremendously. But for a franchise with so much promise, they need to get started. Because otherwise Griffin could enter restricted free agency in 2014 (if restricted free agency exists) with only one year to convince Griffin to work with them on a reasonable extension. Fun stuff.

Sacramento Kings

It's another year for the Maloofs to figure out how to get out of Sacramento. It's a year to take out the full-blown momentum of the fan uprising. But it's also a year that loses all that young talent, and a small-market team like Sacramento can't really survive losing an entire year of revenue. The Maloofs may have to fake a death to cover debts otherwise.

This could get awkward.



Posted on: July 12, 2011 7:10 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2011 7:23 pm
 

Thunder G Nate Robinson wants to play in the NFL?

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Nate Robinson wants to play in the National Football League during the NBA lockout? Posted by Ben Golliver. nate-robinson

What better way to avoid a lockout in one professional sports league than taking on a lockout in another professional sports league?

That's apparently the plan for Oklahoma City's Nate Robinson. The diminuitive Thunder guard told SlamOnline.com that he would consider making a switch to the NFL if the NBA continues its lockout. 
“I might go play football,” Robinson told SLAM on the phone. “Do something that nobody’s tried to do.”

“If I can, I would love to play football a little bit,” says Robinson, less than half-jokingly. “I’ve been doing a little bit of training.”

“Why wouldn’t you want to have an NBA player that can play football try out? That’s a lot of publicity for your organization.”
While both leagues are currently in a lockout, the NFL is said to have been making progress in recent weeks while the NBA owners and players are not even at the negotiating table.

Robinson has a football background. As a freshman, he played cornerback for the University of Washington, intercepting two passes and making 34 tackles. His father, Jacque Robinson, was a star running back for the Huskies and went on to play one season in the NFL.

Does Robinson have a chance, or is this idle chatter? An NBA/NFL hybrid career is unprecedented in the modern era, made impossible because of their concurrent schedules. That said, elite athletes in the NBA are likely to be elite athletes in the NFL, given the similar demand for quickness, strength and agility. One would think the outside positions, wide receiver and cornerback, along with special teams would be the easiest places for a basketball-to-football transition to occur. And, at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, Robinson is in the right ballpark to play corner and clearly has superior leaping ability, evidenced by his three NBA Slam Dunk crowns.

Still, the injury risk in making this type of transition is astronomically higher than playing basketball overseas. Re-learning a new, more physical game is a much more difficult proposition for a professional athlete than playing the same game you've always played in a different environment. Anyone giving Robinson -- who is just 27 years old and entering the final year of his contract -- good, sound advice would tell him to let the football dreams die hard.

Although it's far-fetched, this is a tantalizing possibility to think about. For a good time, check out this highlight reel of Robinson starring on the gridiron during his high school days at Rainier Beach, uploaded to YouTube by user atlhawks3.




Posted on: July 12, 2011 5:35 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2011 7:22 pm
 

NBA players to receive $160 M in escrow cash

NBA players will reportedly receive $160 million in escrow money this summer. Posted by Ben Golliver. lockout

Just because the NBA has locked them out doesn't mean that the league's players can't get paid.

NBA.com reports that the players are in store for a nice mid-summer cash infusion of $160 million, as funds that are held in escrow will be returned. 
The escrow funds -- representing eight percent of each NBA player's salary -- are held back each season to ensure that the players' share of basketball-related income does not exceed the contractually agreed-upon percentage, currently 57 percent. This year, for the first time since the system was introduced in the collective bargaining agreement that came out of the 1998-99 lockout, the cut to players will fall short, sources with the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association confirmed.

That cash could ease or delay the point at which some players begin to feel financial hardship from the lockout. Based on the "average" NBA salary of $5.7 million, the escrow rebate would be worth $456,000. A minimum-salaried player ($473,604) would be due $37,888 while a $16 million superstar could expect $1.28 million coming back.

Ca-ching. 

Certainly, this doesn't help the ongoing negotiations. The owners are driving the wholesale changes while the players are essentially cool with the current setup; A transfer of money from owners to players doesn't impact the philosophical stances of either side. It does give the players a bit of breathing room, but 8% of one's salary is not a game-changing amount. It's certainly not enough to carry financially irresponsible players through a canceled season, for example.

But, as NBA.com notes, this could be a bit of a pressure reliever, and it comes at an inopportune time for fans and observers who want to see progress towrds a deal. A resolution won't be reached unless the two sides are exchanging proposals and finding avenues for compromise. Anything, even a cash infusion like this one, that impacts either side's desire to negotiate and compromise pushes back the timeline for a resolution. Guess what? There are no negotiating meetings scheduled between NBA owners and players right now.

Enjoy this pay day, players, you completely earned it. But please find a way to turn this into an opportunity to demonstrate your seriousness and urgency to continue to work towards finding a resolution.
Category: NBA
 
 
 
 
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